The Trouble With Guns

As I sat there, this week, and watched the news of the horrific events in Parkland on TV, not only was I greatly saddened (as I am sure we all were), I felt frustrated mostly because I knew there was nothing that I could have done, or anyone in that school could have done (at least as things are right now) to stop it from happening…or ever happening again. Maybe next time, it could happen in our neighborhood. My son is a teacher. We have grandkids in school. It is very troubling stuff. It wasn’t that long ago that a young man walked into a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and killed 26 people and wounded dozens more. I saw somewhere that since the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, there have been over 50 “active shooter” events in public places in the US and over 20 with multiple fatalities. This is not just run-of-the-mill “bad behavior,” if you ask me. This is “pure evil” at work. The question is…of course…how do we stop it?

Let me begin by saying I am a Christian and I am a Conservative, but I have never owned a gun and I never will. I do not hunt. I do not sport shoot. And I do not feel the need to have a gun for my own safety. Honestly, my Dad had a gun in the house when I was young and it always bothered me. For me, personally, they could pass a law tomorrow to ban the sale of all firearms and require all firearms to be turned into authorities…take guns out of our society all together, except for military and police of course, and it would not bother me one bit. But, I am just one person and that is my own view on guns. Does that mean I favor restricting or banning gun ownership for civilians? I do not. I firmly believe in the rights of all Americans to “bear arms,” if they choose to. It’s constitutional. Plus, I believe more good people with guns is a great deterrent to bad people with guns. 

But, if the government did decide to restrict gun ownership, the question would remain, would it solve the problem? You could sell 1000 guns tomorrow, to first-time gun owners, and there is a very good chance not one out those thousand people would have the desire or the gumption to walk into a school or a church and kill dozens of innocent people they have never met. That takes a special kind of depravity. It frustrates me when people say, “the shooter was mentally disturbed and not in a right frame of mind.” Really? Did they think that somebody who was not mentally disturbed or who was in a right state of mind could actually do something so evil?  Let’s get real folks. People who are not mentally ill in one way or another do not desire to kill dozens of innocent people for no reason.

The problem for our law enforcement people who are trying to stop these horrific tragedies is that it is like trying to finding a needle in a haystack. There are lots of people with guns, for sure, and plenty of “soft targets” out there. But, not a lot who actually want to go out kill a bunch innocent people and most likely die in the process, themselves. Thankfully, there is a very small number of people living among us that do have that ability and desire to do these unthinkable things but, of course, it only takes one to kill many. I understand that. Plus, when deadly weapons are available to people capable of doing such terrible and unexplainable things…the results are often tragic, to say the least. And when you add in a 24/7/365 news media that thrives and profits from showcasing human tragedy, it is like putting gas on a fire.  The temptation to “go out in a blaze of national media coverage” (I won’t say ‘glory’ because what they do is not glorious) is quite alluring to this type of psychopath. So, we do not help the problem when we make media stars out of these folks for a week or two, or until the next one happens. We really are our own worst enemies, sometimes.

So, how do we identify and deal with the people who fit the profile, without taking away the rights of the multitudes of people who would never think of doing such a thing? That is a very difficult question. It is one I am sure we all wish someone could come up with a good answer for, especially when events like this happen. And they happen way too often these days, even once is too often, right?

Let me ask a few questions about some things that may or may not help and see what you think (you can always email me or post comments on Facebook or Twitter):

1) Do you think mental health officials need to do a better job of notifying law enforcement whenever they see someone who fits a profile that could possibly lead to violence against themselves or other people?

2) Do family members and friends need to be more willing to “say something” if they witness suspicious behavior? No one wants to turn in a loved one, of course. But if innocent lives are in truly danger, maybe you have to.

3) Do social media companies need to do a better job of identifying suspicious behavior on their sites and removing it (plus notifying the appropriate authorities)?

4) Should the media realize their part in all of this and quit making these monsters famous in the name of ratings and profit?

5) Should we ban the sale of assault-style and semi-automatic weapons? How much would that really help? Will the criminals find ways to kill, anyway? BTW, did you know that the man in Sutherland Springs who came running out of his house, confronted and shot the active shooter, did so with his own personal AR-15? It’s true. Good thing he was nearby.

6) Have you noticed that these cowards like to go after easy targets, like schools and churches, places where they are unlikely to be faced with other guns that can shoot back? This shooter in Parkland almost got away. He filed out among other students and actually got pretty far before they caught him. 

