Is There Such a Thing as an “Unbiased” Education?

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I don’t often delve into the world of education here at Growing 4 Life. We have lots of options these days and there are very strong feelings about this word among Christian parents. So much so, that I have seen Facebook debates over this and have heard comments that rank certain education choices as sinful.

Personally, I spent 12 years in the public education system. When my husband and I had our four children, we chose to home school them for 16 years and then chose Christian school when it was time for a change. I have never believed that education is a black and white issue. We Christians need to give each other freedom of choice in this area.

However, I think we do need to recognize something–

All education is biased by world view.

You see, we all have one. Aside from the Christian world view that recognizes that Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God, the three general world views that most people hold to in one way or another are– 1) that there is some all-powerful being who would never send anyone to hell, 2) The human race is getting better and its eventual end will be that humans will become gods, or 3) that there is no God at all.

I was *reading the testimony of a young lady from the 1940s the other day. She gave this quote about morality–

“It’s not true that an atheist cannot have any morality; what he cannot have is rational morality. Unless we have a turn for philosophy, nine tenths of our moral code will be habit and sentiment, coaxed into us by Mamma, knocked into us by Papa. And ceasing to believe in God does not destroy a lifelong habit of telling the truth and holding the door politely for old ladies. My father persisted in justice, temperance, fortitude, and prudence. He was used to them. It never occurred to him that, in the meaningless, purposeless universe of the atheist, moral ideas could only be something men put together for their own convenience, like the horse and buggy; something you could scrap as soon as an automobile morality came along. And he tried his level best to pass his virtues on to me. Atheist virtues, however, don’t keep very well.”

How profound is this? There is no reason for an atheist to have morals unless they are convenient. And, as such, they can change and move. Nothing is absolute.

(As an aside, I believe we are experiencing today the fruit of those parents who walked away from a belief in a God so many years ago. It took a little while and they couldn’t see the fruits of their decision at the time, but here we are.)

So if someone believes there are no absolutes, won’t this have to change how they teach our children anything? Doesn’t this make an “unbiased” education impossible?

The same would hold true for someone who is into the New Age. Their belief would be that they are becoming like God or that they are becoming a god. When they hold to this belief, then, they, too, get to choose their own morality–what is right and what is wrong.

So you may say, how in the world does that affect someone teaching my children?

I thought through this a bit in my own experience. I can think specifically of at least five teachers who influenced my public school classes with their personal philosophies–

1. A Spanish teacher who told us that all roads lead to God. We had quite a debate about that, he and I.

2. An English teacher that promoted homosexuality as normal and used the guise of philosophy to teach an anti-biblical message.

3. A Science teacher who taught there is no god but that man simply evolved.

4. A charismatic, likable Social Studies teacher who filled our heads with his own liberal agenda.

5. An English teacher who was clearly involved in some type of witchcraft.

This was my experience 30 years ago in the public education system. Do you honestly believe it has gotten any better since then?

But I am not writing this to encourage you to take your kids out of public school or to tell you that homeschooling is the only way. The reason I am writing is this–

No matter how you choose to educate your children, make sure you have the discussions that matter.

Your kids have questions. Lots of questions. And they are getting answered every day. They are getting answered by atheists and people sold out for false religions. They are finding their answers in school classes and on movie screens, on the sports fields and in the music they listen to.

If you don’t combat the wrong answers they are hearing with the truth of God’s Word, you will most likely lose your kids to the world. I have seen this happen over and over again.

No, we don’t always have the answers. And yes, sometimes it is really, really hard work. I have found that in many homes parents just pretend there aren’t any questions because that is simply easier. But just because we pretend this, doesn’t make it true. Think back to your own teen-aged years and remember.

A few years ago, Public Service announcements encouraged parents to talk about drugs with their children. “Just Say No” was a familiar slogan. And this is not a bad thing. But how do you talk about drugs if you don’t have the solid base of God’s Word as your standard for morality?

We need to first and foremost teach our kids that our standard for morality is God’s inerrant, unchanging, infallible Word or the world will teach them otherwise.

And so I would encourage you to consider these things when making your education choice–

1. Sports or other extra-curricular activities are not a good reason to use the public education system. These things are fleeting and fading, but the character that is being built during these crucial years is not.

2. Consider the personality of your child when making this decision. I can think of two of my children who would have been just fine in the public education system. They are full of conviction and talk about everything they are thinking with my husband and me. My other two would have struggled. They tend to be more quiet about personal feelings and to follow the crowd. We have talked about it and they recognize this, too.

3. Don’t think you can rest just because your child is in a Christian school or you are home-schooling.  Students cheat and lie here, too, and sometimes subtle, modern-day philosophies creep into these places, as well.

