“Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well,” Psalm 84:6. The Hebrew word Baca carries with it the idea of weeping and sorrow. “The valley of Baca” is a literal valley in the Holy Land; by way of application it is a valley of deep sorrow in a person’s life.

When Moses and Israel were poised to depart from Egypt, God said to Moses, “The land, whither ye go to process it, is a land of hills and valleys,” Deuteronomy 11:11. Wow! That’s life: always ups and downs, hills and valleys everywhere, hardly ever any level ground! Everywhere I go there are tales of sorrow and suffering. So many people are hurting: sickness and death, debilitating diseases and injuries, financial stresses, addictions, shattered dreams, marriages in deep trouble, injustices everywhere, a world in which political sanity seems to have gone away. No doubt many of you who read these lines have a sack full of stories. You know what it is to be in “the valley of Baca.”

There are always two ways to react to trouble. The more common way, even for Christians, is to gripe and complain. It is so easy to see nothing but the bad. Lots of people blame God and get mad at Him about where they are. They forget that all of the miseries and troubles that we face in this world were the decision of man, not God. God warned of the consequences of failure to live life His way; Adam didn’t listen. We are all caught up in the mix; we’re in a world of troubles. “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble,” Job 14:1. Look around. Like it or not, that is the way it is; no one can escape trouble. People who think they will get through their lives in only ease and comfort are dreamers, out of touch with reality. Griping and moaning doesn’t change a thing, but that’s how too many people do it.

Every now and then someone in “the valley of Baca” digs “a well.” Instead of continuously sucking on his thumb, he decides to do something positive. Yes, really! He decides to leave the pity party, and make a difference for the better. He knows that in time some other life traveler will pass through the same valley where he is. So, he digs a well. Maybe like blind Fanny Crosby, he writes, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of his Spirit, washed in his blood. This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long; this is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.” That’s not the only well she dug.

How refreshing it is to stop by an old well! Somebody was there, hurting with sorrow and full of tears just like you; but he left a well, a place where you can be encouraged and refreshed. Out of his necessity came a tool; out of his tears came a song or a book or a sermon that has touched the lives of countless weary travelers including you.

Are you digging wells? You are not the first person to pass through your valley, and you won’t be the last. Make the most of where you are. Don’t just sit around and cry; dig a well.

Jesus Among Other Gods

I highly recommend an excellent Ravi Zacharias book by the same title. Though this is not a review of that book, comparing Jesus and Christianity with other religious concepts is a provocative and highly enlightening experience. I challenge every one of you to try it. Compare biblical Christianity with atheism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, communism, socialism, Hedonism and all the others.

Ironically many of the basic positions of Christianity are now political issues. They were biblical positions long before they reached the political arena. The God of the Bible was here first, and addressed social issues long before politicians and professors woke up.

As far back as Genesis 4, God made it clear that life is precious and sacred in His sight. With God, black lives matter; and so do white lives, red lives, yellow lives, old lives and yes, babies! Not just unborn deer, tigers, pandas, and elephants, but baby people. Mothers and their health are also very important, but so are their babies. Take care of women, but also take care of babies. One doesn’t have to die at the hands of the other. With God, life is not cheap. “Thou shalt not kill” is the Christian position on abortion and euthanasia.

The sanctity of marriage and the home is a big issue on God’s list. According to God, a marriage is a legal and binding contract between one man and one woman. The home is the basic brick in any society. When the home goes down, all kinds of social ills proliferate: violence, disrespect, irresponsibility, lawlessness, poverty and oppression. The home is the place where life’s most basic education occurs. There is where people learn respect, sharing, giving and to love one another. The home is life’s incubator for the needed skills of life.

Love and respect are uniquely Christian traits: love for God and gratitude for his goodness, love for others and love for the earth and its creatures. Jesus said, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Christianity teaches you not to steal their car or sex from their wife. Christianity says you should not trash and pollute the earth or mistreat animals.

Another major Christian position is personal responsibility. The Bible teaches that we are all accountable for our own actions. What does that do to Freud and the blame game? Christianity teaches us to police ourselves. In societies where Christianity prevails, the need for policeman and prisons is much less. God is no respecter of persons, and we shouldn’t be either. The Christian way is for people to receive jobs and promotions upon the strength of ability and performance, not gender or skin color. Talk about a blow to racism, Christianity is the biggest hammer of all. What do you suppose this basic Christian position does to affirmative-action, and to welfare for those who are not responsible enough to get a job?

Then, there is obedience to civil government. Yes, Christianity says, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” Real, practicing Christians pay their taxes and obey the law. They don’t blow up non-Christians, loot or shoot innocent people. Obviously, Jesus stands mighty tall right here.

Consider liberty of conscious and freedom. Christians believe that all men should be free to choose, and that no man has a right to impose himself and his beliefs on others. This eliminates totalitarian systems, civil or religious. Inherent in the concept of freedom is a free enterprise system of government where every man is free to rise or fall on his own.

There are really only two world views: theistic and atheistic. Christians believe that God made the world, and that we are accountable to him for our behavior in it. The basis for morality and a peaceful, law-abiding society is anchored in the fixed, eternal authority of the Word of God.

How will Christianity impact a society where it is practiced? It will produce love and integrity. It will produce men and women who are honest, who pay their bills and who give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. It will cut down on strife, confusion, division and violence. In their places it will produce friendships, harmony, cooperation and peace.

Christianity generates forgiveness and teaches men how to resolve differences. It teaches men to be kind, to give and to return good for evil. It makes men responsible, loyal, moral and unselfish. It keeps men from cheating, stealing, bullying and abusing drugs and other people. It softens hearts and generates love and compassion. Out of Christianity grows respect, hard work and civil harmony. Yes indeed! Christianity is good for any society. The impacts are good, like medicine to hurting people.

