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Easter Meditation

GUEST BLOG: The following is an Easter column originally published in the St. Cloud Times by the late Duane Sheppard, an award-winning op-ed writer from St. Cloud, Minnesota

An Easter Meditation: Why Did Jesus Christ Suffer? And Why Does He Allow Us to Suffer?

It was one of those magic nights when the moon was so bright it was like daylight as I watched the landscape of the former Soviet Union rush past the window of an overnight train. I was joined by a Russian journalist on his way home from a London assignment who, like no one else I had met that day, spoke perfect English.

“Isn’t it beautiful!” he exclaimed.

We chatted for a bit, and when he learned that I was a Christian, he said, “I’m an atheist. Give me your best argument for Christianity.”

“Okay,” I replied, “I will if you’ll give me your best argument for atheism.”

With that bargain in place, I explained that I started with two premises: that there is a creator God and the Bible is his Word. It seemed logical that, if there is a creation of this spectacular magnitude, there must be a designer, a creator. Otherwise, we’re faced with putting our faith in a non-god explanation that everything in this complex, well-ordained universe came about by chance.

My belief that the Bible is God’s Word is based, in part, on the fact that it predicts future events, scores of which have happened precisely as they were prophesied. I told him of an atheist from the University of Chicago a number of years ago who said that if it could be proven that the Old Testament book of Daniel was written before the fall of the Roman Empire—which it predicted—he would become a believer. Subsequently, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which pre-dated the fall of Rome, were discovered, dramatically validating that the prediction had long preceded the fulfillment.

Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, it was predicted that he would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem; that he would be a descendant of King David; that he would heal the lame, the sick, and the blind; that he would be betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver; that he would be mocked and beaten; that his hands and feet would be pierced but that none of his bones would be broken; that his garments would be gambled for; that his death would be voluntary, like the sacrificial lamb of the Passover observance that was to atone for the sins of others.

In the New Testament, I pointed out to my atheist friend, Jesus predicted his own ignominious death and his resurrection three days later. From Genesis through Revelation, God’s plan for restoring fellowship with humankind has challenged the minds of the most intelligent, and yet it is so simple a child can understand it. God loved…gave his Son…and whoever believes has life everlasting. This priceless gift is not dependent on intelligence, wealth, political power, physical attributes, age, national heritage, or bargaining chips.

Because the Bible’s predictions, including the coming of the Messiah, have come true, I argued, it is not illogical to believer that it is divinely inspired and provides a credible account of God’s plan for our redemption through Jesus Christ.

My new friend countered with his best argument. As a Russian raised under Communism, he’d been provided with a university education. Because this same privilege had been denied to Christians under this regime, all of his teachers had been atheists. His science training had instilled in him naturalistic (non-god) explanations for the evolution of plants, animals, and humankind, and, other than questions of first causes, he had no problems with science.

He was a formidable debater, and his atheistic argument went like this: If there is a creator God who is all-powerful, who is fair, loving, and in charge, then why is there pain, disease, suffering, and inequality here on Earth? Why are innocent babies born deformed and consigned to pain and early death? If he is a God of equal opportunity, why do some die, never having heard his message?

Quite frankly, I was caught off-guard. I started to relate an idea I’d heard espoused by Dr. Paul Brand, a visiting lecturer on the campus of St. Cloud State University, who had talked about the benefits of pain. My friend stopped me short and said he was not talking about the discomfort of sitting on a tack or the minor aches and pains that send us to the doctor.

I had to admit that I had no really good answer for why God would allow terrible suffering, except to refer him to C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain. Lewis said that pain “is a training ground. A time for great struggle and growth. God is slowly, but with great care and intention, changing you into the person God has created you to be. The process will hurt at times, and hurt deeply. But the person it is changing you into in the end—strong, wise, and able to face more than you ever imagined—THAT is exactly the person God wants for you to be.”

