“Every person should obey the government in power. No government would exist if it hadn’t been established by God. The governments which exist have been put in place by God.”
Romans 13:1-2 (God’s Word Translation)
We are living in the midst of some pretty wacky political times in the United States. In fact, I’ve heard more than a handful of people exclaim, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime!” Perhaps you’re feeling the same way—and maybe you are as unsettled as other citizens around you, wondering what on earth the future has in store. After all, how can we trust politicians who appear corrupt, make inconsistent statements, or even act in crazy ways?
The great news for everyone—no matter what side of the political aisle we’re on—is that God has complete control of everything that’s transpiring in current and future governing. How do I know? Look at the verses from Romans written above for starters. As believers, we’re encouraged to submit ourselves to the government in power because God has placed it there. Actually, Paul clearly points out that NO government has ever existed without the Lord’s hand being involved in the political process.
“Now wait a minute!” I can hear some of you saying, “How can that be possible? God wouldn’t put a corrupt government in place, would He?”
Well, let’s consider one historical example as we ponder this point:
The ruling power in New Testament times was the Roman Empire, and the emperors wielded absolute authority. Many of those rulers were harsh task-masters, intolerant, and sometimes diabolical and cruel. Yet look at what the Apostle Peter had to say to Christians living in those tumultuous times:
“Place yourselves under the authority of human governments to please the Lord. Obey the emperor. He holds the highest position of authority. Also obey governors. They are people the emperor has sent to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. God wants you to silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing what is right.” (I Peter 2:13-15)
Despite the often negative governing experiences early Christians had to endure, they were encouraged to live uprightly under those in authority in order “to please the Lord.” Notice also that their good example of faithful living, even in a far-from-perfect political system, would silence the criticism about their Christianity because they were “doing what is right.”What modern-day believers have going for us, especially if we’re living in free democratic societies, is that we can actively be involved in the selection process of our leaders. And, like the believers who have gone before us, we can pray for those in power as well as those God will place in positions of leadership. As Paul reminds us, “People in the government are God’s servants while they do the work he has given them” (
What peace this should offer all of us today! We may not see the Lord’s reasons behind current leadership, but He does. We might not like what those leaders are doing, but we can still remain honorable citizens as we pray for them to fulfill God’s purpose—whatever that may be. And, most especially, we should be mindful about His greater mission: that no one should perish, but everyone would come to salvation (II Peter 3:9).
*Are you trying to discover new ways to share about the hope Jesus has to offer? Then please take time to check out our newest Sonkist book, I Choose Faith! You’ll find paperback and Kindle versions available on our website—and at Amazon.com.
Thought of the Month
“Live as those who are free and not as those who use their freedom as a pretext for evil, but live as God’s servants. Respect everyone. Love the community of believers. Reverence God. Honor your ruler.”
I Peter 2:16-17 (The Voice)
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
My morning started out peacefully—at least for the first few hours. As everyone got ready for their day, I was able to read a passage of Scripture and spend time praying. I even got a little exercise in before it was time to get some work accomplished. Yet as I sat down at my computer, an unpleasant email caught my attention. People were upset with each other, and I couldn’t help but get distressed in the process of reading the unkind words I discovered in that written communiqué.
Suddenly my peace was shattered, and it was only mid-morning.
Can you relate? How many peaceful days are turned upside down by unsettling news, startling revelations, angry communication, or conflicting people? And peace-wrecking doesn’t have to come from inside our personal circles of influence any more. The television beams calamitous information our way 24/7, and thanks to technological advances, our tranquility can even be broken by instant messaging, texts and tweets popping up on all of our devices!
The disciples got a taste of the unfortunate reality of living in a far-from-perfect world when the Jesus shared these facts with them:
“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the Father or me. Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer.” (John 16:1-4)
Yikes—talk about disturbing news! In John 16, Jesus plainly explained to the disciples that His departure was eminent, and when He returned to His heavenly Father after He was resurrected, they’d experience a lot of negative fallout. In fact, the religious leaders and others would reject them and even try to kill them. Their faith in the Lord would have consequences here on Earth because those who didn’t accept what God had done through Jesus Christ would turn against them—along with all the evil the enemy could muster (see Ephesians 6:10-12).
