Unafraid and Thankful

I doubt that very many of us will give thanks this Thanksgiving for our suffering. It is so counter-intuitive. And yet our willingness to suffer for God is such a gift. I suppose it is mostly because our arch-enemy said we would never do it. He loves to ask God to test us. I don’t think Satan thought we were capable of suffering and staying with God. By now he must know we are capable, but he knows as humans we fight against it and struggle with understanding it. It is foreign to our creation. We were made to run on love, and to live in beauty and goodness and peace.

Suffering is probably the one thing that really sets us apart for God. Because we would never naturally do it unless we were horrendously abused from childhood. Even then sometimes we will fight against it. But to choose suffering for a greater good, a huge cause, or the good of someone else is what God did; and I think that is what it means to “fill up the sufferings of Christ”–not because God wants us to suffer–but our willingness shows an attitude like His. He hates suffering more than we do! But Jesus chose to suffer to set the universe free–above suffering forever.

When God created freedom, the possibility of suffering was an option, and when it became a reality, They chose suffering rather than power as Their way of dealing with it. It wasn’t just Jesus who suffered–They all went through his suffering–it was probably worse for Abba and Ruach. They believed that They should experience the consequences of creating the possibility to suffer.  They could have picked up Their power and squashed any rebellion. But They knew the only right thing to do was taking responsibility for creating a world (a universe) where something could go wrong.

Suffering shows character, anybody can get angry and retaliate, that’s natural to broken beings. But suffering gracefully makes us stand out as definitely His–when we do it willingly, unafraid of anything as long as They are with us.

Last week I wrote about my friend who just learned he has brain cancer, and is facing death; his faith and attitude are amazing. Last Thursday I saw my friend,  who has suffered terribly with cancer–more than I can even imagine suffering. She was minutes away from death a year ago, and also last month, but rallied again. She has had a stroke, lost her sight, most of her hearing, and her ability to eat and taste, but her love and faith and strength of spirit is even stronger than it was before. And she was already full of them! Watching her family cope with it has been an education and a marvel as well. She told me every day she wakes up with excitement for what God will do that day because He hasn’t let Satan kill her. She said every day she is getting better!

What an idea! Unafraid of anything that comes because we know God and know They are with us! It makes us truly “Bulletproof” (I love the song by Citizen Way.) And it proves that relationship with God is not only possible, but the only thing that really matters! I don’t want to suffer (of course), but I want that intimacy with Them! And when I look back at my life, the suffering has been worth it. Worth what? Getting closer to Them. Knowing God. Experiencing Their incredibly sweet unlove and friendship.

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The Power of Love Warriors

After the past month I’m wondering should I write about weekly massacres, or natural catastrophes or the unraveling of Hollywood?

I feel so bad for Puerto Rico. I don’t care if they’ve had mismanagement, I don’t understand why there aren’t motorcycles or helicopters or something that can distribute food and water. I was so disappointed at President Trump’s calloused response. Does he want to make an example of inside corruption? Even so…to me it is unacceptable to treat the people so differently than another catastrophe.

And this business of people just taking out their anger in mass shootings! A steady diet of violence exacerbating! I know evil is going to be given more and more power in order to expose it and create choice points, but it is so frequent, and so painful for so many families. And it raises so many questions. Remember, God protects people’s freedom to choose.

And finally the exposing of sexual bullying going on in the movie industry. I’m not surprised, and I think it will get bigger. I’m glad it’s coming out–a lot of pain and shame is hidden there, which can now be healed. And I’m glad men are beginning to take it seriously and look at their own behavior!

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by negativity–or just shut down feelings because it hasn’t touched you. But it will. I just learned that a dear friend has brain cancer. It was his goal to live to 100, and he is only 12 years short of it. He is so active and has a great attitude; and has lived a healthy lifestyle. Why this? We live in a broken world, diseased by evil.

We can keep our balance and help fight evil by choosing to be friends with God, no matter what our questions. There is no darkness in God at all. That is important to remember. None of this evil comes from Them–our mighty band of Three; it’s happening because everyone must make a choice between evil and good. But it’s easy to get drawn into fear and doubt when it is everywhere. That’s where choosing becomes important–so important.

