it’s a mad, mad world. but you already knew that.

A billboard that I see each morning driving Jesse to school shows 3 women on a beach wearing bikinis. The slogan says “On December 3 their tops will come off”.

Another one along this same road boasts, “Your wife knows, and so does your girlfriend”.

These are obviously intended for shock value and I’m not quite sure what the selling point is, but the goal is to make you look.

The problem with it is that we live in a culture that has no shame, no filter, no decency. One thought I had was, do these people have kids who put up those signs? 

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The world in 2018 continues to become godless and develop a we don’t care attitude, do what you want lifestyle . We’ve always known that, but it seems more direct than ever.

Angry mobs threaten individuals who they vehemently disagree with – in both political parties.

Brett Kavanaugh, a Supreme Court Justice nominee had his life dragged through the mud because of political agendas, more than the actual accusation.

Commercials subtly insert homosexual couples in ads to normalize it.

Voting chaos in mid-term elections.

Journalism and the media report with bias and behavioral outbursts.

 

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It makes me sick to my stomach because the world is bold in rejecting God, blinded by sin.

Yet there are three things we can take away from our current cultural climate that can help us stay faithful as Christians:

1. God will judge those who remain unrepentant.

Reading through the Old Testament minor prophets, the one thing that strikes me is the certainty of the prophecies. It’s not if but when the Lord executes judgment. It sounds very fanatical and this is where the world mocks Christians (much like in the days of Noah) but it serves as a warning right now- a mercy, until its too late. The prophets were mostly foretelling of the fall of Jerusalem and exile that took place beginning in 597 B.C.

God is patient but swift to act when the appointed time comes.

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3)

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2. God will preserve His people because of His covenants.

In the days leading up to Babylonian captivity, God promised to leave a remnant of His people so they weren’t completely annihilated. One of the reasons for this was to preserve the line of Christ. Just as God provided physical deliverance for Israel, His plan was also to bring spiritual deliverance for humanity through Jesus.

“I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel. I will bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture; the place will throng with people.

One who breaks open the way will go up before them; 

they will break through the gate and go out. Their king will pass through before them, the Lord at their head.” (Micah 2:12-13)

3. We cannot stay neutral.

Because you are either a follower of Christ or a follower of Satan. Sure, you might not phrase it like that, but it comes down to where our allegiance lies. This isn’t a game or a fairy tale. The spiritual world is just as real as the couch you’re sitting on, reading this post.

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Jesus says in Revelation that we can’t be lukewarm (3:14-22). God says in Zephaniah that complacency is sin (1:12). I would propose to you that neutrality doesn’t even exist- it serves as a cover for not wanting to get mixed in. Because when you finally choose a side, it will cost you something. We in America have the current freedom to not experience physical persecution like other Christians around the world. I don’t fear for my life when I profess to follow Christ.

Maybe if I were bold and unashamed like the world is bold and unashamed of how they want to live it would cost me more. I’m thinking that from an eternal perspective this is how I should live.

But remember, God is with His Beloved, He is with us and not against His people. We have the Holy Spirit as our help and comforter. So we don’t have to live in fear, or despair the spiritual rebellion happening all around. He dispenses grace and strength we need for each day. God is hidden but present. He is Providentially at work.

“He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

1 Corinthians 1:8-9

Grace upon grace,

April

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How should Christians vote?

“I have revealed and saved and proclaimed-

I, and not some foreign god among you.

You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,

“that I am God.

Yes, and from ancient days I am He.

No one can deliver out of my Hand.

When I act, who can reverse it?”

Isaiah 43:12-13

These are the words of the Lord. They are absolutely true and trustworthy.

 

God is the same God in 2018 as He was in 18 A.D. He does not “evolve” but is the Great I AM yesterday, today, into eternity. He always has been and will be.

Next week will be the mid-term elections. Whatever happens is under Sovereign Providence. We vote but we also pray and trust in the Lord. Because He is holding all things together.

God is at work and none can stop Him, not even the pits of hell.

Praise the Lord.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

Fight like a good neighbor

For my birthday Jason and I rented Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the recent documentary about Fred Rogers’ life. Most of us knew him as Mister Rogers from his children’s show, with the same name, on PBS. I was reduced to tears halfway through the film, seeing this man fight for goodness in a culture hell bent on being hell bent. Mister Rogers was a counter-cultural show, and relevant at the same time.

