How Do I Know?

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I sat in the audience, not quite believing my ears. As I looked around me, I could see women, eyes focused intently, soaking in every word the woman was speaking. Ann Voskamp, a well-known and much-beloved author and speaker, was speaking truth and lies so subtly and tightly intertwined together that I had a really difficult time nailing down just exactly what was wrong with what she was saying. Listening to her and trying to discern truth from error was like trying to wrap your fingers around jello. In other words, almost impossible.

But I knew something was seriously wrong.

Afterwards, I went home and did some research. What exactly was wrong came to light and I knew from that point on that she was not going to be an author I read. Ever. See here and here for more information.

Now, if you are an Ann Voskamp fan, I apologize. This post is not about her and I am certainly not going to judge her heart or her motive. And I know that she has lots of good things to say. But as my dad has often said: Are you going to eat a delicious brownie that contains 1% poison? I definitely choose not to, especially when it comes to the spiritual food I ingest.

So how do I know what is true and what is false? When one of my friends asked me this week how I personally discern between true and false authors, I thought that perhaps the steps I take to discern may be beneficial for some of you, as well, so I thought I’d share them this morning. Here are the tests I run for teachers that help me determine if they are someone I should be spending my God-given time and resources on reading or listening to–

1. Most importantly, by far, is their message. Does what they are saying go with the Bible 100% of the time? Especially concerning what God tells us in His Word about sin, repentance, Jesus, salvation, sanctification, and the place of the Jews in His plan. If they something new and different that hasn’t been taught for thousands of years, I stop to pause. God didn’t suddenly give personal insight to an author or speaker that differs from His Word.

He also doesn’t change His Word to match the culture, which is what as so many preachers are claiming these days. God’s Word has stood the test of time and if anyone is preaching differently, I consider them a false teacher.

As you look for reviews on questionable teachers, be sure they are reviews that are biblically based and not personal vendettas aimed at the person. There should always be a clear, scriptural reason why they are considered a false teacher.

2. Do they claim to have personal revelation from God? This is almost always a red flag. I am not saying that the Holy Spirit doesn’t press upon us and guide us, but what I am saying is if an author claims that he or she has had a personal message from Jesus (such as Sarah Evans does in Jesus Calling) I will not read them. This is a classic occultic practice and if you do any research at all, you will find that almost all occultic and new age books have been written with the help of a “spirit guide”. This is no different.

Jesus is not giving special messages to certain persons. We have The Bible and that is all we need for a faithful walk with Him.

3. Who does the person cite and admire? This one is a little trickier. Sometimes well-meaning men and women will err in this area. But if I read that Catholic mystics or other blatantly false teachers and doctrines have shaped their ministry (such as is the case with Tony Campolo), my ears are immediately perked. We are changed by what we read. It is so important.

I remember the time a year or two ago when a pastor was checking out my blog. He told me the first page he went to was my Favorite Books page. He did a wise thing because you can tell an awful lot about a person by the books they read. And the authors they cite. And the preachers and speakers they promote.

4. Is the person and their message popular with the world? Most teachers of truth are not well-beloved by the world, because the message they bring is one of self-sacrifice and total submission to the Savior. It is not a message that the world wants to hear. I am always wary if their book has reached the best seller list.

And, more recently, I even look to see if the person or their message is popular in the church. Because of the post-modern state the church is in, this, too, is also often a big red flag.

5. If I am still unsure after items 1-4, I will see what I can find out about their personal lives. With a little research online, I can often find out some information about their lifestyle and life choices. I want to know if they are living what they are preaching. You have to do this very carefully, because any warped person can give a scathing “testimony” on some unknown blog. Check for legitimate sources and for multiple, matching accounts of problems.

Now, many of these things I have listed here are only possible by first and foremost, knowing God’s Word and understanding who God is, as defined in scripture. We cannot properly discern if we spend no time in the Word. In fact, we are studying 2 Peter right now in Bible Study and chapter 2 describes false teachers. We are learning what to look for and how to discern through this study. I highly recommend Kay Arthur’s inductive study of this book to get you started if you are serious about wanting to learn to discern.

