Dear Skeptics—A Love Letter to My Family

Sadly, the people we care the most about — usually our families, both our family of origin and the family we form with our spouse — are the ones who are the least likely to listen to anything we tell them about matters of faith. Jesus faced the same dilemma, at one point exclaiming, “No prophet is welcome in his hometown.” Knowing that phenomenon is common does little to eradicate our pain of feeling helpless. Once again, our solution lies not in our efforts but in our faith and our prayers. There is One who can solve the puzzle. Fortunately, He can do more than we could ask or imagine.

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[Jesus] said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24 NASB)

So Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You should leave here and go to Judea so your followers there can see the miracles you do. Anyone who wants to be well known does not hide what he does. If you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” (Even Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him.) (John 7:3-5 NCV)

Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside. They want to see you.” (Luke 8:20 GW)


This would have to be a humdinger of a question, wouldn’t it? Something really 45. Life's_Big_Qsspecial, more important than a lame, “How are you?” or “What are you planning for the rest of your life?”

Something that cuts through the noise of life. You know, a question that stops them in their tracks, makes them put down their mobile phone, or mute the TV, or drop a book. Something that makes them turn around and look straight at you, intent on their face, an ear cocked, their hands stilled.

What would that question be that would be your last outreach to a loved one? This would be a close family member probably. Most likely a spouse or a child, even an adult child. It could be a sibling or a longtime friend.

Maybe it would be someone who had wounded you years ago with a sharp remark, or someone who was by your side no matter what the situation, good or bad. Maybe you’re looking at a child who looks just like you, only younger than you and more vibrant. Maybe you’re staring into the eyes of the person whose body has warmed yours for decades and with whom you’ve raised a family.

An important person — an important question.

What would it be?


MINE WOULD BE some form of this: [Name of loved one inserted here], do you know Jesus? I probably would explain the question this way: I mean, really know Him? Have you invited Him into your heart to be your Lord and Savior? Have you Men Sharing Gospelconfessed your  sins to Him (He knows what they are, anyway), and asked Him to blot them out, just forget about them, and give you a clean slate?

If you haven’t, what keeps you from reaching out to the One who’s reaching out to you? Do you think it’s pride, a feeling that you can handle life’s adventures, even the emergencies, on your own; or maybe it’s fear that He’ll demand something of you that you’re not ready to give?

If you have come to know the Lord, how did that go? Did you weep? Did you sing? Did you leap for joy? Did you just feel an unimaginable peace wash over you as He lifted the weight of worry from your shoulders? Or, was it just another moment, and you’re not sure what happened, if anything, but your life has changed?

Why would I ask that question of all questions? If I  knew the person well, and the person had come to what many call “a saving knowledge” of Jesus Christ, wouldn’t I know already if they knew Jesus?

Maybe, but maybe not.turn_away3

There probably are three categories people fall into in regards to matters of faith: those who know the Lord and proudly witness for their faith, those who have no personal connection with the Lord but think their good works or church attendance or wonderful intentions will merit divine favor, and those who could care less.


THE TROUBLING POINT is that those we care most about, the ones we pray for and long to see in eternity, are the ones who won’t listen to our voice of encouragement. They’ll listen to a stranger first (someone whose own family won’t listen to them!).

Beginning a conversation around the topic is difficult.

Not everyone who truly knows the Lord will share that information with others, even though the Bible clearly commands us to do that. For whatever reason, some folks never get over their personal discomfort.

Those in the other two categories aren’t likely to bring up the subject, either. The church attenders who are not personally connected with the Lord are content with appearances — simply showing up is enough; while those who disdain faith have no reason to discuss the matter, unless it’s to detract from it.


SO, WITHIN OUR THREE CATEGORIES, nearly everyone finds a way to avoid discussing the one question that, above all other questions, needs an answer.

Jesus put it this way to His disciples: “But what about you,” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15 NIV).