While recently watching Mel Gibson’s extraordinary film, The Passion of Christ, I was struck with the magnitude of God’s sacrificial suffering. It’s stunning to realize that the creator of the universe chose to come and live among us humbly—in diapers. That he lived a sinless life, was betrayed and denied, and took upon himself the punishment for our sins, was pronounced innocent, then humiliated, beaten beyond recognition and nailed to a cross to die a slow, agonizing death as a condemned criminal. He became a sacrifice to atone for our sins so that “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

During this holiest week of the year for Christians, the most significant questions any of us can ask ourselves are these: Is this story true? And if so, then what?

C.T. Studd, a missionary to China, India, and Africa in the 1800s said this: “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

Love is Bursting Out All Over

Love is bursting out all over… Mary Zigan introduces our theme for February and our two guest bloggers:

            Is there a more complex word than love? I don’t think so. We talk about a loving God, loving football, loving pizza, giving love, making love. No wonder we take the word love so for granted. Love is the oxygen for our souls and we all need it. Every one of us needs and longs for acceptance, affection, reassurance and fellowship, all forms of love, not just in February on Valentine’s Day, but all year. Forthcoming are a couple of true love stories:

The first is young, tender love just budding, as expressed by my granddaughter, Sydney Johnson:

Take the Detour

            Have you ever been driving down a familiar road and all of a sudden a detour sign appears? You think, “No! Not now!” Everything was going so smooth up until the detour sign appeared and now you have to reroute. You may be frustrated or upset by this new unfamiliar path, maybe even scared or nervous. Let me also ask you this… have you ever faced a detour that actually ended up being a blessing in disguise?

            My fiancé and I started dating last March and he continues to be the greatest blessing in disguise? I had an agenda (path) for my life. I’m a planner so you can imagine the type of life I had pictured in my head. First comes a steady job, then maybe some traveling, then paying off loans, more traveling, getting married, more traveling, settling down, the list goes on. My agenda (path) seemed so right and true to who I was and what I wanted. And then one day, bam! A detour arose. My best friend (and now fiancé) from college was standing right in front of me waiting for me to commit to something more than just being friends.

            The reasons why we love people are hard to put into words sometimes. As I love Jacoby more and more each day, it gets harder to explain why I have chosen him to be my life long partner simply because there are so many reasons that continue to accumulate. One reason that stands out to me is the way I feel when I am with him. I’m not talking just being happy or excited but really how my heart and body feels when I am with him. I am at peace about life. My deep concerns or issues that weigh down my heart seem to fizzle and be put in perspective. I laugh more. I talk more about good and bad things. I listen more. Simply put, I am more. I can be more when I am with Jacoby because I feel that I can be all that I am with him. I can be ugly, sad, happy, uptight, angry, excited, hyper, goofy, sick, stressed. You name it, I can be it because he accepts me and actually loves me for everything that I am. And get this, he loves me even harder on the days that seem like my worst!

Trusting THIS detour never ends!

Now here is the “long-haul love” of forty-plus years as expressed by friend, Julie DeMuth:

Sweethearts still….

            My husband and I have been married for over 34 years and still happily married. We are high-school sweethearts who went on our first official date for my 16th birthday. I am turning 58 on February 11th so you do the math.  Our marriage and relationship has been a blessing in so many ways. Even though there have been ups and downs, we always protect our marriage and the love that it has always provided for one another.

             To me, my marriage is everything that gives balance in our life. We put each other first and foremost no matter if we might not like the outcome personally. Our relationship has been based on a “partnership.” It is a constant give and take and making sure we don’t hurt each other along the way. Love is the best thing in the world when both partners are engaged. Making time for one another and truly enjoying what we share together is the key to a successful and loving marriage. If you put energy towards your love for one another, you will reap many rewards. It sounds so simple, but many marriages and relationships collapse when the spark is extinguished. We don’t attempt to clone one another but try to find freshness in our daily journey of life. It is best not to take each other too serious and make sure to PLAY whenever possible. Trying new adventures (travel, biking) and experiencing Life together is the best gift of love we can give one another. Our marriage is sacred and a blessing and we never take it for granted for one single day.


