Tag: God

The Other Cheek

When I share my artwork, I scrawl the word Grimm somewhere towards the bottom. Partly a nod to the Brothers Grimm and partly due to a fascination with horror art/fiction, it proved a fitting moniker. Yesterday, my wife pointed out something else. In many ways, I’ve become the name. Solitary, quiet, almost melancholic. I am not afraid of death or the inevitability of my own. It’s a name that indicates- at least to me- someone capable of taking hit after hit, of delving deeper into darkness, and just… not surrendering.

It’s the name of a hard man. One who, frankly, can hold a grudge and be unforgiving at times.

In Matthew 5:39, Jesus tells us “But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” How many of us find it easy to pass judgment? To react harshly to those who hurt us? In verses 43 through 45 of that same chapter, Jesus goes on to say “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

It’s easy to love those who are good to us. I love my wife so immensely. She encourages me, uplifts me, shares life with me, and tries to keep me connected to the world around me. She shares my love of stories and pushes me to keep using my God-given gifts. When I look at her or even just think about her, I’m filled with warmth, love, and all those wonderful, good things. I truly believe God shines on this house and blesses us every day.

However, like many others, there are people in my life who aren’t easy to tolerate, let alone like or love. Blood or time does not deny cruelty. It does not always hinder it. Often, we learn the ones who hurt us most are ones with time on their side; they’ve put in the work, so they believe they are entitled to say anything, to make everything acceptable. Jesus says turn the other cheek. Show them love. Show them mercy. Do not reciprocate with your hate. Luke 6: 26-28 states, “Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the false prophets. But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Let me posit something. Take Romans 16:17-18. “Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who create divisions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. Avoid them, because such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words.” Far too often, we equate forgiveness and turning the other cheek with submission. Submit to God, not man. It’s your duty as a Christ-follower to offer forgiveness. That is what is right in God’s eyes. Those who have hate in their hearts are not of God.

Turn the other cheek, but not to keep score. Turn the other cheek, but not because you deserve abuse. Turn the other cheek, but not because you wish to play the martyr. No. Turn the other cheek because you trust in your Father, who wields the righteous flame of judgment. Turn the other cheek because you will not be beaten. Turn the other cheek because you have faith in Jesus Christ.

Life isn’t kind. We’re told throughout scripture that when we seek God and when we identify as a follower of Jesus Christ, the world- and those who side with it- will strike out against us. We choose how we respond. We can be like Grimm, harsh and sometimes unforgiving, or we can be like Jesus commanded us: loving and full of forgiveness. It doesn’t mean we have to accept these forces into our lives. Some people are just too toxic for our well-being. But, we should never allow their hate, their anger, their meanness infect our hearts and souls.

Because when we stop turning the other cheek, the devil wins.

Renewal

Honesty. That’s always an excellent place to start. Hard one, too. Recently, I contemplated closing Torchlight down for good. I’d spent most of 2021 angry at God, tired, and just plain downtrodden. While there were many reasons for celebration, certain interactions in my personal and professional life were taking a toll on me. Like many of you, I tried to understand why hardship continued its assault. I’m a good person and try, always, to do the right thing. So why then, did God seem constantly intent on punishing me? I couldn’t see the proverbial end of the tunnel. Nor, frankly, did I feel comfortable devoting time and energy to Torchlight.

On our main page, there is an important verse I’d forgotten. John 12:46 – “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” I was abiding in darkness. Not the darkness of faithlessness, perhaps. No, more the darkness of hurt, of untrusting, of keeping my burdens upon my own shoulders instead of laying them at the feet of my God. I walked through the shadowlands of doubt, where I permitted others a say in who I am, when God has already done that. I allowed other people’s sinfulness to cloud my own walk with God.

And so I reached a point where I was going to delete Torchlight and remove it from existence. I’d even logged into the site and started the process when a feeling struck me. This was WRONG. I wasn’t supposed to do this. So, I closed the tab on my internet browser and left it alone for a little bit. Funny thing though, I started to feel God again. I realized I didn’t want to let my anger keep me from His love anymore. But, I’m stubborn. I wasn’t going to work on this ministry again, just because I didn’t feel right about shutting it down.

Two things happened. Well, maybe more than two, but they stood out most. First. We let my father’s mother come to Christmas. There’s trauma in my relationship with her to where I can’t welcome her into my life again, but I realized I no longer wanted to carry the hate I’d held for her. So, I wrote a letter forgiving her and, I think, this helped open the door a little more. The other was a conversation with my longtime best friend/brother, Emmanuel. Things had become strained with us, to the point that during his first trip home in three years, I nearly ended our friendship. With the assistance of my wife, hard conversation, and prayer, we saw healing and I can say our friendship has seen renewal.

