Why Children and Churches?

When I look at what is going on around us, these days, I find something quite peculiar about who the victims of these horrific tragedies often tend to be. Very often the targets of these deadly outbursts by sick and deranged individuals are children or churches. It makes you wonder, “Why would that be? These are not people who pose a threat to anyone.” So I pondered this quite a bit, over the last week or so, and I think I have settled on a likely reason why the innocent and non-threatening ones among us, so often are targeted by those who are neither. To set the tone for what I am going to be talking about today, I am going to start out by sharing a famous quote from the Bible, specifically the words of Jesus Christ, Himself:

“Let the little children come to me, and don’t stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” [Luke 18:16 CSB]

If you know anything about the Bible or God at all, even very little…maybe just as stories from Sunday School when you were a child, yourself, or even things you may have seen from the movies or on TV…you are probably well aware that, at least according to religious teachings, God has an enemy. And the implications are that this enemy, who is called by many names (the devil, the serpent, Lucifer, Satan…or my personal favorite “smutface”), is alive and very active in the world today. His primary goal on the earth is to keep as many human beings (the creatures God created to “show him up”…as he sees it) from entering the Kingdom of God as possible.

Imagine that. Jesus says, “the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” So, would it be a surprise to learn that the little ones He called “such as these” have been elevated to high priority targets in the eyes of God’s enemy? Shouldn’t be. And my guess would be, that as the Kingdom of God draws nearer and nearer, the attacks on “such as these” will increase.

It is my belief, based on many years of reading the Bible and Bible-related books, and listening to countless sermons from many pastors who know a lot more about these things than I do, that over the last seventy years, things have been accelerating rapidly on two key fronts; 1) the increase of evil in the world….and 2) the increase of the grace of God to oppose it. And it just so happens that these are also among the things that Jesus pointed to, quite precisely, that He said would happen in the days and years leading up to His second and final appearance on Earth. And this time, He will be coming back to defeat those who are “against Him” and redeem those who are, by choice, “for Him.”  In fact, He actually said these words, “Those who are not for Me, are against Me.” Sounds pretty clear to me.

The year, 1948, is one of great importance in the eyes of many who study the Bible, because it is the year that, after 2000 years of exile, Israel officially became a nation again. And Jesus hinted that when that happened, it would mark the beginning of the last generation before His return. Now, there are a number of theories as to what the length of a generation might be (biblically-speaking). I have heard 40 years, 70 years, 80 years and 120 years, for example, and each of these have some logic attached to it. But, at least for this discussion, we can toss out the 40-year argument since we are 30 years beyond that, here in 2018.

And in that time, we have seen things like the removal of organized prayer in schools, a decision that reading the Bible in schools is unconstitutional, the legalization of abortion (60 million babies terminated since 1973…and isn’t it interesting that when Jesus said those words from Luke 18, the people had brought some babies to Him, and that was his response….”bring them to Me”). There have also been increases in kidnappings and child abductions, the rise of the sex slave industry (which feeds on children) and big spikes in drug addiction, overdoses and child suicide. And, of course, I did not mention school-shootings, which are certainly part of the attacks of “the enemy”, I believe, albeit a very small part (while nonetheless horrific and gut-wrenching) in comparison with the others.

Ok, so I guess it makes sense. If God’s enemy, Satan, perceives children to be possible future “kingdom-dwellers” and Jesus is calling them to Himself, of course they would likely become primary targets. Eliminate them while they are young, or even babies still in their mother’s womb. But, the young and the unborn are not just primary targets, they are also easy targets. So yeah, if you are trying to spoil God’s “big resurrection party in Heaven” (you know He is making plans for a huge “marriage feast”, once all those who have put their trust in Him are set free from their earthly bodies and the sin that so easily entangles us), increasing the number of invited guests (we are all invited) who will be not be in attendance would be a priority, no doubt.

So, yes, while it may be true that the reason (at least part of it) that it always seems to be a school full of young people or a church full of good and decent folks who love God and have chosen to align themselves with Him that become the victims in these senseless crimes against humanity is that schools and churches are “soft targets” and not very well protected against these types of attacks. And most of them are “gun-free zones,” which make our children, grandchildren and people of faith “sitting ducks” for the these maniacs. But, I believe there is a spiritual aspect to all of this, as well, and I do not think these tragic events are anywhere near as random as most people think. No, I believe it is a well-defined strategy by the chief enemy of God to create as many “no shows” to that marriage supper the Bible talks about as he can.