Then there is agape love which is the highest form of love, the love we knew nothing of until Christ came to earth as a love-gift to the world. Agape love is unconditional, divine love, the kind of love God exercises toward mankind. This love is practical not just a spiritual sensation. This love wears work gloves and handles the everyday nuts and bolts of life. It hugs the lonely, feeds the hungry, it tends to the sick and comforts the sorrowful. This love is pure, positive and practical. We are made unlovely by our sin, yet God’s love sees beneath our sin to the person he created, and when we open ourselves to His love, no matter who we are and where we have been, each and every day is Valentine’s Day!

Blessed is the influence of one true loving human soul on another. ~ George Eliot

~ Mary Z

Blake Anderson, Veteran’s Day

GUEST BLOG:  In honor of Veteran’s Day, history buff Blake Anderson pays tribute to some extraordinary people.

It’s unusual in this day and age to find personal accounts from World War II, but from the time I was quite young, I’ve always had an interest in that era. It was common when I was growing up to be able to talk with veterans of World War II or the Korean War and to hear first-hand stories of personal heroism. If a newscaster or teacher made errors in their accounts, all you had to do to find out what it was really like was to find a veteran who had actually been there.

My grandpa was one of these. He was assigned to a destroyer escort in the South Pacific in WWII, and he helped in the Lingayen Gulf Philippines Liberation.

More recently, I have had the privilege to hear first-hand accounts from Claude Kowalski, a Vietnam veteran from Kimball, Minnesota, and a friend I’ve known for 13 years. He is a man of honor and he lives out his Christian values. I’ve been intrigued with his stories, and occasionally I pump him for more details.

Nineteen-year-old Claude volunteered to go to Vietnam as a member of the 1st Marine Division, with some of the earliest American ground force presences in Vietnam. He was assigned to the I Corps sector in a village called Chu Lai in 1967. His job most days was to lift and carry howitzer shells and load the big gun. These shells weighed over 100 pounds each, once the four-pound wick was installed, and he hefted these heavy shells, one after another, for what must have seemed like an eternity, day in and day out. It’s no wonder that Claude suffers from PTSD and a significant hearing loss today.

“I was young and fit in those days,” Claude says, “and I had a job to do.”

Veterans often modestly refer to themselves in this way, I’ve noticed, downplaying the hardships they endured. I’m more inclined to refer to them as patriots or heroes.

But Claude is not the only hero in his family. Over a period of many hours in his presence, I have gradually learned more about his background. Claude’s parents grew up in Poland, and during that time in history this was an unbelievably dangerous place to live. The Nazis invaded Poland in September of 1939, and a few years later, the Soviets came from the other direction.

Claude’s father was captured by the Nazis and forced at gunpoint to work as a mechanic for them. He escaped three times and was recaptured twice, finally escaping for good after the third time.

Claude’s mother has stories of her own. As a teenager, one of her classmates, who was something of a story teller and a braggart, boasted about wanting to become a Nazi someday. He would come back to haunt her and their other classmates, he threatened.

She was no shrinking violet, and she retorted, “If you go down that path, someday I’m going to point at your dead body and say, “You’re dead, but I am free.”

Claude says, “My mom was Polish, and she was spunky and brash.”

(A side note: my wife Laurie is mostly Polish, and I get that.)

When the Nazis came through she hid in a haystack, and they searched for her by repeatedly poking the stack with their pitchforks in an attempt to find her, missing her by inches.

Sometime later, she opened her door one day to find her cocky former classmate standing on her doorstep, dressed in the full regalia of his Nazi officer uniform, with its long black coat and high boots. He was not a boy anymore, but a man.

Instead of cowering, as many in Occupied Poland would surely have done, this gutsy young woman mouthed off to him with the worst insults she could think of. The Nazi raised his gun, pointed it at her, and shot. Fortunately, a friend had seen this unwelcome visitor, and as the soldier was raising his gun, she quickly shoved her friend into a potato cart just in the nick of time. The bullet shaved past her shoulder, missing her by a fraction of an inch. She yelled at the man until he finally left the property.

