Does God Still Speak?

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)

This is arguably the most significant announcement ever made by God to man. For thousands of years God’s people had been looking and waiting for the promised Messiah. The religious elite had pored over the ancient manuscripts and studied every word uttered by the prophets in hopes of ascertaining some clue, some key that might give them more specific insight as to when, where, and how this “Promised One” might appear.

It’s hard to imagine the surprise and even contempt that the religious leaders must have felt towards a group of shepherds out on a nighttime hillside, tending their flocks and now suddenly proclaiming that an angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Then, as if this wasn’t enough, there was yet the, “But wait, there’s more” moment! Not only an angel (singular) of the Lord had visited the shepherds but an entire heavenly host lit up the sky over their campfire and shone, proclaimed, and perhaps sang the glory of God! We know from scripture that the shepherds talked among themselves and decided they must go and see and go and tell.

“Let us go straight to Bethlehem then and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us. And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in a manger. And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.” (Luke 2:15-17)

It must have been an amazingly difficult thing for most, especially the religious leaders, to accept the fact that God had spoken, announced, decreed to anyone, let alone lowly shepherds, the arrival of the Messiah, the hope of Israel and the Savior of the World! Surely God wouldn’t speak to and through such as these. But He did!

This brings us to the question of the day. Does God still speak?

I believe the answer is yes, but let me carefully unpack my beliefs concerning this.

Have you ever had someone say to you, “God told me this or God told me that?” Or how about, “God told me to tell you…?”

Now, at the risk of offending some who use such terminology, oft times out of habit, not careful consideration, let me say this. Personally, I’ve never said, “God told me this or that.” I’ve also never said to someone, “God told me to tell you…”

I think this can be most presumptuous and oftentimes detrimental, if not hurtful to someone who may take to heart someone saying, “God told me…” When in fact, it was a personal opinion, a misguided attempt at being prophetic, or worst of all, a means to control or manipulate.

I have upon occasion asked those who say, “God told me,” if they actually heard an audible voice. Usually, the reply is something like this: “Well no, I didn’t actually hear an audible voice; it was more a prompting or a sensing.”

How we use words and phrases to communicate with others is so important. It can literally mean the difference between being helpful or harmful.

I’ve concluded that if everything people told me through the years was from God, as they said it was, then He is surely the most confused being in the universe!

Here’s what I believe: God speaks most clearly, specifically, and completely through His Word. God will never, and I mean NEVER speak a word that is contrary to or cannot be backed up, by the Word of God.

Having said that, let us consider some other ways His Word says that He speaks. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1) I am reminded of a line from Ralph Carmichael’s wonderful 1964 contemporary song, He’s Everything to Me: “In the stars His handiwork I see.”

On a side note: I have recently thought of trying to contact Ralph Carmichael to tell him what a huge contribution he made to Contemporary Christian music and how much I honor and respect him and his contributions musically. As I just referenced the previous lyrics from his song, I decided to look up information on him so I might contact him. I was surprised and saddened to see he had just passed on October 18th of this year. (When and if you feel a prompting to reach out to someone, do it! God speaks by His Holy Spirit in such ways.)

The Apostle Paul writes, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they (the unrighteous) are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

That reminds me of a story told to me by a missionary to China, some years ago. The missionary said he was sitting on the deck of a boat cruising down a river in China, bible in hand and having a time of prayer and study. Next to him sat an elderly Chinese gentleman who at one point asked, “What is the book you read?” The missionary responded, “The Bible.” The Chinese gentleman asked, “What is Bible?” The missionary said, “The Bible is a book that tells us about God, His creation, His Son, and His love.” The Chinese gentleman replied, “So there is a God?” The missionary said, “Yes!” The Chinese gentleman replied, “I thought so!”

The man from China had never been to church, never heard a sermon about God, and didn’t even know what a Bible was. Yet…he believed there was a God. How?

“The heavens declare His glory!”
“In the stars His handiwork I see.”

To be sure, this is not salvation but it is God speaking, drawing, and perhaps convicting so that a hunger is created to know God and I believe such hunger will always be fed by one whom God appoints to share the gospel.

We know from the many reports of missionaries to Muslim countries, that so many who are coming to Christ have first been quickened in their spirits by a dream revealing Christ to them. That dream causes them to search out someone who can share the gospel. I had the privilege of talking to a young couple from Iran who attended a concert of mine a few years back. They videoed the entire concert so they could take it back to their family and friends so they might hear the gospel. When I asked how they came to faith in Christ, the young man replied in broken English, “Jesus appeared to me in a dream and from there I learned of the gospel.”

A dream. Do dreams have biblical support and precedent? One should not live their life on the basis of dreams and visions but God does use dreams and visions occasionally to speak.

