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Archive for the ‘Biblical’ Category

Let me roam free. Don’t fence me in. I have to be me.

Not cats. Oh, yes, they do roam free but they know there are boundaries, and if you have ever seen a cat gravitate to a box for a good tongue-wash and a bath, you know it is because they feel secure when they are boxed in.

victoria alexander- unsplash

We, humans, seem to despise boundaries. We want to make our own choices, and decide if the rules apply to us and our situation.

Subjectivism. It seems to be more and more the way of the world. It is what CS Lewis sadly described in his book, The Abolition of Man. He stated that in every culture and religion there exist laws that allow us to live with each other in peace and harmony. When someone steps outside of those laws’ perimeters, trouble happens. When too many people leave the secure boundaries of society, chaos occurs. That opens the door to the degradation of other humans’ rights and ironically, allows an unscrupulous person, with only their interests at heart, to step in and take control. Because deep down inside we all want some boundaries.

Most ancient cultures thought in terms of “we” not “me”. Collectivism. What one person did affected all those around him or her. “We’re all in this together.” We Christians call it the Body of Christ. And our boundaries are clearly spelled out by our Lord when he quoted the first two commandments upon which everything else depends– love God, love neighbor. (See Matthew 22:34-40).


Paul addressed this in Acts 17 to the citizens of Athens: “And he (the Lord) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” God not only put Esther on earth for “such a time as these” but all of us as well, to serve Him and each other.

But, as Brandon Robbins often states in his YouTube videos, when the laws become more important than the Lawmaker, they will break down and lose their purpose. The “me” enters into the picture again way too strongly and pushes out the “we”. It is what the Sadducees and the Pharisees were guilty of doing. That is why Jesus said He came not to abolish the Law but to fufill it. To lead people back to the One who made them in the first place.

Perhaps if we once again set aside our own personal agendas, redefined our boundaries as stated in the Ten Commandments, and tried to live peacefully within them, glad for the security they provide, the world might be a better place. But then again, God granted us free will to make that decision ourselves, didn’t He?

Cats do not know who made their box. They are just grateful to find it. Let another cat intrude into the box and a few spats and hisses may occur.

We, humans, know better. Don’t we?

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Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6

Photo by Castorly Stock on Pexels.com

I used to think of the salt in this verse as table salt. My speech and attitude should be yummy to digest, not bitter or sour. Maybe I am confusing salt with honey … oh, well.

But God had brought a new meaning to mind. My speech should be soft. Non-threatening, calm, and cool. You see, salt is used to soften water so the harsh chemicals are not left behind on the shower glass, your clothes, and the dishes. If you have dealt with hard water stains, you know how hard it is to erase them. It takes time and elbow grease.

I think the same is true with our words. Harsh, hurtful ones can take a long time to erase. People who bully others into cowering so that they can dominate leave a residual effect that can last for years. Over time, if the same person keeps being subjected to bullying, it can build up into a cloudy, yucky mess that films over their view of life. It etches into their psyche.

Psychotherapists often state that one should never engage with an irrational, self-edifying person. They are not interested in reason. They are too full of emotion. They seek to demean others so they can feel more in power. They crave attention and an audience, even if it is a negative one. They are manipulative and conniving, usually quite smart and quick thinking. You cannot win at their game.

Instead, soften your voice. Be gracious, slow to anger, and if necessary, walk away. Pray before you respond and ask the Holy Spirit to speak through you if you are prompted to do so, as Paul says above in Colossians, you know what to say. This isn’t being a wimp. It takes strength of character to not engage.

And pray for the person who wants to push your buttons to get a rise out of you. Arm yourself with the shield of Truth called God’s Word to keep the arrows of beligerence from penetrating your heart. Rely on the salt of Christ to help dissolve any residual build-up.

Another thing about salt – it can put out a fire. I always keep a canister in my pantry in case of a grease fire, although I rarely cook with oils or grease. In fact, I think I have packed and unpacked the same canister for the last thirty years. Do they still make them with the little girl and an umbrella on the logo?

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

Anyway, when dealing with someone who is confrontational, it may be better not to “add fuel to the fire” by confronting them. This is a biblical truth. And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. James 3:6

Jesus remained silent before Pilate and the crowds. He knew if he gave in to the urge to defend Himself, it would not fare well. When his family showed up where he preached and demanded he speak with them, he quietly asked his followers, who exactly were his family? Answer: the ones who do my Father’s will. He didn’t argue with his family members. He ignored them. (See Matthew 12:45-50, also in Mark 3 and Luke 8 ). He told his disciples when He sent them out in pairs that if they encountered antagonism to walk away and head to the next village instead. (Matthew 10:14).

