Why Snow…Lord?

In my first book, “Unlocking Creation: God’s True Nature Revealed,” in a section where I talked about questioning God, I said it is nothing to be ashamed of…if at times you find yourself saying, “Why, Lord? I don’t understand.” If we are honest, I believe most of us have questions. Whether you consider yourself a believer or not, sooner or later we all have to come to grips with the fact that God’s ways are higher than ours. Sometimes the things He does, or the things He seems to allow (even though we know they are displeasing to Him) defy logic, at least in our limited and often self-serving brains. 

But, to those who have come to know God intimately, it is simply a matter of faith, a matter of trust to realize that He always has a great reason. Maybe we just haven’t been able to see it yet and maybe we never will, in this life anyway. The Apostle Paul wrote that, “We all know in part…but when the perfect comes, the partial will be be done away with.” So, I guess I shouldn’t feel bad that all my questions haven’t been answered yet. I got a feeling that I am not alone in that.  But, I look forward to the day when “the perfect” comes, Paul was of course referring to the Lord Jesus, and what a glorious day that will be. With His coming, among many other amazing things, our deepest questions will all be answered. Praise God.

But going back to our own probing questions for second, I mentioned in the book that the one that has has always been at the top of my list of questions for God is, “Why Snow, Lord?” I mean, really, on God’s green earth (which totally gets covered up by the stuff when it falls…as it is at our house tonight), what purpose does it serve? It makes it hard to get from one place to another. Children don’t get to go to school on those days (and I know they are sad about that!!). Just to go to the mailbox, we have to put on layers and layers of clothing, a warm hat and gloves (and end up looking like the little kid in “Christmas Story” who fell over and had so many layers on, he couldn’t get up). Ok, I am having a little fun with it all here, but honestly, if it never showed again…in my mind it would be too soon.

(Image was taken in Erie Pa…around Christmas 2017. They received around 60 inches of snow in less than a week. And I thought those of us in Cleveland had it bad…yikes!!)

So a few weeks back, a good friend of mine sent me this reading out of Charles Spurgeon’s well-known “Morning and Evening” daily devotional. This was the morning reading for December 1st. And on a snowy night like this it seems quite appropriate, so I felt I should share it with you all. 

My hope is that a little godly wisdom from one of the most beloved Christian preachers and teachers of all time would bring a little warmth to your heart, if not your bones:

My soul begin this wintry month with thy God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind thee that he keeps his covenant with day and night, and tend to assure thee that he will also keep that glorious covenant which he has made with thee in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to his Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor sin-polluted world, and will not prove unfaithful in his dealings with his own well-beloved Son.

Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: he casteth forth his ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, he is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill noxious insects, and put a bound to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soul. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!

How we prize the fire just now! how pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw nigh to him, and in him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of his promises, and go forth to labours which befit the season, for it were ill to be as the sluggard who will not plough by reason of the cold; for he shall beg in summer and have nothing.

Charles H. Spurgeon 

Maybe that is why CHS is considered one of the greatest preachers of all time. He can take a blizzard and make it sound like a blessing…and, of course, it is a blessing and what do you know…there are some godly and helpful purposes that snow fulfills. He talks about how it kills of noxious insects and limits the ability of diseases to take hold and that is good. Then, of course, there is the fact that after a snowy winter, an early spring thaw allows a large amount of water to saturate the soil, thereby helping the ground to be ready for a plentiful growing season. And again, that is not a bad thing unless you have to drive in the stuff long distances to get to work, or you are the one responsible for delivering the mail.

But thanks be to Brother Spurgeon for pointing out that the chilling cold and snow also serve to remind us that God’s promises do not take the winter off and head to Florida.

No, God’s grace is there to help us through whatever life brings us..in the good seasons and the bad.

And as he said, it is not just a matter of enduring inclement weather, the same is also true of God’s grace and promises regarding the seasons of our souls. He is with us no matter what.

Special thanks to my dear brother and spiritual father, George Loper, for sending me this timely nugget of God’s wisdom and grace.

Stay safe…and keep warm!!!

BOB PALUMBO

(Author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”)

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You Say You Made A Resolution…

For those of you who do not know, for about the last forty-five years or so, my creative writing skills were more limited to songwriting, both the music and the words. So, here we are, the first week the of new year, or “In the year of our Lord, two thousand and eighteen” (as I explained in my blog post from this time last year), my guess is that many of you have made what we have come to call “New Year’s Resolutions.” Good for you. It is always good to take a scrutinizing look ourselves (instead of others) and identify areas where we can do better. I have been pretty close to perfect for the last few years (yeah, right), so I have not bothered to do that this year. LOL

So anyway, I thought I would start off this post with an attempt to tweak the lyrics of a very popular Beatles song from “back in the day”…so here we go:

You say you made a resolution, well you know…To you I’d like to tip my hat….You think you’ve found a real solution, well you know….I’ll only say, “Good luck with that”….When you talk about perfection…..Don’t you know that it just can’t be found….But with God’s help…it’s going to be….Alright…alright…alright    


There, don’t we all feel better now? Makes you just want to throw your hands in the air and say, “Oh well, I tried. Maybe next year.” Doesn’t it?

But, don’t be discouraged. The idea of wanting to make changes for the better, in our lives, is actually an honorable and good one. The Bible talks many times about how we should be looking for ways to “throw out the bad to make room for the good.” The key difference, though, is that we are not taught to try to do it “in our own strength,” but rather to tap into God’s strength. Turns out we are not equipped to perfect ourselves. Surprised?

After all, when you get that “recall notice” in the mail that says your car needs an update or repair, are you instructed to try to fix it yourself? Of course not, we are told to take the car back to the manufacturer. They have the knowledge and training…and the right tools to fix it properly. We would probably only make things worse (at least that has been my experience, whenever I have tried to work on my car…lol).   

So, I thought we could take a quick look at some of the ways the Bible encourages us to approach “personal improvement.”

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” [Matthew 7:7-8 NASB]

The biggest difference between trying to fix things on our own and doing it the way the Bible teaches us, is that God is available 24/7/365 to not only hear our prayers, but to act on them on our behalf. Prayer changes things. Now, this is not to say that the Lord is sort of like a spiritual vending machine or a genie in a bottle who says, “Your wish is my command.” Obviously, not every prayer gets answered the way we might hope and generally most prayers are not answered immediately. But the good news is, when the answer comes, it will be in our best interest (even if it does not look like it, at the moment). But you might be asking, “I am not even sure how to pray, where do I start?”

