Friday, July 31, 2015


Welcome Back to Middle-Earth for the Summer!

As a summer break for me and, I hope, a fun treat for you, I'm going to spend some time here excerpting from my last book, Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World of Middle-earth.

Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World
by Jill Richardson

Chapter THREE
(GANDALF) Part 1

Vital Stats:
Age: Don’t think he really remembers.
Color: Grey... white... who knows? It keeps changing. 
Best Line Ever: “I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a witless worm!” (You definitely need to use this line someday.) 
Best Line He Should Have Said: “Didn’t I ever tell you? Balrogs bounce!”

You can't say you weren't warned.
A leader who takes charge by... leaving? Who chooses the village idiot to help with an important job? Who just fades in and out randomly, but always shows up when needed? What kind of leader gives cryptic instructions and then leaves his followers to figure it out on their own? A good one, apparently.
“Then they knew that Gandalf was going to leave them at the very edge of Mirkwood, and they were in despair. But nothing they could say would change his mind. ‘We may meet again before this is all over, and then again of course we may not. That depends on your luck and on your courage and sense; and I am sending Mr. Baggins with you. This is your expedition after all. Good-bye! Be good! And DON’T LEAVE THE PATH!’” (The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 139)

Gandalf takes charge by not taking charge. Like that’s going to work, right? Except, it does. He could have waved his wand (excuse me, staff ) around a lot and solved most problems himself. But he never does. That’s because the best leaders know something average leaders never quite get: it’s not good leadership to always call the shots and tell people what to do. That’s not leading; it’s herding. Any idiot with a loud enough voice and a border collie can do that.

A real leader knows how to help people learn to do things themselves. He understands that picking good people and letting them follow their passions works better than doing it all yourself. He realizes that letting people figure some things out for themselves makes what they learn stick better. Has your mom or dad ever let you make a mistake so you’ll learn something, even though they could have stopped you? Sure, they could have done it for you or not given you a choice, but then you wouldn’t get the experience of solving the problem. They know you won’t make that mistake again because you’ve had to work through and fix it yourself. That’s leadership, Gandalf style.

Jesus also knew that the best leaders think more about the people they lead than themselves. He had to teach that lesson to his own disciples, more than once.


Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World is a devotional using twenty J.R.R. Tolkien characters. It looks at what makes those characters who they are, where Scripture talks about the same kinds of people, and what it all means to a young person today. Interactive application and fun side additions included!  

 If you would like to find the book for yourself or a teen/young adult you love, you can purchase it here:

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dear Life

Sometimes I think I can't hang on.

Dear life, you’ve been coming on fast lately. We’ll not so much lately as…always. Only right now it seems faster. But that’s okay. God put me in a particular place at a particular time and you are the life I got. I know I did some things—right or wrong—to shape you into the life you are today. But some things just happened. And life, you are moving along more swiftly that you used to. I know we’re headed somewhere important but I miss the way you used to be. For instance, I miss the mothering of little ones. My babies seemed to have disappeared—replaced by people who are taller than me. Even further back, I miss the girl who didn’t expect the future I’m now living. But some things, I don’t miss so much. I like the right now of you, even though your speed is increasing and sometimes I think I can’t hang on. But I will—I’m hanging on for dear life. Because you are a gift to be discovered, appreciated, and shared. And I don’t want to miss anything.
So that was a brief letter to my life. I tried to find the origin of the expression hanging on for dear life, but came to no conclusion on the matter. If anyone knows, please share it in the comment section below. I know this much—life is dear. And amazing. I’m not one to get into debates over evolution or Earth age. Though some believers hinge their faith on such things, I'm only convinced that life is God’s. It originated with Him. It is sustained by Him and redeemed by Him. It begins and ends by His sovereignty. And I simply don’t care what happened 8,000 years ago or 80,000,000 years ago.
My faith depends solely on what happened 2,000 years ago. I see no reason to hang any other demands on it.

It’s not that I don’t see how a lack of respect for life might hinge on a Godless view of our origin. If life does not come from God, then it is of lesser value. It has little meaning and no real purpose. But it’s not the evolutionist or the facts or fallacies of carbon dating that have brought us in swift measure to this point in the life of the human race. The root does not tunnel down into an old Earth. It is not embedded in fossil fuels. The root lies shallow in a lack of understanding. Great minds can’t explain it. Science can’t discover it. But the most simple-minded believer can know it and share it. It’s grace. I can disregard what a person supposes about a number of things because grace is the hinge of all things. Redemption isn’t based on what you know or think you know. Your piety is of no consequence. Morality is a reasonable goal, but it’s never quite enough. The grace offered by Christ is what matters. It’s what redeems you. And until you’re redeemed you might be hanging on for dear life, but you’re not going to make it.

Sometimes I feel like a small creature held by a strong force to a planet hurling through space and time. Like a misdirected lizard clinging to the windshield of a speeding car, I don’t know much about how I got here. I’ve lost control but I’m going to hang on for dear life and put my trust in the One in charge. If He’s merciful—and I know He is—He’ll let me live. He’ll stop this crazy ride and lift me up, even though I’m a repulsive little thing, and hold me safe in His hands. He could swat me off and run me over, but He won’t. He’ll show me grace and take me all the way home. And home is a place I could never get to on my own.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Onward Christian Soldiers

Who was the first Gentile baptized by Peter? Cornelius.

What did he do? He was a soldier.

God loves soldiers, though Christians throughout the ages have sometimes been unsure. Can you really be a soldier and a true Christian? My own thinking on this issue has evolved a lot.

