A Psalm of Life


by Lucy Morgan Johnson

The Lord, my shepherd, is ever near
To watch o’er me, and I’ve no fear –
He’ll quench my thirst with nectar sweet
And give me daily food to eat.

He’ll make for me a grassy bed
On which to lay my weary head;
Beside still waters, cool and bright
He’ll watch o’er me till morning light.

In paths of righteousness from sin
He’ll cleanse my soul, without, within;
For His Name’s sake, I will obey
My Lord, my Shepherd, day by day.

When thru’ the vale of death I go
And shadows hang quite dark and low;
I’ll fear no evil, for He is there
To lead me with His tender care.

His rod and staff will comfort me
As I tread life’s path to eternity;
T’will be my stay in time of need
My Shepherd’s Hand, to guide and lead.

And He’ll a table spread for me
In presence of mine enemy;
My cup of joy will overflow
With oils of peace that He’ll bestow.

And when I rise from earthly strife
To start a new and fuller life,
His goodness and His mercy, pure,
Will evermore with me endure.

Then with my Shepherd as my guide
I’ll enter thru’ the gates thrown wide
And step within my mansion door
To dwell with Him, forevermore.

The preceding poem, A Psalm of Life, is from the book, “Dream Petals” (copyright 1943) by Lucy Morgan Johnson and used here with permission from her niece, Mary Green. Mary is a longtime supporter of BRM and her daughter, Ann Ore, is on staff at the ministry. We hope you enjoy this insightful and inspirational poem.

IMAGES in the MIND

by Bill Rudge

Everyone has terrifying dreams and frightening thoughts – even King Nebuchadnezzar said, “I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts on my bed and the visions of my head troubled me” (Daniel 4:5). Living in the digital age exposes today’s generation to many undesirable images in our minds from an endless stream of sites and visuals. Feeling lonely or alienated from family and friends, needing to escape the drama of social media, being overwhelmed with the pressures of life, all escort multitudes daily into a cyber-world of movies, games, and virtual reality.

Gruesome Violence

Many people from their youth spend a lifetime filling their minds with frightening and disturbing images: graphic visuals of violent crimes, explosions, shootings, beatings, blood splattered people and walls, people being hunted down, tormented, tortured, maimed, raped, and murdered by crazed killers, wild beasts, monsters, vampires, wolf-men, flesh eating zombies, alien space creatures, and demonic-like beings, to list only a few.

Every imaginable weapon and technique are used to inflict pain, kill, and mutilate. Scenes of terror such as vehicles and buildings being blown apart, horrific car crashes, pools of blood, people dangling over cliffs, trapped in tunnels or graves, or submerged under water are proliferating.

Added to the amazing special effects of blood and gore are terrifying sounds and intense music. These vivid sights and sounds implanted in our minds can (and will if not immediately, then later in life) adversely affect our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

The Fear Factor

Young people and adults love to be scared, especially if they think they are safe. Viewing scary movies can be a badge of courage, so to speak. The scenes and sounds provide a kind of euphoric adrenaline rush from controlled terror in the security of being surrounded by friends in a movie theater or home. But what tantalizes the emotions in secure environments can result in traumatic flashbacks, memories, and nightmares when companionless or in vulnerable circumstances.

Many youth and adults have told me of frightening images, terrifying apparitions, horrific sounds, oppressive thoughts, unseen presences in their rooms, paralyzing sensations of being touched, premonitions of doom while alone in their bedrooms at night.

Young children recount being scared in the dark after watching a terrifying movie, a barrage of eerie visuals and words seared into their impressionable minds. Is it any wonder they are troubled by fear and nightmares?

Some youth and adults have lain in bed in the “twilight zone” state between sleep and full consciousness, or been awakened from a dream with their hearts beating rapidly because of images in their minds, voices or sounds in their heads, or from the sensation of being touched by a person or entity in their rooms. Random involuntary images and words can invade the mind and disturb sleep like unwelcome intruders in one’s house.