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He purposely talked slower, keeping a quiet pace for his viewers, in reaction to the fast moving, in-your-face entertainment catered toward young consumers. Mister Rogers never dumbed down his message but instead spoke directly to children as people, not half-human martians. He also addressed the current issues of his day with subjects about assassination, politics and race. It was never overt but more like a gentle conversation, leading by example.

The documentary shows how Fred Rogers used his life to display kindness to all people. In essence, he saw every person with inherent value, choosing to treat others with dignity. Mister Rogers demonstrated what it means to show grace in an angry world. It’s a good lesson for Christians too.

It doesn’t mean we ignore the wickedness of our time, but first view each person as an image-bearer in need of God’s salvation and grace.

We start the good fight here, not for external moralism, but compassion for heart transformation. The greater war within each of us is spiritual. A person, a people, a nation cannot change without the inner man being renewed.

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It is so easy to become disheartened in our current climate, to watch evil win. When everyone does what is right in his own eyes sin will prevail. We do what we want under the disguise of “tolerance” to justify our sin. Helplessness sets in for the Christian so we keep our heads down.

But Fred Rogers bravely and publicly lived out his conviction to reach children with the hope of transforming the next generation from hate to love, anger to kindness. And yet we go a step further because it isn’t enough. Outward change only results from inner change first. We operate out of our own regenerated hearts before engaging in spiritual battles/culture wars. Only then can we approach others from a place of sincerity and live out the Gospel message.

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Friends, don’t grow weary in doing good. Even with mass chaos in our world we have the invaluable gift of giving the lost what they need most- Hope. We are the Light Bearers to darkness.

Remember who you are in Jesus Christ and fight the good fight right in your own neighborhood.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

Go deeper:

Revelation 2:2-7

Hebrews 12:3

Galatians 6:9-10

 

How Christians deal with tragedy in the world

Last week was our fall break, so we joined my in-laws at the beach. Even though the pool water was frigid and sleep eluded us due to sharing a room with Jesse, it was nice – a much needed get away from all adult responsibilities. We arrived the day before the Las Vegas massacre, stealing so many lives, causing hundreds of injuries and an untold number of psychological damage to those who witnessed the horrific scene.

It somehow felt wrong to be on vacation when others were experiencing such grief. I felt a little guilty for indulging in a week away from my life.

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The reality is, tragedy strikes every day all over the world – unspeakable things that never make the headlines. How do we respond then, when sad events seem to come in waves like recently? There are so many needs around us it can feel overwhelming, not to mention the sorrows that touch our personal lives. I begin to feel helpless. Paralysis sets in or an apathetic mindset. I don’t like admitting that, but we are not humanly capable to emotionally respond to every single calamity. This is what I have been wrestling with this week.

How are Christians to react to multiple tragedies?

One thing I took away from the Las Vegas attack and hurricanes on the coasts was to be grateful for the things God has given me: life, family, salvation/hope, opportunity to take vacations, food, shelter, witnessing acts of kindness, laughter, God’s beauty in creation; the list goes on because it has to. If we stop counting God’s kindnesses we become victims too, swallowed in despair.

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We fight against Satan’s schemes, living in a fallen world, by carrying a grateful heart. Living in the present, taking nothing for granted.

It doesn’t negate the pain, but those very circumstances propel us to pray for the hurting and call us to act. It doesn’t have to be big. Small acts of kindness go a long way. Ask God specifically how you can meet need, bless someone, or who to pray for. We have opportunities to minister right where we live too. Look around – your neighbors, local church, friends, family, and school.

These are open invitations to do His work.

Satan would have us living in fear, or doubt even, to keep us ineffective and disobedient as believers. You can still be grieved over the brokenness in our world, but you don’t have to be fearful or useless. We hold our hands open to accept both the good and the bad.

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There is purpose in pain. We may not comprehend it this side of heaven but what Satan intends for evil God can use for good. It isn’t senseless or haphazard, even when it feels that way.

We know how the Story ends; it’s the middle part that’s muddled. Yet because we are confident in our eternal future we don’t have to walk through this life riddled with anxiety over the unknown. I do not serve a hard God. This world is hard because it isn’t as it should be. Those who place their faith in Christ know this earthly life is not all there is.

We choose to trust in God’s Sovereignty.

We place our hope in His unfailing Love and Mercy.

