Sunday

How Christians Should Live in Light of the Supreme Court Decision

Yesterday my pastor stood in the pulpit and said, “I may have to go to jail one day.” 

“And we may have to do church much differently than we’ve ever done it before, he said. "The time may come in our country when we have to choose between obeying man and obeying God. One thing I can say for certain—we will never, ever compromise the Word of God.”

I love that man. 

And the timelessness of God’s Word comforts me, speaks truth to my troubled heart, and reminds me that this season has not caught God by surprise. He inspired Peter, millennia ago, to write these words with us in mind:

Dear friends, 

Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.


Christ was born into a government that killed the innocent to preserve a kingdom. 

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.

The disciples were beaten, jailed, and run out of town. 

“Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine!”

However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’”  

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?"

“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-- who is forever praised. Amen.

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done (Romans 1:24-28).

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. . . . But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts. 1:1, 3-4).

“When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed.

So there was great joy in that city.”

So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:12-19).

We can take comfort from the past, knowing that Christ will continue to build his church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. 

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).


What truth from Scripture comforts you when the events of this world make you afraid? Why not share them in the comments so others can be encouraged? If you're reading by email subscription, click here to visit Hungry for God and comment.






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Thursday

When You Don't Like What You See in the Mirror

“It is an observable fact that most people don’t like themselves, in spite of being, for the most part, decent enough human beings . . .” says Phillip Lopate, in Writing Creative Nonfiction.


I thought about Lopate’s quote today, because I looked into the mirror of God’s Word and saw something I disliked. It wasn’t the smile lines around my mouth, the crows’ feet near my eyes, or the less-than-perfect skin on my face.

I looked into the mirror and saw King Ahab. Eeew.

It’s a curious thing, how when we look into the perfect law of God, we see the juxtaposition of our shortcomings and sins. We see who we could and should be side by side with who we are and aren’t. I suspect this is why, in Galatians 3:24, Paul called the law a “schoolmaster”: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

With no standard to compare ourselves, we look pretty good—better than some of our neighbors, and certainly not as bad as others. But when we look into God’s law, which is really just a template for his perfection, we fall woefully short.

This is how God and his law used wicked King Ahab to show me my sinful family resemblance.

Ahab was rich. The king of Samaria, he had a beautiful palace, all the money he needed, land, horses, and a wife. Oh, boy, did he have a wife, but that’s a subject for another post.

Instead of being thankful for all God had blessed him with, Ahab turned his lustful eyes over the wall onto his neighbor’s vineyard. Now Ahab didn’t need Naboth’s vineyard. He had vineyards galore. And gardeners to tend them and servants to pick their fruit.

But Ahab was greedy. He wanted what he didn’t have. Sometimes I wish for what I didn't have, too.

Where does this continual lust for more come from? I hate to blame everything on our sinful natures, but the apostle James connected the dots on this one:

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight” (Jas. 4:1).

Our lust for more and our discontentment with what God gives us comes from our human nature—a nature that, left to itself, will never, ever be satisfied. So what’s the antidote when our coveting eyes glance over at our neighbor’s smiling family, intact marriage, pain-free body, etc., etc., etc. . . .?


“. . . be content with what you have,” Hebrews 13:5 tell us, “because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

If Ahab had been thankful instead of greedy and ungrateful, I think he'd have been much happier. Could this be true of us as well?

Forgive us, Father, for allowing what we don’t have to steal the joy from what we do. Thank you that the boundary lines have fallen for us in pleasant places. We have a good inheritance. Help us remember if we seek first the kingdom of God and your righteousness, everything we need will be added to our lives. And you will send no sorrow with it. Thank you for the perfect law of liberty that promises us freedom from lust and greed and discontentment. And thank you for your Son, who promises never to leave us or forsake us. Truly, Father, what more do we need?

If you’re struggling with covetousness today, will you join me in listing God’s good gifts and saying thank you? It will do much to banish the sin of grumbling greed from our hearts.



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• No one appreciates what I do. Why shouldn’t I quit? 

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Sunday

Today I'm Proud to Be a Christian

There have been times when I’ve been ashamed of my family.

My faith family, that is.