Pastor John Piper of Desiring God ministries, poses the following questions to skeptics, and they’re ones I would present to my loved ones: “If God exists, would it 45. Children_Ignoring_Parentsbe  important for you to get your life right with Him?” and “Do you put Jesus in the same category as other religious leaders?”

Usually, there’s flak that comes back. “The Christians I know are a bunch of hypocrites,” or “Jesus was a really fine moral man and a great teacher, but He wasn’t God,” or maybe “Bible stories sound nice, but they’re just designed to make us feel good.”

While those responses can be tossed aside easily as mere fluff, what they expose is an emptiness of soul that is painful for a loved one to see. Especially when we have come to accept the Lord’s promise of life as a result of His grace, and we want desperately to share that blessing with our closest family and friends … only to realize … they won’t listen to us.


WHEN CONFRONTED BY His earthly family to curtail His ministry, Jesus asked rhetorically, who His mother and brothers and sisters were and answered His own question this way: “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50 NIV).

The way we have resolved the dilemma is to continue praying for our loved ones, that the Lord will change their hearts from skeptical to open and that He will bring Christ-focused people into their lives.

In turn, we believe the Lord has called us to make a difference in someone else’s life, to be the Christ-focused people for them to hear, especially those people who are deaf to the questions posed from their own loved ones.

We’re called to serve and share our faith, keeping others in prayer. The rest is out of our hands.


PRAYER: O gracious and merciful Father, we know too often we turn deaf ears to Your Word and ignore Your voice, often uncertain of how to act. We know You did not give us timid hearts but bold hearts. We pray, then, for boldness in reaching out to our loved ones with the message of Love and Truth, and we pray for softened hearts on their part to hear our plea. Come, Lord Jesus, into the hearts and lives of our loved ones, both family and friends. Reconcile them to the Father and to the Truth. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen



God’s Reassuring Voice of Love

God knows us. He created us, so He knows our hearts. He knows what frightens us, what influences us, what consumes us. When He tells us “be not afraid,” He is assuring us that He is in control, and that His rule is benign. When we accept His gentle touch, it fills our hearts; but when we reject that touch and tell Him that we’re fine on our own, we’re left empty inside. God’s love is poured out for everyone, even those who fail to see it. How grateful are those who accept his love. It’s an amazing gift that lasts for eternity.


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For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13 NIV)

Give all your worries to him, because he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7 NCV)


It’s past their bedtimes. They’ve been washed, brushed, dressed, prayed over, kissed, and tucked in … and, yet, restless or fearful, they’ve reawakened and cry out for our  attention.

44. Woman_Comforts_BabyAs former children, ourselves, we know the scary moments in our darkened rooms when we awake, uncertain of our surroundings but certain something ghostlike hovers about. So we call out to our parents to scamper forthwith, turn on the lights, and maybe bring a glass of water with them.

God does that for us.

Imagine. The Creator of the universe tucks His children into bed at night and reassures them, telling them not to be afraid and assuring them that He is with them — us — always. It’s true! It’s in your Bible. In both the Old and New Testaments. Well, maybe not the tucking in part, but certainly and absolutely true about telling us not to be afraid or  feeling abandoned.


WHAT WE’RE SAYING is that the Creator of Everything cares about each one of us individually and passionately.44. Stars_GOD_Names

Here are just a few of the many verses that attest to that. They include some about avoiding fear, some about eternal life, some about the Almighty’s plan for our lives, some about the resurrected Christ. All shown an amazing intimacy between the Creator and His creation:

    • “He counts the number of the stars;  He gives names to all of them.” (Psalms 147:7 NASB)
    • “Even the hairs on your head are counted. So don’t be afraid! You are worth much more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7 CEV)
    • “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalms 139:13 NIV)
    • “When I saw him, I fell down at his feet lik
    • e a dead man. Then he [Jesus] laid his right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am the first and the last, the living one. I was dead, but now I am alive forever.’” (Revelation 1:17-18 GW)
    • “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)


HOW AMAZING IT IS that we’ve only just touched the surface of wonderfully reassuring verses of God’s love for His creation.  44. Home_Garden

Isn’t it similar to how a gardener knows each plant or flower he/she has planted. What looks to us like indistinguishable stalks of celery or heads of lettuce, each one acopy of the one beside it, has had a personal encounter with the grower, who tenderly planted the seeds, packed the soil, fed the young buds, pruned the leaves, and watered the growing plant.