I also believe that a good knowledge of general history and church history is also extremely helpful in discerning in these current times. For example, if you realize that many men and women were martyred at the hands of the Catholics during the reformation, you will understand why there is such a big problem trying to unify with this false system today. It helps to know what has happened in the past to discern the current times.

I also believe that a natural skepticism is necessary in this dangerous age we live in. The Christian bookstore is like a spiritual minefield these days and we need to shop for Christian books with that in mind. It is hard to get past the security and safety we used to feel in a Christian place (not only bookstores, but libraries of our churches and institutes of higher learning, as well) but, unfortunately, it has changed and we need to recognize this and be on guard even in places that are called “Christian”.

It is not my wish to upset you this morning. I rarely name names on this blog but the bottom line is this: We are being fed a steady diet of unbiblical doctrine and it is slowly– but surely– changing the church. It is slowly–but surely– changing you and me.

It is so important that we stand up for what is right and true, according to God’s Word and stop trying to make everybody happy — because it isn’t going to happen. We have a responsibility for ourselves, and for our families, to know the difference between the true and the false. We live in perilous times, my friend, and it is critical that we learn to discern using God’s Word (I John 4:1; Matthew 24:24; Matthew 10:16; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4; 2 Peter 2:1-3).

 If you have been challenged or helped by this post would you consider sharing it? Thank you!

Running Through the Airport

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All families have stories that crop up around the holiday table or family campfire once in awhile. One of ours is about the time when I flew with my 6 year old and my parents to California to see my brother. We were loaded down with luggage and my dad, being the only man, carried the bulk of it. This was before there was luggage with wheels. Imagine it, if you will–two women, a little girl, and a Grandpa loaded down with luggage. I am sure we were a rather funny sight to behold as we walked to the ticket counter.

It was my first visit to California and we all had a great time seeing the sights and enjoying family time together. A week or so later we headed to LAX for our return flight. Upon arriving, we found out that our flight home was quite delayed. This was a concern because we had a connecting flight in Cincinnati without a whole lot of time to catch it. Of course, it was completely outside our control so we settled in to wait.

When we finally landed in Cincinnati a few hours later we were dismayed to see our connecting flight taking off in front of our eyes. My heart sank. I had left my husband and babies at home and was quite anxious to see them. I was not thrilled about spending the night somewhere other than my own bed. We trudged to the closest agent to find out our options. To our delighted surprise, we were told that we could catch another flight home today! But it came with a condition — we would only be able to take it if we could get to the gate on time. It was across the airport and it was leaving shortly.

Oh, my. Now we really looked ridiculous, I’m sure. My dad took off running, my daughter keeping up with him. My mom and I did our best, but we are not runners. On each of our shoulders were big carry-ons and bags because – remember– luggage with wheels either didn’t exist or was too expensive to own at this point. I wouldn’t really classify myself (or my mom) as athletic, so  I am guessing–although I didn’t personally witness it– that we were the butt of a few jokes after that run through the airport.

The good news is that we made it to our connecting flight. The bad news is that my mom and I have never lived down that run through the airport, because my dad and my daughter are sure to remind us how silly we looked as we made that run. We aren’t offended because we know it was true. We still just laugh when we think about that unexpected–and quite stressful– moment.

But, you know

That run would have been totally different if we had prepared for it by running or at least exercising on a regular basis. It would have been totally different if we wouldn’t have had to carry any bags on our shoulders. These two things slowed our journey across the airport considerably.

Yeah, you know where I am headed with this by now, I’m sure.

Why are we so out of shape spiritually? And why do we insist on carrying so much baggage with us on our spiritual journey?

We say that we want to live fulfilled lives that please our Savior and yet we are never in the Word, we have no idea what it says, and many of us attend churches where the preacher never even opens the Bible. We rely on shallow feelings and emotions to take us to some kind of “deeper” walk with God, and yet never search the scriptures for the Truth. We have thrown out doctrine and absolute truth and then we wonder why we are never satisfied spiritually. We are never fulfilled because we have been hoodwinked by false teachers. Oh, be so wary of what you believe. It will slow you down considerably. Only by faithful studying of the Word will we be prepared for our spiritual journey through life.