Yet Jesus also reminded His disciples—and all of us today—that He didn’t share this message without a bigger, much brighter purpose: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
That’s right, despite the difficult times “you will have,” Jesus urges us to “take heart!” We can, and should, be at peace because He has overcome sin and death and their eternal consequences. We have hope that the Lord is with us now, and we will be with Him for all eternity!
While it may seem counterintuitive to us as humans, peace doesn’t happen in isolation of problems and pain. Divine peace happens with them—in the midst of crazy circumstances, crises, and chaos. As much as I may not like it, that’s when I truly experience God’s peace at work in my life. When I can’t control the mess and everything seems topsy-turvy, the Lord’s peace resides if I’m willing to focus on Him, and Him alone.
I’m not sure what’s interrupted your peace lately—or what’s lurking to disrupt it in the near future. What I can assure you of is that, as the verse from John 14 above points out, we can experience peace in our time. It’s a gift, generously offered by a loving God who is waiting for us to ask Him for that blessing in our lives. Oh may we receive His amazing peaceful presence today!
*Trying to find new ways to share your faith with others? Check out I Choose Faith! You’ll find paperback and Kindle versions available on our website and at Amazon.com.
Thought of the Month
God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.
As I worked on the first book in the ‘I Choose! Series’, I had a sense that one day I would write one about faith. Why? Because I’m convinced that everyone has faith—but many people don’t understand the critical nature of what they choose to believe in.
I Choose Faith! is not only my personal apologetic about faith in Jesus, but it also speaks to three specific types of readers. Here’s how I introduce this concept in the preface of I Choose Faith!:
- If you are someone who thinks you AREN’T a person of faith, keep reading! You may be surprised to discover that you have a lot more faith than you ever realized.
- If you’ve believed in God in the past, but now you aren’t sure about what you believe, then please keep reading too. The thoughts I’m going to share should encourage you that you’ve got a good foundation to keep building your faith upon.
- If you’re an individual who has great faith, and you’d like to keep growing, then the concepts in the pages ahead should not only inspire you in your own faith journey but should also help you find new ways to share what you believe with others around you.
During His life, Jesus revealed that God gives us the opportunity to be assured of our eternal destination when our journey on this Earth is finished: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)—yet there are still so many individuals who are confused despite this simple salvation message.
The goal of I Choose Faith! is to explain Jesus’ message in a new, fresh way. I’ve prayed throughout the process that the Lord’s truths would be conveyed, and many godly colleagues and friends have reviewed the pages to verify that the concepts are clear and concise. Of all of the books I’ve written, I believe I Choose Faith! is the most significant. Please pray with all of us at Sonkist Ministries as we release it to the public: may this book reach every reader who needs to understand more about the importance of choosing faith!
*Please check out I Choose Faith! on our website—and you’ll also find it in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.com.
Thought of the Month
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Recently we were asked why Sonkist Ministries keeps producing new books about faith. After all, isn’t it time consuming and costly in our current economy to publish anything?
The question caused us to pause and really reflect on the vision and mission for our efforts at Sonkist Ministries. In reality, it does cost a great deal of time, money, and energy to write, edit, and develop materials—especially in today’s marketplace. And, there are many great Christian books available in bookstores and online. Was this individual right? Should we continue putting so much effort into publishing more products for people?
As often happens, God quickly gave us reassurance that we were on the right path—and the Scripture we came across not long after that question was raised was quite clear:
Sing a new song to the Lord!
Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Sing to the Lord; praise His name.
Each day proclaim the good news that He saves.
Publish His glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things He does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
Psalm 96:1-4a (emphasis added)
The Lord is indeed great—and all that He does is simply amazing! It couldn’t have been more clear a confirmation to the team at Sonkist Ministries: publish His glorious deeds among the nations!