A short time later, word reached them that the young man who had shot at her had just been killed by the Soviets. Upon hearing this, she took off on foot, running toward town. When she reached the site of the skirmish, she pointed at his dead body and yelled, “I told you that someday you’d be dead and I’d be free!”

A couple of short years later, Claude’s parents escaped to the Western side of Berlin’s divide, and Claude was born in the American sector of West Berlin.

In recent years, KSTP TV covered the story of Claude’s relatives in Minnesota, not realizing that they still had immediate family in Poland who had survived the occupation, and they recently reunited with them in Minnesota.

My thanks to all the men and women who stared tyranny in the face and said: “Not anymore!

You are dead, and we are free!”



Hunting and Gathering

GUEST BLOG: In keeping with our theme for October: Hunting and Gathering, here’s a memory from Blake Anderson, who grew up in a tiny northern Minnesota town where hunting was a major part of the autumn culture. Whether the weapon is gun or bow and the prey is deer, bear, pheasant, duck, goose, or grouse, Minnesotans remain passionate about hunting. And some families still depend on hunting for part of their winter’s meat supply.

Learning to Hunt from the Pros – by Blake Anderson

I suppose I was about twenty, and this wasn’t my first hunting experience, but it was one of the most memorable. My Uncle Shep (aka Duane Sheppard) called and asked if I wanted to hunt with him and Cork (aka Arvid Anderson).

Cork liked the area called the “Bull Moose Trail,” about 10 miles west of Backus. I had hunted there on occasion and was familiar with the location. During deer season this long trail attracts a lot of people, so the woods were concentrated pretty heavily with hunters.

The three of us rode out together, and when we arrived at the point of the hunt, we all decided to walk in different directions, agreeing to meet up for a break a few hours into the stand time. It was colder than usual for November, but having grown up in northern Minnesota, I was accustomed to brutal temperatures.

After separating—each of us to our own standing position—I heard other hunters shooting and carrying on. Soon one bullet from another hunting party whizzed literally right past my ear, so I now know what a super close shot sounds like. This might sound weird, but because it makes such a good story, I almost didn’t mind. Though I am not crazy about it ever happening again.

Standing stationary in the same spot in these temperatures began to chill me to the bone, and I was counting the minutes before Shep had told us to meet up. By the time of the pre-determined meeting, the wind was rough and conditions were rugged, even for Minnesota at that time of year. During the hike back, I fantasized about the warmth of the vehicle, hot coffee, and maybe calling it a day.

As I stumbled into the clearing, there stood Cork and Shep with the thermos of coffee on the hood of the car. Their jackets unzipped, laces of their boots loosened, both of them acted like it was 80 degrees. The engine of the car wasn’t even running.

Cork and Shep didn’t complain or act in the least bit cold, and though I couldn’t feel my feet, it was becoming clear that we were not even going to get into the vehicle to warm up. Strangely, after ten minutes of coffee outdoors, laughter, and lively conversation, I felt a little warmer. But all day I kept asking myself “What kind of grit or mettle is this? Where does this kind of fortitude come from?”

I pondered the expression, Standing among Giants. And that day I felt that I had.

Christmas in July?

Rev. Edwin Hollen, one of our favorite guest bloggers, returns with commentary on this month’s theme: Christmas in July? Whoever heard of such? How can that be?

It just won’t seem right without snow! It is interesting how we come to associate certain situations with different events. We had a surprise this last spring. It was time for tulips, lilies, and daffodils, because it was the celebration of Easter – new life. Instead we had snow!

That did not take away from the real meaning of what Easter reminds us of. Do we realize in our own region of the world, when we celebrate the event of God sending his son into the world as a gift to bring eternal life to us, that much of the world has never seen snow? Sand is more common to large portions of our world. I confess to you with the bleakness and bareness of December, a little snow adds a beauty all of its own.