There is so much to write on this topic but let me say this; the Holy Spirit who took up residence within us when we surrendered our lives to Christ and trusted by faith in His atoning sacrifice is neither dormant nor silent within us.

My pastor preaches wonderful, rich, biblically sound sermons but it is the Holy Spirit that gives life, power, meaning, and application to those anointed messages.

I’ve written many songs through the years that have blessed, enriched, and even led to the salvation of lives. Is that because I have a way with words and notes? Is it on the basis of talent? No, and may it never be! In fact, we know from scripture it’s not by might, power, talent, intellect, or any other thing of which we may boast. Scripture is emphatic. “It is by My Spirit, thus saith the Lord!” His Spirit is neither dormant nor silent.

So yes, God speaks.

God speaks through His Word. He speaks through that which He has created. He speaks by the prompting of His Spirit within us. He speaks through preachers, teachers, circumstances both difficult and uplifting and in many other ways perhaps too numerous to list.

But in any and every way He may choose to speak, the Word of God must always be the foundation, the compass, and the clear point of reference for any such communication of God to man.

I think God is always speaking. The question is, are we always listening?

I pray that you would seek to spend more time in His Word this coming year and desire to develop a greater sensitivity to the ways and means by which He might speak to us.

May we never wonder: “Does God Still Speak?”

The Spirit Within Us

Is a Christian indwelt fully by the Holy Spirit at conversion? The Holy Spirit works in us continually from conversion through sanctification, and subsequently through various giftings and empowering. If the Holy Spirit is God and dwells within us, what does that call us to? We should continually be filled up by the Holy Spirit. In this episode, Dallas talks about spirit-filled living: our lives should show those around us the reality of a risen Christ alive within us by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

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Holy Spirit Baptism

The believers received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and Jesus said when you receive the Holy Spirit, you receive the power to be witnesses. Believers look at Holy Spirit Baptism in different doctrinal ways. These doctrinal differences leave some staying away from the mysterious Holy Spirit, and others with no desire to learn more about biblical spirit-filled living. In this episode, Dallas looks at what Holy Spirit Baptism means through the differing lenses of Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones and Dr. Wayne Grudem.

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God, The Holy Spirit

When we surrender our lives to Jesus, it’s the Holy Spirit who woos us, convicts us, transforms us, empowers us – it’s all the work of the Holy Spirit which is the spirit of Christ, and the Holy Spirit dwells in us. A.W. Tozer says “We will never understand the Holy Spirit so long as we terminate our thought upon Him.” Who is the Holy Spirit? In season 3, episode 2, Dallas talks about God the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit, God.

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Be Filled With the Holy Spirit

“That person is a Spirit-filled Christian! That’s a Spirit-filled church!” What does it mean? Dallas has the privilege of seeing the Body of Christ in its many expressions and in all of his travels and opportunities, there is a noticeable absence of the Holy Spirit. It leads to to hearing phrases like, “It’s a good church, but it’s not a Spirit-filled church,” or, “I was prayed for at this church, but then I went down to the Spirit-filled church to be prayed for.” Season 3, episode 1 is Dallas’ discussion on what it means to be Spirit-filled and what it means for believers.

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Running The Race

I’m running the race
I’m running the race to win
I’m running the race
I’m running the race to win
Sometimes I felt like giving up
And falling down within
But I’m still running the race
I’m running the race to win

(Dallas Holm/Signal 1983)

One of my favorite uncles sent me a birthday card years ago. On the front were cartoonish characters running in a race. Some were tall and thin, some more medium in stature, and some short and stocky. The caption on the front of the card read: “In the great race of life, there are long distance runners, middle distance runners and short distance runners.” Upon opening the card, you saw a picture of a rather nerdish bystander sitting on the curb by the roadside as all the runners ran by. The caption read: “And then there are those of us who sit along the sidelines and laugh at how funny the others look in those shorts!” It’s a somewhat funny, if not silly little card, and yet I believe it carries with it a truth that may apply to us all.

Recently, while watching the summer Olympics, I was struck with the level of training, discipline, and sacrifice it takes to perform at the top levels of track and field in particular. Two runners who especially caught my attention, not only for their strength, speed, and skill but for the beauty and grace by which they exhibited their athletic prowess, as well as their character, were sprinters Allyson Felix and Sydney McLaughlin. Allyson Felix is now the most decorated female sprinter in Olympic history at the age of 35, which in “sprinter years” is getting on up there. Sydney McLaughlin is a relative newcomer at the young age of 22 but recently set the new world record for the 400m hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics.