Let’s take a look at what some of men who knew Jesus best had to say about this:

“Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” [1 Peter 5:8 NASB]

The use of a lion, by the Apostle Peter, as a way of describing the devil is certainly an interesting one. Isn’t Jesus Christ also described as a lion numerous times in Scripture? Yes He is. Seems a little strange, then, that Jesus and Satan would both be painted as the same predatory animal, does it not? I agree, but there is a difference in how the term “lion” is used. Satan is described as a very imposing adversary, one that very few creatures would stand a chance against, even those much bigger. He is painted as the aggressor who attacks and devours whatever defenseless creature it chooses. He is clever, cunning and quick. Many times, the victim does not even see the attack coming and in the blink of eye…it’s over.

Jesus, on the other hand, is described as having a kingly nature, a “king of the jungle,” if you will. He is given more of a defensive posture than an aggressive one. Very few would even think of attacking this lion, but the ones who are silly or bold enough to try, they will quickly discover what a fatal mistake they have made. It will not end well for them.

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you…If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. [John 15:18,20-21 NASB]

When Jesus came to earth the first time, He came directly to His own people…the Jews…the descendants of Father Abraham. Certainly, they would “roll out the red carpet” for Him and welcome His long-awaited arrival as Messiah with open arms. They, of course, did nothing of the sort. In fact, Herod even tried have the baby Jesus killed, by ordering that every male, Jewish child two years of age and under should be put to death. Sound familiar? Even two thousand years ago, Satan’s strategy was the same…eliminate them while they are young. Don’t allow them to grow up to become a problem….”nip it in the bud.”

So, what Jesus was telling His disciples (and you and I, indirectly) is that if the enemy was silly and bold enough to try to silence the “king of the jungle” (aka…the Lion of Judah) at a tender young…..you can be pretty sure, even today, that if you see anyone willing to put innocent children to death (whether inside the womb or outside of it), they are doing the devil’s dirty work. Plus, if you see those who have survived the enemy’s attack on children being put to death for their faith…or murdered in a house of worship…think of it as Satan’s “clean-up crew,” coming around to finish the job by taking out the ones who “slipped through the cracks” the first time, and hung around long enough to sign-up for the opposing team and become a problem. I can almost hear ol’ smutface saying, “They know too much…they must be eliminated.”

“Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.” [Matthew 5:5 NKJV]

We have all heard that a million times, I’m sure. And my guess is that you have also heard the twisted version of it a million times, “The weak shall inherit the earth.” Let me make this real clear…meek does not mean weak. The word “meek” means one who is mild-mannered, gentle in spirit and displays humility. Jesus was a perfect example of all those traits. One thing Jesus was not…is weak. And He certainly would never suggest that those who follow Him should be weak, either….or that the weak would be blessed by God (not talking about those who are sickly or weak in body….that is quite a different thing and I do think God blesses people who are hurting or afflicted). We are told many times in Scripture that we are to be bold, courageous and strong as children of God….and to “fear not.” Last time I looked…weakness was not one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

So to sum this all up…children and babies are both “easy targets” and “high-value targets” for that slimy “serpent of old” that it talks about in both Genesis and Revelation (hey, if you are mentioned in the first and last books of the Bible…you must be pretty high up on God’s “watch list”).

And the same goes for the meek…they also tend to be “easy targets” and people that Satan feels threatened by, not because they might physically fight back…but more because they’ve got the goods on him and can warn other potential victims and woo them over to the good side. And his goal is to stop that before it happens…i.e….”kill the messengers.”

So, the answer to the question, “Why Children and Churches”, seems quite obvious to me.

Satan knows his days are numbered and he wants to take as many souls along with him on that free vacation to somewhere “really warm”….for all of eternity.

Therefore, whenever you see someone who is willing to put an innocent child to death or persecute a person for their faith in God…be not surprised. Whether they know it or not, they are taking their orders from the one who the Bible says comes to “steal, kill and destroy,” the evil one….Satan…himself.