My father was a Jewish refugee to New Zealand. He served in the New Zealand Air Force during World War II – he once told me he would have been first in line to volunteer to help drop the A-bombs on Japan – but after the war refused to accept the medals to which he was entitled, as some kind of anti-war protest. (After he died, in 1994, I wrote to the New Zealand Defence Department to check if the medals were still available. They were, and I have them now in my desk drawer.)

He and my mother became leaders of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and I was raised in the 1950s and 1960s in an intensely anti-war environment. Yet at the same time my uncle – my father’s younger brother, who as a boy had been smuggled by Jewish groups into pre-war Palestine – was a career officer in the Israeli army.

I guess that ambivalence about military matters stuck with me. So after I became a Christian, at the age of 44, if I’d been asked my views about armed service, I might have answered with something vague to the effect that of course we need an army, but that it’s better that Christians not serve in it. Because armies are for killing, and Christians shouldn’t kill.

Or I might have said that I classified soldiers with lawyers and real estate agents. When you need them you expect them to get down and dirty. Better they not be Christians.

But gradually I've come to change my views. (At least about soldiers. I’m still undecided about lawyers and real estate agents.)  I’ve come to recognize something important: we need more Christians serving in the military.

In a post that is no longer online, Reverend Major General Ian Durie - a British soldier who later became an Anglican priest - examined many stories of serving soldiers in Scripture, and concluded:

We clearly see from the New Testament that soldiering is an honorable profession, but one which has to be conducted in a right way….Our Lord and the apostles (our model church leaders) approved then, as they approve now, the profession of soldier….Soldiering is an honorable profession, to which men and women of faith are called.

But don’t soldiers kill? Yes, they do. As Major General Durie explains:

There is a tendency…not to trust that God has appointed us to be soldiers, nor that soldiering has our Lord’s approval, and is a high calling under God. And when we don’t trust Him for that, when we don’t offer this part of our lives in worship to God, when we take off Christ as we put our uniforms on, then we abandon Him when we have a gun in our hand, at the time that we need Him most. Do you see that? It’s a matter of life and death, and at that supreme test we need God’s guidance more than at any other time.

So don’t be blind….Because as a Christian, if you are not ready to kill if need be, and approve of it, then you should not be a soldier. For myself, I know that in the Gulf War I was responsible for the deaths probably of hundreds, maybe thousands of Iraqi soldiers. I did what I believed was right under God, but I also know that at the last day I am answerable before Him for my actions there.

I recall C.S. Lewis in his book "Mere Christianity":

I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served in the first world war, I and some young German had killed each other simultaneously and found ourselves together a moment after death. I cannot imagine that either of us would have felt any resentment or even any embarrassment. I think we might have laughed over it.

But do not the commandments tell us not to kill? Did not Jesus tell us to turn the other cheek? Yes, but justice and righteous are over-riding imperatives of God. Major General Durie again:

Where, we must ask the pacifist, is the righteousness in rape or robbery? Such things must be stopped, and we may ourselves use reasonable force to prevent them.…The same applies at a national level, internally against terrorists and rebels, and externally against other armies who threaten violent action against the state.

His conclusion: “It is always wrong to use force, unless it is more wrong not to.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


You are alive for a reason-God loves you!

If you are reading this, it means you are alive! Do you have any idea why you are alive? You probably think it is because you take such good care of yourself (exercise, eat well, frequent doctor checkups), follow your doctor’s advice most of the time, or because you are such a good person.

All those reasons sound good, but here is the real reason, God loves you, and is giving you time to repent. When you die, He wants His angels to be able to usher you into His presence, where you will live with Him forever. But if you die without knowing Him as your Lord and Savior, He will not be able to let you into heaven. You might be wondering, “Why not”, it is because He is holy and nothing unholy can come into His presence. 

At this point you should be asking a few questions like: “Am I unholy?” “How can I become holy?” The answers to these questions can be found only in the Bible. The Bible says “For all (including you) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Also, it says, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again (John 3:3). So you see, you are a sinner, and you cannot in your sinful state gain entrance into the kingdom of God. The next question should be, “What can I do, or how can I become holy?”

The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God’s Son is Jesus Christ. He died to pay the penalty that we cannot pay; through Jesus’ death God forgives all those who believe in Jesus.  So friend, this is what you have to do, believe in the name of Jesus, ask Him to forgive your sins, and be your Lord and Master. 

If you pray this sincerely, He will forgive you, cleanse you from sin, and indwell you through His Spirit. This is an urgent decision, because He is not going to wait for you indefinitely, and no one can do this on your behalf. So while you are alive and understand what you’ve just read, settle this issue now. In addition, be aware that although God is slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness (see Exodus 34:6), H also will not leave the guilty unpunished (see Nahum 1:3). Until you make this decision, God considers you   guilty, deserving to be punished.

Also, understand that God is not slow in keeping his promise; you are still around because He is patient and does not want you to perish (see 2 Peter 3:9).  Please make that decision now!    


Monday, July 27, 2015

Emotional Transformation

Feelings give us two important things necessary for transformation: Information and Energy. Emotional information is critical in being able to live a relational lifestyle. Empathy, compassion, and sacrificial love are all fueled by our ability to be emotionally vulnerable. When we’re standing on the emotional river bank watching other people struggle with waves of feeling, our heart is not engaged. We shout out directions or vent our frustration with their process, but they cannot receive from us.