Allyson and Sydney have enough gold, silver, bronze medals, and records to make any world-class athlete envious. Yet in every interview I witnessed with them, they, first of all, gave “All glory to God.” I know nothing of their personal relationships to the Lord, nor of their doctrinal positions (if any) on issues in scripture. I just know that in an environment of ever-increasing “me first” mindset, it was refreshing if not inspiring to see these young ladies reference God before themselves.

I’m sure even for the nerdy bystander sitting on the sideline, observing “how funny others may look in those shorts,” it surely made an impression on even them.

The apostle Paul must have been somewhat of a sports fan himself, especially in running, for he visits and revisits this theme in his writings.

In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth he uses this race imagery to emphasize the need for discipline, self control, and focus so that the believer may win the race and receive an imperishable reward. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (I Corinthians 9:24-25)

Remember, Corinth in Paul’s day was a bustling hub of worldwide commerce, degraded culture, and idolatrous religion. The church that Paul founded in the midst of this pagan culture was uniquely stressed by its very environment and had grown into a very unbalanced spiritual community, especially regarding their understanding of spiritual gifts and the sacred nature of observing “The Lord’s Table”. Observance of this ordinance had degenerated into a self-indulgent love feast.

It is in the midst of this chaos that Paul steps forth to be the trainer of an undisciplined team who will surely lose if they are not properly instructed how to win. Through the years I’ve sometimes wondered at this portion of scripture because it seems to suggest that we’re all running in a race but only one can win. If that’s how it is, then there are surely going to be mostly disappointed Christian losers. Perhaps we’re not running against each other, and I think we’re not. Let’s look at another one of Paul’s sports analogies, change one word and I believe we will gain proper understanding. “For we wrestle (race) not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Now we see the gravity of the situation; the intimidating power of our opponent and the absolute necessity to train, discipline, and sacrifice for this is surely not a race we can afford to lose!

“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave (“Present your bodies a living sacrifice – Romans 12:1), lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (I Corinthians 9:26-27)

I have throughout the years heard this portion of scripture presented to suggest that even Paul was concerned after all he had done that he might not make it to the end, perhaps losing his very own salvation. This, of course, cannot possibly be the meaning of this verse. Do you think the greatest theologian who ever lived, who writes to us most prolifically in regard to God’s pre-ordained plans to save and keep His own, from before the foundations of the world, has any concern about faltering at the finish line? The issue here is not about the ultimate finish of the race but the disqualifications that can occur along the way.

Recently at the Tokyo Olympics, there was an American sprinter who eased up a little toward the finish of a qualifying heat, and for that one-millisecond miscalculation, he missed competing for a prize in the final. He’s still a sprinter and will probably race again, perhaps winning medals, but he was forever disqualified from arguably the biggest race of his life.

There are “prizes” to be won along the way of life’s race. For what purpose, you may ask? As we train, discipline, and sacrifice for Christ in life’s great race, we are awarded such “prizes” as sure faith, wisdom, peace, joy, love, and a list of the merciful gifts of His grace that stretch beyond the space herein to list.

We know that ultimately for those who finish the race for Him; “There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.” (2 Timothy 4:8)

I don’t think we’ll have individual trophy rooms in Heaven. I think there perhaps will be one great trophy room to the honor and glory of God that will display all that was accomplished by Him, through Him and for Him.

The book of Revelation seems to indicate there will be an occasion to honor and worship our Lord and Savior in a most unique and humble way as we are afforded the opportunity to lay our crowns, given by Him to us, back at His feet.

Perhaps the “prizes” won along life’s race will be as jewels in the crown of righteousness which we will delight to give Him.

One final thought…I have a good friend who used to run track at the University of Oregon. Their program is widely known, especially for success in distance running. My friend once told me that in a long distance race there are ultimately two races within the race. First, there are those who have run hard, jostled, and strategized to the front of the race with hopes of winning. There is a second group, perhaps ill-trained, tentative, and devoid of a sound race strategy, who find themselves lagging behind with no hope now of competing for the prize. They are not running to win; they are running not to lose.

There’s a term for this that dates back to the early 1600s: “Devil take the hindmost”. It is a phrase that best describes a situation in which someone thinks only of himself and his own interests, leaving others to deal with their own fates. Hindmost is an adjective that describes the person who is farthest from the front or who is in the back of the line. The idea behind the meaning of the saying, “devil take the hindmost,” is of a group being pursued by the devil. It begs the question, “Are you running to win or just trying not to lose? Is your eye still on the prize? Can you say with Paul: ‘I press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 3:14) Or are you just trying to keep pace ahead of the devil?”

Train harder, discipline yourself, and sacrifice all for Him so you might win the prizes of His grace and glory along the way and the crown of righteousness upon crossing the finish line.

Keep on Running the Race to Win!