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. [Psalm 51:10 NASB]

The Bible clearly teaches us that “God looks at the heart.” The heart is where good change (and bad change) begins. Now, we are not talking about a physical heart, of course, we are talking about the soul…the center of our being. For humans, everything that happens on the outside, starts on the inside…in the very heart of our being…where our dreams, our passions and our motives reside.

Take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth. [Ephesians 4:22-24 CSB]

The goal, then, is to identify the old habits, the ones motivated by selfishness, pride and ambition…and begin to replace them, with God’s help, with a new set of values that better reflect the nature and character of the One who made us in His own image. Jesus, Himself, said “I do nothing of my own initiative, but only those things I have seen My Father in Heaven do.” He desired to embody His Father and we were designed to function best when we follow His example. 

But, like the Apostle Paul said in the verse above, it is more than just replacing the motives of our heart. We are also encouraged to “be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” The good news is, God is also willing to replace our thoughts (which are flawed) with His (which are not). How cool is that? It is kinda like upgrading the operating system in your computer, once it gets slow and crashes a lot, with the latest and greatest version that not only works like a charm, but also comes with a bunch of new features and functions meant to make us wonder how we ever managed without them all this time. Seriously, that is how it was when I first came to Christ. I was like, “I can’t believe I made it this far. Knowing what I know now, it is only by God’s grace that I was not dead along time ago.” Thank you, Lord!!

Here’s how the prophet Isaiah explained it roughly 2500 years ago:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. [Isaiah 55:8-9 NASB]        

Once again, God does not ask us to renew our minds, then leave us on our own to figure out for ourselves what to renew our minds with. He provides the upgrade, free of charge. 

About 3000 years ago, King Solomon penned his preferred method for “personal improvement” and it is so thoughtful, yet so easy to understand, that it has become one of the most often quoted of portions of Scripture, especially for new believers. If we could just master these few simple verses and apply them to our life, we would be well on our way to being the person God made us to be. You have heard these verses before, I’m sure:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones. [Proverbs 3:5-8 NASB]

“Do not lean on your own understanding”…let’s think about that for a moment. The fact that King Solomon is telling us not to “lean on our own understanding,” implies we all need to lean on something, right? It’s true. Many of us would rather not admit we prefer we to think we can figure things out for ourselves, but if we are honest, we had a lot of help along the way…parents, teachers, friends, pastors, books….Google. We have been leaning on others for years and sure, there are times when we have leaned on our own thoughts and experiences. How did that work out? 

And all of this leads to another question, “If we need to lean on something, for help and stability, and we do not…what happens?” We end up asking someone to help us get up off the floor…sooner or later. Solomon was very wise. He knew that the best help comes from God and it is “there for the asking.” So, what are we waiting for?

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you [Matthew 6:33 NASB]

If Jesus was nothing else, He was masterful at setting priorities. In this verse from His famous Sermon on the Mount, He teaches us the basics. If we seek God first, make Him our first priority in all things…He will take care if the rest.

When I first became a Christian, back in 1979, one of the first Christian singer/songwriters I really admired was a man named Keith Green. In those early years, I probably learned as much about God and Jesus Christ from his songs as I did from going to church. Not knocking church, but hey, I was a musician. God spoke to me profoundly through music. One of his songs had a “hook line” that I have never forgotten….”Do your best and pray that it’s blessed…and He’ll take care of the rest.” So simple…yet SO TRUE!!!

We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. [1 John 3:2-3 NASB]

So what should be the goal of all our “self-improvement” efforts? To be like Him. Jesus said, “Follow Me….I will be your example that, in the end, where I am (forever more), you may be also.”

Can you think of a better outcome for all of our struggles and strivings?

I cannot.

May you and yours have a safe, blessed and peaceful 2018!!!

BOB PALUMBO

(author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”)

   

                                                                                                                

       

             

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                                                                                   

Why Do We Love Gifts?

Well, another blessed Christmas has come and gone and I truly hope yours was filled with joy and the love of family and friends…ours certainly was. That is, by far, my favorite part of Christmas….being able to spend time with my greatest blessings….my family. And this year, again, we were able to do that. It was wonderful. Thank you, Lord!!!!

But one of the things that crossed my mind, maybe more this year than in years past (not sure why), is the question…”Why do kids of all ages (from 2 to 92) love receiving gifts so much?” I mean, honestly, who does not enjoy receiving gifts…especially when they come from someone who loves you very much? Whether it is your birthday, an anniversary, maybe you are retiring, getting married, having a baby…or last but not least, at Christmas time…gifts rock!! C’mon, admit it, we all love getting gifts. And yes, most of us enjoy giving great gifts to those we love, as well, hence the phrase…”It is better to give than to receive.” 

But that makes my point even greater. Why do love to give great gifts, too? I say it’s because we love seeing how happy it makes the people we care about, when we nail it and give them something they really want and will greatly enjoy.  It is all part of it…giving and receiving gifts…it truly is an expression of love. In fact, there are some people who have a hard time expressing love other ways…so they try to make up for it by giving really great gifts and that is fine too. Some of us are better at showing love than others…so if telling someone you love them by buying and giving them a nice gift is what works best for you…I’d say it is better than not showing love at all. Go for it!!!

For the sake of this post, however, I want to look at WHY we all seem to enjoy getting gifts so much. What is it, deep inside of us, that whether we are old or young, male or female, rich or poor, whether you live in China, Ireland, Australia, Uganda…or right here in the good ol’ US of A…getting a great gift from someone we love (or sometimes even from someone we don’t know) truly warms our hearts and brings a smile to our faces…both for the giver and the receiver.  I mean it certainly is not something we have to be taught..or learn.  It really comes quite naturally. So, there must be a reason, right?