I’m always saying ,”Your choice is the strongest power in the universe, because God won’t force you to be Their friend. And they won’t let evil overcome the weakest person who wants Them, but you will have to choose. The good news is that God’s love is always drawing you. Unless you resist, you will be drawn to Him (Them). And then you can become a love warrior, fighting evil by living in God’s love and delight.

The most important thing I’ve learned in life is God is all good, all love, and to choose to let Them love me. Unless I spend time alone with God just being loved, I forget that and get derailed by negativity. If you are like me, you may have to choose over and over and over. sometimes one right after the other until your mind gets untwisted. It’s ok. Just don’t get discouraged. There are times when Satan asks for permission to test us over a particular weakness. Don’t forget the power of your choice. Use it. It totally works, but it may take an hour and 20 choices.

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He Keeps His Promises

This is from my daughter–posted on her face book account this past week. Her birthday was Friday, so I looked in the closet to see if I still had it. After the fourth boy, I didn’t want her to try for a girl. The boys are wonderful and enough, (even though I know the friendship of a daughter is special after they are all married.) God told her she was going to have a girl, and we were so sure Jack would be her girl. So I did have thoughts of giving it away, because I was done for her. I told her God just needed a few good men. (Her pregnancies and births are hard on me!) But for some reason I didn’t give it away. And she is having a girl just after Christmas. So I sent it to her last week with a note.

This touched my mama-heart as you can imagine, and I wanted to share it.

“My mama sent this to me this week. It looks like just a darling little baby romper but it’s infinitely more than that. She and I were shopping one day, a month after I found out I was pregnant, with Wade. 14 years ago. We saw it and she loved it and bought it just based on my heart telling me God would give me a girl. Little did we know it would take all those years and four glorious boys before that promise would become reality. She saved it all along. She sent a note with it that said simply, “God keeps His promises”. He certainly does. It’s even exactly the size Eileigh will need for the summer. The greatest gift is not the outfit but my mama who journeys with me and lives the same faith, who makes the glory brighter because she sees it just the way I do.

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Finding Your Father

This is the story Herb Montgomery told us at the Character of God Conference about his relationship with his dad. It is poignant and compelling, and much better when he tells it. In fact, his book is Finding the Father, and is available at (www.renewedheartministries.com). I’m reposting it for this reason. Twitter:@Herb Mongomery


 

Herb remembers vividly the last fight of his parents before they divorced. He was in a high chair and they were standing over him–one on either side–fighting. That is his last memory of them together. He was told that his father never paid child support, and every birthday went by without a card or a gift. He lived 20 houses down the street from his father, but never saw him for almost 15 years.

Then he decided it was time. At 16 he went and knocked on his father’s door. It was tense, but he was welcomed in. The relationship didn’t grow much until he fell in love at 16 and proposed at 20. (She had moved to California.) He planned it all carefully, went to California, and was down on one knee, when his beloved said, “Don’t even think about asking me to marry you” he is dying inside until he hears her next word “until–(ah-h-h, there is hope) you have restored a relationship with your dad.” Smart woman at 20!

So he goes back to West Virginia and works at a relationship–enough so she is convinced that it is a good as he can make it. She says yes to his proposal, they are married, and one day are sitting in his father’s house when he is 23. She has a knack for softening anyone, and before his eyes, he can see it happening with his dad. She asks if she can ask him something, and gets, “Why of course, darlin’ go ahead and ask anything.”

“Why didn’t you visit your son in 15 years?” she asks innocently as Herb cringes inside.

His dad, apparently undisturbed, gets up and says to Herb, “I have been waitin’ for this day. I have somethin’ I want to show you,” and motions for Herb to follow. He says, “I know how much you love your mother and I never wanted to do anything to disturb your relationship with her,” and hands him a box that has every canceled check from every month of 15 years. Some of them were even for more than the amount required.

Also there were receipts for gifts and birthday cards returned for every year.

Herb was shocked. How do you process that?

He didn’t say. But my mind ran with it because that’s what I do. He found out his father really did love him and care and provide for his needs, but he was lied to by the person he trusted and loved, and still loves.

What a symbol of our life. We have been lied to about God’s love and goodness, and we have believed it! But it’s not true, and God has the receipts to show  us. He has always been there waiting until we are ready to understand, until we want to know if He loves us. He’ll even help us forgive the ones who lied to us! But he doesn’t push His love on us.