And we have you to thank for helping us fulfill this calling. Thank you for your prayers as we work and write. Thanks for sharing Sonkist books and resources with others who need the encouragement. We are so grateful to be on this faith journey with you—some of you we may never get to meet until we’re united with the Lord in Heaven one day. In the meantime, let’s keep focused on the mission to which we are all called: Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!” (verse 10a).
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
I Corinthians 13:4-7
While doing background research for another book in the I Choose! series, I had a chance to look at love from God’s perspective. From Genesis all the way to Revelation, the Lord’s care and compassion are evident in His interactions with humanity throughout history. I spent time pouring over portions of Scripture that specifically talk about love, including the famous 13th chapter of I Corinthians and its list of attributes. In I Choose Love! I decided to share these characteristics from a different viewpoint: what love isn’t! Here’s an excerpt from I Choose Love! that will explain my thoughts on the topic:
Joyful about failures
Accepting of defeat
Spend a few minutes looking over this list again. What can you take away from these attributes that describe what people shouldn’t be doing regarding love?
When I exchanged vows with my husband over thirty years ago, I had every intention of being a perfect, loving wife. I never imagined doing anything on the “isn’t list”—especially to the one I declared in front of God, family, and friends that I loved with all my heart. But guess what, I messed up—and not in one category, but in many! How did that happen? I’m flawed and weak, that’s how! Despite my best attempts to act otherwise, I make bad choices. That’s why I need God’s help on a daily basis to choose to love differently.
Over the years I’ve discovered that when I begin my day in prayer, I feel closer to God. I ask for His help, and, not too surprisingly, He gives it to me. When I spend time in His Word, I also get to know Him better, and I actually put into practice the things He has to say much more readily because those matters are fresh in my mind. What’s truly amazing is how much happier and satisfying life is when I choose to love God’s way.
And the love God gives me doesn’t just impact my marriage. It changes the way I interact with everyone in my life. He helps me love my family and friends differently, my neighbors differently, and even strangers I encounter throughout my day differently. I see life from a unique paradigm: God is love, and He wants me to love Him, others, and myself His way!
*You will find more about the amazing love God has for you detailed in Sonkist Ministries’ latest book, I Choose Love! It is available now on our website—and also in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.com!
Why is it that songs like Silent Night are so meaningful during the Christmas season, yet their message doesn’t always transcend into many of our New Year moments? I heard, sang, and hummed this particular tune countless times last month; you could probably sing it by heart too:
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
But already the news on television isn’t good, bills are arriving in the mail, and someone in the family is struggling. Sometimes it seems that our harmony and bliss get packed away with the holiday decorations. We enjoyed the respite-but now reality has set in.
Yet this isn’t the way life has to be! In fact, in the book of Philippians we find a recipe for experiencing peace, even in the midst of the most challenging circumstances:
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again-rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
The Apostle Paul relayed this recipe for peaceful living to believers centuries ago, and it’s just as reliable now as it was then. Heavenly peace can be found by:
Striving to be filled up with joy that comes from God.
Being thoughtful in everything that we do.
Rather than worrying, pray-often and always.
Be specific in our prayers: tell God what we need, then thank Him for what He’s done.
These steps appear to be so simple, but in everyday situations, they can be a bit daunting. We often get sidetracked, and the enemy is working overtime to keep our focus off the Lord. We must endeavor to put these steps toward peace into practice on a regular, consistent basis so they’ll become habits in our lives.
Paul wrapped up his thoughts about finding heavenly peace with verses 8 and 9 of Philippians 4. Let’s look at them to discover how they might help us too:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me-everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
So, we can add two more ingredients to our peaceful recipe:
Concentrate on good things as much as possible. Don’t put anything into our minds-or ruminate on thoughts-that do not exemplify God’s standard of excellence.
Practice, day-in and day-out, what we’ve learned about our faith.
While we’re bound to have many circumstances that could bring us down, make us anxious, and rob us of our tranquility during the days and weeks ahead, God has given us specific concepts to implement so we can stay wrapped in His heavenly peace. The steps are here to help you, so spend time praying about how you can put them into practice-starting today!
