While 2020 has overall been a pretty craptastic year, some wonderful things have come from it. (At least, they have for me.) I thought I would share the 2 most important things that happened to me in 2020.
First, I must note that I have never liked politics. Not office or workplace politics and certainly not government politics. I ascribe to the “less is more” point of view. (The less government, the better.) Therefore, I have regarded myself as a Libertarian. And, while my views are decidedly conservative, I have never much kept up with the goings-on in Washington D.C. That is, until this year.
2020 has opened my eyes to just how far this country has fallen away from our Constitution and the foundations on which this great country was founded and from where our founding fathers laid it. It is both mind-numbing and heartbreaking to see just how far down into the pit we have fallen.
And, as Christians, we are to take at least some blame in this. As a whole, we as a Church have NOT stood up for Christian values the way we should have. We have been watering down Biblical truths and letting things slide in order to look “progressive” and be “politically correct.” We have been lax in sharing and standing on true Christian values and the true rights and wrongs that the Lord teaches. The two most vital, in my humble opinion, is the abolition of the nuclear family and thinking that abortion is somehow ok. Or, at the very least turning a blind eye to these things.
So, now that my eyes have been opened about what is going in our government and politics, I can do my best to fight for what is right. It is not about being Democrat or Republican, or Libertarian. What is right is being on God’s side and standing on His truths. And, opening the eyes of everyone in this country to the truth of what is going on. You can read more about these in my posts A Time For War and A Great Awakening.
This was the first good thing that happened to me this year.
The second and easily the most meaningful to me, is the fact that I have been spending a lot more time with God. And, honestly, a lot of this has to do with point number one.
I have been meeting with friends, having fellowship, and praying for this country and President Donald Trump.
I have joined in an online prayer group led by Father Frank Pavone that prays every weekday evening. It is streamed live on Right Side Broadcasting Network.
I have been doing Bible studies with two different groups of friends. I have studied Our Bodies Tell God’s Story by Christopher West and Walking With Purpose by Lisa Brenninkmeyer. I have dug into the beautiful books of Mark and Romans with in depth 12-week studies. And, I have read and studied my first ever encyclical letter written by Pope John Paul II called On the Mercy of God. And finally, I just stared a new study on my own of the book of Isaiah.
Spending more time with the Lord in prayer, in studying His Word and in fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ have been life-saving this year. Growing spiritually is so fundamental. I am so grateful and thankful for this time, despite all the ugliness that has come out of this year. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
We can learn so much from the Word of God. The Bible is our instruction book on life and in it the Lord tells us everything we need to know for any and everything you can possibly think of. In His “Book of Life” the Lord provides us with the answers to every question we could ever have. We just have to get in there, read it, and spend good quality time with Him there to understand.
It is easy and it’s not.
As I have noted in previous blog posts, reading and understanding the Word of God is not always an easy thing. But, if we truly want to learn about God and His will for our lives, it is imperative that we commit time to being in His Word. (As an FYI, I have found it hugely impactful and enlightening to listen to Bible teachings online. Might I suggest Faith School with Keith Moore?)
Today, I wanted to share a lesson that I have learned that many of you may not understand or agree with, and that is ok. However, I feel pressed by the Holy Spirit to share it with you nonetheless.
In Ecclesiastes chapter three, the Lord tells us that to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. In verse eight, He says, “a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”
Let’s talk about a time of war, shall we?
Why war and why now? Because, dear brothers and sisters, I truly believe that we are in a spiritual battle like none we have ever witnessed before. There are demons striking terror into the heart of our great nation. And, they have been at this warfare for quite a few years now. And, I have had enough! We MUST take a stand and we MUST FIGHT!
To share the words of Pastor Gary Hamrick:
“I am angry with the spiritual forces of evil that have hijacked the hearts and minds of people in an effort to try to capture the soul of America. And I am angry with demonic principalities and by extension, demonic principles that have influenced millennials, Gen X-ers and Gen Z-ers with godless philosophies and the doctrines of men. I am angry with politicians who are either knowingly or unknowingly pawns of darkness instead of agents of light who are advancing a godless agenda that is destructive to our country.
And thus I cannot be silent. I will not be silent, and neither should you. America needs to wake up and it starts with the Church of Jesus Christ.