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Church as a Joyful Experience

The conference was great! I wasn’t perfect, but God was, and many people thanked me for my contribution to it. And I did enjoy it immensely. I learned so much about the topic, about myself, about others! There was even a confrontation between speakers, and we supported both of them.

Just being at that church was a treat. People were involved and happy to be there. You could tell that they loved serving and it was a  beautiful thing to see. We met a gal with the ministry of tablecloths! That was a new one. We commented on the high level of involvement to one thirty-year-old gal, and she told us she believed it was because they have the most empowering pastor. Can you imagine empowering 400 regular attendees? Everywhere we turned there was someone doing something to serve others and the community. And the energy was positive, friendly and happy–even though they had just lost a popular associate pastor! My husband and I were both impressed! This is how church should be in my mind.

This blog is going to be a short one. Next time I’ll share a personal story shared by one of the presenters. It is amazing and is already published in his book, but I need to refresh my mind on some of the details. Blessings on your week.

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What does Atonement Say About God? Pt 2

Here is the second half of my talk. Now I think a better title would be Atonement vs. At-one-ment.

If atonement is someone had to die so you and I don’t have to; then why is healing important? Why did Jesus always ask, except on Sabbath, “Do you want to be healed?” or “What do you want me to do for you?” If atonement is paying off Satan, then why stress healing? Why did Jesus spend most of his time healing, at the direction of Abba and Ruach? It was Their power not his that he used. He had to stay subject to Them just like we do! That was the plan–he would be our do-over–succeed as a human where Adam failed. His life was just as important as his death! Seeing God as wanting to heal us was important. They weren’t angry with us. Their ” vengeance” was sending Jesus to heal us. (Isaiah 35.)

God’s problem was showing who was telling the truth about reality and Their character. It was also being fair in healing our brokenness, our dual nature. But since They created us whole, justice only requires our want to. We have to choose to be whole again. We have to want God’s way.

At the first council on Rules of Engagement in the war between good and evil, I imagine Satan said, “You can’t take them back if you won’t take us back. It’s not fair.”

I’m sure Abba said, “But you didn’t want healing. We tried for ages to rescue you. Your choices turned you into someone else from the beautiful Light bearer we created–you became a power monger. You soon didn’t want to be like us. You wanted Our power. Evil has ruined your ability to love.” I suppose everyone there heard tears in His voice.

So Satan attempts to argue with Michael (Adonai) over Moses body, because he claimed Moses as a sinner (Jude 9). Moses had failed, even in God’s service. And in Satan’s mind every dead human is his!

Michael responds by reminding Satan who he is speaking to, “The Lord rebukes you. Step aside, Satan,” and He resurrects Moses, taking him off to heaven.

This is how I imagine it went down afterwards. No doubt Satan demanded another council on the Rules of Engagement then, shouting, “That’s not fair! That is not justice! Everyone who sins is mine! I have the power of death on earth. (Hebrews 2:14) I am the god of this world. They chose my way. You can’t just raise them to life and take them to heaven!”

Adonai answers, “Then accordingly,  if they choose Our way, they are Ours, and I will go through death as a man and take back its power from you.” Is it any wonder Satan hates us so badly? He’s been conquered and stripped of his power by love for us. He couldn’t believe Adonai would come here as Jesus and die. And seeing him rise again, he knew he’d lost the power of death ultimately. So now he tries to prove he still has it–as often as he can.

So does this healing into wholeness mean we have to give up who we are? We can’t be us, but have to deny ourselves as Jesus seems to say in Luke 9 and Mark 8? I used to hate these passages because to me it said I couldn’t be me.

Then my little brother was killed in a car crash at 22, and I was bequeathed his New English Bible. I came to that passage in his bible and it said, “What will it profit you to win the whole world at the cost of your true self?” (emphasis, mine) I was in Family Systems class at the time and learning about pseudo-self and solid-self. Lights went on all over my brain.

Over a two-year period God showed me there are two selves in scripture–the true self and the false self–the persona or mask we wear to look acceptable which hides the broken true self we deny. Once again we have it backwards. Our natural tendencies are backwards because we were made to run on love, but we don’t anymore.