A diet of violent entertainment can have similar effects to the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) of soldiers returning from war zones or persons having experienced a traumatic event. Even though most adults and teens claim to be able to handle the images, sounds, and emotions resulting from movies, many are experiencing prolonged negative stress, bouts of chronic anxiety, panic attacks, depression, confusion, and nervousness.

Parents Beware!

Besides the violence, there are other unfavorable elements. Consider the occultism, sorcery, mysticism; scantily clad or naked people, sexual encounters, lies and deceit portrayed in a positive way; crude, obscene, and profane language, and you get a glimpse of today’s mental diet through the media!

The tolerance and acceptance of this is reflective of how far we have drifted as a nation and the lukewarmness of many Christians. God’s commands against sorcery, vulgarity, taking His name in vain, and licentiousness are completely ignored. No wonder so many young people are disrespectful, desensitized to violence, influenced by atheism, have an interest in the occult, and are sexually active. Many parents helped nurture this by neglecting Bible study in their homes and not placing responsible restrictions on their children.

Parents who purposely, or unknowingly, permit their young children and teens to be tainted and seduced by unrestricted media will one day reap the undesired harvest of rebellion and heartbreak. Not to mention the potential victimization by predators that everyone faces today.

I know it is a real struggle for parents (especially single parents) but you must rise to the challenge of providing wholesome entertainment and recreation for your children. Joy Lucius writes about the difficulty of doing so back in 2012:

[S]earch for a book or magazine without profanity, vulgarity, explicit sexuality, new-age propaganda or demonic influences. Decent choices are limited – almost non-existent. The same scenario often plays out when parents shop with children for movies, games, music and toys. The retail world is a culture war zone, constantly attacking the minds and souls of our youngest, most vulnerable citizens. The same culture war constantly rages on the screens of American television, as well. Surf the channels for a family-friendly show to watch with young girls or teens. Violence, nudity, promiscuity in its wildest form, and every deviant lifestyle conceivable can be viewed on almost any given night on most mainstream media channels.

“Be careful little eyes …”

God gave you beautiful children with talents and abilities to be used for His glory. When they are repeatedly exposed to philosophies and worldviews that are contrary to His, it becomes increasingly confusing for them. The only way to resolve the dilemma is for their minds and hearts to be molded by God’s Word so biblical truth and principles are the foundation of their lives. Then they will be able to discern truth from error and not be deceived by distorted, perverted, or counterfeit beliefs.

Melissa Henson states in an article titled “Be careful little eyes what you see” (afaJournal, September 2021):

We know that what kids see influences behavior, and there are decades of research to support this. Kids exposed to more violent content tend to become more violent. Kids exposed to more sexual content become sexually active at a younger age and have more sexual partners over their lifetime. The advertising industry is premised on the idea that seeing an ad can influence consumer behavior.

Alarming Trends in Movies

Reviews of contemporary movies reveal that many are laced with vulgar, obscene and sexually explicit language, sensationalized occultism, sorcery, demonic entities and satanic powers. They display a plethora of suggestive and seductive sexual behaviors and pornographic images that mock, pervert and profane sacred things, and seek to attract viewers with unceasing violence. All of these are descriptive of the end times generation, many of whom according to Scripture will refuse to repent of their evil.

When I spoke in Trinidad in 1989, the people in the villages were uninfluenced by the secular media. But when I returned 12 years later (one week before 9/11), things had changed drastically. I went to a large shopping mall and was amazed to see hundreds of young people with body piercings and tattoos – dressed like prostitutes and gang members. I asked my host, “Was this here before? Did I miss it?” I was told it only came in the last five years, because now they have cable TV; America’s movies and music completely changed a whole generation of the youth of Trinidad in a short span of time.

Speaking to young people and adults a few years ago at Manhattan Beach (near Los Angeles) I told them that there is virtually nothing in Hollywood but death, destruction, and a dead end. Romans 1:28-32 gives an amazingly accurate overview of what is often being spewed out of Hollywood:

God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; … they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

The day approaches when God’s tolerance of the wickedness corrupting this earth will finally cease. God will intervene in the world scene to judge sin and rebellion by bringing people to their knees – either in repentance or judgment. He is calling to His people:

Come out of her [spiritual Babylon which represents rebellion, immorality, sorcery, and false religion] My people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues (Revelation 18:4).