And then, along with not studying God’s Word, we insist on carrying heavy loads with us. It’s like we have backpacks full of rocks– each with a different label. One rock says Terrible Parents. Another may say Wayward Child. Or Deadbeat Husband. Or Complaining Wife. They may say Sexual Abuse or Rejection or Betrayal. Many of us carry rocks that say Unforgiveness, Anger, and Bitterness. We hang on to these rocks and let them weigh us down. Some of us are so weighed down by our past — and even our present circumstances– that we can’t ever seem to make any headway in our spiritual journey at all. But this is never what the Lord intended for us. In fact, the Bible says just the opposite–

Psalm 55:22 Cast your burden on the LordAnd He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

Matthew 11:28-29 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

We are to cast our burdens on the Lord.

But here’s the thing. Removing these rocks and baggage are decisions we have to make very deliberately. It will never  just happen. It takes some serious effort. And, really, it never ends. I know that for me, personally, I have to give some of my heaviest burdens to the Lord every single day. Thankfully, as we get into the practice of doing this, the burdens do feel lighter. Which is exactly what God promised.

And, thankfully, removing those rocks is a lot easier if we are exercising. Because when we are in the Word and learning about who God is and what He promises for those who love Him, we are better able to hand our burdens to the Lord. We learn to trust Him in a much deeper way and rely on His Word. We submit to His Sovereignty because we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that He loves us and will work all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

But by not being in the Word and carrying the heavy rocks of burden, we slow our pace down and then wonder why we never grow.

Think about removing some of those rocks today. And start by digging into God’s Word. Go. Do it now. It’s so much more important than this blog or the news or Facebook. Seriously. You don’t need a devotional or a special book. Just go get your Bible and start reading through one of the Gospels.

And I hope you will think about joining me for our Chronological reading through the Bible this coming year, starting January 1. We can hold each other accountable as we grow stronger in our faith together!

Have a great Monday!

 

Would you consider sharing this post if it has encouraged you? Thank you.

 

Sometimes.

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Sometimes I feel like I’m writing to myself.

Sometimes I feel like bearing my soul here on the blog makes me too vulnerable to pointing fingers.

Sometimes I worry that I am too narrow or too broad or too vague in what I write.

Sometimes I wonder if people think I am arrogant or ridiculous or unrealistic or harsh.

Sometimes I worry that I annoy people because I am forever posting the blog posts to my social media accounts.

And, many times, I wonder if I am making any difference at all.

We all know that the number of blogs out there are countless. I often feel like the tiniest bit of plankton in the giant ocean of the internet. But I keep writing, anyway. Because I honestly believe it is what God wants me to be doing– at least for right now. How do I know this?

I know this because of so many of you, my faithful readers. Let me explain.

On Monday, my post was about speaking the good to others and I gave you an assignment to try to say at least one nice thing to or about someone each day. It got me thinking about how so many of you have said such kind things to me regarding my writing. It might be in passing, when I see you out of the blue, letting me know you read the blog and thanking me for writing. Or it might be through a short e-mail expressing your appreciation of a particular post. Or you may be one who provides me with constant encouragement, always there when I need a few words to keep me going, reminding me of why I am writing in the first place. And many of you have encouraged me by clicking on the “like” and “share” buttons, letting me know you believe that what I write is actually worth sharing.

Whoever you are, if you have  encouraged me regarding Growing4Life, I want you to know that it has been wonderfully uplifting. And, honestly, I believe your kind words are what has kept me writing the last four and a half years. Whenever I am ready to quit because I feel like no one cares, God will move one of you to encourage me to keep writing because He is using me to help you grow.

I am so humbled by this. Honestly, I am. I have such a long way to go and most of what I write on here are just lessons that I am learning myself. I don’t have it altogether. Which is why I find it even more amazing that God is using me– if even in just a very small way. While I may appear confident and together on the outside, inside I am still insecure, too worried about what people think when I lose sight of my true reason for writing.

And so I want to offer my deepest gratitude to those of you who have helped me stay the course when I have wanted to quit. Your kind words have made such a difference and they have not gone unnoticed.