One night Ruach read that scripture to me as, “If anyone would be a follower of mine he must take off his mask (deny his false self), take up his brokenness (admit it, get it healed) and come with Me. If you attempt to save your false self, you will lose you. But if you will let yourself lose the false self (who you think you want to be) to gain love, trust and authenticity, then you are safe. What does it profit you if you gain the approval of the whole world and lose your true self?

Now it is my favorite scripture! If God wanted robots–cookie cutter people–or even Jesus clones, They wouldn’t have had to go through such a long painful ordeal to demonstrate the reality of the two laws at war, the Law of Love and Life and the Law of Sin and Death. God needs us to know Them and Their characters in relationship, Their trustworthiness; and based on that, to desire and choose the identity They created us to have–our free and perfect true selves, and then justice is established.

Lucifer wouldn’t choose to stay the person he was created to be. God worked long and hard to show him where he was headed. He wanted his own way until it had ruined him past the point of healing. And we have to choose God’s way over the pull of our brokenness. We have to want healing. So Satan continually asks for tests of suffering for us–claiming we won’t stay. We won’t be loyal. We won’t choose Them and Their law. He has always claimed that we serve Him out of fear or reward. Just as he said about Job.

But God uses suffering as Their best teacher to bring us out of the darkness of ignorance–which consists of what we think we want–to see the truth of our brokenness. As a therapist I see it all the time. People who are ready to look at their brokenness because the suffering is so intense, and see the life, the mess, the addictions they have created .

And sometimes people won’t look at themselves. They don’t want to see that there is anything wrong with them–it’s everyone else’s fault. They are afraid of what they will see,  usually setting themselves up for more suffering. And that is why it is, and was, so amazing that the God of the universe, the Creators of everything would be willing to go through horrific suffering together to win Their trial. Because if we rightly interpret Romans 3:4 and Revelation 14:7, it is God who is on trial before the universe, not us. We are Their witnesses, testifying to Their character. If we say God is good even though we are suffering, we are expert witnesses (expert and experience come from the same root.)

Then They defend us before the universe, when Their case is won. And when will that be? Jesus conquered Satan at the cross showing who was telling the truth about God–They are good, about Satan–he is evil, and about sin–it kills, evil destroys. According to Revelation 20 , it will be over when everyone bows ad admits that God is more than fair in giving everyone their choices: life or death.

And the universe has been watching. They too have seen what we have suffered, and they easily believe God about us. Because They know now–even though they still have some questions about us, that God is all good and trustworthy. That is the good news!

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What does the Atonement Say About God? Pt 1

Below is the first half of the talk I’m giving at the Character of God Conference in three weeks. Your feedback is appreciated. There is nothing worse than finding out nobody understood you because you didn’t explain enough. And these are fairly new concepts, so it is important that it’s clear. Thanks.

What does the Atonement say about God’s Character?

To atone is to make up for a wrong or injury, and since we are broken with two natures; we have no ability to fix ourselves, and God clearly has to. But if we think, as I hear so many people say, “The gospel is that Jesus came and died for us,” then the good news becomes small and mostly about us. He saved us by dying in our place. But doesn’t that sound like God killed Jesus so He didn’t have to kill us?

Why did Jesus die?

As I said earlier sin killed Jesus by separating him from God; Satan just set up the physical human part of his death; and that was important for the whole on-looking universe to see. As Lucifer, he had claimed that God caused death. That was also the reason God kept Lucifer and his defectors alive. No one had seen death or even evil before Satan activated The Law of Sin and Death through his choices. If God had allowed natural consequences, they would have died and the watching universe would have thought God killed them.

So what? You may think, They are God They can do as they please. But it would have left fear in minds, wondering if that is how God keeps order–killing those who disagree. That was what Satan claimed.

In fact, Satan probably thought, God said we would die, but we haven’t. He was probably trying to scare us into submission. So perhaps his words to Eve, “You won’t die…” were him pushing God, his test to see what would happen to them. What is death really? Will they die? And what will happen to me and my followers? By now he has probably convinced himself that he won’t die. We come to believe our own lies, and he has watched a lot of humans die.

But God doesn’t want children who serve Them from fear. They want children who love and choose Their way because they love and admire Their character. Children who believe living with others in joy and peace and respect seems like heaven. Because of this They needed to bring us back into one mindset with Them.