We need to wake up, Christian, we need to wake up Christian, this is a battle, this is a war. This is not a game. It's a spiritual battle that we are facing for the heart and soul of America and for the heart and soul of the next generation. I have never felt as passionate for and concerned about America as I am today. We, as the Church of Jesus Christ, are God's restraining force in the world today against evil. And if the Church of Jesus Christ does not rise up and fight the good fight of the faith, who will?
If we abdicate our role and our responsibility as ambassadors for Christ and as agents of truth, then evil will triumph. It was Edmund Burke who said the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. And so I, I can't remain silent and to do so would be evil. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor in Germany. It was part of the German resistance that opposed Nazi Germany, Bonhoeffer said this, quote, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil and God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act" end quote.“
I am talking about politics here. And, I know what you are thinking: religion and politics should not mix. For whatever reason, this ideaology has been tattoo’d on our brains – but it is NOT true. Here is the real truth, again from Pastor Hamrick:
“For the first couple hundred years of American history, pastors would preach election sermons. And I only get to bring these books out every four years when I do an election sermon. But I have two volumes here of political sermons of the American founding era from 1730 to 1805. These are published sermons of what pastors used to do, how they used to get up in their pulpits and talk to people in their congregation about the social issues and call out the politicians. Why? The reason is because they wanted their folks to be biblically literate so that people could make an intelligent decision based on their sanctified conscience about the social issues and the political candidates and how they either did or did not align with the Bible, which is the source of all truth.
The truth is that God has been at the center of our religious freedom and faith and politics have been intertwined from the very beginning, from the founding of our nation in 1776, not 1619. Wake up, but 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was penned. Listen to the various references to God in the Declaration of Independence.
It starts with, quote, "the laws of nature and nature's God" in the first paragraph, it establishes that our, quote, "unalienable rights come not from government," but from, quote, "our creator". That's paragraph two. It appeals to, quote, "the supreme judge of the world". That's the last paragraph. And then it invokes the protection of, quote, "divine providence" in the signature line of all fifty-six signers when they pledge to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
And then Congress actually instructed churches to read the Declaration of Independence from their steps so that everybody could hear across America. Churches were demanded by Congress to do such a thing. In fact, the Falls Church, the Episcopal Church, the old Falls Church in Falls Church was one of those locations where in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read from the steps of the church.
That's how the news was dispersed in a day without social media. It was pastors who led the charge with the American Revolution to sever ties with Great Britain because of the oppression and tyranny of the government, in particular oppression into tyranny of religious freedom. Pastors led that charge. Pastors like Jonas Clark, who formed the Minutemen militia in Lexington with 70 men from his congregation who fought against and defeated 700 British who marched against them in the first war, The Battle of Lexington, in the first battle, the Battle of Lexington, of the Revolutionary War, April the 19th, 1775.
So enough of the history lesson. Here's a little Bible lesson.
One of the earthly institutions that God ordained and put in place to help mitigate human behavior in human life is government. That's Romans Chapter 13, and God tells us in Romans Chapter 13 through the pen of Paul that the purpose of government is to basically cultivate the good and punish the evil and that God ordains a ruler or a leader, whomever that person might be, be it a king or be it a prime minister or be it a president to be instruments of his righteousness.
I'll put Romans 13 verse four up on the screen. The ruler is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. Again in other words, God's intent for government is twofold to help cultivate the good and to punish the evil of a society. Government is not the savior Jesus is. But government can cultivate the good and punish the evil to help maintain a prosperous and orderly society.
And thus when we have opportunity in our land to be a part of this process, to vote in the free country in which we live, then we as Christians must choose leaders. We must choose men and women who best represent a biblical worldview in terms of policies and procedures that will cultivate the good and punish the evil. It is our responsibility and a privilege that we've been given.
That when we are voting, we're voting for policies and procedures that will then give a mandate to government in terms of how they are to conduct themselves and the rulers regarding policies and procedures to cultivate the good and to punish the evil in our land. Listen, this is about policies and procedures.
This is not about personality. Presidential race is not a personality contest. Get over it. It is not about personalities.
When there is a choice between policies and procedures and personalities, I'm going to choose policies and procedures every single time.
Every single time.
Because that is what will affect the daily life in a society, a nation will rise and fall on the policies of a king, not the personalities of a king.”