Offer those kind words of encouragement to someone today in your sphere. This is Day 4 of the Word Power assignment. If you are taking part in the assignment, I hope that you will continue it today.

Because encouraging words do make a difference and this blog is genuine proof of that.

 

Say the Good Stuff

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We all do it at one time or other. Some of us more than others.

We open our mouths and out pour words that hurt, malign, or tear down. Sometimes we are being sarcastic and mean, other times we just talk without thinking. Very occasionally, we are telling a hurtful hard truth and it needs to be said. But negative words to others or about others often spew from our mouths like water from a spring.

But have you ever noticed that, while we are so free to speak about the stuff we don’t like to someone or about others, we rarely speak what we do like? Have you ever been somewhere and had thoughts like this, “Oh, I really like her new haircut,” or, “He looks like he is losing weight”? Or have you ever been to a soccer game and thought, “Wow, my friend’s son has really improved his game”?  Or maybe you’ve been in church and really enjoyed a special piece by the vocalist or the preacher’s message. Do you take the time to tell them?

Really, you should try it. It’s a great ice breaker and conversation starter. It’s also a wonderful way to encourage and build up others.

Speaking positively about others is also a great way to be an incredible testimony. Have you noticed that when the gang is around the water cooler at work, they are rarely saying nice things about others? Usually they are boss-bashing or gossiping about co-workers. You can stop the whole gossip train by inserting kind words– “The boss isn’t usually like that, maybe something’s wrong,” or “Didn’t she help you with that report last week, Jim?” By refusing to participate in the negative talk that surrounds you, you show almost instantly that there is something very different about you.

Words have such power to build up or break down. It is our natural human tendency (or perhaps I should say sinful nature) to use this power negatively. Even many Christians seem to see this as something less than sin and freely give their hurtful opinions at all times and in all moments. They complain about their husbands and children to others. They make sarcastic remarks to their families. They always feel like it is their personal duty to tell you how you are doing things the wrong way. Many times, they are part of the gossip huddle in the office or at church. You know the ones.

But, as Christians, we should be known for building up with our words. Sure, sometimes –on a very rare occasion– we do need to confront (with truth and much grace)– but most of our negative words just don’t need to be said.

So I have an assignment for you this week–

Say something nice to someone or say something nice about someone to someone else. Do this every day for a whole week.

Perhaps this will help all of us to start developing the habit of speaking kindly to and about one another and move us out of that natural bent towards the negative. Will anyone join me in this assignment?

If you do join the assignment, would you consider coming back here to share your experience by commenting? Or join us at Growing4Life on Facebook to share your stories and thoughts! I will try to share my own experience there each day of this week. Your participation and comments would be very encouraging to me! Thanks so much!

Simplifying Religion

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I heard something several months ago that has really stuck with me. It has helped me navigate these treacherous religious waters we find ourselves in. That vast, religious ocean where “anything goes” and all are headed to Heaven. To imply that someone isn’t going has become the ultimate sin.

It has helped me answer questions like these–

How do I know if someone is involved in a false religion?

How do I know if Mormons (or Jehovah’s Witnesses or Catholics) are all part of true Christianity?

How do I know what unites true believers?

So are you curious yet? Here is what I heard: There are really only two religions.

There is the false religion and there is the true religion. What sets the world’s false religious system apart from true Christianity is always the same–whether it be called Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist or, yes, it is even sometimes called Christianity, even thought it is not actually true Christianity.

Here is the bottom line–

False religion teaches that your eternal destiny lies in your hands in one way or another. It will teach that you need to do something in order to be saved. Oh, they all vary in what that something is and they might even throw in as part of their doctrine something about Jesus saving you from your sins, but false religion will always require something other than faith alone.

True religion is in Christ alone, by Christ alone, and by faith alone. It requires nothing from you or of you.

I can almost hear some of you cringing. Wait. Nothing??

No, there is no requirement, but before you get too excited, there is a BUT — and this is a very big BUT– a true believer will always be transformed by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. This work starts immediately upon our salvation and never ends while we are on this earth. By its very definition salvation changes us. And this is why we, as Christians, live holy, separate lives. It isn’t because we have to. It’s because we are new creatures, with a new heart and new desires. It has nothing to do with man-made rules.