At one ment was the atonement God was after. We see it in Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17. That is the one prayer God must answer with a yes for us. When we come asking for oneness with Them, we’ve got it–because Jesus has already secured it with his request.

We also see it in Jesus preaching in Matt 11. “Come to me” he says. Just come. Why? He wants to give us rest. Even our work can be rest. He says his yoke is easy; and what he gives us to carry is light. And then he explains it. A yoke was put on cattle to make their work easier, to keep them in synch and make the pulling lighter. Jesus invites us to put on the yoke that he wears, it has a place for us on the other side, and we will live and work together as one. That’s at one ment! He also assures that it fits our true self perfectly. I’ll say more about your true self next week.

But what about all the scary pictures of God in the Old Testament? They made me want to keep God at arm’s length in my first two decades. He certainly seemed to say “Love me or I’ll kill you.” But that was before I learned that God’s wrath was God letting go–letting us do whatever we want. Think of it: God’s worst anger, Their scariest action, is letting us have our own way. There are a lot of parents raising their children in wrath today!

When God lets us do whatever we want, the enemy usually gets us to go his way. The artistry of his deception and our broken natures wanting the easy way to feel better makes us easy targets.

In the books of the prophets Adonai seemed to do a lot of shouting! Then I learned He was shouting because the people had so little true self. They had been slaves and they wanted to do their own thing so badly that they had a hard time trusting that God really had their best interests at heart. And some of it was just because they could–they were finally free–they wanted to do as they pleased! So God is shouting, “Dangerous curves ahead!” or “Ice on pavement!” or “Fire!”

And God doesn’t expose Satan. They don’t pull  his covers. They give him time to show his character. They aren’t going to badmouth him. So Ruach let the prophets write it as if the bad things were coming from God.

Why? This used to really bother me!

They want us to know that there is no shortage in Their power. It isn’t because God’s enemies, or ours, are too strong for God. You can walk with Him and be blessed or you can walk with Their enemies and be cursed with the curse of sin and death. God isn’t cursing you. If that is what you want, you are free to do that, but you will die. And in Hosea 11, Adonai cries “Why will you die? How can I give you up? I want to give you the world (literally) and the moon and the stars!”

Through the whole Old Covenant God was showing us and the universe that even though God’s laws would keep us safe (literally “My commandments will keep you” John 14:15) it wasn’t enough. We have to want a heart relationship with Them like Abraham and Moses had. He was shouting warnings, but they were also invitations full of love and what They want to do for us–make us into our true selves and bless us beyond belief with every imaginable good thing.

But They won’t buy us. They don’t want anyone who doesn’t want Them for a love relationship. They don’t want people to serve Them for the gifts.

(This is the first half. The rest will come next week.)

 

 

 

 

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So What if They Roll Their Eyes!

This came from my grandson’s school, and I was so happy to see them taking a stand and sending a strong message to parents. I decided to send it along to you and you can pass it on too. Kindness and civility are slipping away. It seems everyone wants to be raw. Being real is important but not at the expense of others. When we are mean, menacing or threatening to others we are not being real anyway, we are putting off our raw, uninvestigated feelings off on innocent others. We need to teach kids responsibility and respect.

“Important message regarding social media

August 31, 2017

Dear Parents and Guardians:

Our traditional calendar schools are not yet a week old and already we have experienced social media threats at two of our high schools. This is no way to start off a school year. Parents and guardians, please know and share with your students that we take all these threats seriously and investigate them fully. Not only are consequences delivered by the schools, but where feasible law enforcement, at our urging, will seek to prosecute.

In our school community we do not consider social media threats humorous, cute, or insignificant. Please talk with your students and help them understand that they are creating a digital footprint that not only will speak for itself, but will also follow them as they continue their schooling and careers. And yes, I ask you to monitor their social media. Young people are committing too many mistakes for which they do not fully appreciate and understand the consequences. Please help them with that understanding.

Now, let’s get back to why we come to school – to teach and to learn.