To start with, I want to look at what may be the most obvious reason we all love getting great gifts and I would say that it is because we all recognize that when someone gives us a gift, it means they care about us, think about us often and they want us to know we are special to them.  That is also why when someone gives us a gift, and we are not convinced that they love us (and we think they are just going through the motions…or trying to buy our love), their gift does not carry the same weight. Even if it is a really expensive gift, if there is no love behind it, it just will not fill us with joy or warm our hearts like a gift given out of love will.

Speaking of the price of a gift, I would like to tell you a story about what I consider one of the best Christmas presents I ever received. It was from my daughter…and I do not believe it cost her much of anything to give it (except time, talent and effort) and I could not care less. You see, ever since our kids were small, they knew my favorite Christmas song is “Merry Christmas, Darling” by the Carpenters. It is a lovely song, with a beautiful arrangement…and with Karen Carpernter’s velvety voice as the frosting on the cake…c’mon now…what says “Christmas” better than that? Nothing..in my book. 

I would always tell my kids, “For me, it is not Christmas until I hear ‘Merry Christmas, Darling’ on the radio or somewhere.” It would not count if I played the record myself. No, I had to hear it elsewhere. So for years, we had this standing ritual….my kids would ask me, “Hey, Dad, is it Christmas yet?” If I had not heard the song yet, my answer would be “Nope, not yet?” But if I did hear the song on the radio or wherever, I would call them and say…”Guess what…it is officially Christmas time!!!” 

So a few years back, as we were exchanging gifts, my daughter (who is a very talented musician and singer) hands me this gift…and just by the size and packaging I thought, “Oh, cool, she bought me a CD.” When I unwrapped it, I discovered it was not a store bought CD, but rather a CD of a song she recorded herself…”Merry Christmas, Darling.” As the story goes…at the time she was dating a young man who owned and operated a recording studio. And she got him to help her do this up right (Thanks, Dave) while she played all the instruments and sang all the vocal parts herself (yes, she even did all those lush Carpenters harmonies all by herself, overdubbing each part separately). Yes, I am being a proud father, here, but she did a wonderful job (and I am not easily pleased when someone tries to do their own take on the Carpenters…just sayin’). If you would like to hear her rendition for yourself…you can go YouTube and just search for “Merry Christmas Darling” by Bobbi Jean. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I know I was!!!

There you have it, a story about a very special Christmas gift given to me by someone who cares about me and wanted to do something special, something that would really touch my heart. And, it was something that did not cost her a lot of money. It was a very personal and thoughtful gift, given out of love, and one I will surely never forget.

So far, we have established that we all enjoy getting good gifts because…1) they show us that the giver cares about…and 2) that the giver wants us to be happy and to know how much they love us. All of that is great, but I am wondering if there is something more. There must be some reason that we all pretty much react to gifts the same way, no matter who we are or what our background is. What I mean is, is it something inherent, something we are born with…or dare I say…something God-given?

Well, let’s see…the Bible actually talks quite a bit about gifts….both the giving of and receiving. We know the original Christmas story, recorded in the Bible, included the giving of gifts:

When they saw the star, they were overwhelmed with joy. Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. [Matthew 2:10-11 CSB]

Ok, I realize those gifts were not hover boards, cell phones or video game systems…but in those days…the gifts the wisemen brought Him were very special, indeed. 

Later on Jesus, Himself, talked about a very special gift with His disciples:

“And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.” [Luke 24:49 CSB]

And Luke even when on to reemphasize the importance of this promise of a gift from on high in his writings about what happened after Jesus died and was resurrected in the Acts of the Apostles:

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” [Acts 1:4-5 NIV]

So, I think we can safely say that the concept of “giving gifts to those we love” is not purely a human thing, something we conceived all by ourselves. Rather, it is something that God not only apparently loved to do Himself, but He wanted it to be an important part of our human experiences, as well.

In my first book, “Unlocking Creation,” I talked a great deal about how I believe God revealed many aspects of His own divine nature through the things He created. Obviously, mankind is a big part of that as we were told that God intently chose to make man in His image and, as I talked about last week, I do not believe that meant in physical appearance only. I believe much of what we do, as people, are reflections of His divine nature, too.  He breathes, we breathe. He sees, we see. He hears, we hear. He smiles, we smile and it even says He grieves, so it is not surprising that, at times, we grieve. These are all attributes of God’s nature and He has apparently chosen to make them all parts of who we are, as people, as well. So I would not think it is “a bridge too far” for us to conclude that just as God loves to give gifts to those He loves, that He intended for us to be generous “gift givers” and thankful “gift receivers,” as well.

And let me not forget what the Apostle Paul shared regarding what is probably the greatest gift mankind has ever received, a gift with eternal significance and one that has been made available to everyone who has ever lived (if only they would choose to receive it). Think about that for a moment…God the Father chose to offer His own Son, who would die for our sins on a cross, as a gift motivated by His love for us…His children. Talk about sacrificial love. Here is how Paul explained it:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 6:23 NASB]

In closing, I would like to include one more portion of Scripture, this one from our Lord Jesus and His famous Sermon on the Mount. If there remains any doubt that God chose to impart to us the desire to bless those we love with good things…this should clinch it:

“If you then, who are evil (sinners) know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him.” [Matthew 7:11 CSB]

Yes, I believe God is the ultimate “gift giver” and we were designed to be like Him in many ways. Just as we have been created to pass on many of our own personality traits to our children, He chose to impart many of His to us, as well. Thank you, Lord!!!

Besides, who among us would be able to give anyone a gift, in the first place, had God not enabled us and blessed us with the wherewithal to do so. 

So let’s see…God chose to give us gifts out of His love for us..that we might have the ability to give gifts to others out of our love for them. 

I think I am beginning to see it all a little clearer now.

He gives to us…so we may be givers, too.

THANK YOU…..LORD!!!!

MAY YOU ALL HAVE A SAFE…BLESSED AND JOYOUS 2018!!!

BOB PALUMBO

(author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”)

What Child Was…But Almost Wasn’t?

This past week I recorded a short version of the beloved Christmas carol, “What Child Is This” (which was set to the tune of the folk classic “Greensleeves”). It was fun putting my own musical twist on it…and I used it to get out a quick Christmas message to my friends and family…etc. As I was working on this song I started asking myself, “What if?”  And some of you may be thinking, “What if, what?”  That is a really good question….btw.