These are associations that we humans get used to. There is no harm done with making associations unless we miss the reality of the occasion. It is quite true that the time of our celebration on the calendar would not coincide with the actual time of year the birth took place. The event that is recognized and celebrated is really so much more than any tradition or cultural customs that come to be carried out among us. Our celebration of the event is one we can and should enjoy the year round.

The established fact is that the “Ancient of Days” (God) planned to give mankind a gift—a gift needed by every past, present and future human. What we know and we learned from the Scriptures was “when the fullness of time had come” God sent us that gift! That gift had nothing to do with when or where as to the value. There are those who would certainly question why there, of all places?

What we know and have come to recognize, an event, a birth did happen that even secular history must acknowledge put this planet on a different course in a multitude of ways.

The great truth that lives on and on is that God gave mankind, at a particular time in history, at a particular place, through a young, virgin woman, a gift in the form of a child—divinely conceived and brought forth—who is to be celebrated, received and enjoyed for time now and eternity.

What about Christmas in July? Why not?

It is the celebration of the Christ Child being born to live among us, to give us his life, so we can receive from him the gift of eternal life. The gift would have the same value, a God gift, whatever time or season it would have happened, so let’s celebrate him continually. Yes, in July also.

I’m not waiting until a white Christmas!


In Honor of Flag Day

In honor of FLAG DAY, June 14: And to the Republic for Which It Stands . . . is an editorial condensed from a column written by my late husband, Duane Sheppard, for the St. Cloud Times. (Submitted by Sharon Sheppard)

We live in a democracy, right?  Wrong!  Well, kind of wrong.  We pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States “and to the republic for which it stands…”

The Latin root of the word republic means “a thing of the people.” The modern definition of this form of government indicates it is a system in which citizens have the right and responsibility to choose agents to act on their behalf.

On Sept. 18, 1787, the morning after the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia had finished their now-famous document, The United States Constitution, a Mrs. Powell approached Benjamin Franklin and inquired, “Well, Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?”

“A republic,” replied Franklin, “if you can keep it.”

The word democracy comes from the Greek and could be translated “people-government.”

Some have proposed that, with the advent of modern technology, our whole country could be online and vote directly on all issues decided by legislators.  This would be a “pure democracy,” and would avoid much of the political trickery, deception, bribery, vote trading, and smoke-filled room decisions that, some believe, now characterize much of our lawmaking.

Of course, it is unreasonable to expect that any person could digest all the information necessary to make intelligent decisions on all the issues at the local, state, and national levels.  And it is unthinkable that all citizens could, would, or should be directly involved in all decision making.

So our constitutional fathers drew a marked distinction between a republic and a democracy.  They stated repeatedly and emphatically that they had created a republic with an elected president and representative form of government.

This system was predicated on a Creator-given endowment of life, liberty, and the right to pursue our dreams.  With this heritage, “We, the people,” formed a union where the political power rests not with a king, president, Congress, Supreme Court, political party, military, clergy, the rich or the educated, but with the people.

So on Flag Day and at other special events in our country, we reiterate our allegiance “to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Happy Flag Day!

A Simple Haircut Leads to an Inspiring Reminder

Guest Perspective – A Simple Haircut Leads to an Inspiring Reminder . . . By Duane Sheppard

Our guest blogger this week is my late husband, who was a columnist for the St. Cloud Times for 8 years –  This is a Memorial Day column he wrote a dozen years ago  . . . Sharon Sheppard

The most inspiring haircut I’ve ever had was by an elderly barber with a thick foreign accent in a one-chair shop on London Road in Duluth.

It was a busy day three decades ago, before appointments were required for hair care.

By the time my turn finally came, I had overheard some fascinating conversations between this barber and each of his customers.  After telling him how I wanted my hair cut, I asked where he was from.

“Russia,” he replied, rolling the r.

I was curious about this mysterious land behind the Iron Curtain, never having had the chance to talk personally with a Russian before.