I am sorry this was so verbous – but as Pastor Hamrick already told us, it needed to be said. We need to know American history and Biblical history. They go hand-in-hand. As Americans we need to be educated. But, I feel like as Christians we especially need to be educated. Why? Because there are times in life we need to fight. Now is a time of war. And, we need to be well prepared as we possibly can be. And that means we need to be on God’s side.
And guess what? God is on our side! He sent His Son to die on the cross for not only our sins, but our freedom.
So, Christians, suit up. It’s time for battle. While we already know that God has the victory, we still have a vital role to play. We are God’s hands and feet and voice. We must proclaim the victory. We must stand firm on His Word and not falter.
We must speak the truth of God’s Word to anyone and everyone we can. We must educate our brothers and sisters on the history of this great nation and the fact that our Founding Fathers devised it so that God would be at the center of it.
And, believe me when I tell you it will be a battle royale because the devil does NOT want us to know the truth. He wants to control us; our hearts, minds, bodies, and our nation. And he will use every trick in the book to bring us down in an attempt to make us lose all hope. That is where he wants us: hopeless. For if we are hopeless, we will lose sight of God. DO NOT LOSE HOPE AND DO NOT LOSE SIGHT OF GOD.
There is a remanent of us believers who know the truth. And that truth WILL set us free. That truth is that God is for us. God loves us. God wants us to live in freedom. And, just keep on trusting and believing and praying and fighting. WE WILL WIN!
I urge you to watch Pastor Hamrick's sermon. I have watched it multiple times. He was gracious enough to send me the text so that I could share some it with you here. Watch him in action here.
#fightthegoodfight #atimeforwar #spiritualwarfare
A while back I learned about the Japanese art form of Kintsugi. Kintsugi means "golden joinery." It is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer mixed with powdered gold. The philosophy behind this is to treat the breakage and repair as part of the history of the object, rather than to just disguise it.
Isn't this just beautiful?
As you can see from the photo above, I think it makes this once ordinary bowl breathtaking, don't you?
This is what God does for us as human beings. He takes our brokenness, our hurts, and our sorrows and with His heroic love He starts to make us whole. The Lord's love is not just any old love, His love is a triumphant mix of mercy, grace, tenderness, forgiveness, and kindness. His love heals us. His amazing and potent love; His combination of ingredients makes us golden.
Over time, as we bask and grow in His love, we will go from glory to glory. And, as such, we will become more and more like Him. One might even say more golden. (See 2 Corinthians 3:18) This is what it means to grow spiritually in Christ. And, I don't know about you, but I want to be more golden--more like Him.
And, we are all broken, aren't we? Each in our own way. Some of us are more broken than others. But, praise God, He can heal us. All we have to do is ask Him. I know that sounds too easy--too good to be true. But, it IS true. How do I know? Because, not only does the Bible tell me so, but I have personally experienced it for myself.
I may be broken, but because of God's love for me, I am now beautifully so! My cracks are being sealed with God's golden love for me. His love makes me whole.
And, as typically happens with me, this reminds me of a song I need to share with you that reinforces this thought: Beautifully Broken by Plumb.
Here are the lyrics:
Every tear, every doubt
Every time you've fallen down
When you're hurting, feeling shame
When you're numbing all your pain
When you've lost your way
And feel so far away
You're beautifully broken
And you can be whole again
Even a million scars
Doesn't change whose you are
Every fear of being loved
For who you are no matter what
When you're stumbling, with each step
And you're haunted by regret
And the darkness closes in
You're beautifully broken
And you can be whole again
Even a million scars
Doesn't change whose you are
You're beautifully broken (beautifully broken)
You're beautifully broken
Oh, the god who made the stars
Is the god that made your heart
And he's holding you right…
I am blessed to be part of a Bible study in my neighborhood. We are currently studying the book of Romans. The gentleman who leads us each week thought that Romans would be a great book for us to study because it is so applicable to our current times.
Ever since we began our study back in July, verses from Romans have been springing up in my life all over the place. Verses from Romans have been showing up in my social media feeds, in my daily devotionals, and my meditations. It is funny how that works!
Anyway, a few weeks ago we studied chapter eight. As I was reading through this relatively short chapter, verses that I have heard often and that have become commonplace to me jumped off the page at me. Verse after verse. Honestly, I was taken-aback at how many I know and love come from this one chapter! And, that is why I am here to share them all with you.