If you are in a church that tells you that you will only go to heaven if you accept Jesus and also do x, y, and z (get baptized, don’t go to movies, pray to Mary, etc.) you are in a church that is teaching false doctrine.

Doesn’t this help clear things up considerably? It doesn’t mean there aren’t some Christians scattered in among these churches. Be sure you don’t hear me saying that. It does help weed out which systems are true and which are false. Remember, the true way is narrow and difficult. The path to destruction is wide and easy and many are they that travel it (Matthew 7:13-14).

I know this makes us squirm. It has become an increasingly unpopular topic for discussion, even among true believers. But following Jesus has never been– and will never be– about comfort (Matthew 16:24-26).

But, while on one hand it is an extremely offensive and uncomfortable thing to talk about, it is wonderfully comforting to ponder as a true believer! Simplifying religion into these two categories helps us to understand that if we have been saved by God’s grace through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, we are part of the true religion.

Religion is not a bad word, by the way. It has become a very hated word by Christians but it very simply means: the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

If you are a Christian, you are religious. The difference is we serve a personal God, who made a way for us to be reconciled to Him, not through our own merit but through His great gift (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And so, today as we go to work or play group or the gym, as we seek to tell others about Jesus, may we remember that some who claim to know Him are still relying on their good works to seal their personal destiny. And this is always part of the false religion.

Please NOTE: If you aren’t sure if you are really part of God’s family–the only true religion– please e-mail me at leslie@growing4life.net or visit NeedGod. Please don’t delay.

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom: Sovereign Over Us

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If you follow my blog, you will be aware of the fact that I haven’t had a Wednesday Wisdom post on here for a very long time. I decided to focus on a few other areas of writing instead. But a friend who is going through some very deep waters sent me the following lyrics. I had actually heard the second half of this song recently and had wanted to look them up and, lo and behold, this morning my friend sent them to me in an e-mail.

I am sharing them with you today, with the awareness that someone else out there in the “blogosphere” may need to read this today.

SOVEREIGN OVER US

There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You’re sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You’re teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand Your ways
Reigning high above the Heavens
Reaching down in endless grace
You’re the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
And Your promises are my delight

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us
[x2]

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good
You turn it for our good and for Your glory
Even in the valley, You are faithful
You’re working for our good
You’re working for our good and for Your glory
[x2]

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us
[x2]

You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

 

Written by Aaron Keyes, Jack Mooring, Bryan Brown

Performed by Michael W. Smith

Getting Scammed

Indian Call Center

“Hi, Ma’am, I’m calling from Microsoft,” started the voice with a thick accent, indicating he was from a country far away. He continued, “We have been watching your computer, ma’am, and we see that there is a dreadful virus that is running haywire on your computer, ma’am.”

My naturally skeptical self rose to the surface. Yeah, right.

“Umm…which computer are we talking about here– a desktop or a laptop?”

With only a slight nanosecond of hesitation, “your laptop, ma’am. It’s very serious, ma’am. If you don’t fix this, we will have to discontinue connection to your IP address. You will lose all access to your computer. This is very serious, ma’am.”

“How do I know you are calling from Microsoft?”

“Ma’am, I am calling from Microsoft. We keep track of all computers. You have a terrible virus that will start to affect all of the computers around you if you don’t do something about it.”

He went on to give me the worst possible consequences if I didn’t take care of this matter immediately, trying to frighten me into taking his bait.

By this time, I was fairly sure I was dealing with a scam artist. I was in the midst of a really busy day and was in no mood to entertain a scam artist on the phone and so, after assuring him that I would check into this threatening virus with a professional I know, I hung up on him.

When I did finally think to ask my computer specialist, she confirmed my suspicions and assured me that Microsoft is not in the habit of calling customers to let them know their computers have a deadly virus.

I am sure the scam artist was very disappointed not to get his hands on some American money. I am also sure that, without blinking an eye, he called the next number on his list.

And the sad thing is that there will be some sad soul who believes him and is scammed out of hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. But this scamming doesn’t only go on over the phone from international thieves. It goes on wherever there are people. And it goes on in a multitude of ways. Scamming has been a famous way to gain money or power since time began.