7) Should we place armed officers at every school and church, or could we even afford to? What about arming teachers, at least a handful of them at each school who are willing to go through the proper training?

8) What about banning the sale of all firearms to civilians, even those who own them for sport or personal protection? Heck, one of them could go crazy one day and start shooting up a mall. Could happen, right? Not likely. I don’t know anyone who thinks going that far is a good idea.

In my mind, I think all of the above could help to some degree. But I do not think any of them will stop evil or deranged people from doing terrible things. 

I do, however, want to bring up one more aspect of this problem. One that does not often get talked about, but one that I think is a huge part of why this utter disregard for innocent human life seems to be so prevalent in our country, nowadays.

The Bible says that as the end of the age and the return of Christ approaches that “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love grow cold.” I believe that means that there will be a gradual trend towards the loss of love and respect for others and a noticeable depreciation in the value and sanctity of human life. Mankind will become “lovers of self” and put their own feelings, needs and wants above the needs of others and especially over the will of God in their lives. And when that happens, some people are more likely to take matters into their own hands…and that usually does not end well.

Another key point that too often gets kicked to the curb is that God is not just  “a God of individuals,” but also “a God of nations.” Many who know the Bible well, teach that all through biblical history, nations have risen and nations have fallen in accordance with their stance before God. If they honored God as a nation, they were blessed. When they dishonored God…well, you get the picture.

About seventy years ago, here in the good ol’ US of A, the Supreme Court tried to remove God from having a “say-so” in our government by redefining the Establishment Clause of our Constitution into the modern interpretation of “separation of church and state.” And we have been slip-sliding into spiritual apostasy ever since. In 1962, the Supreme Court decided to deem organized prayer in school unconstitutional. In 1963, just months before the assassination of JFK, SCOTUS deemed reading the Bible in school unconstitutional. Then, as if that was not enough of an affront to the ways of God, ten years later in 1973, SCOTUS passed Roe vs Wade which effectively legalized the termination of 60 million God-ordained lives (so far) in their mother’s womb. That is ten times the number of innocent lives terminated during the Holocaust, just for comparison sake.

I would say those decisions qualify quite easily for being “dishonoring towards God.” And if we add in the 2015 SCOTUS decision to legalize same-sex marriage, I’d say it is clear we decided to send God a “Dear John Letter”…the break-up was all but official. And when a nation decides to go that way, God honors their decision by removing His hand of blessing and protection. Like the Prodigal Son, they are left to choose their own path and bear the consequences. And I believe that is exactly where we are, as a nation, today.

I am sure you have heard all about the story of Noah and the Great Flood, and how wicked the world had become right before the rain started to fall. Here is what Jesus said about those days and the days right before He would come again:

“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” [Matthew 24:37-39 NASB]

The takeaway from this passage should be, I believe, is that the world became very wicked and God warned the people many times. And it was made clear that if they did not turn from their wicked ways, severe judgement was coming. But no one believed the warnings. They just kept on doing what they had been doing, “come rain or high water.” And sure enough, the flood waters came and all but Noah and the seven members of his family perished. When God cares enough to warn us…we should be smart enough to listen.

So yes…I agree it is very dangerous to have deadly guns so readily available to people with evil intentions and allow the devil to come and steal the lives of our precious children much too soon. And yes, we should find a reasonable solution to the problem of guns, one that everyone can all live with….and not one that strips the rights away from millions of good, decent and law-abiding citizens who would never hurt anyone just because of a handful of sick individuals are willing to take their miseries out on others just to get attention.

But I also believe it is far more dangerous to turn our backs, as a nation, on a God who loves us…and to reject His help, His blessings and His protections.

Prayers and thoughts are not weak excuses from people who do not want to address the problem. Real and earnest prayer changes things.

And if someone talks to God (prayer) and God talks back (answers to prayer)….that is not “mental illness.”  Mental illness looks more like the shooters in Parkland and Sutherland Springs. 

Let’s all use our energies to try to find solutions…rather than trying to tear each other down.

May God have mercy on us….even though we certainly do not deserve His mercy.

BOB PALUMBO

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

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100% Naturally Natural??