If we’re sitting in the other person’s boat, we become overwhelmed with their feelings and codependently take on their burdens. A healthy lifestyle is where we navigate our own boat through the river of life with God as our Captain, allowing others to pull alongside us with encouragement, and empathetically supporting others ourselves.

When feelings are shut off or dismissed, we miss out on valuable information God uses to reveal personhood. We’re not created as “one size fits all” people. Just as God created multiple varieties of birds, animals, and plants, He created each of us as unique and special. Wanting to feel special is one of the core longings God instilled in our soul. When this message isn’t communicated from our parents, we shut down our feelings and often go into victim-mode. Owning our feelings allows God to show us how we respond to the world in our own, unique way. Knowing what shuts me down emotionally allows me to protect myself in a healthy way from harmful people and situations.

Clients ask me how to clearly hear from God, wanting to know how to discern God’s plan for their life. There’s no way to establish walkie talkie communication with God without being an excellent student of our emotions. Feelings allow God to communicate through the Holy Spirit to our soul. I spend a lot of time with God discussing how I experience people. Every time I talk with a new client, I’m trying to open myself up to how I feel in their presence, what they say, what they talk about, and what God shows me about their heart attitude. I ask the Holy Spirit to sort through all my thoughts and feelings and give me insight into the client’s character and discernment about whether we will be a good fit for each other. I get a red light/green light sense in my gut that I’ve learned is God speaking to me.

Learning to correctly interpret our emotions is a trial and error process. Most of us are much more comfortable living in fear, relying on black and white facts to make sure we are “right.” Giving up the illusion of certainty is brutal. It feels like God is asking us to jump off a cliff without knowing how far we will fall.

Trust in the transformation process gives you courage. Most of us desperately cling to certainty for safety, but living free is about risk. I began stepping out in small ways to find out if I could trust my gut. When I got a red light feeling about a person, I asked more questions and watched their life for a while. It really did became clear what God was communicating to me. I became bolder, asking people if they had certain thoughts or felt a particular way, and usually they agreed with my discernment. When I missed the mark, I learned it wasn’t a fatal, catastrophic failure but a learning experience.

Emotions also give us energy to overcome fear. In some households, anger was used to overpower, intimidate, and harm. But emotions can be used positively to push through fear barriers. I’ve read amazing accounts where adrenaline provided people the physical strength and courage to act in a crisis. King David was the only one able to harness his outrage and use it to step out on the battlefield and challenge Goliath.

When I need to have a difficult conversation, I first squeeze out all the worry and fear. Venting all my knee-jerk self-protective defenses allows me to anchor to what God has shown me is true. John 8:32 says that God’s truth will set us free. I now know what freedom feels like, so I can use that knowledge to give me the needed boost to enter into that scary conversation with courage and confidence.

Graphic used by permission from Creative Commons (

Friday, July 24, 2015

Welcome Back to Middle-Earth for the Summer!

The whole building bridges thing seems to elude Thorin. And Herod.
And sometimes . . . . us.
As a summer break for me and, I hope, a fun treat for you, I'm going to spend some time here excerpting from my last book, Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World of Middle-earth. You may want to review part One of Chapter Two here.

Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World
by Jill Richardson

Chapter TWO
(THORIN) part 2

1. What’s Herod doing at the start of the story? Why do you think he’s throwing this party? 
2. What do you think of his promise to Herodias? How did you guess it might end, even before you knew? What do you think made him promise something as crazy as anything she wanted? 
3. Why is he sorry for his promise? 
4. Why did he go against what he knew he should do? 
5. How do you think Herod defines a great king? How do you think God does?

Herod is dead drunk from too much birthday bubbly. He’s also drunk with power. See, he knows John’s “a good and holy man,” and his better self actually listens to John. But, his other self—the one who loves his power as king, delights in breaking laws he doesn’t like, and enjoys making extravagant promises only an idiot would keep—that is the self he lets win in the end.

Notice why he kills John--He was embarrassed to break his promise in front of his guests. OK, most people would be slightly embarrassed to have a human head show up on a serving platter at a birthday party. But not Herod. Herod has so much pride, he’ll kill an innocent man just so he doesn’t have to look bad in front of his friends. Maybe he shouldn’t have been focusing on trying to impress those friends by throwing some Donald Trump birthday bash complete with exotic dancing and lots of wine. How could his better self have kept this from happening?

Does Thorin act much like Herod? Does he sound like him? Not always--Thorin’s basically an OK guy, and he’ll help you out in a tough spot. But, when he has to choose between being generous to those who have helped him and “looking good” in front of his homedwarves, he picks the last one. T.O. knows what’s right, but no one is going to bully him into doing it. 

When the men and elves ask for a share of the treasure, he knows in his head they have a fair claim. He recognizes the need to live together peacefully for a long time after the dragon’s gone. He understands, intellectually, that negotiating would be a good idea. But he can’t give in, because he’s terrified of looking weak. He wants the feeling of superiority all his new wealth and position give him. No king gives away his treasure, right? He can’t back down--he’d rather they all die. And they might have.

Sometimes, backing down is the smart thing to do. There’s nothing wrong with having pride in things that have made you who you are. You can be, as the saying goes, “proud to be an American.” You can be proud of your Mexican heritage, or your African roots, or your Viking lineage. You can be proud to have godly parents who’ve taught you well and lived a great example.

But, what happens if you start acting like you deserve all that stuff? Really—did you do anything to earn your great hair, or brains, or salvation? When you start thinking that, it’s a quick trip to acting like only you deserve it—and everyone should know better than to try and get a share.