Lyrics for Life

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 NASB)

This is a verse with which I assume we are all familiar. Many of the modern day “prosperity preachers” have wrongly leveraged this verse in a way to suggest that Christians should expect (dare I say, deserve) abundant wealth and material blessings.

This mishandling of the text defies any sense of context whatsoever. Here, Jesus is not promoting materialism in any sense or form, but rather emphasizing and re-emphasizing the fact that He is the door through whom the sheep must enter and if they do, they shall be saved, find pasture (every need met), protection and be valued so highly that the Good Shepherd will lay down His life for His sheep. Try to put a price on that!

To promote the idea that the “abundant life” means health, wealth, and no struggle, not only misrepresents the truth of scripture but also adds insult to injury, as the saying goes, to the saints of God who find themselves in the trials and tribulations of life.

Jesus, in scripture, clearly informs and prepares us for the realities of life on planet Earth when He said, “In this world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NASB)

So can we experience “the abundant life” in the midst of difficulty and tribulation? Scripture says, “His mercies are new every morning”, “His grace is sufficient for every need” and “His love endures forever.”

Are these promises only good for the easy days or are they wholly applicable in the difficult days? For the child of God, scripture is clear throughout that all His promises are yes and amen!

“For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.” (II Corinthians 1:20 NASB)

Once again, as we examine the context of this wonderful verse we must note that it is framed within Paul’s explanation of affliction, enduring and suffering (verse 6) and affliction, anguish and sorrow (Chapter 2 Verse 4).

Why do I write these things to you? I write them because I am increasingly aware of the struggles and sorrows with which some of you find yourselves.

As I consider the prayer requests that come to us by letter or email and as I hear the prayer needs within our own church body, I am deeply moved by the depths of difficulty that some experience; some for long periods of time.

I know the needs are as diverse as each individual, yet I observe that certain difficulties seem to dominate the landscape of our trials and tribulations.

It is my hope herein to offer some lyrics from past songs, born out of Linda’s and my own struggles in life, to bring some hope, encouragement and in a prayerful sense, intercessory fellowship in the areas of physical need for healing, deliverance from depression and comfort in the midst of the sorrow of loss.

In 1987 my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer which was promptly addressed by aggressive surgery and intense chemotherapy. One evening as I was out in my studio, I wrote a song which expressed the cry of our hearts. I invited Linda to come out and give a listen to this new song. As I sat at the piano and placed a set of headphones on Linda’s beautiful bald head, I sang this prayer for us. I now offer these lyrics as a prayer for those of you who need a touch from the Great Physician.

Heal Me

I knew life had its valleys
Never thought that it would not be so,
But even if they’d told me
I never would’ve thought they’d be this low.
I’ve stood upon the mountain
Looked across to higher peaks and more,
But the only way to reach them
Is to journey through the lowly valley floor.

How long have I been travelin’
Days or years, sometimes I just don’t know.
How deep is this valley,
And how many more miles must I go?
My body’s growing weary
Seems my strength has all but slipped away.
Oh, God, You’ve got to help me;
Place Your healing hand on me today.

Heal me, touch me with your love
Heal me, send Your Spirit from above
(And) Hear me, help me Lord I pray,
Jesus come and make me whole today.

Oh, God, I know You’re faithful,
Leading me each step every day,
But sometimes in the valley
I just forget You’ve often passed this way.
The path is steep and narrow;
Seems this upward climb will never stop,
So I’m holding onto You Lord
And in Your strength I know I’ll make the top.

Heal me, touch me with your love
Heal me, send Your Spirit from above
(And) Hear me, help me Lord I pray,
Jesus come and make me whole today.

Linda has often shared that as difficult as the struggle has been against the breast cancer she has battled now for 34 years, it doesn’t compare to a greater battle she endured in a season of severe depression, prior to her cancer diagnosis. The following lyrics offer hope to any who presently share in the difficult depths of depression.

This Too Shall Pass

There’s a heaviness inside your heart
A weight you can’t describe
A feeling that you just can’t hide
There’s a weariness within your mind
The thoughts don’t come too clear
You feel as though I’m not so near to you

But remember I said I’d never leave
Trust in My Word and believe I am here
Forever, I’ll never let you go
This is all you really need to know

I’ve heard every prayer I’ve seen every tear
When I seemed so distant, I’ve always been near
And I know the future, and I know the past
So believe me when I say; believe me when I say
This too, this too shall pass.

I know sometimes it’s hard for you to put your trust in Me
To place your faith in what you cannot see
I know sometimes you feel that I’m a million miles away
But listen to your heart and hear me say:

I’ve heard every prayer – I’ve seen every tear
When I seemed so distant, I’ve always been near
And I know the future and I know the past
So believe me when I say; believe me when I say
This too, this too shall pass.

