Quote from Billy Graham with woman gazing toward the horizon.

We can always find a reason to discount the things of God. Especially if there’s a call to action attached. We love the miraculous, to know that the God of creation loves, provides, and cares for us, so long as He comes on our terms. 

And if not, we can find plenty of reasons to close our ears. We all have this tendency, and when we step out in faith, we’ll probably, on occasion, experience negative or dismissive reactions from others. 

When that occurs, we can become offended, feel defeated, or remain focused on Christ. 

When God first called me into writing and speaking, my “credentials” were far from impressive. Though I had earned my GED and taken nearly two years of college classes, I was a largely uneducated high school dropout, former homeless girl. My love for Scripture certainly didn’t qualify me as a theologian, nor would the hours I spent doing housework and homeschooling my second-grade daughter appear notable in an event brochure bio. 

In fact, I can’t remember how I was introduced the night I delivered my first paid presentation. It was that unimpressive. And while God overwhelmed me with His presence, His Spirit, and perhaps most beautifully of all, His pleasure, once the event concluded, everyone left, I reflected on all that had occurred. 

The positive… 

The peace I felt once I began to speak.

The awe of knowing knowing, despite my lack of experience and education, Christ had chosen to use me.

The joy of experiencing His Spirit flowing first in me and then through me. 

But I thought about the negative as well—the sting of shame I felt after one presumably successful and prestigious man, with a word and look of disdain, discounted everything I had to say. 

Leaving me feeling discounted, like a fool who should have stayed home doing dishes. 

“Why did that church choose me, Lord? Out of all the people they could have booked? Those with bachelor degrees, decades of ministry experience, and a string of titles behind their names? They probably had plenty others much more qualified in the audience while I spoke.”

God’s inaudible response swept through my soul. “You are their excuse.” 

His statement, though undeniably clear, stung and left me confused. Like He’d given me a directive of some sort without any indication as to how to live it out. Scripture speaks of God choosing the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Did that mean I was to remain untrained and inexperienced? 

And yet, I knew in my soul that wasn’t the case. 

Now, over a decade, a college degree, and years of ministry later, I now understand. God’s statement–and that man’s discounting behavior on the night I felt so insufficient–hadn’t been about me at all. God was helping me to see mankind with new eyes, with His vision. 

Our eloquence and evidences won’t matter to the one who’s already determined to reject God’s truth. 

Quote from post on cloud background.

As Jesus told His disciples, and therefore, us as well, “If the world hates you”––mocks or rejects you or disregards and minimizes what you have to say–– “keep in mind that it hated Me first” (John 15:18).

There were many who saw the miracles He performed. Who were there when He fed thousands from one boy’s lunch. People who had watched Him cast out demons, bring sight to the blind and mobility to the lame. Men and women who were amazed by His teaching, but ultimately, found ways to discredit the deepest and most transformative truth He shared:

That He was God’s Son, the long promised Messiah, who came to bridge the gap between God and man. 

In John chapter 7, midway through one of the most joyous and reflective festivals on the Jewish calendar, Jesus stood up and began to teach. Verses 15-17 state, “The people were amazed and asked, ‘How did this man get such learning without having studied?’ Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not Myown. It comes from Him who sent Me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on My own” (NIV).

This was a powerful and telling invitation. The questions Christ evoked within His listeners would drive some to investigate further, ultimately leading them to life. But those same questions would cause others to turn away. 

As a good number of them did, some vehemently speaking against Him while others chose to remain stuck in their ambiguity. ​​They “began to ask, ‘Isn’t this the Man they are trying to kill? Here He is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to Him. Have the authorities really concluded that He is the Messiah? But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where He is from.”

Here’s what I find sad. The people could’ve easily found answers to all their questions.  Their doubts and uncertainty could’ve drawn them to unshakable, life-changing truth, to the One who is truth. Instead, they let what could’ve been an avenue to faith become a barrier between them and Christ. 