I am sure all of these are familiar to you as well. Here are the ones I am referring to:
There are only 39 verses in the whole chapter--and it just chock-full of goodness and truth. If you need a quick pick-me-up, read this chapter. It, like our Father God, is so, so good!
Living in the 21st century, compared to the 20 that came before, has many advantages. Well, maybe I should put that a different way. Life is much easier now than it used to be. We have nice conveniences like refrigerators, air conditioning, and in-door plumbing.
We also live in a world with an abundance of options. As Burger King likes to remind us, we can have it our way. They, of course, are talking about their hamburgers, but the same can be said of basically anything in life right now. Which is great when it comes to what we eat and what clothes we want to wear, but in other instances, not so much.
Mainly, what I am speaking to here is the Bible. When it comes to The Word of God, we do not get to have it our way. We can’t pick and choose the parts we like and just forget about those we don’t like. I know it may be difficult to hear this, but it’s the truth. (Side note, we also can't take verses out of context.)
We can’t decide that we love and agree with one part and completely disregard others. There is a purpose and reason for every single thing that is in the Bible. Nothing is there by chance.
Now, I must mention to you how important it is to study and truly learn and know your Bible. The Old Testament laws are very different from the New Testament laws. You are doing yourself a vast disservice if you don’t know and understand the difference. I urge you to spend time in The Word every day. Spend time with God. Find a group of people and study the Word and discuss it together!
The Old Testament is the foundation for the New Testament. Think of the Old Testament as your great-grandparents and yourself as the New Testament. You would not be here with your great-grandparents. You can’t have the new without the old.
Now, if you would like to get a better, basic understanding of the differences between the Old and New Testament laws, you should read this great article by Courtney Joseph, called Do Christians Pick and Choose Which Parts of Scripture We Apply? Courtney explains the Old and New Testaments laws in an easy-to-understand fashion.
Listen, I am sharing this with you because I need to hear it myself. It can be disconcerting knowing that we must accept every facet of the Bible—that we can’t take what we like from it and leave what we don’t. But, as any good parent who loves their children, God uses “tough love” on us so that we can grow into the people we are meant to be. And, there are tons of places where we need His tough love.
As I have talked about in other posts, if we are to grow spiritually, there will be growing pains. (See Grow Up and Growing Pains.) And, if we are to become who God truly means for us to be, we have to go through a refining process. That is just part of our journey.
Right now we are living in exhausting times. 2020 has been complicated and trying for all of us. There are many people I see either on TV or via social media that I do not like very much. Now, the Bible doesn’t say we must agree with them, but we must love them.
Personally, I have a hard time with this--a very hard time. As a matter of fact, I grapple with 1 John 4:20 often. That verse says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” To be honest, after seeing some of my brothers and sisters and how they act and treat others, it makes it easy for me NOT to love them. And, I must confess, I can act pretty horribly towards others myself at times. Pretty ironic, isn’t it?
But, the Bible tells us to love God and love others. Actually, those are the two greatest commandments in the Bible. Matthew 22:37-40 tells us, “And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
However, when we learn to look past each other’s differences and start looking at others with our hearts, we learn to be more like Jesus. And, as Christians, isn’t that what we want? To be like Jesus? I know that is what I want! More than anything else in this world!
And, this is why we must learn that every aspect of the Bible is important. This is why we must accept the Bible as it is--we can't have it our way. If we did have the Bible our way, we would be missing out on steps that are vital to our spiritual growth. And, I don't know about you, but I want to be as complete as possible.
I have always been fascinated with the book of Revelation. I guess mainly because I know it is a prophecy of what is to come in this life. Or, as I have come to believe, what is happening right now. I have read it multiple times in hopes that I can make some sense out of it, but always come away scratching my head. What about you? Have you ever read it and wondered what in the heck John is talking about?
Revelation is chock-full of symbolic meaning. But, how do you interpret it? I remember asking others about this and no one had very good answers. And, ultimately, it was just something I let slip into my rearview mirror.
However, since March, when COVID-19 came into our lives and started us on this roller coaster ride of craziness, I have been turning my eyes back to God and His Word. Throw in all the insanity of our world with corrupt politics and race relations, and well, I couldn’t help but think of Bible prophecy again.
Then, at the end of June, I stumbled across a book that was soon to be released called Tipping Point The End Is Here by senior pastor of Gateway Church, Jimmy Evans. Maybe I shouldn’t say stumbled, I honestly think God sent it my way on purpose.
