Cats are Not the Only Things I’m Allergic To

Although highly allergic to cats, I love the two we have, but sometimes wonder if it’s worth the trouble.  This past Saturday night, one of the cats, named Misty, was up crying much of the night, waking us up regularly.  Eventually, I realized she must have been upset about her litter.  The store was out of the “usual,” so I tried to get away with a replacement, even though I know how finicky cats are.  Sure enough, once I changed it to what I had left of the usual stuff (kept in reserve in case of finicky cat trouble), she stopped complaining.

Why am I telling you this?  Because what happened next reminded me that God is concerned about even the most minor details of our lives, and about every living creature He has made.  Sunday morning my reading schedule began with Psalm 8, which includes this:

You have given [man] dominion over the works of your hands;
            you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
            and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
            whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”- Psalm 8:6-8

Misty, an indoor cat who may feel like she’s trapped in the ark.

Under the mandate given in Genesis, mankind is supposed to take care of whatever God has given us – the earth and everything in it.  My study Bible helpfully noted that this includes pets, which reminded me of Misty’s crying!  I thought maybe our cats were worth the trouble after all, but God wasn’t finished making the point.

Also on my reading schedule was Genesis 7, which includes: “And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.” – Genesis 7:24

During the flood, Noah and his family were flooded in the ark for 150 days with two of each kind of animal (but seven of each kind of clean animal, because provision was made not only for the survival of Noah’s family, but also provision for continued worship of God).  After the 150 days, they had to wait months longer for the waters to recede and the land to dry before coming out of the ark.  Noah’s family took care of an ark full of animals for more than 150 days.  They probably lost a lot of sleep!  As for me, I only have two cats and get to leave the house.  I also have allergy medicine to make it more tolerable.

Looking back at Psalm 8, the last verse declares: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

This Lord is the same one who brought Noah, his family, and those animals through the flood.  He also cares about my family and even my pets.  In seemingly small acts like taking care of pets God has given us, we can declare the majesty of God’s name!  In whatever influence we have, big or small, God wants us to participate faithfully in the work started at creation, with the authority He has given us.

In addition to perhaps cats, what else might we be allergic to? Sin is not just a list of things we shouldn’t do, but it is our allergy to God’s dominion over the world and the way we each should have dominion over it and under him. We’re too often allergic to loving this world the way he did on the cross, yet we claim to hope for a world where that sacrificial love governs 100% of all actions.

Our Lord wants nothing more than to greet us in Paradise and say “‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’[1]  He literally died to make such a greeting possible.  Therefore, consider what creatures or people our Sovereign God has delegated to each of us.  What tasks or roles?  Jobs or ministries?  Do some of those things irritate and annoy us, as if we were allergic?

In aggregate, the church’s role is to have dominion over His entire creation, but not in the way the world would, exploiting everything for our own benefit and casting aside what doesn’t seem useful, but as a servant would.  Like a God who abhors all our sin as if He were allergic but decided to cover our sin with His own precious blood.  The same blood that covers us so that, like a compassionate Father, our Lord can gently say on a Sunday morning after a bad night of interrupted sleep:

“Be thankful you aren’t stuck in an ark for 150 days with thousands of animals.”


[1] Luke 19:17

To Gain What We Cannot Lose: History for January 8

On January 6, 1956, a group of American missionaries made first contact with a local tribe in Ecuador, trying to reach them with the gospel.  Two days later, on this date, January 8, 1956, five of those missionaries – Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint and Roger Youderian – were speared to death by the very Auca tribe they spent years preparing to minister to. But their story was not over.

Jim Elliot and others had been ministering to the Quichua people in Ecuador since 1952, with many coming to faith in Jesus.  However, the nearby Aucas (now called Waodoni) were known to kill any outsiders that entered their area, including Quichua and also oil workers at a site nearby.  Jim “knew the only way to stop the Aucas from killing was to tell them about Jesus”[1] and came up with a plan to reach them.  Working with Nate Saint, a missionary supply pilot, they spent months trying to safely build goodwill with the Waodoni by lowering supplies to them from a plane and speaking friendly Waodoni phrases from a loudspeaker.

On January 6th, they talked to a Waodoni called George, thinking they had gained some trust and they set up a later meeting.  George, however, lied to them about his intentions, and ten members of the tribe were ready in ambush with spears on January 8th.  The unarmed missionaries had no chance.