“Tell me,” I asked, “what was it like when you lived in Russia?”

The barber launched into the eloquent description of his Jewish village and the wonderful, peace-loving people who lived there.

Then, like an unexpected crack of thunder, a loud, sneering voice called out, “Isaac, if Russia is such a good place. Why don’t you just go back there?”

Without hesitation he explained that the czar’s secret police were abusive, and with the political unrest, chaos, and oppression, it was no longer safe for him to live there.

He went on to describe his escape.  He told about sailing past the Statue of Liberty and kissing the ground when he got off the boat.

The shop reverberated with his next words: “Then I jumped to my feet and said, ‘I’m free!  I’m free!  I’m a free man!”

He paused, and with a raspy whisper that everyone heard, “And I still get goose bumps up and down my back everytime I think of that day!

He went on to tell wat it was like in America to become a citizen and be able to earn a living, raise a family, and help his sons through college.

One became a doctor, another a lawyer, and another died on the beach at Normandy.

While I was teaching in Minsk, White Russia, a while back, my translator, a mother of two young children, indicated that she and her husband were each working three jobs just to try to make ends meet in that troubled economy just after the fall of communism.

“But,” she said with a glow on her face, “now we are free!”

In stark contrast, I sitting with my young grandchildren in Hester Park last Fourth of July, waiting for the fireworks to begin.

The municipal band had just finished playing “Stars and stripes Forever” when a young man walked past, a little unsteady on his feet.  He was dressed in black, his limbs were covered with tattoos, and several parts of his body were pierced.

“America sucks!” he called out to no one in particular.

Granted, there a lot of things about America that need fixing.  But what this young man doesn’t realize is that thousands of men and women have died to protect his right to express that sentiment or any other strongly-felt notion he pleases—publicly and vehemently.

During the 1960s, some draft dodgers and other disenchanted people were saying, “Nothing is worth dying for.”

But I would suggest that if we come to the place where nothing is worthy dying for, then perhaps there is nothing worth living for.

It’s easy to take freedom for granted if it has never cost us anything.

As we approach Memorial Day, let’s thank God and thank a veteran for the everyday freedoms most of us take for granted.


A Returning Guest Reflects on Easter

Returning guest blogger, Rev. Edwin Hollen, reflects on Easter . . .  Easter has been called, and rightfully so, “the great getting up morning.”

The history of mankind from Adam onward has footprints all leading to the grave that brought hope to all mankind.  The observance of this happening brings out multitudes in response to life again after the tomb—those who do not darken a house of worship any other week of the year.  Jesus Christ makes the footprints out of the tomb in response to His words, “After three days I will live again.”

The following is not original with me, but it bears printing:

The question was asked, “What is the difference between raised from the dead and resurrection?”  Someone having died and brought back to life does so with the same physical structure and limited life, subject to all the ills passed onto our race.  Comparing this to experiencing what Christ talks about called resurrection to newness of life, when we receive Christ into our life, we inherit eternal God in our spirit.  When Christ was resurrected all who will be raised will receive God eternal in our body.  “This mortal will take on immortality.”

His example after the tomb was a body of flesh and bone flowing with life within, not limited as previously.  “We shall be like Him and so shall we ever be with Him.”  That is life, hope of the resurrection.  He first, and all believers later.


Trading Winter for Spring

Trading winter for spring . . . by guest blogger, Rev. Paul Anderson…Having spent the first 20 years or so of my life in North Central Minnesota, I had the opportunity of observing the many wonders of nature.  As a boy I had a special fascination with the changing of the seasons.  At the conclusion of the last day of school, off would come the shoes and shirts for the summer, with all its wonderful pleasures— swimming, fishing, climbing trees, to name a few.

Then, sadly, summer would end, and it was back to school.  Fall, with its leaves changing to brilliant colors, ripening pumpkins, and birds gathering in preparation for their southward migration, gave way to the nippy air of winter.