And the closer we get to the triumphant return of the “Lion of Judah,” this “cowardly lion” will be shakin’ in his boots all the more…and acting a little more out of desperation.

Rest assured..the ultimate price he will pay for taking the lives of the ones who are precious in God’s sight will be both great…and permanent.

BOB PALUMBO

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

Advertisements

Where Would America Be Without Billy Graham?

This past week, we were all saddened by the news that the Reverend Billy Graham, dubbed “America’s Pastor,” entered his eternal rest at age 99. As I heard countless dignitaries, celebrities and just plain ol’ “regular folks” commenting on what an impact he had made on their lives, the question kept coming into my mind, “Where would America be today, without Billy Graham?”  So that is a question I would like to try to answer, here, this week.

William Franklin Graham Jr. was born in November 7th, 1918 in Charlotte, North Carolina. His father was a dairy farmer and the young Billy Graham grew up doing what farm kids do. He helped with the milking of the cows and whatever else needed to be done. As a young man, he grew up going to the Presbyterian Church, he loved baseball and loved Tarzan. His father said he would often climb trees and practice that Tarzan yell, which his father said might have led him to preaching…LOL. I love that comment…such a Dad thing.

According to his biography, Billy accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior at age 16 during a tent revival featuring evangelist Mordecai Ham. Billy once said he went to the revival because he and his friends thought it might be a good place to meet girls. My…how the world has changed!! Then, after receiving “the call from God” (as he called it) to preach the Gospel, he spent a few years as a pastor of a couple of churches before sensing God was leading him out into greener pastures..where the opportunity to “harvest souls” for Christ was much greater.

He held his first “crusade” in September of 1947 at the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was a nine-day event and roughly 6000 people attended. Not a bad way to start. This, of course, was not long after Pearl Harbor and World War II had recently ended, not to mention the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It is well-documented that in those days, many churches were filled to capacity and people were hungry for the message of hope that Reverend Graham and others were offering. Graham also went on to host a radio show called “Hour Of Decision” that was heard nationally from 1950-1954. The fields were, indeed, “ripe for a harvest.”

It has been reported that since 1947, Billy Graham has held 400 crusades in 185 countries that have been attended by 215 million people and his ministry reports that they can account for roughly 3.2 million decisions to “accept Christ as Savior” from those crusades. If you include radio, television and public appearances…it has been said that his message of redemption and hope reached over 2 billion people (that is billion with a “b”). Jesus said before he ascended into Heaven that His disciples were to take the message of the Gospel to the four corners of the earth and “make disciples of all nations.” Billy Graham, more than any one person before or since, did his very best to accomplish that mission.

So again, the question remains, “Where would America be today without Billy Graham?” In fact, I could expand the question to include the whole world. In 1992, he held a crusade in Moscow that was attended by 155,000 people and it was reported that about one-fourth of those who were there came forward and made a decision for Christ. That would be over 30,000 Russians who decided to “follow Jesus.” Do you think that might have impacted the Russian society? I do. It would be hard to estimate how far the message of Jesus Christ spread through Russia following Graham’s appearances there. He also spoke in China many times and even held two crusades in Pjongjang, North Korea in 1992 and in 1994.

But by far, the lion’s share of his ministry and his crusades centered on America and I would guess that out of the 3.2 million decisions for Christ that resulted from his preaching, probably 2 million of those were right here in America. And again, it does not stop there, because many people who were impacted by the Gospel through Graham’s convincing sermons (I still occasionally watch the re-runs of his crusades…they still air all the time) went on to “answer the call to ministry” themselves. There are literally tens of thousands of pastors and ministers, today, who credit Billy Graham for being  “the spark that lit the fire” for them, as well. 

Let’s look at another factor in the spread of the Gospel of Christ in America and how “America’s Pastor” might have played a role in it. In the late 60s and early 70s, out on the West Coast, something called “the Jesus Movement” (which was the more recent manifestation of the Charismatic Movement, which got it’s start on Azusa Street in Los Angeles in 1906, but really started getting traction in mainstream churches in the early 60s) ushered in converts by the millions from a new generation of believers who found the denominational churches their parents attended to be stagnant and uninspiring. This Jesus Movement even gave birth to an entirely new genre of music called “Christian Rock” and young people all over the country were getting into it big time. It was like the hippy generation of Woodstock and Haight-Ashbury were growing up and finding a new message to grab ahold of, only this time…one with eternal implications. 