No matter what choice we make, we must be on our toes and be setting a good foundation on God’s Word at home. We have a duty to protect our children. Take it seriously, no matter which way you choose to educate your children. Sports and starring roles are fun and exciting, but integrity and godly character is far more important. And, while education is a good and useful thing, the value of teaching our children a godly world view based on God’s Word is inestimable. Let’s take our role as parents very seriously. Let’s focus on what’s eternal in a world that is focusing on what is fading.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

 

 *Quote taken from “These Found the Way”, edited by David Wesley Soper.

 

Springing to Life!

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I absolutely love this time of year! To me, it symbolizes hope and new life. The plants that have been dormant underneath the surface of the earth make their tentative way up through the ground and come back to life. Trees and shrubs start to bud and then produce blossoms that take your breath away when you really stop to look at them. The landscape comes to life as greens and reds and yellows start replacing the drab browns that have been our background for the past several months.

As you may already know if you’ve been hanging around Growing4Life for a little while, I am a bit of an amateur photographer (actually, I don’t think I would even use the term photographer–maybe just “picture-taker”). At any rate, I took my camera around my backyard a couple of times so far this spring and captured a few shots, reveling in the beauty of nature.

So I thought I’d share a few of my photos with you. Don’t forget to spend a few moments observing the earth springing back to life in your own backyard.

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Vengeance is Mine

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Sometimes things happen. Sometimes we can control them and sometimes we can’t. I had a car accident a few years ago which led to someone being rather upset with me. The details are not necessary, but suffice it to say my few overtures to reach out and try to fix things were rejected.

And then came the early Sunday morning a few months ago when this woman and her son knocked on our door. He had destroyed a bit of our property while driving home that morning. They stood there nervous and scared.

My human nature –for a second– wanted to treat them like they had treated me when I had the accident that had damaged some of their property. But the love of Christ quickly took over and I recognized the opportunity to try to patch and repair our relationship with this family. We very intentionally chose to extend our compassion and forgiveness to this woman and her son.

I have not heard from them since. But wasn’t it so ironic that God gave me the opportunity to show this particular family that Christians are truly different? I don’t think this was an “accident” at all and I hope that we planted some seeds of love and forgiveness and maybe even a little curiosity about the things of God.

If you are still reading through the Bible with me, we are in midst of I Samuel, hearing stories of Saul’s constant cat-and-mouse game with David.

Saul’s jealousy (I Samuel 18:8) has driven him to seek out David with the intent to kill him for much of the last few chapters.

God places in David’s hands the opportunity to kill Saul not once but twice! (I Samuel 24:4; I Samuel 26:12) And yet, David never even contemplates doing this for a second, even when his men are encouraging him to do so.

Have you ever really thought about this? My little story above was a minor, easy one in which to extend forgiveness– no one was trying to kill me and it was about some paltry “stuff”. But David was being hunted with the intent to kill him. He was forced to live on the run in caves because of this man’s jealousy. His whole life had been uprooted by this vendetta of Saul’s. How easy it would have been to simply just end it. Right there in the cave. It seems like this would have been appropriate to do in the culture he was in.

And yet, he chose not to, but instead cut off a piece of robe or took some belongings of Saul’s to prove that he had been there. He wanted to use these items as a means to a truce with Saul. But it never really worked.

In fact, in I Samuel 27:1 David acknowledges in his heart that he will eventually perish at the hand of Saul if he stays where he is and chooses to escape Israel completely, with the intention of waiting on God’s timing for the entire situation.

Isn’t this extremely hard to do sometimes? Even if we don’t execute revenge on those who have humiliated or hurt us, we sure can concoct some schemes in our minds, can’t we? We imagine those who have hurt us being shamed and humiliated in the same way we have been. We often watch and we wonder why they continue to live in peace and prosperity when their hearts seem so wicked.

And, yet, really–we should leave this completely in the hands of God, should we not? In fact, God speaks to this very thing in Romans 12, verse 17-21:

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

And this is how we really shine as believers, isn’t it? We can stand for truth, we can live generously, we can extend our efforts to aid the widow and the orphan, we can live our lives with discernment, eschewing wicked entertainment and living holy lives, but we really stand out when we love our enemies. Because this is beyond natural–in fact it is supernatural because it is only really possible to love our enemies through the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives.

Hurts abound. Family strife happens. Persecution occurs. Broken relationships haunt us.

But the command in scripture is clear–

We are to love and then let God take care of the rest.

Psalm 37 is such a great chapter to read if you happen to be struggling with this right now. In closing, I’d like to just share a small portion with you–

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.

For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the Lord,
They shall inherit the earth.

“Why Do You Post So Much About God?”

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I had the strangest dream the other night. For some reason, I was holding a high school class reunion at my house. The organizers of this reunion had brought everything along and didn’t need anything from me except for my back yard. I was happy for them to use it.