Finally; it seems the older we get, the more family and friends there are who are passing on. Linda and I have temporarily said goodbye to our parents in recent years. Linda’s mom and sister both passed a couple years ago and she was not even able to attend any kind of funeral for them due to Covid and Linda’s own health issues. Yes, we grieve but… “Not as those who have no hope.”

I pray the lyrics to this final song bring hope to those who have said goodbye to a family member or friend who died, “In Christ”.

Next Time It Will Be Forever

I just said goodbye to someone I loved
Never pass this way again
The time we had
Just wasn’t enough
And it hurts to reach the end.
A whole lifetime
Is really no time at all
Just a moment, then it’s gone.

But… next time it will be forever
Then our hearts will be renewed
There we’ll always be together
Next time it will be forever.

I don’t understand, but I still believe
There’s a purpose in Your plan
And though I may feel that I can’t go on
In Your strength I know I can.
A whole lifetime
Is really no time at all
Just a moment, then it’s gone.

And I know that just as sure as there’s a God above
We’ll be reunited once again someday
Then forever we will be together in His love
And together in His love we’ll always stay.

It is Linda’s and my desire and prayer that this letter will bring some encouragement, hope, and healing to you. Here’s a link to several of my songs which you can download for free.

Our sincere hope is that from these songs, some written many years ago, they will now be to you…Lyrics for Life.

Food For Thought

As a child, I thought that was an odd saying… “food for thought.” When I thought of food I thought of my stomach, not my mind. I thought of being hungry, I thought of cheeseburgers. However, as I got older, I realized that my mind needed wholesome nourishment as well as and perhaps more than my body.

The fact is, the body, the mind and most importantly the spirit needs a good steady diet of healthy wholesome nourishment.

But what of this food for thought idea. Does it have a scriptural basis? Does the Bible use the imagery of food to equip the mind?

Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Proverbs 25:11 says, “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”

Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

There are numerous other scriptural references that support the “food for thought” idea.

I’ve always loved great quotes, first from scripture but then from other great men and women of God, down through history. Quotes from Spurgeon, Chambers, Tozer, Madame Guyon, Calvin and Elizabeth Elliot (to name a few) have often provided just the necessary morsel of “food for thought” to strengthen and sustain me on my journey.

For many years now as I have walked with the Lord and studied His word, I have also greatly benefited from an accompanying devotional such as My Utmost For His Highest (Chambers), Morning and Evening (Spurgeon) and Streams in the Desert (Cowman). As I have gone through these and other devotionals year after year, I have committed numerous quotes to memory. They have often served as spiritual energy bars while “I’m pressing on the upward way.”

This year as I am once again going through Streams in the Desert, I have asked the Lord to prompt within me a daily quote that I may share with a fellow traveler.

At year’s end I hope to have 365 quotes that will be shared as a daily devotional thought online and also compiled in a devotional book tentatively titled: Mile Markers Through the Desert.

The following is a brief sampling of some of these morsels, I pray will be food for thought.

Be untethered to the remembrance of past attainments. Once they were the unknown future, now they are the unimportant past. “Today is the day of salvation.” Live in the opportunity of today and the hope of tomorrow’s potential.

Hold your hand far away from you and you can see almost all that is behind your hand. Hold your hand close before your eyes and you will see only your hand. It’s all a matter of perspective. When enemies arise and seem as though they will overwhelm you, hold Jesus close before you and you’ll see only Him.

In life as in nature, both the showers and the sunshine are necessary for growth. Let God control the seasons.

Success in prayer, much like success in music or sports, requires practice, repetition and discipline; not so much to develop the manner of prayer but rather to develop the qualities of persistence and perseverance which bolster faith and precede prayer’s answers.

An evidence of His nearness we may hold in our hand will never compare to the value of the evidence we may hold in our heart, by the truth of His Word.

How small are our largest needs and pressing concerns, compared to the vast storehouse of God’s limitless, eternal provisions.

What of those who never seem to experience a break in the storm; whose entire lives seem to languish in tribulation? Greater adversity – greater grace! Greater pain – greater mercy! The more one’s life is darkened, the more one’s eternity is brightened. Perhaps those who suffer life’s trials most will enjoy Heaven’s glories best!

Every promise of God is true. Every promise He has made He will fulfill. The “when” of His fulfilling is HIs business. Some promises will be fulfilled in this life…some in the next. 

The front of a tapestry displays a uniform and intricate design. The back of a tapestry reveals tangled, frayed and knotted threads. The tangles, frays and knots of our lives give testimony to the fact that we are being carefully and lovingly woven into God’s beautiful and eternal design.