And, I think… we’ve decided to stop trying to emulate Jonah. My friend has his own spiritual journey, which I’ll let him share in his time. As for myself, well, I’m going to answer the call I’ve been avoiding. Let’s see what happens next.

A Travesty of EviL: Pride

Note: This piece was written by Emmanuel and myself as the first part in a series on evil. What follows is a combination of our thoughts to provide you on the concept of Biblical evil, as it connects to present day. This will be the first of a three part series I will be working on over the next few months.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. –Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)

For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. –John 3:20 (NKJV)

I’m going to start this a bit differently than usual…

Lord, during these troubled times, help us remember you will deliver us from evil. Help us to remember that, despite being undeserving of your grace, we still receive it. Help us remember that we are to stand firm in faith, to let the world see we are part of your army. Lord, we see such horror around us. We see crime. We see murder. We see men and women berate and demean others for their skin color, their sexual identities, their weight, their social class… for whatever they choose to justify their own hatefulness. We ask you, Father… we ask you to fill our hearts with love. We sorely need it. Help us remember why you sent your Son and why it is important to show Christ to the world. Give us courage Lord. Because we will not let evil stand. We will not surrender to the wicked. We will not turn a blind eye to wrongdoing. In your glorious name, we pray. Amen.

Lately, when we turn our televisions to the latest news report or hop on social media, we are blasted with the latest atrocity. People cry out only for their voices to drown in a vast digital sea of apathy. Merriam-Webster defines evil as being morally reprehensible and arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct. We are living in evil times, brothers and sisters. But, haven’t we done so since Adam and Eve first sinned? Haven’t we since Cain slew Abel?

Before we delve deeper into our study of Biblical evil and how it takes root in our modern world, we should remember the following:

“And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” – John 1:5 (NKJV)

“The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” – Psalm 121:7-8 (NKJV)

Within these two verses, we see that lines are drawn and forces are given names. As society has progressed, we grow quick to label areas of life gray and not easily defined. These days, even the word evil stirs the cynic in us; only in fiction or when we see truly atrocious behavior by our fellow man, do we wipe the dust off this old concept and grudgingly put it to use. The world, as we would have it, is very gray. But, as the verses above note, light and darkness cannot and do not mix.

Why, then, is there so much evil in the world? Where did it come from? Why is it still here? What do we even do about it?

When we talk about Original Sin, we often point to Adam and Eve, where the couple ate from the tree God explicitly told them not to take from. That is man’s original sin. But what was the original evil? People laugh at the concept of a devil and make light of the name of Lucifer. The spirit world is never taken to be a real place, just a fascinating setting for countless fictions we tell.

Some people believe in it, and some do not. But this does not change the facts: it is real, and things that happen there cause ripples that touch, bless, and destroy human lives.

Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV) tells states, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  It was in this realm of being, that the first act of evil, not yet witnessed by man, occurred. His name is Lucifer, the Morning Star. If Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith,” then Satan is the author of evil. Isaiah 14: 13-14 record his first offense, and the ‘you’ addressed here is Satan:

For you have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’ (Isaiah 14:13-14 NKJV).

The first sin, before Adam and Eve tasted that fatal fruit, was the sin of pride, of trying to do away with the Creator in favor of creation. Or, perhaps it was the act of choosing self over God. That singular event spawned evil, whatever rises against God and what He stands for. And, my friends, it has been growing ever since then. We, sadly, are born into it. All the more reason to jump for joy at the saving grace of Jesus Christ! It was one, Satan, who brought evil into the world of man, but it is One, Christ, who will redeem any who believe on Him. One thing is certain; no matter how evil the times may be, Jesus Christ is still Lord. Cling to that; please do not forget it.

And let’s go back to that word from earlier: pride. As we illustrate how evil got deeper into our society, through Biblical passages, keep that word in your mind. Just how in the world did Adam and Eve, unaware of the very concept of evil, who walked with God like you walk with your own father by your side, fall prey to disobeying their Creator? After all, He was right there. As close as your breath. Humans long just to feel God’s presence, let alone be able to see Him as clear as sunlight. If we lived in a state of perfection, able to feel, touch, and hear God with all our senses, we would think “I’d never disobey Him.”

But…it happened. Why?

Let’s look at Genesis 3:1-6 (NKJV): Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’? And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

Sound familiar? Satan wanted to be on top, to outdo the Creator. Remember that word pride? Don’t get us wrong – pride is not bad in and of itself. But sadly, we often forget – or simply do not know – that even our accomplishments are the result of God allowing us to flourish or blessing us.