Thank you,

Dr. James G. Merrill
Superintendent”

An end note. This is a public school, but I don’t think they have greater problems than church schools. God comes down hard on every kind of disrespect there is. Love is the opposite of disrespect. Love’s foundation is respect. And responsibility is knowing and picking up your brokenness. Parents teach best by modeling. Your influence is the strongest there is. Correcting bad attitudes and disrespectful behavior has to start with you (your own), and then teach your children responsibility for their behavior with kindness and love. This is difficult, and it takes strength. I don’t think  it can be done without God’s help, which They are more than willing to give.

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Vulnerability is a Must for Love–Use It with Care

I had a crazy experience recently. I was leading a group and I really wanted it to go well–really get everyone bonded. I had made a plan but then decided to go with another one at the last minute.

The group went even better than I supposed it would. They all seemed to feel good about it, but I didn’t. People had opened up more than I expected, even people that I didn’t think would.

Usually I go first to model vulnerability–a rule of being a good group leader. But I didn’t even have to. And afterwards I felt bad.

I couldn’t understand it! Why did I feel bad? Because I hadn’t gone first? Because I had changed plans? Because I thought I hadn’t prepared well enough? I didn’t get it, but I felt an awful heaviness in my chest.

I went to bed an hour or so later, and it was still there! So I said to God, “I don’t know what is going on! I have no idea why I feel this heaviness. You healed some old lies for me this morning, and yet tonight I feel worse than if You hadn’t. What is going on? Do I need to learn something? Find a lie? Is this just an attack from the dark side because things  went so well? Please show me and take this feeling away.

Immediately it lifted, and I was so grateful and went to sleep. But the next morning I was still puzzled, when suddenly it hit me: the people who had shared had gotten so vulnerable and so real that it actually scared me. I felt that because they had opened up and shared so much I could, and it scared me half to death.

It was such a surprise to me! I have gotten fairly at ease with sharing vulnerable things about myself. I don’t know if anyone ever gets comfortable with it, but if is usually freeing and you feel lighter afterwards. That is the reward. Secretly, we all long to be known and loved anyway. But there are certain things that only go to very trusted people, and I think suddenly I felt that this was a group I could trust, and it scared me.

I’m sharing it because I think we all are afraid to be open and vulnerable, and we should pick and choose people who have earned our trust over time–people who have risked sharing with us also–to trust. Risking vulnerability is scary, but it is good. It is growing. Just wanted you to know that everybody feels it, except maybe sociopaths, but risking being known is one of the best human experiences there is. Do it carefully, don’t share too much too soon, but do it. Let yourself be known. It is the only way to feel truly accepted and loved.

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Does it Mean Anything?

This has been a rough week for Texas and Louisiana, and our watching nation. Help from neighbors and funds from everywhere are pouring in. It has all but eclipsed the floods in Asia.

Did you know that 17 million people have been affected in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh by those floods? People have lost their homes their livestock, and their loved ones–the death count keeps rising, presently 1200.

Tropical storm Lidia leaves 7 dead in Mexico. Fires are burning in California, and hail the size of golf balls fell where our kids live in North Carolina. All of this at once is overwhelming. And what if it gets worse?

Will you know how to answer the question, “How could a good God let this happen?” Will you say, “It isn’t God doing it; we have, it’s global warming.” That is a good answer for weather.

But what if evil starts showing up, like it seems to be, more and more in people? Maybe you have experienced it yourself! Can you say with confidence that God is good? And how can you explain that?

Do you know that there is a war going on here? Can you say why? You have to dig it out of scripture. It doesn’t really sit on the surface, except references to it here and there, as in Peter’s, “Your adversary walks around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Who is this adversary? Why does he hate us? Why are we counseled by Paul to put on the whole armor of God? Why are we told that we are not fighting against flesh and blood? And why is our enemy fighting God?

Can you answer these questions? God hasn’t exposed Satan. He let him do that himself. But now it is for us to understand why evil has such a huge presence here, and what really has happened in this war between good and evil. When will it end? Why has evil been allowed so much power and presence? And what do we need to know? Especially if it gets worse? Can we trust God? And why doesn’t He stop it?

I’m not saying focus on evil. You should by all means focus on good! What you focus on grows in you. But as I often say you are on a need to know basis, and you need to know this so you don’t get scared and start to doubt God’s goodness. God is good. And all of this craziness does make sense. That is why I’m writing.

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