In life as well as ministry, the “final stretch” presents the greatest possibilities as well as the greatest perils. In any race, the start is important but the finish is what matters most.

One of the greatest assaults on our peace is emotional discontent. The surest way to guarantee enduring stability amidst life’s storms is to live by faith, not by feeling.

Those who suffer in silence in this life shall sing loudest in Heaven’s choir!

The perfect and whole Body of Christ is comprised of many crippled saints. He’s building a perfect kingdom with imperfect people. Hell’s loss will be Heaven’s gain. He enlists us by grace. He oversees us in mercy. He loves us unconditionally.

The most beautiful strains of music are born in the most difficult strains of life.

A bright overhead light on a stage can illuminate an actor in a cone of brilliance. However, one step to the side and the actor is lost in darkness. God has shone His light upon us. Stay in the light. Darkness is always just a step away.

A man with a still heart and mind possesses great power. A quieted soul is not easily disturbed.

He is in the sunny days. He is in the cloudy days. He is in the calm and He is in the midst of the tempest. When we learn to discern His presence in every circumstance, fear will flee and faith will flourish.

God does His best work in our worst times.

He has gone before. He pioneered the trail and has led many a weary, wounded pilgrim to safety. He knows every twist and turn, even through the valley of the shadow of death. Hold His hand, step in His steps; stay close. He WILL lead you through.

Virtues are taught by adversity. As wind smooths the mountains and waves dull sharp stones; so tribulation molds our lives.

“I am the Lord, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.” (Isaiah 45:6-7) The sooner we accept the fact that God is in absolute control of everything, the sooner we shall find, “The peace that surpasses our comprehension.”

Be encouraged… God is in absolute control of absolutely everything. He hears every prayer. His deliverance is sure and He will never leave you nor forsake you.

I pray these brief and simple thoughts and words have given you some Food For Thought.


Put on the helmet of salvation
Put on the breastplate of righteousness
Clothe your whole being in holy armor
Worthy to stand the test

We’re in the battle of the ages
In the Lord’s army there’s no retreat
Fighting against the powers of darkness
For us there is no defeat

(It’s War/Change The World, 1985 Words and Music by Dallas Holm)

In the last Praiseletter we discussed how to prepare for the present situation we find ourselves in regarding increased persecution against Christianity by the government and any and all opposed to biblical truth.

We identified the fact that the real battle is: “…Against the rulers, against the powers, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

We are clearly at war with the enemy of our souls and with those authorities and systems who ascribe to his rule and not God’s.

It’s war we’re fighting
It’s war we’re going to win
It’s war we’re fighting
And we’re fighting this war to win

So the question arises, “How do we as Christians respond to authorities and rulers when they mandate that which opposes the precepts of scripture and the laws of God?”

To arrive at a biblically based understanding, we must first examine what the role of government should be according to scripture.

Without going through every scripture dealing with this topic, starting perhaps with God’s instructions to Noah way back in Genesis 9:5-6, where God institutes a reckoning for the taking of a man’s life, to all subsequent instruction to the Israelites and their interactions with other cultures and governments, some who brought them into captivity; all the way down to New Testament times where Jesus, Peter and Paul (to name a few) taught “rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”,“Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities” and “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…”, let us just draw a conclusion pertaining to government, from a biblical perspective: According to scripture, the role of government is to protect, punish and promote.

Protect: Government must initiate some form of restraint and rule to protect citizens from themselves.
Punish: Government must impose punishment upon criminals. Peter tells us that governors are “Sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers.” (I Peter 2:14)
Promote: Government should promote the general welfare of the community where its laws are in effect.

In one sense this is a “short list” and yet the role of government in all its detailed nuances are, from a biblical perspective, addressed in this brief description.

Complications arise in the minds of many a Christian when they read verses such as Romans 13:1-2 and I Peter 2:13-14.

Romans 13:1-2 states: “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.”

I Peter 2:13-14 states: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as one in authority, or to governors as sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.”

So does God institute all governments, authorities, kings and presidents and ours is but to obey…end of story?!

This, of course, is where the complication arises in our thinking. Is there a difference between submitting and obeying?

I believe the answer is yes.

The Greek word used in both these verses (and others) meaning to submit or be in subjection to, is the word, hupotasso. It literally means to arrange things respectfully, in an orderly manner underneath.

It is important to note that there is a vast difference between subjection and subjugation!

The Greek word for obey is hupokouo. This word is used in verses that speak of obedience; however, it is not the word used in these scriptures regarding submitting and being in subjection. The original meaning of social orderliness denoted in the word hupotasso would have been understood in its proper context by the original readers.

Scripture does not instruct us to acquiesce to a person or system that demands obedience, by brute force if necessary, nor can the laws of man or governments ever take precedence over the laws of God.