When we talk about being scammed financially, a lot of it has to do with naivete and lack of discernment. If we do not make an effort to be at least somewhat knowledgeable of the world around us and the dangers that are a part of it, we will be easily fooled. But if we do listen and read and take initiative to understand what kind of world we live in, we will be less easily scammed should the situation arise.

But there is something much more dangerous than financial scamming and that is spiritual scamming.  If we don’t take the initiative to know and understand God and to read His Word, we make ourselves very vulnerable to the spiritual scammers of this world. Another part to protecting ourselves is to be constantly aware and on guard.

I could have been very easily scammed by the foreigner on my phone had I not immediately been wary. Let’s be honest, we live in a culture where scams are, unfortunately, a very real and frequent threat.  I was on guard as soon as I heard the first sentence, as many of you would have been, as well.

But so often we don’t practice this same principle when we are listening to a preacher or reading a book. We don’t listen to the song lyrics that are on in our car and we pay little attention to the philosophies behind our church’s decisions.

But in order for us to keep from being spiritually scammed — and to discern truth from error (Philippians 1:9)– we need to apply this same principle to all we put in our mind. It doesn’t matter if it is a sermon by my favorite preacher or the lyrics to a song I’ve heard on the radio a hundred times or a book by my favorite author, we should always be running everything through the grid of God’s Word. Of course, this is only possible if we actually are reading and studying the Bible.

Yes, all of this takes so much work and effort, but if we don’t do this, we are so easily scammed.

Why do some people pay money to a preacher, believing this will lead to healing?

They don’t know God’s Word.

Why do some people believe they can gratify the lusts of the flesh, living in any way they desire and yet still go to heaven as long as they “asked Jesus into their heart”?

They don’t know God’s Word.

Why do some people believe that all ways lead to heaven and that Christianity is just one of them?

They don’t know God’s Word.

Why do some people believe that homosexuality is not a sin?

Because they don’t know God’s Word.

If we study God’s Word with humility and a desire to obey what we learn, and if we pray, asking for insight and understanding, God will answer that prayer (Ephesians 1:15-23). As we become more familiar with the Bible, we become much more astute and discerning when someone teaches something that is not scriptural.

Don’t be a victim of a spiritual scam. Know God’s Word so well that it isn’t even possible to scam you.

 

In case you are wondering why I seem to be writing so much about the Bible lately, I want to fill you in on a couple of reasons–

1. My own passion of God’s Word has grown so much over the past year and I would love for you to have that same passion. In 2015 I am hoping to have a Growing4Life Bible Reading Challenge. More details will come on that soon.

2. I truly believe that the main reason the modern-day church is walking away from its very foundations of truth is because its members do not know the Word of God. We have become so used to being spoon-fed spiritually and, if we are honest, have turned the bulk of our attention to the temporary things of this life. We have become obsessed with our experiences and how we feel about them. These changes have opened wide the door for doctrinal error to enter the church doors. It is my hope that I can encourage even one person to turn back to the Bible and a focus on the eternal. It is truly my hope that this blog will encourage you to include  increasing your knowledge of God, through reading and studying the Bible, in your busy schedule so that you will grow as a believer and be able to discern in these dangerous times. 

iOS Frustrations

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Well, the iPhone saga continues on at this house. If you recall, it was only about a month ago that I had shattered my iPhone and blogged about the lessons I learned from that experience (you can find that post here). When I wrote that, my phone had not been fixed. I’d like to take just a moment to tell you the rest of that story, so you can fully appreciate the rest of this post.

After trying to replace the broken screen, I finally just decided to call the insurance I apparently had on the phone (but do not remember signing up for). When I called, the kind lady assured me that she would be able to help me and went on to explain that since they were no longer making the iPhone 5, I would be sent a 5s. A day later, my phone showed up. I moved the Sim card, restored my latest backup, and was up and running in literally no time at all. It was so easy.

Fast forward a few weeks, when my husband dropped his phone. But instead of the screen shattering, something happened with his sound. He could no longer hear any calls through his ear piece and had to take all his calls via the speaker phone. Once again, I was on the phone with the insurance company.