Largely, out of fear. (v. 13)

Unfortunately, there are times when I act the same. While I’ve accepted God’s big truth regarding salvation, I can stumble on His leading in my day-to-day. When my fears rise up, I’m tempted to discount that nudge from God, that call to obedience, to sacrifice. Allowing myself to be held captive by the unknowns and uncertainty instead of accepting Christ’s invitation to step out in faith.

Lord, help us to see every question, every doubt, and every unknown as an invitation to greater understanding and deeper intimacy with You. 

Before you go, today is the last day to get entered into the book giveaway drawing!

Snatch a photo of my latest release, Chasing Her Dream, on the shelves, share it on social media, tag me, and tell us where you found it, and I’ll enter you into the drawing to win all of these fun books!

Books in giveaway bundle

And if you haven’t had a chance to catch the latest episode of the Faith Over Fear podcast, you can listen to it by clicking below. In this episode, author Grace Fox shares a practical and biblically sound resource to help you fight your fear with faith.

The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 2) – Ep. 82 Faith Over Fear

At times, God’s call to love others persistently and sacrificially can feel confusing, especially if the individual we’re reaching out to behaves in unhealthy and hurtful ways. How can we love well, in a way that is healthy and emotionally and mentally safe? In this episode, Jennifer discusses ways our insecurities and past hurts can pose personal challenges, how God uses those challenges to create increased beauty within us, and the importance of establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries in all our interactions. Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails here: https://bit.ly/3l1eAYs Resource mentioned: Becoming His Princess Bible Study Video Week One: https://bit.ly/3o5qHFG Group Discussion Questions: 1. What did you find most helpful in today’s episode and why? 2. How often do you pause to evaluate your reactions to particular people or situations? 3. In what ways have your insecurities or past hurts colored your perception during disagreements or relationally tense moments? 4. Consider someone with whom you often experience difficulty. How much of your ongoing issues might be exacerbated by unresolved hurts from your past? 5. When, if ever, do you find yourself getting sucked into someone else’s drama? 6. What are some ways you can avoid this? 7. How well do you “shake off” rejection? 8. What might healthy boundaries look like in your situation? 9. What do you find most challenging when it comes to establishing or maintaining healthy boundaries? 10. What is one action step you feel God is wanting you to take after having listened to this podcast episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/LinaDes
  1. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 2) – Ep. 82
  2. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 1) – Ep. 81
  3. The Love That Casts Out Fear – Ep. 80
  4. Anchored in Christ When the Storms of Life Hit – Ep. 79
  5. The Courage to Grieve – Ep. 78

I think we’ve all asked the question a time or two. And when evil or illness or heartache touches us or someone we love, the question rages louder. Some questions, I believe, will never be fully answered–fully understood–this side of heaven. But in the meantime, God allows us to ponder immensely confusing questions, and I believe, He is blessed most when we ask not one another but instead, turn to Him. For whoever turns to Him, He will never turn away. Today, fellow ACFW member Linda Samaritoni shares her thoughts on the age old question–How can an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God allow evil?

No Stepford Wives for God by Linda Samaritoni

If God loves everyone as Christians are so fond of telling the world, then why does He allow evil? Why doesn’t He just make people love Him, and all would be right in our universe? These questions keep cropping up while I am involved with my current work-in-progress novel. I’ve heard several attempted answers, and while I may agree with some of them, the responses don’t satisfy my heart.

There is the “Just Trust and Obey” answer. Certainly, as a Christian, I need to trust and obey Jesus in everything, but those actions on my part don’t solve the riddle of an all-powerful God putting up with evil, even if I know it’s temporary.

thinkingThen there’s the “Tapestry” answer. I like that one better. Because God knows everything, He can see beyond my immediate pain in the midst of evil. He knows how He is going to use the situation for my future good. That’s comforting, but it doesn’t answer the question as to why He allows evil in the first place. But “Tapestry” is a difficult concept for humans to comprehend. When I consider that He knows the endless possibilities for every individual on earth who has ever lived or will ever live, “Tapestry” is mind-boggling. I have to step away; my brain can’t wrap around the concept, and the emotional result is awfully close to a panic attack.