Dr. Wayne Grudem in his book, Christian Ethics, addresses this issue in a timely and biblically based manner. He writes:

God does not hold people responsible to obey the civil government when obedience would mean directly disobeying a command of God himself. This principle is indicated by a number of passages in the narrative sections of the Bible.

One clear example comes from the early days of the Christian church. After Jesus had commanded the apostles to preach the gospel (see Matt. 28:19-20), the Jewish governing authority, the Sanhedrin, arrested some of them and ordered them “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). But the apostles Peter and John answered, “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (v.20), and later Peter proclaimed, “We must obey God rather than men” (5:29).

This is a clear affirmation of the principle that God requires his people to disobey the civil government if obedience would mean directly disobeying God.

Other passages also establish this. In Daniel 3:13-20, King Nebuchadnezzar commanded three Jewish men-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego-to bow down and worship a golden statue that he had erected. But they refused and said, “We will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (v.18). God showed his approval of their actions by rescuing them from the burning fiery furnace (vv.19-30).

Daniel likewise disobeyed a law that prohibited him from praying to God (see Dan. 6:10). In addition, when King Herod commanded the wise men to return and tell him where the newborn King of the Jews was to be found, they were warned by an angel not to heed this command, so they disobeyed Herod and “departed to their own country by another way” (see Matt. 2:8, 12).

John Calvin put it this way:

But in that obedience which we have shown to be due to the authority of rulers, we are always to make this exception…that such obedience is never to lead us away from obedience to Him, to whose will the desires of all kings ought to be subject…And how absurd would it be that in satisfying man you should incur the displeasure of Him for whose sake you obey men themselves! The Lord, therefore is the King of Kings…If they command anything against Him, let it go unesteemed.

Flesh and blood is not what we’re fighting
We fight against what we cannot see
The prince of power of the air
Accuser of you and me

It’s so important to remember this lest we develop bitterness and even hatred towards those we disagree with, even those in positions of governmental leadership.

We are called as Christians to pray for our governing authorities.

“First of all then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” (I Timothy 2:1-3)

Simple question: Do we pray for our governmental leaders as much as we complain about them?

I strongly disagree with and am quite frankly shocked by some of the policies being put in play even as I write this letter. But as a Christian, I am called to grumble less and pray more!

I am committed to obey God’s laws first and foremost no matter the cost, and there may be an increasing cost in the days ahead for those of unwavering commitment to Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it, “The Cost of Discipleship.”

James Renwick, the last leader of the Scottish “Covenanters” in the 1600s, after enduring torture and imprisonment (he was ultimately beheaded) for his unwavering faith in Christ, stated at the young age of twenty-seven, “I have oft counted the cost of serving Christ but never thought it would be so easy.”

Easy! Yes, according to young James, God’s grace was there in ample supply in his time of great need.

That same sufficient grace will always be there for us too when needed. I fear we sometimes lose perspective in the muddle of political chaos and end times pressures.

Truth has defeated the deceiver
Hell has no power to wound the Son
So why do we fight like we’re losing the battle
When the victory’s already won

Battles come and go, leaders rise and fall, elections are won and lost, but the outcome of the “battle of the ages” is already established! “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28)

This is how we Respond!


I have watched the storm clouds gather on the horizon
I have listened to the distant thunder roll
I have felt a stronger current in the ocean
I have felt a stronger current in my soul

I have felt the earth tremble beneath my feet
I have heard the breakers crash upon the shore
I have seen a stronger wind begin to gather
I have heard the raindrops pounding on my door
Be my shelter, be my sanctuary
Spread your mighty loving wings and cover me

Be my Savior from the adversary
Be my ever present help in time of need
All the earth is groaning

Waiting for The Day
Find me to be faithful
Lead me in the Way
(Be My Shelter/Through The Flame 1990 Words and Music by Dallas Holm)

Although the lyrics to this song were penned over twenty years ago, the sense of an impending “storm” and need for shelter seems more urgent and real now than ever before. 2020 seemed to be a “perfect storm” of sorts that has left many if not all of us with a sense that things may never be quite the same.

Covid-19 has done great damage to the physical health of many, to the economic health of our nation and due to the political leveraging of this pandemic, on both sides of the aisle and even within the scientific community, it has affected the very integrity of this “One Nation Under God” constitutional republic.

Free and fair elections now take place in a fog of suspicion and beneath a cloud of cynicism. Violence, in ways that would have once been denounced, is now applauded by some as heroic. Censorship, once thought to be only relegated to communist regimes and third world countries, has now reared its ugly head from “sea to shining sea” and in our own backyard.