My children and grandchildren will no doubt accuse me of exaggerating, but I declare this to be true:  I remember the thermometer registering 54 degrees below zero.  And that was before this stuff about wind chill factors.  I remember the accumulation of snow reaching 36 inches in depth, and the ice on the lake being two and a half feet thick.  One year a succession of blizzards hit the month of April when school buses could not run and school had to close for weeks.  In my youthful mind I did not see how anything could survive the harshness of WINTER.

But eventually the days of early spring arrived and the sun began slowly to accomplish the seeming impossible.  Almost beyond belief LIFE began to appear in ABUNDANCE!  Blossoms burst forth everywhere.  Song birds returned, and the miracle of new life triumphed over the severity of winter.

Those of us who have lived for a while have learned that our lives have their seasons.  Along with summer’s bliss there are times when life is like winter.  We experience many deaths and losses (some small and some big).  Life can be so severe and death so final.

The disciples felt that way following the crucifixion of Jesus and a sealed tomb.  But on that first Easter morning, hopelessness and despair gave way to joy and hope!  The Risen Christ tells us “Because I live, you too shall live!”  And the life He offers is Abundant Life!

In our winter seasons we need to remember what Jesus said:  “With men things seem impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”  (Matt. 19:26)  If you are going through one of those prolonged winter seasons of life, hold on.  Spring is just around the corner!23

Legal Wrangling

LEGAL WRANGLING    By freelance writer Joyce Ellis . . . I’ve always loved legal wrangling. Growing up, watching TV shows such as Perry Mason, I quickly learned legal-battle terminology.  District attorney Hamilton Burger frequently rose to his feet and objected to questions on the basis that they were “incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.”

Unlike many people, I’ve jumped at my two opportunities for jury duty and, as foreperson, I’ve read the verdict for my fellow jurors. The tension of a courtroom battle and the struggle for justice have equipped me for spiritual battles.

It seemed a little thing at the time, and I was only a child. But I took something that didn’t belong to me, knowing it was wrong. The details aren’t important. I’ve come to this type of battle with other sins as well. At first I tried to rationalize it. But having already committed my life to Jesus, I became angry at myself for giving in to temptation. With God’s prompting, I confessed my sin and claimed His promise that He is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9 nlt).

I believe that’s when the legal wrangling in the heavenly realms intensified. Over and over, my thoughts returned to what I did. How could I, a believer—even a child-believer—well-taught in the Scriptures, do such a thing? Circumstances prevented restitution, but I asked God repeatedly to forgive me and erase the painful memory.

Amazingly, the guilt haunted me into adulthood and resurfaced often as I tried to follow the Lord’s calling on my life. The Enemy, like a prosecuting attorney, accused me of being “incompetent” to serve God. The battle raged on.

Then one day, a courtroom phrase came to mind. Sometimes, when an attorney questions a witness and receives an answer, the attorney will come at the same question from another angle, trying to trip up the witness. At that point, the opposing counsel typically jumps up and says, “I object, Your Honor. Asked and answered.”

That was it—my answer for Satan, our “accuser” (Rev. 12:10).

I determined to listen no longer to Satan’s accusations.

The Bible says we all sin. We all have things in our past—maybe in our present, too—that the Enemy delights in using to accuse us and make us feel—even believe—we are “incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.”

But “we have an advocate [a defense attorney] with the Father,” the Apostle John reminds us, “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:1–2 niv, brackets added). And I have accepted His payment for all my sins.

So Satan can accuse me all he wants in the courts of heaven, but Jesus actively advocates on my behalf and gives me the authority to say, “I object! Asked and answered.”


© 2017 Joyce K. Ellis

This blog is adapted from an article by Joyce K. Ellis, which originally appeared in Indeed magazine. Ellis is the author of more than a dozen books, including The 500 Hats of a Modern-Day Woman and Write with Excellence. She speaks for women’s events across the country and often speaks and serves with missions teams in Guatemala. Contact her at her website: Her books are available on her website and on