Strength is not so much in the power of our tongues but in the power to restrain them and to know when and what to say in a calm, respectful manner. There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18

Paul tells us in Galatians 5 that in order for the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in us we should strive to be gentle, have forbearance and self-control, be guided by love and kindness, and cultivate goodness and joy. We need to place God’s agenda ahead of our own. Be a witness of peace. Put salt on the flames.

Lately, I have had to practice these things. They are not easy. My human nature wants me to stand up for myself. My ego is tired of being misunderstood and bruised. I have a few friends who are in the same trial right now. It seems there is a lot of anger in the world right now and narcissistic, domineering attitudes are nearing epidemic proportions. The need to control is magnified when chaos is worldwide, I guess.

But our worth is found in our Lord. Self-esteem needs will wither when God-esteem blooms. IF our Creator loves us unconditionally, what need is there for competition? When He is in control of our lives, our emotions, and our motives, peace reigns. Jealousy and hatred dissolve like, well, salt on a slug. Fires are put out, and words are softened.

I sincerely hope if someone tells me I am a salty old person, I will smile and whisper, “Thank you.”

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Words can be fun.

In my Wordplay Mysteries, they often lead to crime clues. Wanda Warner, widow and head of her town’s neighborhood watch teams, has a knack for solving word puzzles and crimes … and in the latest mystery, Hang on Every Word,** she has been given a part-time position creating word puzzles for her local paper. Thing is, the answers to her clues perpetrate crimes against some of the downtown merchants and everyone is pointing the finger at her! Words are suddenly not as much fun for her … but they still are for me.

For exampel, words can be transformed by just rearranging the same letters.

Is evil really vile? Do you live under a veil?

Can a strap make traps? Do parts make tarps?

Will the tide be tied to your diet?

I bet you could think of other words that can be made by simply rearranging the letters. Might be a fun thing to do as a family one night or at a party with friends. Take some Scrabble tiles and see how many words you can make out of them.

Other things can be fun to rearrange. Like the furniture in your room, or the pictures clustered on the wall. Sometimes rearranging your schedule can give you a much-needed breather.

But when we rearrange our priorities, we need to think hard about the potential results first. What message does that send?

Matthew 19 tells the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to obtain eternal life. He thought he had kept all of the commandments. Yet he had not. When Jesus asked him to sell all his wealth and give it to the poor, the man walked away discouraged. Why? Because he had rearranged his priorities. His wealth meant more to him than following God. He not only broke the first commandment to love God above all else, but he lacked the faith that God would provide even after he sold everything.

Don’t be too harsh on him. We all worry about money and if we will have enough in the future to survive. Especially now when prices are skyrocketing out of control. Will there be too much “month at the end of our money?”

Jesus preached in Matthew 6:25-33 that we should not be anxious about our lives and survival. God takes care of birds and flowers. Will He not even more so take care of us? Has He not provided in the past? Why do we doubt He will in the future? If we seek Him first, then tomorrow will take care of itself.

Not to say we should not save and be prudent with the blessings He has provided. But we need to remember whose money we are clutching in our hands before we put it in the offering plate and sing the verses from First Chronicles 29:14: For all things come from Thee, and from Thine own have we given Thee.

If we declare in the same breath that the Lord is the creator of all things, then so are our earnings a blessing from Him. We may have worked to earn the money, but He gave us the ability to learn the skills it takes and to possess the talent or strength to do the work.

It is all about rearranging our thoughts to align with His Word and His Truth. If our tummies clench or we toss and turn in the night as worries crowd our attempts to sleep, perhaps we need to shift around our thoughts to realize we are not meant to be in control. We can only see this very moment, whereas our Father in Heaven sees all, beyond the confounds of time. Can we truly sing “God is in control” and worry at the same time? Can we struggle with fear and still have a strong faith?

The clock doesn’t control time. It only displays it. What is our faith displaying to others? What do our actions spell out for others?

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem on Pexels.com

Like words, our actions can reveal a lot about ourselves. Are things out of sequence? Do we need to rearrange the letters of our lives, so to speak, to make sure the right message is coming across?

Maybe it is time for an item in your life to be a mite more clear!


** If you pre-order this book before July 1, as a thank you gesture, I will email you chapter a week free over the next 8 weeks until launch day so you don’t have to wait – details at www.juliebcosgrove.com

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When my mother first became widowed, this was a card she received. She tore off this message on the front and framed it. When she passed on, I took it home. Even now, widowed for twelve years, I still keep it on my desk. My daily reminder.

It is a message for all of us humans who have a tendency to want to be in control.