About a year ago, I read an eye-opening book called “The Cosmic Chess Match” by well-know prophecy expert and biblical archaeologist, L. A. Marzulli. The book goes into great detail about the moves and countermoves of God and His adversary, Satan, that have been going on behind the scenes ever since the beginning of time as we know it. It seems that it did not take long, after Lucifer (aka Satan) rebelled against God and one-third of the angels in Heaven rebelled with him, for the primary focus of their efforts to center around two things: 1) causing these new creations of God, human beings, to rebel against God too, so they could not receive God’s eternal promises…and 2) once mankind became tarnished by sin and were headed for eternal judgement, do everything possible to prevent God’s plan of redemption through His Son, Jesus, from materializing. And as we will see, the Bible is full of examples of the evil one’s attempts to make sure this particular baby was never born, in the first place. And once Satan failed at that, his efforts to keep Christ from fulfilling His mission on the Cross jumped into “the crosshairs”….pardon my pun…please.

Let’s take a look at a few of these stories, if we can, to see if that gives us a greater appreciation for just how active and involved God Almighty was from Day One to insure that this special baby was not only born, but that He would accomplish all that the Father had sent Him to do on behalf of His children….Thank You, Lord.

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’” “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. [Genesis 3:1-4 CSB]

Here we see the first two human beings, Adam and Eve, living in this beautiful garden with plenty of food to eat, no wild beasts who are ready to eat them….and apparently no need to worry about keeping up with the latest fashion trends. They were both naked and unashamed because sin had not yet entered the picture. Things were going along just fine until one day this serpent shows up and tries to get them to disobey God. You see, God had told them there was one special tree that they were not permitted to eat from…and if they did, they would die (which is interesting because they were designed to live forever…death was not part of God’s original concept for them). So here comes this serpent and what does he do? He lies and tells them, “Go ahead. You can eat from that tree. You will not die.” The serpent (who was being used by Satan) knew that if they ate of that tree, all of mankind would be tarnished by sin and headed for judgement. Satan’s job would be a whole lot easier. Now he only had to stop one man, a Savior, from ever showing up. The chess match had begun and now he would be going after the opponent’s king.    

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. [Genesis 6:5-6, 8-9 NKJV]

About 1000 years after Satan’s first swipe at humanity, another major punch was thrown and this one was meant to be a knockout. If you casually read through Genesis 6, you might not pick up on how this all unfolded because the enemy was very clever in masking this attack. But if you look closely, you will see there were fallen angels who had come to earth, had relations with human women and impregnated many of them. They, then, gave birth to children infected by the demon seed. Is it any wonder that it says God looked down and saw that “all flesh had been corrupted.” It appeared that Satan had won, because if all flesh was corrupted, the bloodline that would eventually bring forth the Savior was now tainted and there could be no Messiah. But God’s countermove was a master stroke. He managed to keep one family pure and uncorrupted. A man named Noah found favor with God and it says he was “perfect in his generations,” which I believe means his family’s bloodline was not infected. Therefore, Noah was chosen to build the ark and his family were the only people spared from the flood. They also became the ones who would get to restart humanity. So you see…we are one big family, afterall.

After Jesse presented seven of his sons to him, Samuel told Jesse, “The Lord hasn’t chosen any of these.” Samuel asked him, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest (David),” he answered, “but right now he’s tending the sheep.” Samuel told Jesse, “Send for him. We won’t sit down to eat until he gets here.” So Jesse sent for him. He had beautiful eyes and a healthy, handsome appearance. Then the Lord said, “Anoint him, for he is the one.” [1 Samuel 16:10-12 CSB]

In this one, the devil’s handiwork was a bit more obvious. The prophet Samuel was instructed by God to go to Bethlehem and find a man named Jesse, who had many sons and one of them was to be the next king after Saul. But when Samuel comes, Jesse only showed him seven of his sons. He had eight sons, but Jesse did not think that David, the youngest and smallest of them, fit the bill. He was wrong. David was exactly who God had in mind. Call me crazy, but I cannot help but think it was Satan who filled Jesse’s head with such doubts. He knew David would be a great king and a man after God’s own heart, so he was hoping Samuel would pick one of the others. But the Lord was not about to let that happen. There was yet another great king to come and he had to be a descendant of David. Another subtle effort by the enemy was foiled. Plus, it was important that the prophecies regarding the coming Messiah be fulfilled precisely so those who would be looking for Him would find Him.

David said to Saul, “Don’t let anyone be discouraged by him; your servant will go and fight this Philistine!” Your servant has killed lions and bears; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” Then David said, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.” [1 Samuel 17:32,36-37 CSB]

Fast forward a bit…and Israel and King Saul have a problem. The Philisitines had this “giant of a man” named Goliath (remember the Nephilim from Genesis 6 who were called “mighty men or renown?”…they’re back). He was said to be nearly ten feet tall and he was taunting and tormenting the Israelites. He would challenge them to send out their best, so he could fight them and most likely kill them. As luck would have it (and I do not believe in luck) most of the Israelites, including David’s three brothers, we’re not willing to take this guy on. But David volunteered. King Saul pointed out that David was just a youth and had not even been trained for battle. Yet he stepped up and said, “God saved me from the lion and the bear, He will give me the victory over this Philistine.” And God did just that, as we know, leaving His adversary’s efforts trashed again. Hence, the Messiah would rightly be called the Son of David and trust me, the evil one was not happy about that.

After they were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. [Matthew 2:13-14 CSB]

Now, about a thousand years later, the enemy had to change his strategy completely. The “Promised One” had been born. So now, instead of trying to corrupt the bloodline, the evil one had to figure out a way to take Him out before He has the chance to do what He was sent here to do….save the world from their sin. But God sends an angel to warn Joseph to flee, with Jesus and Mary, to Egypt until Herod dies and the baby is safe. God wins again.