But this time it would not be so easy.

When I called, I was informed by the not-so-nice lady who seemed to have no idea what she was doing that I would need to fax an affidavit and proof of my I.D. to them before they could process this claim. They could not approve the claim before I did this. When I asked for her supervisor and explained that I had just made a claim on another phone without doing this, she told me this was standard and there were no exceptions. Hmmm. Okay. Slightly annoyed, I did as I was told. When the approval finally came through it was for an iPhone 5. No problem there. I found it curious, given what the agent had told me the month before, but not a problem.

A couple of days later, the phone arrived. When I went to get started exchanging the phones last night, the tiny screen of the new iPhone informed me that no backups could be restored until the operating system was updated. Upon investigating further, I realized that the phone they had sent me only had iOS 6. At that point, I knew we were not looking at some easy fix. This was going to take some time. I was starting to feel some pressure. It was already pretty late at night and Eric could not be without a phone the next day. Ok, he could but it would be extremely inconvenient. I found myself wondering why mine was the easy and upgraded one. He needs his phone so much more than I need mine. Anyway.

I updated the iOS as requested only to find out that now it couldn’t restore the backup because the new phone was now iOS 8 and his backup was in iOS 7. So. Much. Frustration. So now I had to update his iPhone. If you have an iPhone, you are aware that these updates take some time. We were now at around 11:15. I left his to update and went to bed. This morning at 6:15, it looked like it had not updated overnight. And the panic hit once again. Thankfully, it had updated (must have just been a glitch on the screen). To update the new phone, I had had to set it up as a new phone. And so now I had to go back and erase and reset the new phone so I could restore the backup.

I was finally able to get the new phone in Eric’s hands at about 7:30.

What a process. All because I did not start with the right iOS system.

What I am going to say now most people do not want to hear but the bottom line is this: If we start with right operating system, life is generally simpler. 

And, in life, the right operating system is found in the Bible. If we follow the standards set up for us there, we have a better life. I have even seen non-Christians live by the standards set up there and have a really good life because they are living a good, moral life by staying faithful to their spouse, being honest, loving their children and teaching them to obey and respect authority, being a good steward of their resources, and being a good worker. These things alone will keep us from experiencing an awful lot of consequences.

But when we start with the wrong operating system (known by the name ME), we run in to some serious problems. When we are dominated by our own selfish desires, pride, and lusts, we will probably not have such an easy life but instead will be forced to deal with some costly consequences.

Sure, there are exceptions to this. Sometimes bad things do happen to good people. But we have to stop pretending that we can–

–Eat all we want and not get fat.

–Let our kids disobey and be disrespectful and yet believe they will somehow follow the Lord when they get older.

–Be selfish and unloving and still have a good marriage.

–Buy what we want and not go into debt.

Life has consequences. And much of the heartache in this world is due to this rule of reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7). The really sad thing is that most times we are not the only ones who reap what we sow. The tragedies dealt by bad decisions are visited upon our children, our spouses, and our parents. Our choices can ruin lives.

My phone was so easy because I had started with the correct iOS. On the other hand, Eric’s phone was difficult and so frustrating because it did not have the correct iOS.

Let me encourage you to start with the right operating system today. This doesn’t mean we will live perfect lives (which you will understand immediately if you know me at all!), but it does mean that we will make a very purposeful decision to stop being guided by our own desires and wants and, instead, turn to God’s Word for directions on how to live. You will not only be pleasing Him by this choice, but avoid a lot of unnecessary heartache and sadness in your life.

 

If you appreciated this post, would you please take a moment to share it? Thank you.

 

 

A Lesson in Love From an Unlikely Source

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I love both my dogs. Truly, I do. But I have to admit that one is so much easier to love than the other one. (First, a disclaimer– if you don’t like dogs, you may not “get” this post. I hope you will keep reading, anyway.)

We have one dog named Belle. She is small and white and a bit cat-like. She will come if she feels like it. She will obey if she feels like it. She will stare at you with these eyes that seem to say, “see if you can make me.”  Now, overall, she is a great dog. She really is. And most times she does listen. And when she feels like it, she is the most cuddly dog you can imagine. But so much of the love is on her terms.