We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust our sails.

I have never sailed in my life, so my knowledge is poor at best, but I have read books and watched movies about sailors and the seas. About steering into the wind so it billows the sails or away from it to change direction. Sailors are at the mercy of nature and the Creator of the winds. They know it is better to adjust than to try to fight against it. Which is futile and a waste of energy.

There is another saying, which I see daily. I have taped it to my computer monitor. It is from Psalm 25:5. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and in my hope is in you all day long.

Often times hope is depicted as an anchor, a stronghold. For me, it is also a sail. It helps me stay on course and not veer off. It helps me seek the direction the Creator wants me to head. The Holy Spirit can be described as the wind, or so scholars say, because both the Greek and Hebrew word for “spirit” can also be wind or breath. If so, then I should not fight the direction God’s Spirit wants me to go. I need to adjust my sails.

Ad-just. Ad is the preposition that means to go toward something. Just, as an adverb, means exactly, recently, simply. As an adjective, it means appropriate, well-founded, and morally right. Adjust – to go toward what is simply and exactly right and appropriate.

God is just. His ways are true. His motive is love. To ad-just is to move in the way of His character. It is to be exactly and no less, simply, now, appropriate and good.

Why would we not set our sails to that? Why would we choose not to adjust our emotions, thoughts, and actions to match? Why would we try to control something that is not in our power to control? Can anyone truly harness, tame, and manipulate the wind? Only God can.

Wind may come swiftly, causing us to act with all our strength and wits. It may be so still we barely feel it nearby. It can be pleasant and soft, even refreshing. It can be cold and cause us to shiver. But I believe if it is from God through His Spirit, it is always just what we need at the time. The wise will learn to adjust and “go with the flow”.

Lord guide me in the way you wish me to go, and teach me to trust in the direction you lead. Amen.

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I have been watching The Chosen … again. Love these episodes, and right now, leading up to Easter, they are being broadcasted live every night at 7:30pm CDT.

If you haven’t seen these episodes that portray the lives of the disciples before Jesus chose them to follow Him as well as their spiritual development as they follow Jesus around Galilee and Samaria, I highly recommend them. They are free on YouTube, or on their downloadable free app. So far there are two seasons (16 episodes.) Five more seasons are planned.

Anyway… I decided I wanted a “Bing Jesus” bumper sticker from the gift store, also on the app. All proceeds go to help fund the actors’ salaries. The show itself is totally crowd-funded. Well, I got my sticker and went to pay. A message popped up – Leave or Cancel.

What? I don’t want to leave. I want to buy my item. And I don’t want to cancel my purchase. Not wanting to choose either, I was stuck. Which do I choose? Is there a third option?

I finally chose to leave, and it took me to my secure check out with my Google pay. Oh, okay. Got it.

Did you get it? When Jesus asked his disciples to follow Him, they had a choice. Leave or cancel. Because in order to follow, one has to leave, right? Leave what is normal. Leave what is comfortably status quo in your zone. Maybe leave preconceived ideas.

Or cancel out on the opportunity and return to what was. Don’t step out.

I had really never thought of how choosing to follow meant having to leave. But it does.

Thank goodness twelve brave men and several women in the first century Judea chose to leave. They walked into the unknown. Not perfectly. Not without hang-ups or preconceived notions. Even so, they took the first steps just as they were because Jesus saw their potential. True, one ended up canceling out and betraying Jesus later. Ten others ran into the night when the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus.

But those ten didn’t click cancel. They had followed too long and learned too much to do that. They’d left the old behind.

Soon, after huddling in terror for three days waiting for themselves to be arrested as well and possibly suffer the same fate as their Master, the resurrected Jesus entered their midst again with the same message – leave. Get up and go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:20).

And they did. They left that upper room. They went into all nations.

Billions, perhaps trillions over the past two centuries have been affected by their choice to leave that day. As a result, the accounts of their lives are still read in a multitude of languages. And portrayed in films and streaming videos like The Chosen is doing now. Their choice is shared around dining room tables, on playgrounds, or by campfires. The impact of their choice to leave is still impacting us.

Each of us now has the same choice. Follow or stay put. Leave, or cancel.

Which will you choose? I leave it to you to decide.

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Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash

At one o’clock in the afternoon on the first Tuesday of the month, the tornado sirens go off…this is a test.

I listen to the radio and a song is interrupted by a whaaa, whaaa, whaaa. “This is a test of the emergency broadcast company…”

A digital sign on the highway tells me if there is a wreck up ahead. My GPS asks if I want an alternate route.