May you find His peace in abundance throughout this wonderful New Year!
Thought of the Month
Many people say, “Who will show us better times?” Let your face smile on us, Lord. You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.
Did you know that one of the most sacred Christmas songs was written by a self-proclaimed atheist? Who would guess that in 1843 a parish priest from Roquemaure, France would ask a man like Placide Cappeau to write a poem to celebrate the upcoming Christmas season?
But that’s exactly what he did! This church leader asked Cappeau, a local resident and famous author and poet, to create something special for parishioners. Soon afterward, Adolphe Adam put those worshipful words to music, followed by a Boston minister’s translation into English about a decade later. Here are some of the beautiful lyrics from the song that you’re probably very familiar with:
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
As I revisit the words in this song, I’m encouraged that the message of salvation comes across so clearly, written by a man who understood the truth of God’s redemption plan. Did Cappeau ever accept that truth personally, not just poetically? We may never know this side of Heaven. Perhaps he had a “thief on the cross” moment before he died at the age of sixty-nine. Like so many others in our lives, we have to simply trust that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).
Interestingly, the Apostle Paul followed that verse with great reminders for all of us too: “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14)
Which brings us back to the seemingly odd request by that 19th century parish priest. Did he ask for Cappeau’s assistance because he was the only poet in town, the sole citizen who could put pen to paper? Or did he select this secular man in order to share the Gospel, perhaps spending time with him and encouraging Cappeau to understand the message he hoped would be composed?
Again, we don’t know exactly what that priest was thinking, but it’s evident from words like those which follow that Cappeau had a clear understanding of what Christ came here for:
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
O may these thoughts be true for you and for me! Let us love one another, now more than ever. Let’s share the amazing news of salvation this season, with our actions as well as with our words. And may our joy overflow to everyone around us because of what the Lord began one holy night!
Merry Christmas to you and yours from everyone at Sonkist Ministries!
Thought of the Month
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.From O Holy Night, by Cappeau, Adam, and Dwight
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
The month of November shifts our hearts and minds to the upcoming holiday season. Thanksgiving will be here before we know it, and festive events will beckon us to gather with friends and family members. Even though these occasions should add joy to our lives, sometimes that’s not the case. Problems with people and tensions in relationships can actually be exacerbated by all of the celebrating and close proximity.
What can be done to improve potential difficulties with others during what ought to be delightful times? Jesus words above put things in perspective: love. Love breaks down barriers and build stronger bonds. Here’s a story from an upcoming Sonkist Ministries’ book entitled I Choose Love! that may help explain this concept more clearly:
Years ago, we had a wonderful hairstylist who took care of everyone in our family. In fact, “Miss Linda” gave our oldest son his first haircut. Both Ryan and Jared liked to see her, which made our visits to her very enjoyable. One afternoon, Ryan and I had an appointment, but Linda was running a little behind with other clients. After Linda put the finishing touches on her hairstyle, an elderly lady stood up and gave Linda a big hug before she left. Ryan, with his six-year-old curiosity, leaned over to me and whispered, “Mom, is that Miss Linda’s mother?”
Before replying, I looked at Ryan to see if he was serious. The expression of genuine interest on his face told me he was. I felt tears welling up, so I blinked and swallowed before answering, “No, buddy, that lady is just one of Linda’s clients.”
The reason I was overcome with emotion is that our friend, Linda, is African-American, and her elderly client was Caucasian. Ryan hadn’t noticed any differences in ethnicity, though. He thought they were family simply based on the loving way they interacted.
That scene has stayed with me all of these years because it is a powerful example of what love should be all about. Perfect love doesn’t have barriers; instead it creates bonds. The Lord’s kind of love is never about differences but rather about devotion at the deepest level. For me, this is one of the good memories about perfect love I will always cherish-the love that Ryan experienced watching those two women hug each other.
You probably have examples of when you’ve experienced this type of love too. What story would you tell about when you observed God’s love in action? Do you have your own Good Samaritan story-a time when you reached out to help someone, or maybe someone reached out to you? Who are the individuals in your life who interact with you in loving ways?