It’s tough for a guy to back down, and even tougher for him to admit he doesn’t deserve all he’s got. It’s way too scary to say, “Hey, I didn’t get myself here. I can’t stay here alone either--I need help.” But, if you never ditch your pride, you’re missing out on all the great things God wants to do through you, because you’re too focused on trying to prove what you can do by yourself.


Answer truthfully, now.
I think I’m really talented at: _________________________________________________________________________

Some of my natural gifts are (brains, looks, athleticism– c’mon, don’t be shy):
Some things I’m especially proud of are: __________________________________________________________________________

Think. Did you earn any of the things you listed above? (Get real. You did not deserve to be born with a straight-A brain or gorgeous baby blues. It was pure luck of the draw. You could’ve been born in Afghanistan you know.)

Did you earn some things by hard work or just keeping at it? Great! You can be proud of that. But did you do it by yourself? List ways other people helped you:
How can you show you appreciate help? What about God’s help?

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.  (Philippians 2:3, 5-6)


Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World is a devotional using twenty J.R.R. Tolkien characters. It looks at what makes those characters who they are, where Scripture talks about the same kinds of people, and what it all means to a young person today. Interactive application and fun side additions included!  

 If you would like to find the book for yourself or a teen/young adult you love, you can purchase it here:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Flag and the Statue

Old-world and modern-day symbolism draws attention.

What gives significance to a piece of art or an artifact of history? What makes it awe-inspiring? Or frightening? If I hang a small gold cross around my neck, it symbolizes something. To me and a great number of others, it means everything. Life, hope, redemption. It’s a symbol of Christ. But others wear it and it means nothing. It’s a piece of jewelry. Whether worn as a statement of faith or a token of nothing at all, the facts of the cross originally meant it to be a symbol of death. Of execution. Something to be feared. It’s the history of the church that altered the meaning and made it something of great value. Something wonderful.
I’ve taken note of two symbols in the news lately. One is a flag. The other is a statue. Both caused me to do a little research. To sit down for some history lessons.

First, the flag. I’m Florida born and raised. A southerner. But I have no particular fondness for the Confederate flag. In my neck of the south the flag means, and this is an assumption on my part, that the pickup it adorns belongs to a redneck. He’s probably got a shotgun. Okay, I know not everyone displaying the flag fits that narrow demographic. Some are just proud to be southern. Some have a family connection to a Confederate soldier. Some don’t want to forget history. And isn’t that important? If we forget where we came from, aren’t we more likely to repeat our mistakes?

I’m not a Confederate history buff. I didn’t know there was a difference between the Confederate National flag and the Confederate battle flag. Or how many variations came and went during the Civil War. Or that the Stars and Bars was the first national flag, but the Southern Cross was the battle flag. The third and final national flag was called the Blood-Stained Banner. It represented war. It did not represent victory. But now, it’s just history.

And now the one flag that made it into the modern world holds different meanings for various people. I respect that it has unpleasant connotations for some. To a young man who chose a violent end, it meant something evil. But a flag is not evil. It is part of a history stained with blood. Like the floors of a church in South Carolina. Have we forgotten people were murdered? Not because a messed up kid had a flag. Not even because he had a gun. He was disturbed and he killed people and that’s a tragedy not to be forgotten. And yet now, it’s all about the flag.

I can go on my way unoffended by a flag on a pickup, and I can sympathize with those who want the flag removed. But I have no such understanding for the second symbol. The statue. I hope I never see it. It’s a hideous thing being revealed on July 25th by Detroit’s Satanic Temple. Not everyone’s invited to the unveiling. The secret location of the event will be announced
only to ticket holders. The statue is being commonly referred to as Satan himself, though it’s actually Baphomet. Close enough. The goat-headed idol has been showing up since the Knights Templar. The Freemasons held it in regard. More recently, it stands as a symbol of various occult practices, black magic, and Satanism. The name Baphomet is reportedly linked to Mohammed. But the variations in depiction and history cut a wide path. Two things struck me as I read about the winged beast. One, Baphomet is traditionally both male and female. And two, this new rendition is flanked by children.

It’s no surprise the chosen pagan idol of the modern-day satanic church would be both male and female. Whether you take it as a sign of bravery as some have proclaimed it, or a perversion of God’s plan for the human race, it works for the Satanist. But why the children? Why depict those who are so filled with potential? So vulnerable and impressionable? But of course, that’s exactly why.

The purported plan is not to leave the statue at the temple, but to eventually move it to the Capitol building in Oklahoma. The long-running battle over a monument of the Ten Commandments there has given cause to erect another monument alongside it. But is there a hidden strategy in that plan? If the battle to remove a statue of Baphomet came down to a loss for Satan’s team, it would be no loss at all. The Ten Commandments would have to go as well. That would only be fair.

I’ll keep an open mind about the flag—on both sides of the issue. But I won’t forget how this battle started—some of my people were killed at a church service. Yes, my people. Christians. As for the statue—I’ve heard enough. And as for me, I hold no symbol too closely. If the cross is removed forcibly from my neck, my church, and my country, I will remember it still. I am a perpetual student of the cross, but an inch of gold around my neck is so not important. The only lasting symbol is the seal of the Spirit of God by whom I am redeemed. It can’t be broken, outlawed, or lost. Not ever.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:28-29


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Cross We Bear

My weekly Bible study group has been using a fascinating little book titled “Cries from the Cross” by Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor at Chicago’s Moody Church.