A sign in a commercial building tells me the floor is slippery when wet. My apartment complex puts out a sign saying we are going to have freezing temperatures and to drip our faucets. The weatherman interrupts a television program to tell us bad weather is barrelling down.

Everywhere we look, there are warning signs. Watch out, something unexpected, probably bad, is coming.

And we pay heed, if we are smart.

Except, sometimes in life the unpredictable happens. Without warning. The phone call we never wanted to get. The report from the doctor. The lay off from our boss.

For me, it has been the news that I need two surgeries, which will lay me up for another two, perhaps three months. I’ve had to quit my job, I don’t qualify for unemployment, and I have no short-term disability. I have a meager savings stored up, thank the Lord, that I have been relying upon to make ends meet for two months now. And will for three or so more months. I pray not longer than that.

I read in the Bible to trust in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5), that His ways or not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), that He won’t forsake me (Psalm 9:10), and He will provide so not to be anxious (Mathew 6:25-33). He is my help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1), and not to be shaken because He is at my right hand (Psalm 16:8).

My brain goes there, and my tongue expresses those verses in reassurance. But my heart hasn’t quite absorbed it yet. So, I keep speaking into it.

Yes, this is a test…

There is a newer song by CAIN that pierces my soul. “Yes, He did so Yes, He can.” My local radio station, KJRN 88.3FM plays it often at the moment (thank you, The Journey!) so when it comes on I ask my smart speaker to crank up the volume. It lifts me back into the attitude my faith calls me to embrace.

God has always been faithful in the past. He will be now, such is His gracious nature. He knows all, and He’s got this. My part in all this?

T-R-U-S-TTotal Reliance Under Stressful Times.

No matter what is tumbling down the road toward you, trust. Despite the odds, trust. When you can’t see the road for the fog, trust.

Someone’s eyes are better than yours. He sees the future. He looks into your heart. The Lord knows how and when to show you through tiny serendipities that HE IS THERE AND HE CARES.

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you (Psalm 9:10).

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I remember it all too well. Dad, grumbling, down on his hands and knees, moving along the wires of Christmas tree lights strewn across the floor. He had to test each one to see which one had burned out, causing the rest to not shine. Rarely did the culprit appear in the first ten or so bulbs. And once he found the burnt-out one, replacing it presented its own challenge. No two red ones next to each other. Heaven forbid! Mom had a strict pattern — red, blue, yellow, green, white. We used to hide the replacements in a small box behind the garland on the mantle just in case …

However, in a way, I think it describes the individualistic attitude that has become so prevalent in our society. We claim to not need each other. We want to do our own thing and if we don’t follow the norm, it’s okay. It is the way we are wired.

Today, the tree lights are individually wired so if one, or two, or ten go out, it doesn’t affect the rest of the strand. Modern technology at work. I am sure many folks appreciate the invention. I have to admit it is a time saver!

There is an old saying that states, “Christ unites, Satan divides.” From the Garden of Eden on down to today, it has been proven to be true. There is a reason believers are called the Body of Christ. We are not supposed to exist independently but are united in His love. It binds us together and flows through us so we can shine brightly into a dark and cold world.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ ... Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it (I Corinthians 12:12 & 27, ESV).

When life happens to one of us that makes our light dim, we need the energy of the others to help us shine again. We need that connection of the Holy Spirit flowing through us. Not everyone can be strong and positive all the time. We are not wired that way. We humans need each other, rely upon each other and naturally band together in groups. John Donne had it correct when he wrote over 400 years ago that no one is an island.

Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world … (Philippians 2:14-15, ESV)

As long as we live on this broken planet, darkness will linger on the edges, slowly seeping in. This season, be the light of love that points to Jesus the same way the star over the manager pointed people to Him 2000 years ago. May this darkest time of the year (Winter solstice) be the brightest one in your heart and gleam into those around you, be it the widow next door, the frenzied store clerk, the moody teen, or the grouchiest person in the office.

Uphold those who believe, and encourage those who do not. Shine the love of Christ into others’ lives and you might find yourself shining a tad brighter as well.

Now everyone, join hands and sing, “This little light of mine…”

Have a bright, shiny, beautiful Christmas season.

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I the Lord do not change. Malachi 3:6

The register rang up $19.98. I handed the cashier a $20 bill. She asked, “Do you want change?”

I smiled. “Not really, but nothing stays the same does it?”

We both laughed.

Oh, how we hate change…

Isn’t it strange that we so greatly resist, even dislike, change when life on earth is always changing?

Babies grow into toddlers, then to kids, then to teens, and hopefully into competent adults. Even then, our bodies continue to change. Our metabolism slows, our skin wrinkles, our bellies widen. Our joints ache, and our stamina lessens.