So he took him to Jerusalem, had him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. And Jesus answered him, “It is said: Do not test the Lord your God.” After the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time. [Luke 4:9,12-13 CSB]

About thirty years later, the “Promised One” is now an adult, He has received the Father’s call to action (when He was being baptized by John the Baptist and a voice rang out from the heavens saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”) and headed out to the desert to fast and pray for forty days and forty nights, when the enemy appeared to confront the Son of God directly. Isn’t it amazing that after four thousand years since he first tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God and listen to him (which they did), he is using the same worn out ploys…1) first he tempts Jesus with food (this time bread..not fruit)…2) secondly with power and authority (compared with wisdom the last time in Eden)…and 3) and lastly, the enemy tries to trick Jesus into “testing death” (hoping that it would lead to death..sound familiar?). Anyway, unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus was not fooled. His eyes were on the prize, yet He knew temptations would come to take the easy way out. But, He was God Incarnate and the one also referred to as Immanuel (which means “God with us”). He was able to see right through the enemy’s schemes. And to make matters worse for the bad guys, Satan’s time was about to run out. Game. Set. Match. 

Jesus would go on to fulfill His mission. Like the Bible teaches, greater is the power that was in Jesus (and now is in us who believe..the Holy Spirit)…than the power that is in the one who is in the world (God’s adversary…the devil). The promise was never really in danger at all. God Almighty was way ahead of His enemy every step of the way. And that has not changed..even today. God is still way ahead of His enemies. What He said He will do, He will do.

So this year, as we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, we should also realize that this was not just about a baby, albeit a very special baby born in Bethlehem. It is about a promise kept. 

Satan may have thought he won, when humanity fell victim to temptation. But our Lord is a very good chess player. He knows that sometimes you have to sacrifice a few pieces, here and there, to protect the king and ultimately defeat your opponent.

But in the end, it will all be worth it because finally, those who trust in Him will be able to eat of that Tree Of Life..forever.

Afterall… “This, this is Christ the King…whom shepherds guard and of whom angels sing.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS

BOB PALUMBO

(author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”)

Love Me Do

I have been a follower of Jesus and a student of the Bible, now, for almost four decades. And the farther down that road I go, the more I am amazed at how so many people base their decision on whether to believe in God or the Bible, or not, on second-hand opinions or false pretenses. Sure, I can sympathize with them and understand how they can trod through life, year after year, without sensing the need to dig deeper to make sure they have sufficient evidence to choose wisely (afterall..we are only here for seventy or eighty years if we are lucky…eternity is a pretty long time, comparatively). Honestly, I was no different for the first twenty-five years of my life. I had dreams and aspirations…I was going places and Heaven or Hell was not on my list of destination choices at that time. So yeah, I get it.

But as I said, so many times when I talk to people about God, I hear many of the same objections and criticisms that would no longer hold water if they merely read the book they are so quick to dismiss. One thing I have found to be true with so many people I have talked to about the Lord, both believers and unbelievers, is that the more they have read the Bible and studied the Christian faith, they more likely they are to believe. You might think it would be the other way around. You know, the closer you look, the more fallacies or inconsistencies you might be able to find. But that is just not the case. At least, that has not been my experience. 

What I wanted to talk about today, specifically, is one of those commons errors or misconceptions that I hear all the time. It seems that many people think of God as being egotistical or “stuck on Himeslf”…because He requires obedience, desires us to be thankful, and most of all….seemingly needs to be loved by us. And to be fair, there does seem to be some logic in that thinking. I mean, if God is all-powerful, all-knowing and totally sufficient in and of Himself, why would He need anything from us. Frankly, isn’t it we humans that need His love and grace? He needs nothing. It reminds me of the old joke we’d make about trying to buy Christmas presents for my Dad….”What do you get for a man who has everything?” 

When I read the words of King David from Psalm 8, I tend to think he was feeling the same way:

“Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is your name throughout the earth! You have covered the heavens with your majesty. When I observe your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you set in place, what is a human being that you remember him, a son of man that you look after him?” [Psalm 8:1,3-4 CSB]

Surely, if Almighty God was able create the universe and all that is in it and keep things working like a fine clock for thousands or millions of years without our help, what could we possibly offer Him, who apparently lacks nothing? And if all of that is true, getting back the original issue at hand here, is God truly self-centered and uber-demanding….or is there a better explanation to be found (for those who care enough to seek the truth)?  Maybe, for starters, we should get back to the basics:

So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. [Genesis 1:27 CSB]

Ok, God made us in His own image, but as we talked about last week, was that just in appearance only. Or, did He also impart some of His divine nature to us? He breathes…we breathe. He loves…we have the ability to love. He laughs and He cries….ditto here. And He apparently had the desire to produce creatures who are “like Him” (as we do) and He is obviously pleased when we do and think as He would. For those of you who have children, does any of this sound familiar? We can look to Jesus, who was not only our Lord and Savior, but a Son (and a perfect one at that), to see how He might view these things. Here is what He told His disciples:

Jesus said, “I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” [John 8:28-29 NASB]

I do not think it is coincidental that, within the Godhead, we are clearly shown a loving relationship between a Father and a Son.  My first book, “Unlocking Creation,” talks a lot about how God used the things He made to reveal His divine nature to his children, often with the hope that we would choose to follow His lead. But Jesus did not come to Earth only as the Son of God. Let’s take a look at how the Apostle Paul described Him:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. [Colossians 1:15,19 CSB]

Paul is saying this Son was also the “spittin’ image” of His Father, not just in looks but through and through…the “image of the invisible God.”  Ok…fine…but you may be wondering why I am stressing the example of Jesus, as God’s Son, so hard. My answer is…because Jesus became our example in many ways.

The point I wanted to make in this post, first and foremost, is that God does not need our love or obedience. No, He would be perfectly fine without. But like any good father or mother, love and obedience from His children is greatly desired and the best way to produce that kind of behavior from our children is to lead by example, to not just tell them to do something, but rather show them how to do it. And the Father gave us Jesus, the perfect example of His grace, mercy and love…not to mention obedience. Jesus was obedient all the way to the Cross…all praise and thanks to Him forever and ever.

You see, God does not expect anything of us that He does not do Himself. It is not egotistical or self-centered when you lead by example and set the tone…that others may follow. The Apostle John may have said it best:

Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. We love because He first loved us. [1 John 4:10-11,19 CSB]

OK….that seems simple enough. If God loved us first, it is not egotistical or arrogant to hope to be loved in return. Makes sense, right?