Squabbles, scandals, and division. Disputes over denominational differences. Competition rather than cooperation. “Black churches” and “white churches.” These have broken my heart and made me ashamed.

But this week, I’m proud. PROUD to call myself a Christian.

I’m so proud, of Debbie Dills, an ordinary believer whom God called to do an extraordinary thing. Early Thursday morning she watched FOX and Friends’ coverage of the church shooting. On her way to work, providentially running late, she spotted Dylann Roof’s car.

“I got a little nervous,” she told FOX news afterward, “I’ll be honest with you. I’m not a hero, and I’m not brave.”

She pulled off onto an exit ramp, phoned her boss, and told him what she’d seen. He called police, who asked Debbie to get back on the highway, catch up with Roof, and confirm the license plate number.

Would you chase after an armed man who had just killed nine people in cold blood? And get close enough to read his license plate and confirm his identity?

But with courage that only came from God, Debbie got back on Highway 74, chased Roof down, phoned in his license plate number, and tailed him until police arrived.

"I’m not the hero,” she’s quick to admit. “God’s the hero. He just used me. . . . I hope he’s pleased with me. I want him to be pleased with me more than anything else.”





I’m so proud, of Marcus Stanley, a black rapper and survivor of black gun violence. He looked past the horror of Dylann Roof’s crime into the darkness in his soul. He posted a message on Roof’s Facebook page calling him to repentance and salvation.

“Give your heart to Jesus and confess your sins with a heart of forgiveness.” Marcus wrote. “He is the only one who can save your soul and forgive you for the terrible act you have done.”

I’m so proud of the families and loved ones of those who died in Charleston. Wracked with grief, they followed the example of their Savior, who interceded for his killers by saying, “Forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Through tears, Ethel Lance’s daughter said to Roof, “I forgive you. You took something very precious from me, and I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul."

I’m so proud that when some called for a race riot in Charleston, Pastor Norvel Goff, standing in the pulpit of Emanuel AME church, said, “A lot of folk expected us to do something strange and break out in a riot. Well, they just don’t know us. They just don’t know us because we are a people of faith, and we believe that when we put our forces and our heads together, working for a common good, there is nothing we cannot accomplish together in the name of Jesus.”

I’m so proud that Emanuel AME opened their doors in faith and commitment as they’ve done every Sunday since the church’s founding. And of the hundreds from all over the state and nation who sat in sweltering heat and crowded conditions inside the church for Sunday school and service.

The church met for Sunday morning services to send a “message to the demons in Hell.”

Perhaps this is what Jesus foresaw when he told Peter, “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mat. 16:18).

I’m so proud of the hundreds who held vigil outside the courthouse while Dylann Roof’s arraignment hearing took place. Black and white, young and old, they held hands and sang hymns in support of the bereaved families inside.


And I’m so proud, of St. Andrews Evangelical Church, a mostly-white assembly in my hometown of Columbia, whose congregation walked down the street and surprised a mostly-black church by joining them in worship. “It was crowded, hot, emotional, and awesome,” one church member wrote.

Perhaps this is what Paul foresaw when he said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

There have been times when I’ve been ashamed of my faith family. Ashamed to reveal that I’m a Christian “like them,” but not today.

Today, I’m proud.


“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Mat. 4:16).





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Thursday

The Emanuel AME Shooting -- When Did the Church Become the Most Dangerous Place In Town?

Wednesday night, Dylann Roof sat in prayer meeting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.

One hundred miles away in Columbia, I sat in a church prayer meeting, too. While our pastor led six of us in a Bible study, the door opened and a visitor walked in. We were surprised. Young people don’t attend church much anymore, and only the devout come out on a steamy night in June to pray.

We welcomed him and shared our pizza. We were glad he had found his way to the house of God. When the study ended and we bowed our heads to pray, he bowed with us.

“Please come back,” we said as he left, “our doors are always open.”

Today my heart is breaking for the nine prayer warriors who lost their lives at Emanuel AME Church while praying and studying God’s Word—in God’s house.

The sacred has been defiled. The defenseless have been destroyed. The darkness has dealt an evil blow to the body of Christ.