It is a short work, but full of riches, as Lutzer examines the last words of Jesus, cried out in anguish as He hung on the cross.

We concluded our studies last night with the book’s Epilogue, “Taking the Cross into the World,” where the author reminded us that the cross represents the great reversal of values of the world.

For example, he relates, in the early centuries after Jesus, Christianity “captured” North Africa, thanks to the “love of the Christians that defied explanation.”

Thus, when Christians found dead bodies abandoned in the street they washed them and gave them a decent burial. “The pagans were impressed with these unexplained acts of love.”

It reminded me of Shusaku Endo’s great novel “The Silence” (soon to be released as a movie by Martin Scorsese), with his strikingly similar depiction of the attraction of Christianity for 16th-century Japanese peasants.

I tell you the truth – for a long, long time these farmers have worked like horses and cattle; and like horses and cattle they have died. The reason our religion has penetrated this territory like water flowing into dry earth is that it has given to this group of people a human warmth they never previously knew. For the first time they have met men who treated them like human beings. It was the human kindness and charity of the fathers that touched their hearts.

And yet – Christianity was later eradicated from both North Africa and Japan through force of arms (as is occurring right now in parts of the Middle East). Remnants remain in both regions, but they are small and without much influence.

Is it really enough just to have a love that defies explanation? Do Christians not need something more? Like our own armies? Or is intense persecution simply the cross we must always bear?

One of the members of my group commented last night that God surely has a purpose in allowing the depravities of ISIS that we are witnessing in the Middle East.

At times like these I am thrown back on Isaiah:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


God doesn't withhold painful experiences from us!

"The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” Psalm 84:11

What an awesome promise to claim and hold on to! I am encouraged to know that God will provide me with all the good He believes will benefit me! Of course, like some other promises, there is an attached condition. The condition is that my Christian walk be blameless. This condition does not mean I have to be sinless, but it does mean that I have to hate sin, and make a conscious effort to not be overcome by it. I need to not take advantage of God’s goodness.  

I have met people living in sin unashamedly; because they claim God will forgive them. I’ve had to remind them of the question the Bible puts to Christians, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer (Romans 6:1-2 NIV84)? Our attitude towards sin is indicative of our respect or disrespect for God, and how serious we are about our faith. The Bible states, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (1 John 3:6 NIV84). Our disdain for sin should convince people that we know and fear God. We can’t claim a relationship with God and be comfortably living in sin at the same time. Claims are not enough; our way of life speaks louder than our claims. Blamelessness also means walking in obedience to God’s word; and that is when we can confidently claim this promise.   

God doesn’t withhold good from us, but He also doesn’t withhold painful experiences from us. Painful experiences include but not limited to, loss, suffering, poor health, financial difficulties, persecutions, and the like, and are good for building our character. Through suffering, we learn to carefully examine our lives to make sure we do not have any un-confessed sins; we learn to trust God, and also look at life from His perspective. The Scripture says God made Jesus perfect through suffering (see Hebrew 2:10), and Jesus, though the Son of God, learned obedience from what He suffered (see Hebrews 5:8). If sinless Jesus was made perfect through suffering, then we mega sinners need to embrace suffering with the understanding that suffering is for our good, and that it identifies us as members of God’s family, with Jesus as our Brother (see Hebrews 2:11). Addressing the issue of suffering, Paul and Barnabas, encouraged their new converts in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch to remain faithful to the faith by saying, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22 NIV84).

The Psalmist is a good example of how to appreciate pain; he said to God, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:11-12 NIV84).  So through his experience, the Psalmist learned to praise God and testify about His goodness and sustaining power in times of distress. Therefore, if God allows a painful experience, it must be because it is good. Praising God is one of the outcomes of suffering that God desires for us (see Isaiah 57:18-19). Let us therefore endure suffering as children who desire to be transformed into the image of their Father. This calls to mind another Scripture, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV84).

It is essential to remember that in our suffering, God controls the intensity and duration, and also makes a way of escape for us  because He has promised that He will not allow us to go through more than we can bear (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). God does not rejoice in our pain, but rejoices when we bear godly fruit of righteousness and peace. The Scripture says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11 NIV84).

God told Jeremiah that His plans for him were for welfare (see Jeremiah 29:11), but Jeremiah’s experiences were not always without problems. His own people plotted to kill him because they did not appreciate his messages (see Jeremiah 11:18-19, 21). Jeremiah was persecuted and jailed by a colleague, Pashhur the priest, for prophesying doom and gloom as instructed by the Lord (see Jeremiah 20:1-2). These experiences do not sound like welfare, but God allowed them, maybe, to test and grow Jeremiah’s faith.

The outcome of enduring pain does not benefit only the person experiencing it; it also benefits the Body of Christ, the Church. The Church is encouraged when it witnesses, first-hand, the power and faithfulness of God in the life of other believers. Having said that, it is also fair to say it is okay to pour out our hearts to God in our pain; Jesus did. On the cross, He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34 NIV84)? However, He did not request legions of angels to come to His defense, although He could have (see Matthew 26:53). Instead, He completed the task the Father had given Him. By so doing, He earned the highest place that heaven affords and a name that is above every name, so that at the mention of His name every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth (see Philippians 2:8-11). Similarly, God has made wonderful promises to those who overcome the difficulties and challenges of life (see Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:12, 21; 21:7).