Jim Elliot

Seeking vengeance or giving up might have been a reasonable response for the other missionaries, but in a miraculous example of forgiveness, persistent faith, and a heart for the lost, Elisabeth and Valerie Elliot (Jim’s wife and young daughter), and Rachel Saint (Nate’s sister) learned the local language and moved into the jungle to live with the Waodoni in 1958.  Elisabeth wrote about serving those who killed her husband: “The deepest things that I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering. And out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things I know about God.”  Today, the Waodoni are a friendly tribe and many are professing Christians.  Missionaries, including members of the Saint family, still live among them today.  Elisabeth died in 2015 at the age of 88, after a long career as missionary, author, speaker, and radio host.

Jim’s Apparent Failure is God’s Victory
In life, Jim Elliot was sometimes frustrated by his effort, once writing: “No fruit yet. Why is it that I’m so unproductive? I cannot recall leading more than one or two into the kingdom. Surely this is not the manifestation of the power of the Resurrection. I feel as Rachel, ‘Give me children, or else I die.’”[2]  While attending Wheaton College in Illinois in the 1940’s, Jim developed a desire to preach the gospel, including taking the train to Chicago and talking about Jesus with people at the train station, but with little response.

“He is no fool who gives what
he cannot keep to gain
that which he cannot lose.”

– Jim Elliot

But in death, Jim was used by God to inspire many other missionaries, including his own family, through whom God’s love for the lost went out and bore more eternal fruit than Jim may have ever imagined.  His story is a reminder that faithfulness is the Christian’s objective, and God provides the fruit.

Jim wrote what has become a familiar quote to many: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  In Paradise, Jim, those affected by his ministry, and all other believers, will forever praise God for His steadfast love through the centuries.  Nothing we do for God now can look foolish from that perspective.  We have so much to gain that we cannot lose.

Soli Deo Gloria

Learn More:
This story was dramatized in the 2005 film End of the Spear and in the 2002 documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor.  A website dedicated to Elisabeth Elliot’s life (https://elisabethelliot.org/) has more on this amazing history of God’s work.


[1] https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1901-2000/jim-elliot-no-fool-11634862.html
[2] https://www.inspirationalchristians.org/evangelists/jim-elliot-biography/

A Prince of Peace: What We Need For Christmas…Part 5

Over recent weekends, I’ve described Jesus as filling our need for a Wonderful Counselor, guiding us into the choices that are best for us, as Mighty God, empowering us to love Him and to love our neighbor as ourselves, and as Everlasting Father, who meets our need for relationship in His holy family. These names come from from Isaiah 9:6, a prophecy from around 700 BC concerning the Christ we celebrate each Christmas:

“And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

We may not feel we deserve the gifts in Christ I’ve described in these posts.  We may know for sure that we don’t, and so we don’t accept them.  As James Boice wrote: “We are also conscious of having done wrong things. We need to be forgiven. We need somebody to deal with our guilt”.  Which is why there needs to be a fourth name, and gift.  Our need for peace and unity is met by the Christ of Christmas, as described in Isaiah 9:6 as our Prince of Peace, who Boice says “highlights the gifts of peace both between ourselves and God and internally.”

What kind of peace?  Most of the New Testament of the Bible was written in Greek, and the word “peace” often comes from a Greek word meaning “to join.”  Peace does not just mean we aren’t fighting; it means that we are joined in a beneficial relationship.  This peace came at a steep cost, but He bore it all.

Jesus was born to live the perfect life so that we won’t have to earn His approval, and He was destined to die as payment so we may have peace.  He did not have to rescue His people.  He could have left this world without a Savior, but as Prince of Peace, He instead took the initiative of joining us to Himself and to each other.  Our failures are not ignored, but our Prince of Peace willingly takes these failures upon Himself.  This is what He was born in the famous manger of Christmas to do.

Consider the story of Good Friday: Hours passed while Christ was on the cross.  He was mocked as helpless and unable to save Himself, while knowing that at any moment, He could just save Himself.  In those hours, our Prince of Peace considered all the sins of His people and decided: “Worth it”.  The all-powerful actively chose to embrace powerlessness in the face of hours of torture to save His people.  If God wanted to change His mind about you, He’s had plenty of opportunity before now.  He will not turn His back on you now, or ever, if you have accepted Him.

By bearing the cost for us, our Prince of Peace can accept us into His eternal family.  He can empower us to live lives like His, of love and sacrifice for others, giving meaning to our lives.  He can open our minds to His wisdom, providing the ability to make better decisions.  It won’t happen instantly, but it can begin today.  He was born on Christmas to make sure this all happened.

This Christmas Eve, we have the gift of Jesus as Prince of Peace, who meets one of our deepest needs:
“To be forgiven and at peace! Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He has made peace for us by his death.” (Boice)

He gives us peace with God, within ourselves, and toward others, granting us forgiveness and overcoming our guilt.  He asks us to also take the initiative and bring His peace to others, forgiving them as He forgave us.