The seasons change, right? Temperatures dip, leaves turn colors, and rains pound, then maybe snow falls. Temps rise and the squiggly miraging heat on the pavement make us wilt and dream of cool streams and sandy beaches.

The moon waxes and wanes, tides ebb and flow, and rivers slowly carve out a new course. Flowers bloom, then wilt. Seeds push through the gorund and grow into plants. Catepillars turn into butterflies.

Political opinions change. Social standards change. Fashions change. So do relationships, friendships, and the desire to keep vows.

And still we resist…

If change bothers you, look to the One who never changes. Only things that are eternal remain the same:

God’s love

God’s grace

God’s mercy

Christ’s death that eradicates confessed sins.

The Holy Spirit’s guidance.

CAUTION: when you seek the things eternal and set your mind on the things that are above instead of earthly things, as Paul states in Colossians 3:2 , you are going to change. Sorry, but it’s true. And that’s okay.

You will be less stressed. Less anxious. Less swayed by emotional ups and downs. Calmer, more at peace, and joyful. Things will have a positive reflection instead of a negative influence. Your posture will be more upright and your step lighter. Your burden will seem less heavy. People may even react to you differently.

Do you want change?

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The saying, Carpe Diem, or seize the day, became popular again a few decades ago in the movie Goodwill Hunting. Originally found in Horace’s writing in the century before Christ, it suggests that we should make the most of the present and not worry so much about the future or fret over the past.

Jesus seemed to echo this sentiment in His sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25-34 when He told His listeners not to worry about tomorrow or be anxious about today because, like the lillies and the birds, God will care for us.

But today, carpe diem epitomizes the “me society” attitude that what I do when I feel like doing it is all right and you have no right to judge me or stop me. Live for the moment. Do it what it takes to satisfy my own needs.

I doubt this is what Our Lord meant. Underlying His advice was the unerstanding that God is sovereign and in control, not us. He alone can see into the future so He shapes destiny. We obey.

So I propose we all get T-shirts or bumper stickers wth a new saying – Karpos Diem. The Greek word for “fruit” in Galatians 5:22-23 is karpos — “that which originates or comes from something.” And the karpe of the Spirit originates from obedience to God’s will: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

If we strive to live each day following the Holy Spirit’s guidance and produce the fruit that stems from these qualities, wouldn’t we then not worry so much? Our lives would be less stressful than chasing after fleeting dreams of fulfillment, worth, and happiness. When we know it all comes from God, who has our best interests at heart, then life makes sense. It has purpose, and a future.

I think it purposeful that Adam and Eve’s sin of pride led to the fall after they ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge. They wanted to live life their way. Carpe diem.

But through Christ’s sacrifce and the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit, our Counselor, we can now digest the attributes that restores us into the right relationship with our Heavenly Father, and then produce its fruit in our lives!

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a daily practice on digesting the fruit of the Spirit into our attitudes will help us to not only grow into the potential God created us to have, but spur others to seek this peace that a passes all understanding as well.

So, Karpos Diem my friends. Be frutiful and multiply!

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She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. 2 Kings 4:22

She was rich, the Bible says. She would give the prophet Elisha a meal whenever he was in town because she knew he was a holy man of God. It was her way to honor him and the Lord. In fact, she made up a small room for Elisha to stay in so he could rest from his travels. But when her son fell ill and died, she didn’t lay the boy on his bed or even her own as was the custom for mourning visitations before burial. She laid him on Elisha’s guest bed and shut the door.

That, to me is an important difference. It shows faith. She didn’t mourn at all. She knew if anyone could revive her son, it was the man who acted for God, and hopefully, by the power of God, he’d heal the boy.

You see, she had been barren and Elisha prophesized God would give her a son in thanksgiving for her hospitality. So when that happened, she knew it as a gift from God. When her son collapsed in her arms and breathed his last, she sought out Elisha. She went to the source. She wanted the prophet, and only the prophet, to come since it was he who had prophesized she’d have the boy. Elisha saw her tenacious faith, went with her, and revived her son while she waited outside of the door.

The story tells me that when something awful happens to me, I need to respond in faith. Set it down, shut the door, and seek Jesus instead of wallowing in my sorrow or fear or hurt. Not try by my own knowledge or strength to handle it, and not to get angry with God. If I respond in faith, Jesus will respond to me.

Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

God may not do exactly as I ask, as Elsiha did for the tenacious woman, but He will do what is best in my situation. My response is to trust and pray. Shut the door on my problem and seek His face before anything else. He will know how to handle it as I wait patiently.

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