There will always be challenges when it comes to interacting with others while we are this side of Heaven, but by trying to love them the Lord’s way, we’ll be on the right path to not only getting along better but also showing everyone around us what it really means to be members of God’s family.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from all of us at Sonkist Ministries!
Thought of the Month
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
I John 3:18
It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
I Corinthians 3:7
The past few months have been a season of loss for us. Three men passed away, all in their fifties or younger. And while we aren’t certain about each of these individuals’ decisions regarding faith, we trust in God who is fair and just.
These recent events have also reminded us about what Paul revealed in his letter to the people of Corinth. You see, the new believers there were quarreling about little things, including who they felt had helped lead them to the Lord. Let’s look at that passage of Scripture in more detail:
When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.
I Corinthians 3:1-6
This letter from the apostle speaks to us as believers today too. Whether one plants the seeds of faith or helps them grow by sharing with others really doesn’t matter. The main thing is for Christians to keep telling the great news that eternal life is available to anyone who believes in Jesus. He offers hope for the future and help for every day we live out our lives here on Earth! As verse 7 reminds us, the Lord is actively at work: “God makes the seed grow.”
I love this imagery of planting seeds, watering, and seeing the fruits of our labor-especially in this season of harvest! Here’s a passage from the book of Matthew where the Lord Himself talked about the importance of sharing the message of salvation:
Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Friends, the harvest is indeed great, and each of us has a chance to be part of it. So many people need to know about Jesus. Countless individuals are watching you and me as we live out our lives, wondering if knowing the Lord really does make a difference. From small conversations to bigger opportunities to discuss our faith, all of us can help to let others know they are loved by the Lord-and that He longs to welcome them into His forever family!
There are many of our friends and family members already enjoying the blessings of Heaven as they await the rest of us to join them one day. And while they are missed so much, they remind me of why I need to keep sharing about the amazing gift God offers humanity. I’m also praying that the Lord of the Harvest will provide others to join in His efforts-including you!
All of us at Sonkist Ministries wish you many joys during this amazing Harvest season!
Thought of the Month
The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field…
I Corinthians 3:8-9a
Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.
Those of you who’ve been long-time readers of this newsletter know I have a special place in my heart for kids, teachers, and education in general. Needless to say, this time of year-the “Back to School” season-stirs countless memories of my classroom experiences, both as a student and as an educator. The excitement of a fresh academic year is in the air along with the anticipation of learning new things.
Yet sometimes this season of learning must begin with a return to the basics, and that’s the message Paul was reminding Christians about in his letter of Ephesians. Even though there is so much to know about our amazing faith, nothing is more important than understanding the fundamentals. Here are a few other essentials Paul added to the ones listed above:
So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
(Ephesians 4:25-27; 30-32)
I don’t know about you, but I can spend a tremendous amount of time trying to understand deep theological concepts. I listen to sermons, read the latest Christian blogs, and even try to keep up with how the happenings in the Middle East relate to Scripture. And while these are all good endeavors-adding to the overall store of knowledge that I’d like to have about my faith-during this time of year I’m asking myself if I have truly mastered the basics of my beliefs. If not, what am I doing? If not, is anything else really worth accomplishing?
If these simple suggestions from the book of Ephesians were netted out for us, the lessons they taught might look something like this:
- Stop doing things we know aren’t right.
- Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us to new, godly ways of living each and every day.
- Be truthful with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Don’t be angry-but when we are, fix things as soon as possible before the enemy can blow the situation out of proportion.
- Because of the grace we’ve been given, we should forgive freely-trying to be kind and tender in all our interactions.
- Most of all, strive to measure everything we do, say, and think in relation to whether or not it’s pleasing to our Savior.
In this season of back to basics for young people, let’s spend some time considering the foundational truths of our faith that we can strengthen in the days ahead. The six steps above can be a great place to start. Then, why not try reading some of the New Testament epistles that helped early believers understand God’s guidelines for great living? Whatever you choose to do, may the Lord richly bless your efforts as you draw closer to Him!
Thought of the Month
A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.