Rest in His Power when things are chaotic. Trust in His Goodness when you don’t understand. Remember His grace to you and live out of that confident hope.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

 

why others should know what you stand for

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Recently the television show Once Upon A Time aired an episode specifically to celebrate the LGBT community. It became obvious what their goal was with the forced story line seemingly coming out of nowhere – well, Oz to be exact. The series plot follows fairy tale characters that we all know and love as they navigate their way in the modern world.

In an attempt to normalize homosexual relationships, what better way to force-feed the audience their agenda than behind the cloak of “family friendly” watching? I’m not naïve enough to think ABC (the broadcast in which the show airs) shares my values. In fact, it took me this long to see how much they despise them.

In the name of tolerance there are shows on ABC about a gay teen (The Real O’Neals), a married gay couple with a kid (Modern Family) and a woman who has an abortion (Scandal). I don’t even have to watch those shows to know I won’t be tuning in. The clips and headlines say it all.

But my head turned when the creators of Once Upon A Time, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, decided to make Red Riding Hood and Dorothy a proud lesbian couple with a full-on make-out scene. I shouldn’t be surprised, but that one caught me off guard. They also clarified Mulan’s lesbianism as well. It seems obvious that the writers ran out of good material and had to go for the shock value instead. The season had been sputtering a little and this sealed it.

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If there was one thing I could tell ABC it would be that in the crusade for tolerance, you have offended me, a Christian.

Our world is so bent on not offending the LGBT group that the rest of us don’t even matter.

We’re called bigots, intolerant, homophobes, and narrow-minded (and those are the nice words).

The standards I choose to follow are God’s biblical principles laid out in Scripture. I believe what God says about marriage. It is between one man and one woman and not only is it beautiful, but also sacred. (Genesis 2:20-25; …all of the Song of Solomon)

The wide brush that Christians are painted with grieves my heart. We are projected as LGBT haters. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that the kind of lifestyle homosexuals celebrate is what God calls an abomination. It makes something He created as holy, unholy. (Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:17-20; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Deuteronomy 22:5)

But what I also see are the people behind the masquerade – souls that need truth, to see what real love looks like, the love of Christ. What a scary place it must be to make up one’s own morality as you go along.

When everyone does what is right in his own eyes we self-destruct.

I’m disappointed Once Upon A Time took such an unnecessary turn. However, I will not be silenced or ashamed of my convictions because I follow Jesus Christ. I agree with the Bible and that it is completely true without error. The sad part is LGBT and supporters have made themselves the victims when in fact it is the Christian faith being attacked.

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Redemption is possible to all who desire repentance from whatever lifestyle of sin. But “you cannot adjust your faith to make room for your favorite sin” to quote Matt Walsh. It doesn’t mean Christians have it all together. Rather, it acknowledges a need for forgiveness and daily grace, seeking to please God because we love Him. Defiant rebellion and rebuking God’s Word is not an option or a mark of a believer.

So, let us pray for this nation in a culture war that steps inside our own homes through the television screen (or better yet, turn it off). Let us pray to be kind to someone who vehemently disagrees with what we stand for, demonstrating gracious speech, patience with conviction. Let us grieve for the lost and do our part in bringing the Gospel to our neighbor, co-worker, city, and to the nations. Engage the culture instead of shunning it. Let others know what you believe because when you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

March Madness

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Spring is here. It is refreshing to see life bloom again. Color everywhere and warmer weather, hooray! March felt a little heavy, personally and around the world. While nations argued and it seems as if evil is winning we as believers hold on to something more. Praise God this isn’t my home! I have a sure hope of better things to come.

Despite all of the negative news that determined to overpower my senses, there were glimpses of God’s grace, beauty and even fun all around. Here are 6 things I enjoyed in March:

 

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.

  1. I now understand why The Martian was nominated in the Comedy category at the Oscars.

I know I’m late to the party on this one since I just watched it. It’s not your typical comedy by any means, more like a dramedy. To keep the movie light and interesting, quips are sprinkled throughout making this film delightful to see. Matt Damon does a superb job carrying most of the scenes solo. I found it to be a mix between Apollo 13 and Castaway (notably both Tom Hanks movies).

Growing up in an “all things NASA” city and really enjoying The Martian I think qualifies me as a solidified space nerd. I surprised even myself on that one.

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  1. Karen Carpenter was crazy talented

Jason and I watched a PBS special on The Carpenters a few weeks ago. I had no idea Karen played the drums before she started singing. That was her thing before they all realized she had the most enchanting voice ever. Who knew?

She also had a contralto singing voice, the lowest female voice type. It is said to be the most rare of female vocals with less than 1% of the population.