Seems to me, that over the last few decades or so, all kinds of things were trending away from just being what they were, naturally. Making things “new and improved” seemed to be the rage. Whether we were talking about the grass on a football field or the gas in our cars…whether it was potato chips or pianos….or hair color or habits….natural wasn’t good enough. We were either adding things to them or changing them all together. They either became synthesized, digitized, enhanced or optimized…all with the intent of making things better somehow.  So…how did all of that work out?

The new football fields were causing the players to get injured more often. The improved gas caused our carburetors to become “gunked up,” so now we needed to add carburetor cleaner to our gas. The potato chips might have had less fat or less calories, but they didn’t taste as good. And the digitized pianos may have added some color or variation to recordings, but they just fell short of the fullness and the warmth of a real grand piano. And don’t even get me started on the subject of guitars and pedal boards. Lord help us!! As I am typing this, I am listening to Zac Brown play a simple song….just him singing and playing an acoustic guitar…no effects pedals. What can be better than that, I ask ya??

Ask an older farmer, one who has been working the fields all his life, if the new and improved ways of planting and harvesting are an improvement or a hindrance. Then be ready to run, because you will probably not like what you hear and you will be lucky if you just get chewed out.

Nowadays, we just don’t have to worry about natural disasters, either. The man-made ones can be far worse. And as if natural enemies were not bad enough…Hollywood, the media and the governments of the world are happy to create newer and better enemies for us to contend with.

But in recent years, I sense the barn door is starting to swing back the other way. People are starting to look for natural foods and foods with all-natural ingredients again. Professional sports teams are opting, more often now, for natural grass instead of artificial turf. Natural sounding music is having a resurgence, over the over-synthesized and auto-tuned music that many feel has “worn out it’s welcome” and you might even hear people telling other people “just be yourself…if you need to be someone else to win friends or influence people, they aren’t friends worth having anyway.”  

So maybe, in some ways, things are getting better…and that is refreshing.

But, I want to ask a question that pops into mind almost everytime I see a label that says, “100% natural this” or “all-natural that”. Just what is “natural”, anyway? And what does the word “natural” mean to you? Oh sure, we think of it as something unaltered from it’s original form….or something without additives or enhancements.  The real deal…or genuine article…if you will. But is there more to it than that?

The dictionary defines the word “natural” this way…”existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind.”

OK, that clears it up a little…it’s something that mankind hasn’t tried to improve (which I say most likely would have only made it worse…lol). But, you know me, I still had questions.  When I thought about the word “natural” being derivative of the word “nature,” I just found myself asking, “So, then, what is nature, really?” Most people would say, the sky, the sea, the trees, the birds, fish….all kinds of animals and plants. They would also include, I’m sure, the wind, the sun, the moon and stars…and the rain, the snow and life and death, in general. I mean, we now hear of some expectant mothers opting for “natural childbirth” and people still die of “natural causes,” I think…right?

But, where did all this natural stuff come from? Did it just pop into existence without rhyme or reason…or did someone or something design or plan it all? Here is what the Apostle John wrote in the first chapter of gospel account:

All things were made through Him (Jesus), and without Him nothing was made that was made. [John 1:3 NKJV]

Well, that is interesting. I thought Jesus was not born until about four thousand years after Adam and Eve were brought to life by the breath of God. But then, John also wrote:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. [John 1:1-2 NKJV]

So, John is telling us that from the very beginning, even before the universe was created, Jesus (who John is calling “the Word”) was not only “with God,” he was also God (part of the three-person Godhead) and it was through Jesus, the Son, that the Father created all things. He created what we refer to as “nature.” King David, in his Psalms, described it another way:

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, The world and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. [Psalm 24:1-2 NASB]

David is telling us that He, the Lord, established everything we see around us (including the creatures that live here) and that it all belongs to Him, basically because it all came from Him and at some point, everything will return to Him. So it would seem, if we read the Bible, that what we call nature are things that were created, designed by someone who has a grand plan and by someone who longs for us (His creatures, created in His image the Bible says) to discover it.

Two years ago, I wrote my first book, “Unlocking Creation.” But, it was the subtitle that got some people thinking, “God’s True Nature Revealed.” Wait…God Almighty has a nature? And it is something He desires to reveal to us, through the things He has made? You “betcha, by golly, wow!!” (Tip of the hat, there, to The Stylistics).

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. The whole idea of creation, aside from the fact that He wanted to create a place for us, His children, to experience life, was to reveal who God is (bit by bit..sort of like the pieces of a treasure hunt) and what He is like by giving us hints that can be found in the everyday things we see all around us. How cool is that?