I’ve called the answer with the most potential to assist my finite understanding “No Stepford Wives.” Within a limited analogy, I can relate the earthly to the heavenly and gain some knowledge and wisdom. The term ‘Stepford Wife’ has become synonymous with creating something that “loves” you. Stepford wives never argued with their husbands, never left dishes in the sink, never suffered from headaches at bedtime. They were perfect – but ultimately dissatisfying. Why? Because they never loved their husbands of their own free will. The husband knew that he had manufactured feelings. Would she still love him if he relinquished control?

God doesn’t want to make us love Him either. He could. We could all be living in some version of the Garden of Eden, little robots with no thoughts of our own. Perhaps, we would be happier in our ignorance, but we wouldn’t know the joy of choosing to love others. Nor, I suspect, would God be satisfied with His creation.

I’ve read that God is the most emotional Being that exists. He is more joyful than we can comprehend, and His sorrow goes deeper than any of us could ever bear. He made us to be creatures like Himself in that we are capable of loving, willing to make sacrifices for someone else. And the greatest gift we can offer is to love Him because we want to.

When humans do not love God, they choose to not love God, and evil results. God already knows how He will deal with it. In the meantime, He is willing to create further generations who have the opportunity to choose to love Him, and whenever individuals make God the center of their lives, He sits back and says, “It is good.”

Jeremiah 31:3 – [The Lord says:] “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

Linda Samaritoni lives near Indianapolis. She teaches Spanish in a private elementary school and enjoys writing and music. She has completed two novels, one for children, one women’s contemporary and is currently working on a YA novel. Linda is married and has three sons and two granddaughters, the lights of her life, after Jesus!

Check out Linda’s blog at www.my2ndnature.wordpress.com for more posts comparing the temporal and the spiritual.


I like questions. But more than that, I like answers. Clear, easily contained, easy to explain answers. But unfortunately, my small, often inconsistent and finite mind will never truly grasp the mind and ways of God, at least, not this side of heaven. But that doesn’t keep me from asking, from reading His Word, His purest self-revelation known to man. And when I do that–when I draw near to God with an open, teachable heart, an amazing thing happens. Suddenly, many of my burning questions begin to fade in the indescribable peace of His presence.

Let’s talk about this: What do you do when questions regarding faith arise? In what ways do you believe God answers our questions? In your experience, does He normally answer right away or take time, and why do you think this is? As parents, how can we encourage our children to turn to God and His Word for spiritual answers? And lastly, have you been able to see a blessing or protection or perhaps moment of healing in hindsight, perhaps after a situation that initially seemed unbearable? I’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. 

1387142_sea_sunset_1Innocence stolen, security shattered, hearts wrenched. In one moment, lives were changed forever–some snatched, others left behind, wondering how they would go on once their treasure–their child–was violently ripped from them. And for many, for most, even those with the strongest faith, one question rages: why? Why would God allow such a horrendous act to occur?

Today, Lance Burch from Shadowlake Churck in Papillion, NE, suggests perhaps there’s a bigger question we need to ask: Who? The following post is long, but I encourage you to read it. It’s 157050_10150139846962468_3870147_nwell worth your few moments in time. (But before you watch the video and read the following, I wanted to congratulate last week’s give-away winner. Dana Patrola, you won a copy of Delia Latham’s latest release, Jewels for the Kingdom. Enjoy! I’ll be contacting you shortly to get this to you.)

Friday around 9:30 am a 911 call was made from Sandy Hook elementary school reporting gunshots and screams. The rest of America was getting ready for work… or stuck in traffic… or complaining about being served cold coffee… and in Connecticut… a horrific scene played out.