This is the fourth gift of Christ in Christmas, and it makes possible all of the other gifts.  Have you accepted it?

How Bad Was Rahab’s Lie?

In chapter two of the book of Joshua we meet a prostitute named Rahab, who lived in Jericho.  When Joshua sent spies into Jericho, Rahab hid them and lied about it.  Bible commentators have a lot of things to say about Rahab’s lie:  Perhaps a lie isn’t as bad a sin as letting the spies be caught.  Maybe it was ok because she did it for a good reason.  Or it was ok because it was somehow in faith.  These explanations should worry us, because if we accept any of them, we can be tempted to apply the same principles anywhere we see fit.  Should we rank sins, and allow ourselves to “only” do the lesser ones?  Or only do them when we think it is in the best interest of the church or our country?  Should murder or other crimes be allowed when we think it is for the greater good of mankind?

I think what really makes the story of Rahab tricky isn’t whether what she did was a sin, but that we know – in general – that God works through sinners, but we don’t like to think that through to the specifics.  We don’t want the sins of the sinner to happen quite so close to God’s action of working through sinners.  It makes us a little uncomfortable, but the truth is that God has only worked through one sinless person ever – Jesus.  Every other person He has used has sinned, and God’s will has always come out ahead.

The message of Rahab’s lie might not be that sin is sometimes ok.  It might be that no matter how bad our sin, Christ’s sacrifice is greater.  Without this being true, there is no gospel, but somehow it still makes us uncomfortable at times and we want an explanation for God using sinners that just isn’t there, except the explanation of the cross.

Sometimes God’s grace overwhelms our sin, and we succeed in spite of ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we did the right thing.  Thank God for His love and let His grace overwhelm you today!  Don’t look for explanations or excuses, but kneel before the cross where sins of all kinds and degrees were paid for.

The Tribulation of the Cross, Part 2

When we read Matthew 24:13 – “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” – what do we think of?  I’m currently reading a book about the life of Queen Elizabeth I of England that focuses on her life before becoming Queen, and there is a lot that reminds me of Matthew 24:9-10, which says, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.”  Elizabeth’s older sister Mary, a Catholic, pursued often violent methods to purge the country of Protestantism[1], as chronicled in the sensational book, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs[2], which soon became the 2nd most-read book in England after the Bible.  John Foxe listed story after story of Protestants being tortured, burned alive, and persecuted in other extreme ways that sometimes are what we think of reading Matthew 24:13.

But there is more to the context than that.  Matthew 24:11-12 say, “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”  This idea of love growing cold is immediately before “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  In a martyrdom scenario, enduring is not the same as living, so enduring means something other than staying alive.  So, what does a Christian endure in order to be saved?

When Jesus was on the cross and said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” in Luke 23:34 I believe He was modeling this endurance.  On the cross, the lawlessness of the world had increased to the point where God Himself was abandoned and killed by a populist mob, fueled by a conspiracy of religious and political leaders.  All of Christ’s followers were scattered like sheep without a shepherd, yet He continued to love.  Yet, instead of calling upon an army of angels and freeing Himself from the cross, He forgave.

Matthew quotes Jesus as saying that while lawlessness is increasing, “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.”  Jesus said in Matthew 24:6 that “you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”  In opposition to this, false prophets will tell us to be alarmed and they will tell us that there is so much lawlessness that we need to do something other than love God and love our neighbor.  Some of these prophets will claim to be the Christ (Matthew 24:5), but they will insist on a path other than that of the cross.  Perhaps using a Facebook post fed through a heartless algorithm, they will say “The time is coming when good people will have to do bad things to very bad people,” even though Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  (Matthew 5:44)

Repeating yesterday’s post, when I’m struggling to face the world as I see it, I ask about 3:16, “Exactly which world did Jesus love enough to die for?”  The answer is this one.  Not just the part of it I get along with or that I’d pick to be in my Facebook feed if I had full control.  Sometimes bearing our cross is just being willing to love those Christ loved, even when we don’t want to, and even when they hate us as they hated Him.

Praise God that Christ loved me, because I too easily find people I’d really prefer to stay away from, but if Christ had taken that approach, maybe He would have never come down to earth to die for me.

Father, forgive us, for we do not know what we do.  We praise You that You endured to the end for our sake.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32


[1] At other times and places, Protestants have persecuted Catholics, or each group has fought among themselves.  This is only one example among (sadly) many.
[2] I’m planning a history post for next March 20, the first publication date of this book in 1563.