Check out these words from Job:

But ask the animals, and they will instruct you; ask the birds of the sky, and they will tell you. Or speak to the earth, and it will instruct you; let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? [Job 12:7-9 CSB]

So, it would seem that somewhere down deep in their DNA, even the creatures know why they are here. But us humans, supposedly the smartest of them all, many of us are not willing to give God the credit for even the little things in our lives…the breath in our lungs…the sight in our eyes…the sounds we hear and even the ability to think and reason with our brains (which some people use to reason God out of their life).

But, I go back to my earlier question? If God, indeed, made everything we see and by doing so, He was revealing who He was in the things He made, why would He do that? That’s a lot of work, creating a universe. Have you ever tried to do that?  I bet it’s exhausting. So what was His goal, His end game? Was He just showing off…or did He have a higher purpose in mind? I think the Apostle Paul had a pretty good handle on the subject:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. [Romans 1:20 NASB]

He said, “So they are without excuse?” Wait a second, who is Paul referring to there? Why, us humans, of course. Especially the ones who try to reason God away with the brilliant minds that they have been given, by His goodness I might add.

I am sure many of you, if not most, have seen the movie “The Natural” starring  Robert Redford. Great movie. The truth is, there is truly only One who is worthy to be called “The Natural.” And that is the One who is the embodiment of nature, of all that we see around us. God Almighty. Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Everything that is “natural” in this world has flowed from His hands to us. He is the source, the originator of all things.

Not one thing that is truly natural, has been created or invented by mankind. Not one.

I will close with one more passage from another Psalm of David. So many of his writings reflect his awe for God’s creations, which is why he is one of my favorite people in the Bible (that and the fact that he is, like me, a musician):

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. [Psalm 19:1 ESV]

Ever hear someone say, “For me, getting back in touch with nature is a lot like getting back in touch with God.”

I would respond….”You know, there is a very good reason for that.”

BOB PALUMBO                                                                                                                                      

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

The Gospel According To Moses

In the last couple of weeks, I began writing a rough first draft of what could hopefully, with the Lord’s help, become my third book. While I am not at the point where I would be comfortable telling anyone what is about just yet, because honestly I am at the very beginning of the process and it could very well end up somewhere completely different (I’ve learned from writing the other two books that sometimes God leads you down a path you may not have even been thinking of at the outset..and that is actually part of the fun). Let me just say that I believe this book, if I am able to complete it, Lord willing, is going to be very different from the first two. Stay tuned!!

What I would like to share with you today, is something that I stumbled on as I was writing the first chapter. I am calling this post “The Gospel According To Moses” because I found these five basic principles of the very nature and character of God hidden among the earliest writings the Old Testament. What it proves to me, is that the entire concept of His interactions with mankind were, from the very beginning, all about relationship and redemption, not condemnation (as some would suppose). 

[Side note: The new book will not be called “The Gospel According To Moses,” nor is that what the book is intended to be about, primarily. This is just one of the introductory concepts that I needed to establish first, to help us get to the right conclusion in the end. But I just thought this was so interesting, I felt it was worth sharing.]

So bear with me, today, as I introduce you to these five words, five concepts that God initiated with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and are still an intricate part of the Gospel, today, as we see represented in the New Testament. 

I, also, believe this is yet another confirmation of the what the writer of Hebrews wrote, nearly two thousand years ago.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. [Hebrews 13:8 NASB]


Here is an excerpt from what may become my new book (just a rough draft right now):

I would like to introduce, at this point, five words that we will be talking about a lot in this book, because for me they are the five governing principles of God’s divine nature and His intended purposes, as they relate to both creation and the things yet to come.

 Each of these are revealed in the first few chapters of Genesis, right at the beginning of God’s earthly endeavors, which should not be all that surprising. After all, they set the tone for what is to come:

  • Commandment: Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” [Genesis 2:15-17 NASB]

Here we see that the Lord clearly and specifically gave Adam one rule to follow regarding the trees from which they may and may not eat from. This, I would say, was the first commandment from God to His new creations…mankind.

  • Companionship: Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” [Genesis 2:18 NASB]

Immediately after the commandment is given, God decides that being human should not be a solo experience. He chose to have a relationship with us and He saw fit that we should desire to have relationships with others, as well.