Then out of all of that, you had ministries like “Youth For Christ” and “Campus Crusade” taking the message to high schools and college campuses all over America, sort of following in the footsteps of Billy Graham by hosting large gatherings featuring Christian music, a Gospel message followed by an opportunity for those in attendance to pray and receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. I, myself, first prayed to receive Christ as a senior in high school at a bonfire at our school hosted by Campus Crusade in 1972.

I would ask you…how much would you think all of that could be pointed to, as fruit that had grown from those earlier seeds that Billy Graham had planted over the previous two decades leading up to the Charismatic and Jesus movements of the 60s and 70s, probably starting with many of their parents? I would say quite a bit. It would be impossible, I think, to “guesstimate” how many people would say their life’s course was altered in a major way by Reverend Graham’s message (of course, he would say it was the message of Jesus Christ and not Billy Graham…and he would be right about that…but God chose him to be like Johnny Appleseed and go about “spreading the seeds of faith”…then trusting God to cause the growth). 

But, I find it interesting that the seventy-one years of his ministry, from 1947-2018 are the same seventy-one years since the UN voted to divide Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state, which eventually would allow the Jewish people to move back to their homeland and become the nation of Israel again in 1948. And it is the same seventy-one years since the Supreme Court broadened the definition of the Establishment Clause in our Constitution, becoming this new, modern version of “the separation of church and state,” which has allowed for God to be pushed farther and farther away from having any real impact in our society. 

But, I believe God used Billy as a “stop gap” to push back against those who wanted to kick God to the curb and silence His message of hope, love and redemption. He was the embodiment, many would say, of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome almost two-thousand years ago (and I think they knew a thing or two about how wicked and self-serving human government can be). He said, “where sin abounded,  grace abounded all the more.” I believe the Lord used Reverend Graham as the “pièce de résistance” to offset the devil’s attempts to cause America to drift further into moral decay. His preaching of the Gospel offered us a lifeline as he shared not only God’s love and forgiveness, but also the consequences of what happens if we choose to reject it. No, his sermons were not all “lollipops and roses,” nor were they all “hell, fire and brimstone.” God gave him the unique ability to know just how much of each to mix in to each message he spoke, based on the audience he was addressing each night. And that, my friends, is a gift that can only come from above.

It is also well known that Billy Graham was thought to be an important spiritual advisor and friend to the last thirteen American Presidents, Democrats and Republicans alike, from Truman to Trump. He often met with them during times of national and personal hardship and one thing that all of them said about Graham, was that he had no “political agenda.” He was only there to comfort, counsel and encourage them with the Word of God regarding whatever situations they were dealing with. Billy Graham had no interest in “political policy” (as he often reminded them that God did not either), he was only concerned with the condition of the human heart that was burdened and tainted by sin, that it might find peace and forgiveness through Christ and that the love of God would be extended to others, as well. That was his only mission and calling, to preach to anyone who would listen, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Billy Graham was also a very special man when he was not preaching, as well. Even though many tried to cause him to stumble morally, he kept himself scandal-free and was well-known for refusing to allow himself to be alone with any woman other than his wife (something our Vice President, Mike Pence, has recently been mocked for…even by some women…imagine that…oh, how far we have fallen as a society). In fact, that habit became quite popular with many other preachers and became known as “the Billy Graham rule.” Pretty amazing.

I heard someone on TV ask, the morning the Reverend left us, “Is there anyone out there today that could step up and be the next Billy Graham?”

My answer would be, “No way. There will never be another Billy Graham, not even close. Unless, of course, God chooses to raise someone up…just like He did when He gave us William Franklin Graham Jr……and only God can do that.

Let us, then, thank God for sending us a man like Billy Graham.

And let us pray that He will send us others to carry on that work..so that the devil may be opposed on every front by the Good News of Jesus Christ.

It is truly our only hope.

BOB PALUMBO

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

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”)

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”)