While Christian theologians differ over the role of an individual’s choice in one’s salvation, most agree with two very important points, both drawn from God’s amazing love for us as his creation: (1) that our salvation from God’s justifiable wrath toward our sins comes through the atoning work of His Son, and (2) that it is God’s grace, acting through the Holy Spirit, that quickens our hearts to accept that call.

We see that sinful man stumbles in the dark, unable to see his way through life without the sustaining light that God provides. In Psalms 119:105 NIV, the psalmist says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path,” and Solomon teaches us in Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding … and he will make your paths straight.”

As we stumble here and bounce off something there, how reassuring it is when God’s loving hand reaches out and grabs our trembling fist, pats our head, and says, “Do not fear” and “Follow me” (Lamentations 3:57 NIV; Matthew 9:9 NIV).

“I have said these things to you,” Jesus told His disciples and followers, “that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).


THE WHOLE NOTION OF A PERSONAL GOD is more than most people can fathom.

It’s difficult enough for those of us who have come to know the Lord in a personal way to appreciate that the Creator of the universe cares about us individually; how much more difficult must it be for those who reject the notion that God even exists to accept that He created us in his image and then sent His Son to suffer our punishment so that the Father could reclaim us as His children.

How could they begin to take in the notion that God reveals Himself to us and claims us for His own?44. Cross_on_Bible

Yet, the compelling message of a loving Father soothing our brow and speaking words of love into our hearts draws us to his side. Once we accept this as true, we begin to see the same loving touch impact the lives of fellow believers, which just reinforces its powerful message.

Jesus said to us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6 ESV). This connection between God and man through Jesus Christ works both ways. Not only is He God’s hand to us, but He is our hand back to the Father: “There is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the human Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:15 CEB).

How comforting to hear His voice telling us not to worry, that He’s watching over us. He’s in charge.

PRAYER: Loving and merciful Father, we praise Your holy name and give thanks for Your everlasting love for us. Reassure us, our Heavenly Father, that we are Your children and heirs with Jesus Christ of Your eternal grace. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen


God and Man: An Asymmetric Bond

The Bible tells us that men and women throughout time have cried out, “Stop telling us what God has said! We don’t want to hear any more,” yet God’s promise to men and women has always been quite different: “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged. … I will strengthen you and help you.” One of God’s greatest gifts is His asymmetrical love for us. He offers us far more than we appreciate or accept. Even when we are unfaithful to Him, He is faithful to us, because that is His nature. How sad that so many of God’s children reject the Man who offered His own life for us to have life … and have it abundantly. Amazing Grace!

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God to man:

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

Turn all your anxiety over to God because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7 GW)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)

Man to God:

They have turned against the Lord and can’t be trusted. They have refused his teaching and have said to his messengers and prophets: Don’t tell us what God has shown you and don’t preach the truth. Just say what we want to hear, even if it’s false. Stop telling us what God has said! We don’t want to hear any more about the holy God of Israel. (Isaiah 30:9-11 CEV)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23 NKJV)

“What then should I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify Him!” (Matthew 27:22 BSB)


43. God's-GraceGod gives, and man, well, sometimes man is gracious enough to take … but not always. In fact, the Bible notes that most men and women will not take God’s gifts, but prefer to go their own way.

Yet, still God gives.

Man’s reluctance to take, or accept, God’s gifts is based on man’s pride. Allowing mankind, both men and women, the gift of free choice was an amazing risk our Creator was willing to take, especially since He foreknew what we would do with that power — we would reject Him and His plan for our lives.