 

  1. Apparently I have a high sensitivity to caffeine

After my morning cup of coffee I would always have huge crashes and felt half-asleep (Dead woman walking). So, to counter the zombie look I’m in the middle of “coming clean” from caffeinated beverages for a solid 3 months! I do feel a lot better after only a few weeks. This is just an experiment, or complete insanity.

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4. We live in a mad, mad, mad world

Politics has sucked me in. All I hear about is the “anger” the voters have, and yeah I get it. I’m both fascinated and appalled by it all. There were quite a few “super” Tuesdays, candidates dropping out and immature exchanges back and forth. I’m sorry, is this the 8th grade or a presidential election?

My hope when everything feels unsettled on the verge of collapse is that God is on His throne. God is still God. Ultimately I place my hope in Him and not man.

 

 

5. If you are on Instagram like the 400 million other users, check out these incredible landscape photographers:

@william_patino

@quietachiever

@intrepidphotos

These talented people travel all over the world capturing breath-taking views of God’s creation. I’m always left in awe over our Great God and Creator of the Universe. What an amazing gift He gives us through His beauty.

What things did you see, listen to or learn in March? Do you and your family have any traditions that you celebrate for Easter? Ours was low-key this year and I enjoyed it. Celebrating our Risen Savior and Living Hope this month makes everything else pale in comparison.

I pray that you are filled with peace and joy as we step into one of my favorite months, my name’s sake you guys!

Grace upon grace,

April

 

To the City of Lights

Eiffel tower, Paris, France.

Eiffel tower, Paris, France.

Yesterday there was an evil massacre in Paris by ISIS. Here we were busy in our afternoon, while the Parisians settled into the evening ready to begin the weekend, or so they thought. Friends catching up with one another at the café, buddies enjoying a soccer match at the stadium, France playing Germany. Fun loving music goers attended a concert that ultimately costs them their lives, like cattle sent to the slaughter, unaware of the unfathomable violence that would befall them.

ISIS is Satan on earth, living, breathing in the flesh. He and his demonic forces have taken this terrorist group for themselves and all that wickedness comes from Lucifer’s command. He hates God. He hates life. He hates those who love both and attempts to destroy not only God’s people, but also all who are created in His image. Satan loves nothing more than to annihilate, mutilate, distort, and pervert sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. This is his goal and always has been since the Garden of Eden. Satan knows he has already lost the battle, but will wreak havoc while he can.

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Last night ISIS succeeded in making the world feel an unsafe place. It never really has been safe though. We deceive ourselves into thinking an ocean and a strong military are great buffers to keep the bad guys at bay. But the only reason we are given any protection is due to the Lord’s Sovereign Hand. I am thankful for the men and women who volunteer to serve and protect us, but it isn’t what saves us, not ultimately.

My heart breaks over the injustice, the methodically planned, cold-hearted bloody acts in France. My prayer cry is for the friends and family who lost a daughter, son or brother in Paris last night. May they be comforted by the power of the Gospel, who is Christ, as they reel from what could never happen to what has happened.

My heart intercedes for the lost souls, not realizing their last night on earth would usher them into an eternity. My prayer is that some knew You, Father. Not all are lost forever. I plead with Him to not let all of this carnage be in vain. They were college students, mothers, interns, girlfriends, and businessmen.

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So what should our response and prayers look like in the aftermath? We pray that this heinous act against humanity will ultimately be a spiritual victory. Revival. Another Great Awakening. Wouldn’t that be glorious to see beauty rise from the ashes? “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NKJV). Right now we pray and grieve with Paris. If we cannot physically fight ISIS ourselves, we can spiritually. For the Christian this is a call to arms. Train yourselves in the Word, stay faithful in prayer, “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV). We can and should be a city of lights ourselves to the hopelessly lost and dark world.

The Church will be sifted, even more so than now. Spiritual reformation usually follows the heels of great persecution. ISIS persecutes others just for living. Specifically, they say, “American blood is best”. They hate what we stand for- freedom. Freedom to live in a democratic open society similar to France. But more than that, ISIS hates Jesus Christ. If you follow Him, they hate you too and will do everything they can to destroy your faith, your life.

In these times as our hearts mourn for Paris, may we not lose our Hope in the One who will have the final victory. It isn’t over, the bloodshed, but it does not mean ISIS has won either. Ultimately they will lose in the worst way. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28 NIV). May God grant even ISIS repentance and thus have mercy on their souls.

Grace upon grace,

April