Ironically, Christianity is increasingly held in scorn among us. Christians are called the radical religious right. Somehow, we’re bad and the concepts we embrace are to be rejected. My how this world needs more Christianity, not less! America could use a whole lot more honest, law-abiding citizens who treat others right; and a whole lot less killing, cheating, drug-abuse, violence and downright ugliness.

I know that not all that parades in the name of Christianity really is Christian. Sadly, there are wolves among the sheep, tares in the wheat, pretenders and hypocrites! They hurt our cause and give Christianity a bad name. Don’t judge Christianity by what you see in some; you find real Christianity in the Bible. And, it is not only beautiful, but it works. Give it a chance. It will change you for the better. It works here, and here after! No other belief system offers even the slightest hope beyond the grave. Christianity does. Come to Jesus who is the only true God among all the gods, and he will change your life for the better while you live here on earth and then take you to heaven when you leave here. I challenge you to give him an honest try.

Just Stewards, Not Owners

Oh how easy it is to forget where we fit in the overall scheme of things! Selfishness and self-sufficiency is a disease with which all of us are fatally infected. Me. Mine. What I want. My way. My car. My money. My home. My job. My wife. My time. Jesus once asked one of us, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” Luke 12:20.

The truth is that we are all stewards, not owners. That’s right. In the big scheme of things, not one of us owns one thing. God owns everything including the air we breathe, the earth where we reside, time itself and even us. We didn’t bring even one penny into this world, and we won’t take even one penny out. We’re just passing through, privileged to enjoy a few of the things that belong to God the owner. When you back off a bit and look at the true picture, it becomes obvious that every moment is precious. Yes. Precious! Call it a lifetime trip or the trip of a lifetime; either way, life is quite a trip.

The older I get the more keenly aware of stewardship I become. Managing what God lets me have is a daily balancing act, especially time management. From the deepest recesses of my soul I want to use wisely all he allows me to touch. It is not uncommon for people to become somewhat irritated with me because I’m not as readily available as they think I should be. They can’t always instantly reach me by phone, and I don’t return their call quickly enough. They want me to call or visit someone, make a hospital or shut-in call or be somewhere or do something. Usually on their timetable. With all the preaching and seminar work I do (all of which requires lots of preparation, usually many hours), the books and other materials I write, the travel and the help and advice I give to people all across America and often foreign countries, I often find myself overwhelmed. There’s more work than there is boy, not to mention a wife and family and a seemingly incessant increase in time spent in doctor’s offices.

More and more this forces me to view my time and other resources in light of the eternal, what my owner would have me as a steward do with His resources including the time He allows me to have. Only He knows how much I want to make it count! My use of it may sometimes disappoint and irritate others, but more than anything else I want my stewardship to be acceptable to God. If I have disappointed you, please forgive me. Sometimes my days and weeks end well before I complete all that is before me. Thanks to all of you who have cut me a little slack and been so patient and understanding. Pray that I will give the very best I have to my Master, and be a good steward of the resources He has entrusted to me. I am well aware that the day of accounting for my stewardship is not far away.

Just Be Spiritual

The incessant parade of counterfeit ways to be right with God and soothe the conscience never ceases to amaze me. Quit your sins. Be baptized. Baptize the babies. Go to church. Join a church. Be a good person. Be sincere. Be zealous. Work hard. Sacrifice yourself. Crawl on your bare knees over rocks to a holy shrine. Give lots of money. Pray The Sinner’s Prayer. And now the wave is, you don’t need a church or a particular religion; just be spiritual.

No need for a church or any formal religion or religious activities. In fact, “We don’t like religion. We don’t need it. We have our own spirituality.” On its Today show, NBC recently aired a series legitimizing this kind of thinking. I’ve heard it for years, “God and I have an understanding. I don’t believe in organized religion. I don’t need a church. I have my own arrangement with God.”

I’m reminded of one of Israel’s lowest points: a time of lawlessness, violence and utter chaos. The prevailing idea of the day is summed up in Judges 21:6. “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Sounds like today; every man insists on being his own spiritual authority. “No church, no preacher, no Bible is going to tell me what to do. That’s between me and God.”

The fact is that had not God told us, not one of us would know what He thinks, what is right or wrong or what it takes to be right with Him. If He hadn’t told us, it would be any man’s guess and no man’s opinion would be any better than any others. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Romans 11:33. But, He has told us. Talk about presumptuous and egotistical, to bypass and ignore the Bible where God has clearly stated who He is and what it takes to be right with Him and in turn substitute your own ideas about Him exalts folly!

Thank God for a free country where any person can believe anything he chooses even when he is blatantly wrong, but do not forget that believing something doesn’t make it right even when you are passionate and sincere. God is the author of and final authority on truth: who He is, what is right and wrong, what is takes to be right with Him. It is pretty obvious that people all over the world have their own ideas about God, and the general consensus is that it really doesn’t matter what you believe, even if you don’t believe there is a God. Just be deeply spiritual. That’s the only thing that really counts, and in the end it will all work out.

God said, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death,” Proverbs 14:12. It’s not up to each person to come up with his own scheme about God, to write his own code about what spirituality is and how to be right. To be right you have to think God’s way and do things His way; and it is in the Bible that He tells humanity who He is, how he thinks and how to do things right.

All concepts out of step with His will ultimately fail. Sadly all who embrace concepts which are not founded in the Scriptures are doomed to perish with their homemade concepts. It takes more than a baptism, a church membership, a parade of good works, a prayer and being spiritual to be right with God. No one is right with God who has not had a personal meeting with Jesus Christ. Furthermore, God is the author of organized religion. Yes. According to Him, every person who personally meets Christ should give his life to serving Christ in one of His churches. No one who fails to do that is right with God.