Yet God so loved us that He gave us a safety line, one that cost Him dearly — the pain and suffering of His only Son, not just the physical pain associated with the flogging and  crucifixion, but more so the emotional pain associated with enduring God’s wrath.

Let’s stop for a minute and take another look at that.

The pain that Jesus suffered physically from the Roman flogging and crucifixion, which seems immense to us, was nothing to Him. What hurt Jesus more — what 43. Jesus-Praying-for-Mecaused Him anguish in anticipation of what lay ahead — was experiencing His Father’s wrath for our sakes — for every sin we’ve ever committed, are committing now, and will commit — and He endured that for everyone who has ever lived, is living, or will live.

I cannot begin to fathom what that means. Can you?


BECAUSE OF HIS IMMENSE LOVE for us, He inspired the writing of Holy Scripture. The canon used in most Protestant and Orthodox churches comprises 66 books, written by 44 authors on three continents (and three languages) over nearly 1,600 years, without inconsistency. The Roman Catholic canon adds several documents to the Old Testament. The New Testament canon is identical for all three faith groups.

The Bible provides us with a list of three major areas that Almighty God wants us to know: His love for us, His commandments to us, and His assurance of a just outcome (or judgment) for eternity. So, He says He will forgive our sins when we repent, He tells us how to live our lives in peace and harmony, and He assures us of final judgment where everyone will receive an eternal reward, based on whether they came to believe in Him.

Most people who consider themselves Christians readily accept the part about God’s love and mercy; but it’s the final area — God’s judgment — where many folks go off-script.

Somehow, they figure it’s okay to focus on the “good” stuff; that is, hold fast to God’s promises, give a cursory look at the commandments, and totally ignore the judgment.

The problem is this: The judgment part is what makes the promises so awesome.


IF GOD ALMIGHTY DID NOT JUDGE us, there would be no accounting for any of our actions or words, nor any accounting for actions and words from others. That would  leave us with chaos! 43. Cross=Love

But, since God has made it clear He wants each of us to find Him and be in relationship with Him, He has purposed a way to reconnect us. It is through the shed blood of Himself in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ.

All who believe in the Lord, who call on His name, will be reconciled to God by God’s grace to us through our faith in Him.

That sets up the tension mentioned earlier — the asymmetrical relationship between the Creator and His creation.

A loving God reassures finite man of His love and protection, while man (men and women) respond less enthusiastically. Some exhibit outright hostility; some are complacent or indifferent; some actually believe they are “in touch” through their good works and church attendance. Some claim a “spiritual” component to their lives, but seldom exhibit any substance.

The Bible is clear in Mathew 7 (versus 13-14 and 21-23) that relatively few actually hear God’s voice and respond to Him with trembling and grateful hands.


WE’RE LEFT WITH THIS ASYMMETRICAL relationship between God and man: The Creator telling His creation, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you,” and the creation responding, “Just say what we want to hear, even if it’s false. Stop telling us what God has said.”

43.Cross_Against_SkyPainful, indeed, to watch God’s chief creation being so disobedient, but for those who respond with a grateful plea, “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus! Forgive my sins and live in my heart for eternity,” there is joy in heaven (Luke 15:7).

Yes, those who “have ears to hear” and respond to His call (Ephesians 2:8) are reconciled to the Creator (Romans 5:11) and become his children (1 John 3:1). If, then, we are His children, we also are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17 NASB; Galatians 4:6-7).

No longer asymmetric.

Instead, perfect symmetry.


PRAYER: O Mighty and Merciful Father, we confess to You our disobedience. Our unwillingness to listen to You, to take You at your Word, our prideful insistence in living life on our terms to suit our goals on our timeline. How foolish we are, O Lord, when You have laid out the path that gives us life, that gives us joy, that gives us love. We pray, Father, that You will forgive our resistance and lead us by the still waters. Sooth our brows, O Lord. Reassure us. Reconnect us. We lift this prayer in the Holy Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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