Your Soul Is the Prize

Eons ago Satan rebelled against the Creator. In his rebellion, your eternal soul is the prize he seeks. His goal is to distance you from a pure, holy, and intimate relationship with the One who paid the price to redeem you. Choices made concerning your mental diet play a crucial part in determining who you are and what your destiny will be. So choose wisely! Your attitude, beliefs, worldview, and lifestyle are undeniably influenced by the clear or underlying philosophies conveyed in the movies, television programs, and commercials you watch, the music you listen to, the video games you play, and the Internet sites you visit.

Let me ask you a few questions: If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, why would you want to be entertained by words, images, and behavior that dishonor Him and are inspired by an enemy who opposes God and seeks to destroy His followers? Why participate in that which reflects a philosophy contrary to virtually everything God designed and desires for His creation? Why allow movies and programs in your home which plant wrong images in your mind, lust in your heart, and lead to compromise and harmful consequences? Why degenerate into corrupt cultural morals when you can live victoriously by biblical standards through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit?

It would be in wisdom for you and your children to adhere to the inspired words of the Apostle Paul:

Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about [dwell on] these things (Philippians 4:8).

Replace the negative, fearful, and immoral images in the media today by discontinuing corrupt movies, disconnecting from unprofitable social media, and limiting Internet usage. It’s okay to be informed by the news but not consumed by it; that is a waste of time and energy, and may lead to unnecessary anxiety. Fill your life with positive alternatives and renew your mind by studying the unsurpassed wisdom and wonder of God’s Word. The following promise awaits:

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [steadfast] on You, because he trusts in You (Isaiah 26:3).

The person whose mind is “stayed” on the Internet, social media, movies, the news, television programs, talk radio, or video games will be frequently stressed and depressed. The person whose mind is stayed on the Lord will have inner peace – even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Broken Vessels: Come As You Are

A Devotional by Caeleana Dawn Smith

Bible Verse:

“But I, through the abundance of Your steadfast love, will enter Your house. I will bow down toward Your holy temple in the fear of You. Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before me”. – Psalm 5:7-8

Devotional:

Growing up, I thought that in order for God to accept my worship I needed to come to Him with a pure, intact heart. And, every Sunday, I fell short and felt unworthy. Abraham was one of the people in the Bible that would be least likely to be used by God; however, despite his brokenness and imperfections, God chose Abraham to be the Father of Nations (Genesis 12). God chooses broken people because He can shape their brokenness into a vessel He can use to bring glory to His name. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God wants us to come to Him with our brokenness and problems because it is during that time He shapes us into who He created us to be. During our times of brokenness, we are vulnerable and humbled before the Lord.

Application:

Remember that no one is more perfect than Jesus. Do not compare yourselves to the standards of the world because God’s standards are different; His are all that matter. During worship, bring your brokenness to Him and lay it at His feet, so He can shape you into the person He created you to be and use you to bring glory to His name.

Prayer:

Dear God, I come to You with a humble and broken heart in need of healing, Lord. Help me not to forget that I am Your child and created in Your image. Lord, I bring my brokenness to You and lay it at Your feet; I surrender it to You, Lord. Heal and shape me into the person You created me to be, Jesus. You are a merciful and loving God. I love You and thank You for loving me. Amen

On the Right Side

by Bill Rudge

Do not think God is sleeping, silent or soft on the sin that is infecting our world. Increasing rebellion and immorality (often expressed as freedom and enlightenment) has not gone unnoticed by the Creator. Throughout history, God has periodically sent judgments to bring individuals and nations to repentance. When they refuse to repent, His judgments intensify.

God, who is long-suffering and not wanting anyone to perish (1 Peter 4), is now storing up His wrath for a day of vengeance and judgment (Revelation 16:19). This day of reckoning will bring even the bravest and most defiant and arrogant of men and women to their knees – either in repentance or judgment.