Let me switch gears, for a moment, if I may. Have you ever noticed that, as humans, we can also be fairly self-serving at times. What I mean by that is we tend to like or love people who are nice to us, or go out of their way to show kindness to us first. Let’s face it, isn’t easier to love someone who displays the ability and desire to be kind or loving towards you, than say….someone who is standoff-ish or has not taken an interest in you or extended a hand of goodness or friendliness in some way? We rarely reach out or try to make a connection with people who have not in some way opened themselves up to us first. Maybe it is just a smile, a kind word….or in some cases, a person might do something we perceive as “above and beyond the call of duty”…something that makes us feel special or appreciated. Have you ever noticed how a person’s face lights up, when someone says really nice things about them or does something really nice for them? Well, you may be surprised to find out that those things are actually evidence of God’s goodness or as I call it, divine nature, within us. He designed us that way. 

I believe God imbedded software into the DNA of each and everyone of us that not only equips us to perceive when someone is being nice to us or showing kindness or love, and I believe He also gave us the basic ability to show kindness or compassion to others, as well. In fact, sometimes we feel led to initiate this type of goodness or grace towards others, without an expectation of it being shown to us in return. We call that type of love…mercy or charity. That is a special kind of love, for sure, but I believe that ability comes from God, too. And yes, I am sure you would agree….some folks have more of that than others, at least they act on it more often. But, then, some might say…”Ok, if God did in fact make the first move by showing us love and mercy, it would seem only fair that He would want us to show him love in return. But what proof do we have?” I am so glad you asked. The Apostle Paul answered that question very clearly, I believe:

“But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8 CSB]

Well, that sums it up quite nicely I’d say, but in closing, I would like to give you another picture, something we can all relate to, of how this all fits together…marriage.

In the Bible, one of the most common threads that runs all the way through it, is this idea that our relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, is to be like a marriage between a man and a woman. It is to be a covenant relationship (which means enduring or without end…one based on an oath or a promise). So let’s take a look at a few aspects of marriage and see if we can wrap it up and put a bow on this thing:

1) How does a relationship that leads to marriage generally start? One of the people usually starts by showing kindness or doing something nice for the other. And if the other person likes that person, too, they will likely do something nice in return. Isn’t that right?

2) Then, once the relationship progresses to the point where things get pretty serious, the man will take a big step by proposing to the woman. At this point, the man is offering his love and devotion in a more permanent way. But, now the woman has a choice. She is not forced to say “Yes”…she still has the option (or free will) to say “No.” I am thinking you are starting to see where this is going.

3) So the man has taken the first step, in demonstrating his love for the woman. But, he is not forcing her to be joined to him. He is asking her to be his bride. Of course, he wants her to say “Yes.” But He does not violate her right to choose for herself, because should she say “Yes”…should would be agreeing to take that oath and enter into a covenant relationship which comes with a promise….it’s a big deal…one that should not be entered into lightly.

So, do you see the connections between marriage and what we are talking about here?  God is like the groom (actually, in the Bible, Jesus is called the bridegroom, the church is called the bride). He blesses us with many things and tries to woo us to Himself? And by sending His Son to die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, He is offering us the chance to be joined to Him, forever. But, He does not violate our free will, we can still choose to reject His offer. But the first step has been taken, His love towards us has been demonstrated.

This is why I do not believe that God is egotistical or self-serving. He showed His love for us first, many times and in many ways.

That is why I chose to name this blog post after the classic Beatles song (if you read my first book, you know that as a lifelong musician, I love to use classic song titles for names of chapters…etc). God is not forcing us to love Him. Not at all. He demonstrated His love for us first, and He is offering us the chance to be joined to Him, forever, by choosing to love Him in return….or as John, Paul, George and Ringo taught us:

“Love, love me do…you know I love you…I’ll always be true…so ple..ee..ee..eez….Love me do…yeah…love me do”

So simple, so plain, yet so direct. God says, “I choose you…now the choice is yours.”

How will you respond?

BOB PALUMBO

(author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”)

Blowin’ In The Wind

For those of you who do not know me, I was born and raised…and still live in Northeast Ohio…near the shores of Lake Erie. I know Chicago is called “the Windy City,” and rightly so. But there are plenty of times where those of us who live in and around Cleveland would likely say we could give Chicago a run for their money in that category. And I will say this, over the last two weeks or so, the winds have been whipping here almost everyday. I don’t know if I can remember a time where the wind was that strong for that long…and that got me thinking.

Over the last few months, we have seen wildfires in Northern California, up in Montana and now down in Southern California…all driven by high winds. So it seems pretty obvious that wind can make fires spread rapidly. But wind can also make things much colder than they would otherwise be. Up here in Ohio, we know all about “wind chill” and “lake effect.” Those winter winds can really get moving, as they come across a chilly or frozen lake. As a good friend of mine would often say, “It’s cold enough to make a snowman order up a hot chocolate.” And trust me, he has a point.

Like I said earlier, all this talk about wind and the good and bad things it can bring, it got me thinking. In each and every one of these instances mentioned above, apart from the wind, these places and people were just fine. Buildings, utilities, roads and bridges, forests,  animals and of course, humans can go from being “safe and secure” to “severely threatened” in a matter of minutes when the winds turn wild. The results can not only be destructive, but very deadly, as well, as we saw with the recent wildfires and, of course, the hurricanes that devastated the good folks in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In fairness, wind is not always a bad thing. We can harness it to lift planes into the air, propel watercraft, produce electricity and need I say that on a sizzling hot afternoon, a bit of a breeze can be very welcome. But once again, in these situations, the presence of wind changes things…from a plane sitting on a tarmac…to a sailboat sitting in the middle of the lake…without the wind no one gets where they want to go. Wind makes a huge difference on virtually everything it touches, that much we know for sure.

In 2016, I wrote my first book called “Unlocking Creation.” The basic premise of the book was that when we look at the things God has made, if we look close enough, we often see aspects of His nature woven into the fabric of those created things. For instance, light vs dark is often used as a metaphor for good and evil. Hot and cold often points to when things go to the extremes, beyond that which is comfortable, and how would God have us respond to that. How about male and female? We are taught that God made man in His own image, so I guess He could have made only one gender that was self-sufficient and could even reproduce on it’s own, if He chose to do that. But, of course He did not, and I believe that was because He wanted to show us how much value He places on relationships. He wanted us to understand that being human is meant to be a team sport, more like curling than golf, let’s say.