So in suffering, let us not quit! Let us focus on Christ and the prize ahead. After all, He is gone to prepare a place for us, and before we know it, He will be back to take us to be with Him for all eternity (see John 14:2-3). Even so Lord Jesus, come!  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Thanks or No Thanks

I’ve been struggling for several weeks to pinpoint my dissatisfaction at church. Driving home from Sunday service, I finally put my finger on the issue.

I don’t want to be thanked for my ministry efforts; I want to be ENJOYED!

Our lead pastor loves the Lord and is genuine and caring about his congregation. The church is passionate about showing love to the surrounding community and international missions. Sunday mornings you’ll find kind folks who are happy to help those in need. I love to walk past our children's ministry rooms and hear the kids singing about Jesus.

I grew up in church. Giving of my time, finances, talents, skills, and abilities is something I’ve always done. But lately I’ve become restless with being seen through the lens of what I do at church rather than who I am as God’s daughter. In no way am I being critical of my church and the wonderful folks who worship there. I’ve just realized I need more than being thanked for my service.

As a counselor, I believe God created each one of us with core longings designed to direct us to his heart. The desire to be enjoyed is one of those core longings. Infants are completely helpless. They can’t actively meet the needs of others. Yet most of us smile and enjoy listening to a newborn coo and chuckle as a toddler learns how to walk. We enjoy the miracle of life. Growing older, we cherish spending time with those we love listening to their stories or consoling them in disappointment. Mourning with them. Laughing with them. Enjoying them.

As much as I appreciate the heartfelt thanks of my church leaders for the volunteer services I offer each week, I’m really missing out on being seen, being enjoyed. My creator is passionately excited about this daughter whom he created. I’m a reflection of his creativity and glory. Yes, I do tasks such as run the sound board, sing and play keyboard on worship team, rock babies, finance summer camp attendees, etc. But on a week when I’m away, those tasks still get done. I find it hard to feel enjoyed if I’m merely thanked for doing a task that can be accomplished by interchangeable people. Rather than receiving thanks, I’m hoping someone shares how my singing blesses their heart or hearing from a parent how they feel watching me tenderly care for their child. Ask me to share my heart, then show genuine enjoyment at hearing my testimony.

Sunday mornings are a time to corporately come together to worship God and celebrate the amazing people he created in his image. Get excited to find out how God’s image is manifested in each individual person. Offer thanks to those who minister, but also spend time getting to know them as a special, unique, enjoyable child of God.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Getting Away with Sin

Is this really "hard" time?

Consequences of Sin seem less clear in the modern world

About 1/3 of Americans have a sexually transmitted disease, and about 6% will be infected with one this year. This according to the CDC. With modern medicine, most don't seem deterred from casual sex by the threat of contracting a sexual disease.

Grossly obese adults represent 6.3% of the population.  9.3% of us have type 2 diabetes. While it seems that everyone is on a diet, the population seems to be getting fatter and fatter.

It is unsurprising to me that 10% of adults are addicted to either drugs or alcohol. I have personally witnessed devastating consequences for the addicted and for all those around them, but there is very little stigma and society seems bent on increasing the availability of addictive substances.

About 75% of high school and college students admit to cheating. There is no outcry.

Today's post is not intended to bore you with statistics or to shock you with the state of American society.  Though it would be hard to read those numbers and not be shocked. Or would it!

We are numb to the depravity of our culture. It is so pervasive that we are not terrible interested. Moreover, the consequences of sin are not as harsh and getting less so.

8.6% of the adult population has had a felony conviction. Close to 1% of the population is in jail or prison.

Child rape, and by child rape I'm not talking about a 16 year old girl who didn't give consent to her 19 year old boyfriend, will get you an average of 11 years in prison. Not that long ago you would have been hanged.

1st degree, premeditated murder theoretically still means death or life without parole. The truth is that almost no one, regardless of how horrific the crime, gets executed, and only a very few get life without parole. In fact, many go free within a very short time. One statistic I saw said that the average is 18 years...for murder!!

What about life in prison? Many argue that conditions are harsh, but if it were not for the sexual assaults in prison, it would be hard to argue that prisoners have it that tough. In fact many prisoners find life in the pen to be preferable to life on the outside, committing crimes so that they can return to 3 squares and a bed.

If you choose to drop out of school, have children out of wedlock, use drugs, not work, or prefer a permanent vacation, the only consequence is $16,000 per person of free food, lodging, and healthcare. In fact, once in that system, it is extremely hard to even make a decision to work your way out of it.

Is it any wonder that most folks don't seem themselves as sinners needing a savior? If child rape gets a slap on the hand, but spanking an unruly child is stigmatized, we tell the world that you can do anything you want and there will be no consequence, except if you choose to impose a consequence. Then you will face persecution.

Secular society's concept of judgement and justice is turned completely on its head compared to the Biblical approach. But secular thinking has invaded the church. We no longer call out our brothers and sisters when they sin. There is no consequence within the congregation. Like the Corinthian church, there is little difference between how we deal with the sinners among us and how the larger society deals with it.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Welcome Back to Middle-Earth for the Summer!

As a summer break for me and, I hope, a fun treat for you, I'm going to spend some time here excerpting from my last book, Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World of Middle-earth. Here starts Chapter Two. Chapter One can be found here and here.

Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World
by Jill Richardson

Chapter TWO
(THORIN) part 1

Vital Stats:
Name: Thorin Oakenshield
Favorite Saying: Mine.
Home: Home? What home? I have no home! That creature stole my home! Vengeance!
Family: Family? What family? I have no family! That creature ate my family! Vengeance!
Height: Height? What height? I have no height! That creature stole my . . . oh, wait. I’m a dwarf. Never mind.