When a child bullies a former friend on the playground, thinking she is better than her. When coworkers laugh behind our backs for being fat and clumsy. When a man lynches another because he esteems him lower than himself. When a husband cheats on his wife or a wife on her husband, forgetting that a marriage is a sacred bond. When genocide is started to remove a supposed threat to a tyrant. If you look deep enough, squint hard enough, you will see the common denominator: the fall of man was (and is) the pride of man. Where are we? Are we standing upon a threshold of acceptance, where we turn a blind eye to evil because it is either too big or too small? There is a spectrum, though stemming from the original source, that seems to diminish evil. Thus, our response differs. Our acceptance differs. Far too often, pride is easier to ignore than it is to address openly. That in itself may be the power of current evil. We cannot address past sins in the way we can address those taking place in the here and now. Our rugs, under which we sweep many things, grow too high. Where is God in this? He is not the savior of brooms. He is a Living God, one who calls us to His higher standard. Can repentance without change truly be called repentance? Can we see eternity at His feet when we clutch to our pride? The point has been and will always ever be Jesus Christ. When armed with God, the Son, and Holy Spirit, how can we not combat the evils around us? And what power surpasses Him? None.  

A Convicted Pursuit

“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:47-48 ESV).


It is easy to wake each day and play make-believe, to pretend we can just get through the day with our heads tucked between our legs. It’s easy to pretend we do not need God, that He isn’t in control of this domain. When we turn on the television and see violence spread across every news report… when we log onto social media, we’re immersed in hateful rhetoric and comments that are decidedly not Christlike. However, God sent Jesus down among us to save the world. I repeat, to save it.

Christian Evangelist and author, Leonard Ravenhill once said, “Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?” Where do your convictions lay? Merriam-Webster defines conviction as the state of being convinced or a strong persuasion or belief. Do you believe God so loved the world He sent His only begotten son? Do you believe we all fall short and are saved only through grace? Or, do you feel He has abandoned us? Do you see these horrendous events and doubt His imminent domain? I hope you haven’t lost the conviction our Father is here, reaching out to take you in His arms.

It saddens me when men and women are so beaten down, they resort to looting and rioting in the streets. As it saddens many of us. Remember that we should be, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 2:2-3 ESV). Many grow hungry. Many fear this breath will be their last. Many are afraid for their lives when they walk through their own communities. But, hallelujah! Christ is risen from the grave. No matter what hurts we endure in this life, He has paid a higher price than any of us.

Matthew 20:28 (ESV) tells us, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Likewise, Hebrews 2:9 (ESV) says, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Our savior laid down His life on the cross so we could be saved under the new covenant. When we are convicted to live a Christ-led life, these evils we see in the news stop having power over us. We show compassion to our brothers and sisters, because Jesus died for them, for us, for all.

There is no color code for God’s grace. There is only light and darkness. Throughout the centuries, people have laid down their lives for one cause or another. People have fought against oppressive regimes. The holy Father has been present for all of it. He directs us back to scripture, to the words of love. When we condemn others to suffering, are we living a convicted faith? I do not believe we are. When we remain silent in the face of evil, who wins? Surely, it is the great enemy, that clever ol’ serpent.

I want you to remember this from 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV): “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” We’re all going to get knocked down. We’re all going to lose more often than we win. But, when we put Jesus in our hearts, when we let go of the hate, we will only ever win the battle that truly matters. The battle for our soul.

Now, as we press forward, brothers and sisters, know I am with you. You have a friend and ally in me. No one should live in fear.

The Apathy of Indifference

Would you believe me if I told you there was something horribly wrong with this world? A cancer, so malignant, that it’s caused many Christ-followers to lose sight of Him and to think God has abandoned the world? We are a nation of apathy. We are a nation of sin. We are a nation where good men and women wonder where their next meals will come from. We are a nation where parents fearfully wait for a phone call telling them their child has been slain. We are a nation where people are still fighting the race war in a post-Civil Rights era. We are a nation where men and women who are paid to protect and serve, mete out their own cowboy justice. Note, this is not all or even most, but it exists. Finally, we are a nation where hatred prevails and people only want to get involved when individual choice has been removed.

I had a friend tell me recently that those within the New Age movement and those who do not adhere to Christianity are performing the wonders, Christ-followers should be. They prophesize and perform miracles. They pursue the self above all things. My friend saw Christianity as weaker, as not having the strength these other religions have anymore. I understand my friend’s fears. But, let me be clear. God is not playing for spectacles. He is not the next sensational thing. He’s been playing the long game since the dawn of creation.

Let’s look at some scripture for a moment.

1 Chronicles 29:11 (ESV) says, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.”

Galatians 3:28 (ESV) says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

1 Peter 2:15 (ESV) also tells us, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

Basically, our Father has got this and we need to have faith in Him. God does not promise comfort. He does promise to shelter us when we have faith. And, we are commanded to love others. What I’ve seen lately is a lack of love. A lack of human compassion. I have seen men and women belittle others for using precautions. I have witnessed men and women spew filth because someone looked different than they do. Is this of God? Are we really of God when we let our fellow human beings perish beneath the boot of oppression? Ecclesiastes 9:3 (ESV) reveals “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.”