So in the same way, especially with all the wind related events happening around us, I though it would be fun to ask the question…”Why wind, Lord?” What was He revealing to us about Himself, through the creation of wind and how should we apply what we learn from wind to our lives, both physically and spiritually. As usual, I can think of no better place to begin this study than the Bible. Afterall, it is God’s Word. It’s always good to go to the source, I believe. So let’s go back to the very beginning, the Book of Genesis, when God made Adam, the very first human.

Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being. [Genesis 2:7 CSB]

First of all, I would point out that the Hebrew word for wind is “ruach” and the Greek word for wind is “pneuma”…and those are the same Greek and Hebrew words for “breath” and “spirit.” So it should be no surprise, just as with the other things we talked about, that before God applied moving air, here, or breath or wind or what have you….Adam was merely a lifeless pile of dust formed into the shape and size of a man. But once God breathed into his nostrils, all that was changed dramatically for Adam and everyone who came after him. They became living creatures. And wind-powered ones, at that, not unlike that sailboat. So it appears God did not just want to make us in His own image, in appearance only. No, that would be a statue, basically. He desired that we should be “made alive” and He used the movement of air to accompish that. Pretty interesting, right?

He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man. Say to it: This is what the Lord God says: Breath, come from the four winds and breathe into these slain so that they may live!” So I prophesied as he commanded me; the breath entered them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army. [Ezekiel 37:9-10 CSB]

Here in the Book of Ezekiel, God is telling Ezekiel to “prophesy to the breath” and that this breath would enter the dry, lifeless bones of the slain and that they would spring to life, stand on their feet and become a vast army. Pneuma…ruach…wind does it again. Are we beginning to see a pattern here? I’d say so. But wind can not only make people alive, it can cause them to die, too, as we see below in the story of Jesus calming the raging seas.

They came and woke him up, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to die!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves. So they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, asking one another, “Who then is this? He commands even the winds and the waves, and they obey him!” [Luke 8:24-25 CSB]

This one is very interesting,  because we get to see both sides of the coin. First, we see the storms are raging and the disciples were very afraid. Remember, some of these men were fishermen. They knew the equation…strong winds + a larger body of water = danger (maybe even death). So they wake Jesus up and He simply commands the winds and waves to stop, and what do you know, they do just that.  So this Jesus, who the Bible tells us is the Son of God, was with God in the beginning and the One who created all things including the wind, tells it to stop and it does. So in some cases, we see the Lord applying wind to  bring about a positive change to things that were otherwise lifeless. And in this case we see the Creator turning off the wind to keep other people from dying. Mind-boggling…to say the least.  But in the Bible, wind is not just something that can either bring a lifeless creature to life…or cause a living one to die. Apparently, it can also be something that either blows someone onto the path that leads to truth or off of it, as the Apostle Paul describes below.

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine…” [Ephesians 4:14 NASB]

Like Bob Dylan wrote many years ago, “The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind…the answer is blowin’ in the wind”  (those of you who read my book “Unlocking Creation”, you know that as a long-time musician and songwriter, myself, I often like to refer to classic songs in my writing…it is kinda my thing). It is true, not only with physical things, but in the spiritual realm. You might refer to it as “inspiration”…and so it is. But keep in mind that in the Greek and the Hebrew…..wind, breath and spirit are all synonomous.  When we are inspired, or when we feel that tug or nudge to do something good (or maybe not so good), it is a spiritual breeze, of sorts, that I believe is “tossing us here or there” as Paul puts it. He was saying that if you are grounded in Christ and in God’s Word, you will be able to withstand those “winds of change” that try to blow us off course. 

“The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” [John 3:8 CSB]

And I will close with this verse from one of my favorite chapters in the Bible…John 3. It is the chapter where we get so many priceless quotes from our Lord as He has this memorable discussion with a Jewish Priest named Nicodemus, who came to Jesus in secret to find out what message this man from Nazareth was preaching. Nicodemus realized that Jesus was sent from God, and he came wanting to know more, even though most of the other Jews saw Him as a threat.  Jesus told him, “You must be born again.” He told him that we are born once of the water (physically), but if we want to find the Kingdom of God, we must be born of the Spirit…in other words…God must breathe life into us, spiritually, by empowering us with the wind of God….the Holy Spirit.

Once again, the breath of God…the ruach…the pneuma must come upon us and change us from being “lifeless” (spiritually speaking), to being “made alive” by a wind that we “know not where it comes from or where it is going,” as Jesus told Nicodemus. 

Now one might ask, “Why would God want to empower us with a Spirit that we know not where it comes from or where it is going?” My answer would be, “We do not need to worry about where we have been in the past or where we shall go in the future. Jesus simply asks His disciples to follow Him. He is fully able to get us where we need to go, now and in the future. Have faith and do not fear, His wind will carry us there, if we are willing to let Him.

So then, only one obvious question remains..”How can a person receive or become empowered by this miraculous wind of God that Jesus referred to as the Helper (John 14:26) or the Holy Spirit.” Well, He actually tells us how in Chapter 11 of Luke’s Gospel:

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” [Luke 11:13 CSB]

There’s our answer…just “ask Him”…ask your Heavenly Father. He is a “Good, Good  Father,” as the song says. He loves to give good gifts to His children.

BOB PALUMBO                                                                                                                                           

(author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”)

The Truth Meter

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post called “The Sin Scale” and it brought a lot of interesting comments. As always, I really enjoyed hearing your responses. Keep ’em coming. So this week, I thought I would take a look at the other side of the coin…truth (since it is believeing a lie that most often leads to more sin, in the first place).

Back in the early days of television, long before my time of course, there was a very popular show called “To Tell The Truth” (OK…since this post is about truth…I probably should not start off with a fib. I was two years old when the show debuted in December of 1956 and I do remember watching it many times). The show featured four celebrity panelists and three “challengers” (two who were lying and one who was telling the truth…what a concept, huh?). The one challenger who was telling the truth usually had some unique talent or had accomplished something pretty incredible. The panelists got to question these three challengers and then had to vote on who was telling the truth. Prize money was divided among the three challengers, so they often did work together somewhat to advance the ruse. It actually was an entertaining show and stayed on the air for many years. It even has surfaced more recently for few brief runs.