From the minute Thorin walks through Bilbo’s little round door, you know he’s in charge. He’s got the hood with the bling. He calls the shots at dinner (not poor, hungry Bilbo, who is the host). He’s the one introduced as “and especially Thorin.” Obviously, from the way he swaggers into the room, he thinks he deserves that special treatment.
“’Let me introduce Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, and especially Thorin!’” They hung up two yellow hoods . . . and also a sky blue one with a long silver tassel. This last belonged to Thorin, an enormously important dwarf, who was not at all pleased at falling on Bilbo’s mat. Thorin was indeed very haughty, and said nothing about service.” (The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 23)

Some birthday celebrations can go very, very wrong.
Thorin Oakenshield, son and grandson of the great dwarves is heir to the Kingdom under the Mountain. He remembers the good old days—when gold and jewels flowed out of his father’s mines like an avalanche and men and elves both treated the dwarves with respect. He believes he deserves that respect, and wealth, back. He’s confident that his destiny shouldn’t be denied to him just because of a hot-headed dragon and thirteen bumbling associates. So, he takes his Ocean’s 14 party out for the biggest heist of their lives.

Too bad he has no real plan for the job. That’s a problem for less important people. They need to get him what he deserves. And when they actually do? Instead of a proper thank you, they get a two-year-old’s temper tantrum. Mine! It’s all mine! That’s mine, and that’s mine, and especially that—that’s mine, too. I’m King, guys. I make the rules now. Later, a very sorry Thorin admits, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” In those last words, Thorin finally realizes, too much pride can be a tough thing to die with. Too late, he wishes very much he hadn’t lived with it, either.

He’s not the only king ever to learn that lesson.
On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”
“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.
At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother (Mark 6:21-29).


Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World is a devotional using twenty J.R.R. Tolkien characters. It looks at what makes those characters who they are, where Scripture talks about the same kinds of people, and what it all means to a young person today. Interactive application and fun side additions included!  

 If you would like to find the book for yourself or a teen/young adult you love, you can purchase it here:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Transhuman Odyssey

A fearsome future. A greater hope.

After reading about transhumanism for a couple of years, I plotted the journey of Chase Sterling, the world’s first transhuman. His story begins with my first published novel, Wake the Dead. The sequel, Killswitch, is awaiting its release date. I expect to complete the final book in the trilogy by late summer. Then I’ll say goodbye to Chase and take up with another offshoot of the fiction tree branching in my head. But right now I’m concentrating on getting this wired-up superhuman to a reasonably happy ending. His life is a mess.
I wasn’t frightened by the very real potential of H+ (transhumanism) when I studied it, or when I turned my reluctant hero into a transhuman. But Chase was frightened. Readers are alarmed—even more so when they find out I didn’t entirely make this stuff up. I wrote an article, "Top Ten Things Christians Should Know About Transhumanism." I said I wrote it to warn people, but the truth is I don’t believe there’s any reason to fear the technology. I don’t fret over ending up like Chase. Still, it’s something to consider. This movement, like many others past and present, is rooted in mankind’s quest for eternal life, for becoming god-like.

Readers disturbed by the transhuman agenda have not been outnumbered by those remarking they find my future-fiction government just as troubling. In the story, the U.S.A. is no more. The reason for the drastic overhaul was the crumbling Constitution, and the perceived obligation of elite rulers to protect common citizens and supply their every need. The result? Zero unemployment. Free healthcare. Free housing and education. Of course, there’s a catch. And a rebellion.

People ask me if I think our nation will turn into that nation. After all, I did my homework on H+. Did I research the possibility of a government reboot? Is it going to happen? I don’t know. Questions loom concerning the progression, if you can call it that, of our government. For me, it’s easier to grasp the potential of H+ than to predict the success or failure of America.

Even so, living under a totalitarian government doesn’t worry me. When readers tell me I wrote a scary book, I almost shake my head. “I don’t think so,” I want to say. But of course, if readers say it’s scary, then it’s scary. So I'll keep putting out a few fear-driven tweets and posts. I’ll go with it. But I’m not scared.

The point of my story is to give readers a thread of hope. I want them to tug on that thread and unravel the frightening scenario. My mission is not to stir up anxiety, but to give good reason why there’s nothing to fear. H+ is scary. At times, the startling changes being cast on us by those in authority are overwhelming. But I can do little to change the direction of either science or politics. All I can do is tell a good story. And so I’m writing a transhuman odyssey. It’s a hard road for my hero, but fear will not conquer him. Hope will win.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Does God Still Speak to Soldiers?

In Old Testament times God spoke regularly to Israel’s military commanders, directing their battles and bringing about the defeat of their enemies. He sent an angel to instruct Joshua about how to conquer Jericho. He told David how to overcome the Philistines. There are many other examples.

But what about today? Can a Christian military leader expect divine intervention? Does God still take sides?

Some Christian officers have spoken openly of their faith, of how they have turned to God in their times of need and of how He has responded.

Here is Major General Tim Cross of the British Army on God at work in the life of a fellow Christian officer:

Major Chris Keeble, when Colonel H Jones was killed at Goose Green in the 1982 Falklands War, was left alone and somewhat lost; others looked to him as the Battalion second-in-command for leadership. His moment had come; so what did he do? 