I gasped as I read the ever changing headlines on the news sites. First reporting two confirmed fatalities then eventually 27 at the school and one in a home in Newtown. 20 of them children… ages 6 and 7. I was stunned. Speechless. It was impossible to grasp the reality of this evil. And I didn’t want to. I didn’t want it to be real. I couldn’t get, can’t get the imagined images out of my mind of what it must have been like to be trapped in a classroom. To see your friends die and to know that you are next. I imagined parents waiting anxiously for news of their child and getting the worst possible message, your son… your daughter has died. Won’t be coming home. I’m sure there are presents that are going to be delivered to some of those homes. Some are already under the tree. Never to be opened.

And we’re asking this. You’ve asked this. What was God thinking? That question comes back again and again. You will ask this question again. Not because of the tragedy in CT… because of tragedies in your life.
What was God thinking?
Is He truly powerful? Loving?
Can God be trusted?

Did He cause it or allow it?

Neither is comforting.

If I see my daughter about to trip over a rock to hurt herself and I can stop it and I do nothing but watch and allow it to happen. Or if I push her.

Either way, it gives the impression of a bad father.

Everybody of every religious faith are asking these questions. Nobody is immune.

Where was God in this unimaginable suffering?

And many will say:

Either there is no God or God must be cruel.
Something happened. How could God allow such an unimaginable loss? What is your God up to?

When I try to lay current events over a good God, I can’t make sense of it.

Perhaps the God I prayed to and trusted in…doesn’t exist.

When current reality doesn’t match your view of God… you would do well not to ignore current reality.

If He’s not the God who makes sure that all children get home safely. Then who is he? Is He something different than what I had imagined? Have I been believing a lie?

For some, this is not a problem. Perhaps you believe there is no God. Maybe you’re atheist. You’re devastated like everyone else. You want to help those affected. You cried when they heard the news… But – somewhere in the back of your mind, you’re thinking “Christian, let me see you try to explain this one. Let’s face reality. This supports my theory. There’s no God. It’s random. And you are wasting your time. Life happens… then you die.”

Before you judge us Christians too harshly, consider, you have the same problem we do. You’ve created a God in your mind… and you can’t find evidence of the God you created in your mind. Then all you’ve proved is that the God who “should do” this and “couldn’t provide” that… doesn’t exist.

Is there a clue in the loss of life. Isn’t it a question I need to ask? Just who is God?

Regardless of what answers we comfort ourselves with.

At this time of year, when we are celebrating the joyous birth of Christ… families are mourning the loss of children, wives and mothers. They are looking at packages underneath trees that will never be opened. 20 graduation gowns that will never be worn. 20 love stories that will never be told. These sorts of tragedies, while almost unspeakable… aren’t new. In fact, as hard as it may be to believe, this is exactly the kind of world that Jesus was born into. There was a shocking event that happened in the little city of Bethlehem that is the dark side of the Christmas story. It wouldn’t normally come up in a Christmas series, and we didn’t plan on talking about it this year. But, it happened… and I think by looking at it… we can learn something about just WHO God is.

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him” (Matthew Chapter 2:13).

Jesus came into the world under a death sentence. He was already marked for death. He came into a dark world in which power was so important that if you had to take a life to maintain power, then so be it.

That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. (Matthew 2:14-16).

Scholars think that somewhere between 20 and 30 boys 2 years and under were murdered. Now we might have been able to read that somewhat passively just 3 days ago. But not today. Today we don’t have that luxury. Parents in the little peaceful town of Bethlehem were broken hearted… their hearts ripped out by an evil man bent on power. The gospel was good news… but it wasn’t good news for these families. They were left with confusion and grief.

Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

“A cry was heard in Ramah-
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
refusing to be comforted,
for they are dead” (Matthew 2:17-18).

This verse comes from Jeremiah in the Old Testament. Jeremiah spoke of Rachel as the representation of all of Israel as her children are led away in captivity and many of them killed by invading armies from the east.

Jesus came into this world under a death sentence and suffered.

So we have a clue, a God who was willing to come into this world under a death sentence.