  • Conviction: They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” [Genesis 3:8-9 NASB]

Not long after the commandment was given, and a suitable mate was provided for the man, they fell victim to temptation and disobeyed God. The serpent (the devil…as we will see later) convinced Eve it was alright for them to eat the forbidden fruit and she did so and then shared some with her husband, as well. Both had done exactly what God commanded them not to do. Sin had officially entered the world. But, I do not want to move on without taking notice of how God confronted them about their sin.

He went directly to the man first. Even though Eve ate the forbidden fruit first, and Adam ate it after her, God called to Adam first and said, “Where are you?” Our Maker is a God of order and He always works within the orderly systems He created. Why would He not, since He is not just our Creator, but our example as well?  Of course, God knew where they were. They were hiding from Him because they realized they had done wrong. 

Sound familiar? Don’t we sometimes hide from God when we realize we have sinned against Him? Some things never change.

  • Consequence: To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life…By the sweat of your face you will eat bread till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; For you are dust and to dust you shall return.” [Genesis 3:16-17,19 NASB]

It is important to point out, here, that before there was forgiveness for our two apple-eaters, there was consequence. Eve was told that she would now have great pain in childbirth and that her husband would rule over her. And Adam was told that no longer would food or shelter come easy. He would have to work hard and toil to provide a living until he returns to the ground, the dust from which he was formed.

Death had also now entered the picture. Before they had sinned, they were designed to live forever in the Garden of Eden and everything they needed would be provided. Not anymore. Sin has consequences.

  • Covering: The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. [Genesis 3:21 NASB]

God, then, did provide a covering (or forgiveness) for their sins. He provided them clothes to hide their nakedness. But if we look back at verse 7, before God called to Adam, they realized they were naked and tried to provide their own covering (they sewed fig leaves together) and tried to hide from God. The fact that the Lord provided more suitable clothing for them says, “Our efforts to cover our own sin will never be sufficient. Only God’s grace is sufficient. Only He can provide the covering we truly need.”

Isn’t that interesting? Four thousand years before Jesus was born, as God was creating the universe and everything in it, He already knew there was going to be a fall from grace and He was already prepared to provide a covering for the sins of the world. Jesus, of course, had not yet come to Earth to become our Savior and the four Gospels had not been written. But, our Creator God had already showed He was willing to “put some skin in the game” by providing covering for our first couple’s nakedness from the skins of animals.

You see, if we truly come to know who God is, then we should realize nothing that has happened since He first breathed life into Adam’s nostrils has been a surprise to Him.

I don’t know about you, but I find great comfort in knowing that God is now, and has always been from before the earth was formed, fully aware of how things were going to unfold. Sometimes, when we look at what is going on around us these days, we might be tempted to think this is all one great big spiritual ping-pong match between God and the devil (my best friend, who is a great ping-pong player and plays competitively, would probably lovingly correct me and say, “It’s table tennis, not ping-pong” and I would stand corrected, of course). For six-thousand years of biblical history, it seems God has served and the evil one has returned serve (with a certain amount of spin added, of course). God, then, kept the volley alive by answering back with another great shot and His opponent would do the same. And on and on it went for centuries, or so it may seem. 

In actuality, as God was revealing to Moses what to write regarding how everything was created, He was also revealing His own heart of redemption. He was making it very clear to Moses, or anyone else who was seeking truth, that while it may look like a battle that either side could possibly win and that the devil is giving the Lord all He can handle down here, the outcome was never in question, for the battle has already been won by Christ.

So, if we try to remember these five key words that all begin with the letter  “C,” commandment…companionship…conviction…consequence and covering, we should have a clearer picture of God’s intentions towards mankind. And it might even be a lot easier to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others, since we now understand the motives behind it all.

Of course, there was still to be the whole of matter of the Good News being faith-based and not works-based, but that would be addressed a little later in the Book of Genesis:

Then he (Abraham) believed in the Lord; and He (God) reckoned it to him as righteousness. [Genesis 15:6 NASB]

I know I feel a whole lot better knowing that God was always intent on redeeming me from my sins, even long before I was born and even before I turned to Christ and away from my sin. My part in this exchange was to simply believe what God said through His prophets of old and receive the promises He made available to us all. 

And if you have not done the same, God says, “Ask and you shall receive.”

BOB PALUMBO

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

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”)

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”)