I could go on and list all the challenges and changes that have occurred in just recent months but I’m sure you’re fully aware and have yourselves been personally impacted by our present plight.

My greatest concern herein is the church, the body of Christ, every true believer and how we discern, prepare and respond.

I believe every true born again follower of Christ discerns that “The Times They are a Changin” as Dylan so poignantly penned decades ago. It is essential that we understand what we are dealing with amidst these present tensions and assaults.

I believe the Apostle Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, clearly instructed the church at Ephesus and clearly instructs us today as to what (or who) we’re up against. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)

If this is true, and it most certainly is, then our discerning, preparation and response must be rooted in the spiritual.

I love what Chuck Colson said some years ago: “The kingdom of God will never arrive on Air Force One!” This does not suggest that we shouldn’t exercise our constitutional rights to seek, by vote and involvement in our political structure, to establish men and women in significant places of leadership who will uphold the very rights and freedoms that have been clearly put forth in our nation’s founding documents.

However, if we put our hope and trust in even the best ideas of men and most noble attainments of their offerings, we will still miss the mark if we don’t discern, prepare and respond in light of the spiritual realities that represent the true issues in all of this.

I have, in this letter, referred to discerning, preparing and responding. I really don’t think much needs to be said about discerning, because I believe every true Christian who is filled with the Spirit of God, grounded in the Word and walking close to Jesus, with eyes wide open, sees and senses the situation we find ourselves in.

In the future, perhaps the next Praiseletter, I’ll talk more about how we respond in the midst of this present environment. For now however, I would like to talk about preparation.

I know there are many “preppers”, Christian and otherwise, who are storing up food and water, gasoline and generators, guns and ammo and much more, preparing for the seemingly likely impending storm.

I think wise and reasonable preparation is always a good plan. My Norwegian grandmother used to say, “Live like you’re going to die tomorrow…plan like you’re going to live forever!”

Wise instruction from a woman who came to America as a teenage girl, not knowing the language or what lay ahead. Thankfully, she came to know Jesus and learned the joy of living for His plans and purposes.

I believe you sense, as I do, an increase in persecution towards Christians and the Church in our country. It’s not new, it’s just becoming more obvious and aggressive, as scripture predicted it would.

Billy Graham wrote in 1957: “The Bible says that all who ‘desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution’ (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus said that as the time of His return draws nigh, ‘They will lay their hands on you and persecute you’ (Luke 21:12). We have no scriptural foundation for believing that we can forever escape being persecuted for Christ’s sake. The normal condition for Christians is that we should suffer persecution.”

Though we don’t know exactly what persecution might look like for us here in America, we are beginning to feel its effects and find ourselves wondering more about what lies ahead. I know this has caused concern, angst and yes, even fear in many.

If all we see happening presently and anticipate “down the road” is spiritual in essence, then shouldn’t our preparation be spiritual in essence?

I believe the answer is a resounding YES!

Paul identifies the rulers, powers and forces in his letter to the church in Ephesus. He then goes on to present a strategy or lay out a “game plan” as we might say.

‘Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17)

In that portion of scripture Paul urges us to “take up, resist, stand firm, gird, put on, shod and extinguish”. All these are purposed and disciplined actions of preparation.

We prepare for a sport, we prepare for a vacation, we prepare our taxes, we prepare a meal and on and on it goes. In so many areas of life we understand clearly the importance and necessity of preparation. We wouldn’t expect to excel or succeed at a sport for which we have not systematically and diligently prepared.

We would not be too excited to eat a meal thrown together at the last minute without thoughtful preparation. Failure to keep track, organize and prepare our taxes properly can have severe consequences.

Failure to prepare day by day, moment by moment and step by step for the coming persecution can and will have severe consequences as well.

I am here reminded of a wonderful (and I believe appropriate) quote I read and committed to memory some thirty years ago, which I believe now serves us well.

“We fancy we could be heroic on some great occasion. We could die for Christ, we think, if called upon to lay down our life for Him. It is questionable, however, if we could, unless we have cultivated the martyr spirit hour by hour, for if our strength and desire to please God have failed in the trifles of our life, how can we be sure of them in the great testing? It is far harder to live for Christ moment by moment than it is to die once for Him; and if we wait for great occasions in which to display our fidelity, we shall find that our life has slipped away, and with it the opportunities which each hour has brought of proving our love to our Lord by being faithful in that which is least.”
(J. Gregory Mantle – Beyond Humiliation)

Therein is the key! Step by step, moment by moment and day by day being faithful in the least, thus assuring the strength, desire and ability to stand for Him when it matters most.

I can almost hear the host of Heaven singing
I can almost feel the power around the throne
While I wait to make that final distant journey
And until I finally make that place my home