This wasn’t plan B… He was always going to come into the world as our hero… (Genesis 3:15) as our rescuer. But why did we need to be rescued?
Adam and Eve, the first humans God created, were given one rule. They were placed in a beautiful garden, allowed to eat all they wanted, except for the fruit of one tree. And that is the one tree they ate from.

God created everything good because He is good and great. He is loving and powerful.
So Good and Great that when sin happened, he judged it fiercely and completely. Woman was subjected to pain in child birth, Man was subjected to work a cursed ground!

Romans 8:20-21a says, “for the creation was subjected to frustration not by its own choice but by the will of the one who subjected it in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay

God judged sin.

God is great and good. He would not and could not turn a blind eye to sin.

We have underestimated the results of sin. God made everything good and gave us the freedom to mess it up… which we did.

We have suffered the consequences ever since. We know how it could be and should be. and we can’t get it to stay that way.

Who is this God we are dealing with?

God is great and God is good.

When sin entered the world, He judged it greatly. Severely.

Everything was cursed, you me… and the ground. Cancer, wars, death…

All of it…
Was this an overreaction on God’s part? If you think that then you underestimate the serious of sin.

But not only did Jesus come into this fallen world

With the threat of death hanging over Him

When He left… He gave us the Holy Spirit to be with us. Always.

Romans 8:26 says, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”

Holy Spirit is ALWAYS with us… ALWAYS… present.

2) He is present in our suffering… and comforts.

But even more than that, one day Jesus is going to come back and make things right.

Revelations 21:3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.

One day all that is sad, all that is tragic… will come untrue. Jesus will so fully redeem the world that we will be more stunned by it’s beautiful redemption than all the horrors that took place after the fall.

The light of resurrection will eclipse the darkness of sin and death.

He’s proved it with His own life…

He comforts us with His promise to return and rule.

He came into the world under a death sentence… and suffered.
He is present in our suffering… and comforts.
He comforts us with his return to this world… to rule.

That is who God is. No matter how dark and twisted the world gets. That is the world that a baby’s cry was heard in. He didn’t turn away from the ugliness. He entered into it. He won’t shy away from your ugliness. He loves, that’s what He does. We messed this whole thing up and now people suffer. But God is great and good. He didn’t leave us when things got messed up. Why, because he loves.

God’s grace has allowed all of us to be the exception to the rule… today. But none of us are getting out of this thing alive. We are all, in a sense, under the curse because we live in a broken, fallen, decaying world. These events shock us, jar us… but maybe they can wake us up. See, evil is real. It isn’t made up. We all need, right now, to just admit that not only is evil real, but that we take part in it every day. We aren’t part of the solution, so quit giving everyone advice about how to fix this on facebook… because while we know that something is wrong with the world, we can’t fix it and make it stay that way. Because we are the ones who messed it up in the first place!

At the end of the day today, pray, “Father, thank you for one more day of allowing me to be the exception to the rule. You are gracious. You gave me exactly what I don’t deserve.”

We all wish this hadn’t happened. We wish that we had never heard of Sandy Hook elementary school. But, we have heard of it. We wept for it. It stands as a stark reminder that all is not well with this world.

This tragedy reminds us that things are not as they should be… but the cry from the manger… the voice of God at Christmas reminds us that one day they will be.

One day, all that will be left is our love for God and each other… and God’s love for us. One day all that is sad will come untrue.

There will be a last tear… because tears don’t last forever.
There will be a last heartbreak… because heartbreaks don’t last forever.
There will be a last death… because death will eventually die
There will be a last tragedy… tragedies will come to their own end.

And after all of that… just love… our deep love for God and each other… and God’s unimaginable love for us. Hang on… hang on…

You can watch more of Pastor Burch’s grace and truth filled messages here.

Lance Burch is the lead pastor of Shadowlake Church, located in Papillion, NE. He is passionate about sharing Christ’s love with a hurting world and motivates others to do the same.