We have a sin problem. We cannot just sit by and permit God’s enemies to take over. By following Jesus, we are called to a radical change. And if we are all equal in God’s eyes, if we all are flawed and must go through the Son to get to the Father, then there is no justification for the evil we see. So, I am urging you, my friends, let’s stand up for what’s right. Let’s not turn a blind eye until evil is poking us squarely in the chest. Let’s help turn things around so His kingdom overshadows the fear so prevalent in these troubled times.

I’m here for you. Let’s start a radical shift in mentality and imbibe our hearts with the holy spirit. Let’s devote our hearts and lives to God. Francis of Assisi once said, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Let’s start with faith. Let’s start with love. If we put our trust in Him and embrace Jesus’s presence in our hearts, we will see change. We will see hungry men fed. We will see a powerful shift in our public perceptions. We will see ourselves as the tribe of God and soldiers in the war against evil. It’s time to act. It’s time to arm ourselves with the Holy Spirit and shed our apathy. It’s time to take up the sword of Christ and smite our animosity. Live in love. Dwell in the Father. Amen.

Our Stumbling Block

Life presents each of us with a series of events, ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary, that defines who we are. We move from one day to the next, drawing on hindsight for clarity. Humans are incapable of absolute purity, absolute sinlessness, while we traverse this earth. So we get distracted. So we turn aside from the call Jesus has on our lives. The devil’s in the details, right? We are- we should be- better than this.
We are stumbling. As Christians, we know it is likely we will stumble off and on for the rest of our mortal lives. That’s why there is a need for repentance. It is not to provide an excuse- a spiritual loophole if you will. No, it is so we can honestly beseech the Father, our Lord and God, for His mercy and grace. It is our acknowledgement of wrongdoing and the desire to change. Now this is important to keep in mind as we talk about some ugly things.
But first-
Lately, the world has been plagued with a health pandemic that has affected millions, whether through death, economic hardship, social isolation, etc. People have reacted to this in numerous ways, not all of which are good. Regardless of whether you see it as a hoax or as legitimate. Regardless of where your concern for the health and well-being of others lies. Regardless of these, and ugliness has reared its thorny head. Galatians 5:13 tells us “For you were called to freedom brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Likewise, Proverbs 24:16 says, “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he will rise again, but the wicked stumble into calamity.” A much bigger crisis rears its head. It is the absence of human decency and compassion in many forums.
Let’s talk about social media. How often do you read the comments to an article, only to see hateful, angry rhetoric? How often do we see people belittle others because they do not see things exactly how someone else does? I’ll be honest. I have been a member of Christian groups, writing groups, art groups, gaming groups… you expect to see people who only want to stir the pot, just to get any sort of response. We call them trolls in this digital age. But do you know where I saw the most appalling dialogues? Christian groups. From self-professing Christians. I will not discount the good, but there is too much hateful dialogue and rhetoric present for anyone claiming to serve God.
I will not share what I have seen, as it is something you can see for yourself, but there are three things I want to communicate.

  1. No one has the authority to judge the depth of one’s faith. We are commanded to help guide people to Jesus, to make disciples in His name, but we can never know the full depths of someone’s relationship with God.
  2. Hateful rhetoric is not Christlike. Even if you are right, no amount of demeaning talk will make it good. Harshness is one thing. Jesus was harsh. Hatefulness is another. Do all things in love.
  3. We do not know God’s mind. He’s God. We aren’t built to fathom all the threads He holds to bring a given moment to fruition. We can guess. We can take His words that were laid out in the Bible, but we do not and cannot know all.
    James 1:26 tells “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
    Psalm 34:13 says, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”

Proverbs 10:19 also says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
1 Corinthians 2:15-16 says, “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
It is not wrong to hold people accountable. Through Christ, we are given more understanding into the mind of God. But we are held to a higher standard. We can disagree. We can discuss more Scripture-centered processes. We can question. We can even be angry. But we are not God and we cannot know every detail of someone. We cannot know just how much harm our ugly words do; whether they repel those who are not of the faith or they drive away those who are. Oh, I know these times are hard. We all deal with it in some way or another.
But if you think God’s body will not suffer because you belittled someone you disagreed with, if you got on your high horse and decided to mete out God’s judgement, well… maybe it’s time to open the Bible and get down on your knees. We are commanded to live lives focused on building God’s church. Not tearing it down. Throughout Scripture we are called to do things with love. Love can be harsh. Love can seem unkind. But love is not wicked. At least God’s love is not. So maybe, as we progress towards an uncertain future, we’ll draw on Him to better engage with others.