Don’t be impressed or influenced by today’s society – the day is quickly approaching when the cup of His wrath will reach its fill. Don’t be afraid of the violent and ruthless, for they will be the ones cowering in fear before their just and righteous Creator. The LORD is once again about to enter this world with undeniable power and might. Be certain that you are on the right side – the LORD’s – and living the way you should – honoring Him and abiding by His Word.

Why Do Bad Things Happen?

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

My 11 year old daughter asked me a question that I am sure all of us have asked at some point in our lives, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to us?” In thinking of how best to answer this question and make sense to an 11 year old, I recalled the story of the “Wolfpack” kids.

Photo by Tabitha Smith

These kids were members of the Angulo family. They lived in a small apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The six sons and one daughter were home-schooled by their mother Susanne, and except for rare occasions they were not allowed to the leave their apartment. Their father, Oscar, was a Peruvian immigrant and he felt New York would “contaminate” his children. In order to protect them from the dangers outside their apartment, he not only kept the door locked, but he possessed the only key to unlock it. In this environment, the father had complete control over their lives, and as the mother stated in an interview, “I felt like I didn’t have control over my choices.” Their father may have created an environment to protect them from danger, but in the process he deprived them of their freedom.

While God is sovereign, He permits human freedom. Thus, He did not create us like puppets, controlling our every move and decision. Nor did he place us in an environment where, like a tyrannical dictator, we were compelled to honor Him. Instead, as we see in the Garden of Eden, He created mankind with the freedom to choose whether to obey or disobey Him (Genesis 3). With the potential of choice came the consequences of choice. As we find in Genesis, Adam and Eve chose to disobey, and with their choice (sin) came the consequences: pain, suffering and death (Romans 5:12; 6:23).

Adam and Eve

At this point, you may be asking the same question my daughter did, “How is it fair for us to be punished for the sins of Adam and Eve?” While it is true that we are all subject to the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin through birth, we are all still as guilty as they are, for each of us has also used our freedom to disobey God’s commands. In other words, each of us is accountable for our own sin (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). Yet, despite our consistent abuse of the freedom God has given us, He still chooses to be a Father that extends mercy and grace to those who ask for it (John 3:16-17; Romans 6:23).

Why Does God Allow Bad Things To Happen?

The first time I asked this question there was a family which was very close to mine. Their daughter at the age of 13 was diagnosed with cancer. Within a year of her diagnosis she passed away. I found myself asking that very question, “Why?”

If it is true that God is all knowing, then certainly He knows how to prevent this girl from getting cancer. If it is also true that God is all powerful then He should be able to prevent her from getting cancer. And if it is true that God is all loving then He would want to prevent her from getting cancer and dying. Yet, this young girl in the prime of her life, died. Why?

A neighbor wanted to know why her husband of 45 years had to die of cancer and a friend wanted to know why his wife no longer loved him and was leaving him for another man. This very question probably pervades the thinking of every person who has been affected by a natural disaster such as hurricane Sandy.

With a heavy heart I watched the news and witnessed the devastation left by hurricane Sandy several years ago. I was grateful the damage in our area was not as bad as anticipated, but it was hard to see the many people who lost their homes and businesses. A friend of mine called to ask for prayer as their house suffered significant water damage from the storm.

Seeing the images of flooded neighborhoods, burning houses and people without electricity, a particular story stuck in my mind: During the storm, two young boys were killed when a large tree fell into their living room. I instantly thought of my own son and wondered how these families would cope with the loss of their sons.

I wondered why these boys had to die this way. My feelings at that moment were the same way as when I woke up on the morning of July 20, 2012. After going through my morning routine and following breakfast, I turned on the television to check the weather for the day; only then did I learn of the tragic shooting in a Colorado movie theatre. I am sure many of you had the same initial reaction I did, “How could someone do this?” This question (repeatedly asked through every tragedy) leads to other questions, which ultimately leads us to ask: “Why does God allow bad things to happen?”