My heart aches because those who lost their lives in Charleston are my brothers and sisters. They are part of my family. They knelt to pray like I kneel to pray. They studied God’s Word like I study God’s Word. They had a right to assemble unmolested like I have a right to assemble unmolested. They welcomed a stranger in the name of Jesus like I welcome strangers in the name of Jesus.

My sadness is deep because this tragedy has occurred in my country. In my state. One hundred miles from my home. In South Carolina’s Holy City.

President Obama, in a statement following Roof’s arrest, said, “Any death of this sort is a tragedy, any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There’s something particularly heartbreaking about death happening in a place we seek solace, and we seek peace, in a place of worship.”

He spoke truth. In times past people ran to the church for safety. Wednesday night people ran from the church in horror.

Last night a visitor sat among my small group of believers gathered to study and pray. One hundred miles away, another visitor sat among a small group of believers gathered to study and pray. My brothers and sisters went home to rest safely in their beds. My Emanuel brothers and sisters went home to rest safely in the arms of their Savior.

When did the church become the most dangerous place in town?

Maybe it has always been.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, fingered the mastermind behind the shooting long before Charleston police fingerprinted Dylann Roof:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (6:12). 

How did my brothers and sisters in Charleston spend the last hour of their lives? Studying God’s Word. Praying for the lost. Welcoming strangers.

May their courage make us brave. May their commitment make us strong, and may their example cause us to live each day in wholehearted pursuit of our Savior.

“Therefore,” Paul instructs us, “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Eph. 6:13).






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I'm Only One Person. What Can I Do?

Sometimes the world’s problems seem very big, and I feel very small. 

I hear of gruesome beheadings of Christians. I see children die in gang-related crossfire. I hear of babies who perish at the hands of abortionists. I see a generation of young people turning its back on biblical truth and moral conservancy.

And I think, I'm only one person. What can I do? 

In October of 1943, Adolf Hitler ordered the arrest and deportation of some 7,800 Jewish citizens from the country of Denmark. The courageous Danish resistance movement, along with a great number of ordinary citizens, undertook an unprecedented rescue attempt.

In an era long before cell phones, text messages, and emails, the Danes warned their Jewish countrymen of the impending roundup. Some even resorted to paging through local phone books and calling everyone with a Jewish-sounding name.

And despite grave risk of personal danger and arrest, they didn’t stop with warnings. Many citizens hid Jews in their homes until a rescue plan was in place and then spirited their countrymen to the Danish coast.


Once the Jews arrived, hundreds of fishermen, using commercial and private boats, ferried them across the Oresund Strait to the neighboring country of Sweden, which had offered them asylum. “As a result of the rescue, and the following Danish intercession on behalf of the 464 Danish Jews who were captured and deported to Theresienstadt transit camp in Bohemia, over 99% of Denmark's Jewish population survived the Holocaust,” Leo Goldberger writes in his book, The Rescue of the Danish Jews, Moral Courage Under Stress.

Ordinary people, obeying their consciences and taking stands for what was right, rescued 99 percent of the Jews in their country destined for genocide.


What if anyone of them had thought, I am only one person. What can I do?

Martyred Christians, innocent children, deceived young adults, and unborn babies. Who will be their champion? It only takes one to raise the battle flag—to pray, to speak, to write. To give, to work, to go. The pages of history remind us that God raises armies one soldier at a time.

Perhaps instead of asking What can I do?, we should be saying,

Here am I. Send me.




You want to connect with God, but in the craziness of life, it’s just not happening. You want practical, biblical answers to situations you face every day, but you don’t have hours to pore over Scripture.











You need a resource that answers the questions you’re afraid to ask out loud. Questions like:

• Is my situation hopeless?
• If God already knows what he’s going to do, why bother to pray? 
• Why have you allowed this to happen to me? 
• No one appreciates what I do. Why shouldn’t I quit? 

Each devotion begins with a Facetime question and ends with a biblical answer wrapped in a modern day parable. Like a spiritual power bar, Hungry for God … Starving for Time is packed with enough scriptural nutrition to get you through the day. Wherever you are—in break rooms, carpool lines, or wherever you can snatch five minutes of quiet reflection—Hungry for God … Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women is for you.



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