But I have to tell the truth (you knew I would go there sooner or later), as I watch the news these days or even just look at the world around us, it often feels like we are living in one big episode of “To Tell The Truth.” There seems to be a lot more liars than “truth-tellers” and those who are not telling the truth (intentionally or otherwise), for some reason, end up being the ones who are believed more often than not. In fact, you just might say, “Truth is hard to find…and rarely believed.” Pretty strange, huh?

You know, though, we really should not be all that surprised as the Apostle Paul talked a lot about the problem of disappearing truth even back in his day:

They (we) exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen. [Romans 1:25 CSB]

It seems Paul was suggesting that we, as humans, made a choice. Truth was available, but mankind traded it for a lie. Of course, this is really nothing new either. Isn’t that what Adam and Eve did, essentially, when the serpent offered them the forbidden fruit? They abandoned the truth that God had told them…and by desiring something created by God instead, they bought into a lie. And that has been happening ever since.

The interesting thing about this is that the Bible teaches that when we start rejecting the truth that God offers us, we gradually become desensitized to the lies and eventually we are no longer able to see the truth, even when it is right in front of our noses. Here is how Paul explained it:

And because they (we) did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, He delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is not right. [Romans 1:28 CSB]

But there is a very important point to be made here. Just because we may have wandered so far off the path that our eyes can no longer see it or even find our way back to it, that does not mean the path no longer exists. Oh, it is still there. It is just as real as it ever was. The problem lies not with the path. The problem has more to do with our eyes, or in this case more specifically with our hearts. The eyes are just the camera. It is our hearts that decides what to see or not see. And not surprisingly, it is our hearts that decide whether to believe the lie or to embrace the truth.  As King David describes it, again, we are given a choice. If we decide to seek God and His unchangeable truths, it usually becomes much easier to follow through with that decision. If we decide not to, it becomes increasingly harder.

I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws. [Psalm 119:30 NIV]

In the verse above, David bring’s it all into focus by reminding us that it all starts with a decision to place God on the throne of our lives, removing ourselves as the final authority. If we are willing to put our trust in God rather than ourselves, as with a doctor or a surgeon, we are signing the release form that allows Him to do the necessary work that gives us the best chance at being whole…and restored to health again. 

Many people do not realize this, but the fact that God gave us “free will” means He will not intrude into our lives without our permission. As with the doctor when we are sick, we must give Him permission to treat us. Only then can we truly be well. 

It all comes down to who are you going to believe? A choice. A decision. It’s your call. No one else can make it for you. But this is not a “follow the crowd” type of thing. Quite the opposite it true, actually, as Paul explains further:

Let God be true, even though everyone is a liar, as it is written: That you may be justified in your words and triumph when you judge. [Romans 3:4 CSB]

Take a look at the story of Noah. God told him it was going to rain and there was going to be a great flood (which is interesting, because up until then, it had never rained). But, everybody and their brother told him he was nuts and mocked and taunted him constantly. 

Oh sure, he could have chimed in with the crowd after many years of seeing the rains had not come saying, “Maybe you’re right? Maybe I am only kidding myself. It never has rained before. Why now?” But what did he do?  He hung on to that which he knew to be true, inspite of tons of people telling him otherwise.

All of that is fine and good, of course, provided we are able to determine that which is really true and that which is not. If we are unable to do that, we are just “grasping at straws”.  It is important that we be able to find “true North” (to describe absolute truth another way). Our moral compass needs something stable and constant to lock on to, if we are going to be able to make good and decent decisions in a day and age where truth seems to have become whatever people want it to be. King Solomon talked about this many, many years ago when he wrote, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2). How true is that, today?  But where do we find this real, unchanging truth?

For starters, earlier Paul told us to “let God be true,” which is fine if you know God and have a relationship with Him. But what if you don’t, what then? Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a “truth meter” that we could use sort of like a Geiger counter that would sniff out the truth and point us to it?  

King David had a pretty good idea of where to find it:

“For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.” [Psalm 33:4 NIV]

Then, the Apostle Paul wrote these words in his letter to his disciple, Timothy:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV]

And last but not least Jesus, Himself, believed God’s words were absolutely true:

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” [John 17:17 NIV]

So it seems pretty clear that all through the Scriptures, there is evidence that the people who knew God intimately were thoroughly convinced that His every word was completely true and worthy of their trust. The Apostle John certainly did. He talked about truth a lot.

But while we are talking about John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (as he sometimes referred to himself rather than calling himself by name), I want to take this discussion one step further, if I may. John started off his Gospel with a truly amazing revelation. He taught us that Jesus was the Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:1,14 NIV]

So, long before the world was created and long before God inspired holy men to write down the words that have now become the Bible, “the Word was with God and the Word was God.” But then, at the appropriate time, God allowed His Word to take on human form in the body of Jesus Christ and just as John wrote, He dwelt among us. God’s truth came down to us from Heaven and was revealed in His Son, just as Jesus, Himself, confirmed a bit later in the Gospel of John:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” [John 14:6-7 NIV]

So you see…absolute, unchanging and trustworthy truth is available to us, today, in this crazy world where “truth is hard to find…and rarely believed.” It is readily available to us, both through His written word, the Bible…and by having an intimate relationship with “the Living Word,” God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you still need a little more icing on this “truth cake” I am baking, here, I would suggest we turn to the final book of the Bible, also written by John, the Book of Revelation. It contains the instructions as to how this world will end, at the sounding of the last trumpet and how Christ will return to take His children home. As John sees one of the final visions, the one where he first sees the Returning King appearing in the clouds upon His white horse, we should not be surprised by the name this rider is given:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True…He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. [Revelation 19:11,13 NIV]

Yes…we do have a “truth meter” by which we can measure the truthfulness (or lack thereof) of the things we see and hear around us…the Word of God…Faithful and True.

Whether it is the written form or through the Living Word, Christ our Savior, it is unchanging, trustworthy and most of all…TRUE.

Take heart, my friends. Truth is not dead. It’s just no longer fashionable.

But, hey…I was never one to follow the latest fashion trends, anyway.

BOB PALUMBO

(Author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”)