It is not always possible to give a satisfactory answer for the Why question. But I can point them to the Who! By pointing them to Jesus Christ, I know from personal experience that even in the uncertainty of pain and suffering, we have hope. Several years ago my family faced the painful ordeal of a miscarriage. As I walked with my wife and children through this, the only thing we could hold onto was the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

I shared this hope with a friend of mine who was dying with cancer. When he was healthy, he and his wife did a lot of traveling. I asked him where was his favorite place, and he began to tell me all about Aruba and how beautiful it was; how nice the people were. As he described the beauty of Aruba, it was like he was back there sitting on the beach watching the waves.

A few days later in the hospital I reminded him of our conversation about Aruba, which instantly brought a smile to his face. I began to share with him of a place God had prepared for him that was so much greater than Aruba. I told him about how much God loved Him and how He demonstrated this love by sacrificing His life so that he can go to this place for eternity.

The Heart of Christianity

Like my 11 year old daughter and myself, we may not fully understand in this life why bad things and tragedies happen or why God did not prevent that tree from falling on the house that killed those two young boys. Yet, we can be assured of the depth of His love for us. We can be certain that in the midst of life’s difficulties He is with us – a God who responded to evil, pain and suffering by sending His only Son to die on a cross, offering us the opportunity to live in eternity with Him. We can know the love of a Father Who desires to provide His children not only true freedom, but also eternal blessings. This is the heart of Christianity, and it’s the best explanation of hope to a world full of pain and suffering.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).

Do You Have Abilities God Can Use?

by Jim Weikal

“Select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will give them this responsibility.”  (Acts 6:3)

Do you have any abilities God can use? Too often believers shrink back from a “God-calling” because they feel less gifted than others. But think about these points:

1. Do you share our Lord’s interest in the kingdom of God? . . . Yes.

2. Do you have a sense of loyalty to Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for your sin? . . . Yes.

3. Do you desire to see God’s kingdom grow by adding repentant sinners? . . . Yes.

4. Do you trust God’s wisdom in selecting people to work in His kingdom? . . . Yes.

If God put these positive responses in your heart, wouldn’t He equip you with the ability to fulfill them? The church needs Timothies and Tituses. Not everyone needs to be a Paul or Peter. It needs unknowns like Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia. Please put your abilities to work for Christ. You will be glad you did!

The Root of Modesty

by Darlinda McDonald

The booklet, Style, by Wally Kubitz, revealed the slippery slope that we have been sliding down for the last nearly 100 years:

In the 1920s & 30s, briefer swimwear appeared which lead to the introduction of the bikini in 1946. By the late 40s and early 50s, Alfred Kinsey’s questionable studies popularized the notion that bedroom intimacy was a public, not a private, topic so the environment was ripe for a nudie magazine like Playboy to make its debut in the mid-50s. In the 1960s, the “sexual revolution” arrived on the scene opening the door for Mary Quant’s mini-skirt. Quant was not shy in declaring that the mini-skirt’s purpose “was to dress women so men would ‘feel like tearing the wrapping off’” (People magazine, 1988). The 1970s followed with short-shorts, also known as “hot pants.” Between 1960 and 2000, the divorce rate doubled, unmarried cohabiting increased ten-fold, and babies born out-of-wedlock increased six-fold.

It should come as no surprise then that our young people are confused. Society as a whole has become desensitized to “the sin that does so easily beset us” and accepts behaviors that even twenty years ago would have been deemed unacceptable. James 1:15 states, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.” Modesty matters. The truth is that immodesty (skimpy clothing, seductive behavior) leads to temptation that leads to immoral thoughts (lustful thinking) that leads to action (physical sin).

How we see ourselves before God is at the root of modesty. When we understand and believe that we are precious children of God, bought with a price and loved beyond measure, everything we say and do will be influenced by that knowledge. Just as children who feel loved by their parents want to please them, we also will desire to please our heavenly Father.

Recognizing that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, our desire will be to honor God – not only by how we dress – but also by keeping our bodies pure and undefiled.