Upon reading that pastor Evans has studied Biblical end times prophecy, known as eschatology, for forty-five years and that the book is an analysis of Scripture, I bought it right away.
When I received it in the mail last week, I dove right in! What with everything that is going on in our world right now, it was like I was dying of thirst and this book was a keg of fresh, ice-cold, refreshing water.
Tipping Point opened my eyes to not only the book of Revelation, but to all of the prophecies of the Bible.
Did you know that 30 percent of the Bible is prophecy? Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Habakkuk, Nahum, Zaphaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi were all prophets. Not to mention Jesus himself.
I finished the book in less than 24 hours. And, I keep opening it back up to re-read it. I am blown away at what Jimmy had written. Hence, why I am here to share the book with you.
The end times can be a very scary thing; especially if you don’t know God as your Lord and Savior. If you think the times we are living in right now are bad, I have news for you, it is nothing compared to what is coming. Once the Tribulation gets here, it will truly be hell on earth.
That is why I am pleading with you today, get to know the Lord. He loves you so very much. You are His child and there is nothing you can do or have done that will make Him turn away from you. I would be overjoyed and honored to introduce you to Him. Please just reach out to me, or someone else you know who is a true Christian and you feel you can trust. Go visit a church and talk to the pastor there. Go online to any one of the following sites and listen, read, and learn: David Jeremiah, Max Lucado, or Joyce Meyer. It’s not too late. But, the time is NOW.
However, if you are a Christian and believe in God and are in a right relationship with Him, this book will give you solace and comfort. It shows you how to have hope and peace in the midst of all of our current turmoil.
This book is the proof in the pudding that God is real. It is definitive and awe-inspiring—just as God is.
Plus, honestly, no matter what you believe, Tipping Point is incredibly fascinating just from a historical and current events' standpoint.
Jimmy walks you through Israel and her history and the vital importance of her role.
Jimmy turns our eyes skyward to explain what the sun, moon, and stars have to say.
And, Jimmy gives us a play-by-play with critical insight into how we are the final generation and how we have seen every end times event fulfilled. He tells us that while every generation has seen some signs of the end times, the final generation will have every sign.
This is it folks. We are the final generation. We are living at the end of the end times.
I pray that you will not be here for the Tribulation that you will instead be with Jesus in heaven, celebrating, as I will be. It is something I am looking forward to.
But, please note that no one knows the day or time when Jesus will return. It could be today or seven years from now. As Jimmy tells us and I will end sharing with you; Plan as though Jesus in not returning for a hundred years and live as though Jesus is returning today.
Much like my last post, I woke up this morning and something just popped into my head--seemingly out of nowhere. (Although, I am learning to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit.) And, the thought was this: hue man beings.
As you probably well know, there is a great deal of turmoil bubbling and running rampant in our country right now. The problem is racism. And, as I am now getting accustomed to doing, I decided to look in my Bible for the answer to this problem.
What does the Bible say about racism, anyway? Well, from my reading and research, nothing. Which, in turn, speaks volumes.
The first thing we need to understand as Christians, is that there is only one race--the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. We all have the same physical characteristics, with minor variations, of course. More importantly, we have all been created in the likeness and image of God. (Genesis 1:26-27) God so loved the world that He sent His son, Jesus, to lay down His life for us. (John 3:16). And, the "world" obviously includes all ethnic groups.
And, while I can't find any references to race or racism in the Bible, I can find plenty of verses that tell us to love one another. Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us. (John 13:34) We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. (James 2:8) Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. Ephesians 4:32 tells us to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
We are not only human beings, but we are hue man beings. The dictionary defines hue as a gradation or variety of a color. or colors, or complexion. Humans come in all different colors. Our complexions and skin tones are as varied as our personalities. Much like all the beautiful plants and flowers God created, God created us humans to be colorful and unique. Could you image a world with only red roses? Don't get me wrong, red roses are lovely, but if they were the only flower in the world--well, how boring! Instead, God not only created red roses but purple irises, yellow sunflowers, blue hydrangeas, green hellebores, orange daisies, pink tulips, white gardenias, and, well, you get the idea!
We need to end racism. All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross. God does not show partiality or favoritism, and neither should we. No, indeed, as the children's song says, "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight." We are the "they" in this song. And, we all belong to one race--the human race.
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light.