He moved off alone and knelt in the burning heather; with a prayer taken from his pocket in has hand he sought the Lord. And from there he gathered himself up, and with the command team he went and sought the Argentinean surrender; it was an incredibly bold move, but Keeble is a Christian and it was not by chance that he carried God’s word and a prayer with him, and he was not abandoned by his Lord at this decisive moment.

General Pil Sup Lee, formerly chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, has no doubt that God intervened for him at a crucial time:

In August 1979, I was appointed as a regiment commander on the frontline. Back then, there were frequent small-scale infiltrations by enemy soldiers into the South to carry out assassination missions and collect intelligence. It was a very daunting task to search out these enemy soldiers who were infiltrating along the 155-mile military demarcation line and the 3,767-mile coastline. 

Under such circumstances, I thought the best way was to seek God’s help, because “unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Psalm 127:1). I continuously prayed for this daunting mission of safeguarding my nation from enemy infiltration. And when I was about to begin my new mission as a regiment commander, I fasted for three days and prayed to the Lord.

...On March 23, 1980 at 02:45, there was no moonlight and the sky was draped with clouds. Sleet was pouring down making visibility less than 50 meters. I still wonder how a group of three enemy infiltrators, who were highly trained, select agents, risking their lives, walked up to one of our sentry boxes that were set up every 400 meters. 

How could our newly recruited sentries completely suppress those enemy agents without any casualties? Situations unfolded in such a way that defies explanation with conventional tactical assessments.

Many modern Christians will feel uncomfortable with such talk. Yes, they will say, it seems exactly right that God should save lives by arranging for the surrender of Argentinean forces to the British. But does He really answer prayer by helping South Korean soldiers kill three infiltrators from the North?

I don’t have a complete answer. But I do know that God promises to uphold justice and righteousness. I also know that He is sovereign. And when we start placing limits on his sovereignty we dishonor Him.

As we read in Isaiah:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


God is Love

What is God’s way, and why is it perfect?  God’s way is love, because all His other attributes flow out of love.  His kindness, justice, mercy, you name it, they all flow out of love, and therefore His way is love and His love is perfect.  His love is just the thing you and I need!

His love is perfect, when I don’t understand my circumstances,
His love is perfect, when I make mistakes,
His love is perfect, when I hurt
His love is perfect, even when I face disappointments that lead to discouragement.

His love is perfect, all the time, and under all circumstances.
His love is perfect in all He does, and in all He allows in my life.
He is working it all out for His glory and for my good.
This is a reminder that I am totally safe in His care.

As for God, His way is perfect,
I will trust and not be afraid,
I will trust and not question His wisdom,

O, perfect love, such awesome comfort!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Do You Embrace or Reject Your Feelings?

Why does God create us with messy, complicated feelings? How frustrating when the head and the heart are not in sync? We try to arm wrestle our emotions into agreement with our belief system by telling ourselves or others, “Stop worrying about that,” “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” or “It’s not that big of a deal.” When those admonitions don’t work, we usually resort to condemnation. “You’re just a drama queen,” “I must not be good enough,” or “Stop being so sensitive.”

Many folks try to cut feelings completely out of their life. This makes sense if you’ve chosen to live an outcome-based lifestyle. Pushing the feelings into the emotional holding tank does allow you to be more dependable, responsible, accountable, and all the other qualities prioritized in that world view. 

It reminds me of the Incredible Hulk TV show. Dr. Banner turns into a huge, scary, green monster when he becomes emotionally overwhelmed. The Hulk destroys things and causes mayhem, but he also rescues people and delivers justice to wrongdoers. Dr. Banner’s goal was to find a cure so he could live a quiet, peaceful, controlled life.

I think the Hulk was formed out of unprocessed emotions. While Dr. Banner was educated, intelligent, and focused on his work, the Hulk embodied his most important, interesting, and unique qualities! I’d love to invite both Dr. Banner and the Hulk to sit on my counseling couch and talk about how they can bring their strengths together to live an integrated, empowered life. Or we could just talk about what it’s like to be huge and green!

Truth is, our ability to be moved emotionally is another area where we’re made in the image of a relational God. Compartmentalization happens because our capacity for feeling complicated emotions is in place before we can intellectually process and interpret their meaning. It’s impossible to have healthy relationships and love ourselves and others well without experiencing feelings. While emotions do not equal truth, they do give us valuable information as to who God made us to be based on how we experience the world. 

Embracing permission to own and feel your feelings is like standing on the top of Mt. Everest. The exhilaration clients feel when given permission to view the world through their own experience is awe inspiring.

Were you told not to have feelings or given indirect messages that others were uncomfortable with your emotions? Permission creates a drawbridge to the tank holding past wounds while allowing you to process feelings differently in the present.

Sometimes it takes months or longer to become comfortable with acknowledging and experiencing true feelings. Some folks have trained themselves to take cues from others as to what they “should” think and feel. Kind of like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride. Her character had literally run away from three different grooms during three different wedding ceremonies. A news reporter was sent to do a story about the bride. He interviewed all three men asking the question, “How does she like her eggs?” Each one answered, “Same as me.”

As the reporter observed the bride interacting with family and friends, he observed she wasn’t living her own life, but became a chameleon to please others. Making this realization, the bride spent time learning who she was, what she felt, and how she liked her eggs. Several months later the runaway bride sought out the reporter to report she preferred eggs benedict. Giving herself permission to emotionally experience her own life allowed the bride to eventually enter into marriage as a whole person.

Do you embrace or reject your feelings?

Graphic used by permission from Creative Commons ( clip art)