On the other hand, our Chocolate Lab, Macy, is almost always willing and ready to obey, to come when called, and to snuggle. She is happy and easy-going and just an easy dog to have around. She follows me everywhere and is almost depressed when I am not home for a few days. She loves me so much that I can’t help but love her back. The dog hair that seems to congregate in the corners of my house and other occasional annoyances that come with having a dog inside the house are more bearable because she is just so lovable.

The bottom line is that Macy is just easier to love than Belle.

As I was thinking about this the other day, I started wondering: Am I lovable? Do I love the people in my life so much that they can’t help but love me back?

I think sometimes we expect people (especially our spouses) to love us unconditionally, without wavering. And so they should. But perhaps we could make it so much easier for them to do so?

Should we really expect passionate and undying love from someone if we treat them like they are our servant? Or grow angry and irritated at the slightest offense? Can we really expect unconditional love if we are unkind, arrogant, and defensive? If we never, ever apologize or forgive?

Oh, it is possible to love difficult people by the grace of God and His love working through us, but we do it out of a sense of duty. It certainly isn’t because it is fulfilling or rewarding in any way. It certainly isn’t the way God designed love between two people to be.

Instead we so often fall into the habit of tolerating one another.

I have read several books on marriage that suggest that if you start serving your mate and treating them the way you would want to be treated it would go a long way in making your marriage work. I knew that this must be true but when I started thinking about my two very different dogs, understanding came in a whole different way.

It is just hard not to love someone (or a dog) who treats you like you are the greatest thing in existence. It is a rare person who doesn’t respond to kindness and loving actions shown towards them. And it is so much easier to put up with the annoyances and small irritations if we feel deeply loved by someone. Tolerance falls away and deep, abiding love takes its place.

If you are struggling in a relationship with someone today, may I suggest that you start loving that person unconditionally and without reserve?  Read I Corinthians 13 right now and put it into practice. Start treating them like they are special and see if they don’t just return that love. And, even if they don’t respond in the way you want right away (this process can take days or even years), you will be filled with the knowledge and peace that you are doing the right thing according to God’s Word (Mark 12:31).

 

While the Sun Shines

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I don’t know how it is where you live, but in my hometown the road crews seem to be in overdrive right now. I find that in almost every direction I travel–whether it be on highways or back, country roads– I have to figure that I will be held up by a work crew somewhere along the way. The other day it was in two separate places. If I don’t give myself enough time, these delays can be very frustrating.

What a wonderful analogy of life. We are traveling along, living our life with our plans firmly in place and then we hit a delay. And then another one. And we find ourselves discouraged because these delays are not in our plans for our lives. We often will forget that the possibility of delays and detours is not only possible but quite probable.

And just as we can prepare for travel delays by making sure we have some extra time (rather than leaving at the last minute!) so, too, should we prepare for the inevitable trials and troubles of life by growing deep roots of faith while the sun shines.

You often hear people say that they grew the most spiritually during a particularly difficult trial they faced. And this is certainly true. God does use our trials to change and transform us. But let’s never forget that we need to be growing while all is well, too. Let us not get distracted from our Bible Study and prayer, simply because we are at an easy, mundane time of life. We need to be in the Word, learning and growing, so that we are strong and ready when the inevitable storms come.

Growing deep roots based on God’s Word will help us stand strong with courage and strength when we are under attack. If our heads are filled with the wonderful knowledge of who God is as defined in scripture and if we are familiar with the promises and commands held within His Word for His children, then we will be prepared for whatever we have to face.

But if our heads are filled with the fluff of worldly entertainment or, even worse, falsehoods about God and what His Word says in the trendy, religious books of today, then we will falter when the true tests come–because the definition of God and the religion they are describing will fall woefully short.

Oh, how we need to be in God’s Word. Studying it. Memorizing it. Obeying it. And, in so doing, we will be aptly prepared for the delays and storms that we are guaranteed to face sooner or later.

 

P.S.  Check out my Bible Study Resources Page for some good biblical resources to get you started and be sure not to fall for this trap as you pick up the Bible for study.