But, as the afternoon wore on, I realized that not one of them liked me at all. They were frustrated because I wasn’t allowing alcohol at the picnic and they were even more disgusted when I put on Christian music. So much so, that they all got in their cars and left.

But in the midst of that afternoon, one classmate had come up to me who was a believer and shared with me that her husband had been reading my blog and it was making him think.

The End.

I don’t normally remember my dreams when I wake up. But this one stuck with me, for some reason. I think it’s because I hated the feeling of being unliked that I had in that dream. I tried to talk with people and they just ignored me. They wouldn’t even let me be in the class photo!

Now, on behalf of my classmates, they have never treated me so unkindly nor would they. I have no idea from what hidden depths of my mind this dream came from. But the highlight of that dream {nightmare} was that I had made a difference. Being disliked was a small price to pay if this blog was making one person think about eternity.

While, in the real world, people are generally not so cruel as to ban me from a photo, I do know that I have been blocked and hidden and even unfriended on Facebook because I am constantly posting things that few people want to read. I have had people unsubscribe from this blog because they don’t like what what I wrote. Seriously. I do know this. I am not naive.

I know that people think I am over-the-top, or strange, or perhaps even a little titched. And sometimes– every now and again– I am really tempted to just stop posting about God and His Word. I grow weary of writing the stuff that most people don’t want to hear. I’d rather write the sentimental stuff that is so appealing to the masses. Or how about a fun home blog where I get to post recipes and home decorating ideas? Can’t I just focus on that, Lord, and try to weave Your Truth in there occasionally?

And He has consistently made it clear that His answer to that question is NO.

So why do I do it? Why do I post so much about God?

I thought it might be time to fill you in. Just so you know. Because, honestly, I don’t like being unpopular and annoying. I don’t want to be the person that makes your eyes roll when you see my posts on Facebook. Actually, I hate it. I want people to like me. I want to be popular and sought after as a speaker and writer. But then I remember…

If I really believe God’s Word in its inerrant entirety then I have to recognize a couple of things–

1. When we become genuine believers, then God’s glory becomes more important than my glory. Knowing God will become a greater treasure to us than the praise of men or worldly riches. Notice I use the word “become” because I think this is a battle that most of us fight against almost every day. It is certainly not an overnight process where suddenly we don’t care about riches and our reputation. But we know it this is a battle we can’t afford to lose when we read the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24-25–

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

2. The way is narrow, which means the majority of people in this world are going to go to hell when they die. This is what the Bible teaches. If someone tells you that it isn’t, then they have not studied the Bible very much.

I don’t like this any more than you do. Seriously. It is not one of my favorite things about Christianity. In fact, it is cause for great mourning and occasionally a lot of questions, if I think too hard. But there it is, in black and white, in Matthew 7:13-14–

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

If this is true, then most people are not going to have any desire at all to hear the gospel. Paul puts it like this–

For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)

So when I keep this in mind it helps me to understand that, while some people are going to love thinking and reading about God’s plan for man to be reconciled to Him and what our life looks like after we are, so many others are going to be annoyed and desire to ignore it completely. It makes sense, in light of scripture.

3. The time is short. Every day we can see more pieces to the puzzle of the end times coming together in an amazing and unbelievable design. It’s fascinating and frightening all at the same time. But what it adds up to is that — whether through the rapture or coming persecution on believers– I just have to believe that the time to share our faith freely is going to end rather soon.

These three things compel me to use blogging and Social Media as a tool to share the Truth with as many people as possible!

It reminds me of this analogy my dad uses–

If I see you standing on the train track with a train headed towards you at full speed, my love for you as a fellow human being compels me to shout out a warning or perhaps even push you off of the track. I could never live with myself if I didn’t do something.

And so it is with the gospel and the Truth of God’s Word. My love for you and your eternal destiny compels me to get the word out. I don’t know why the Lord has laid it on my heart to use Facebook. While I think perhaps a few more of us should use social media to post about the things of God rather than constantly bringing attention to ourselves and our accomplishments, I am certainly not suggesting that there is anything wrong if you choose not to post about God. That is between you and God. Every Christian is given opportunities to witness and to evangelize, and most of those opportunities are not through social media– so there is no condemnation coming from me if you aren’t using social media to spread the gospel.

But now perhaps you can understand why I do what I do. I do want to be liked. I really do. But if me being liked means someone not hearing the message of the gospel, then I choose to be unliked. I choose to be talked about and ostracized if it means even one of you comes to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I choose to be unpopular if it means that you are challenged and convicted to grow in your walk with God.

Seriously.

So now you know.

Which Is It?

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One of the things I have been really struggling with this second time through the Old Testament is the ease with which God seems to kill off anyone that offends Him. Yesterday, I read of the men from the Levite town, Beth Shemesh, who committed the very presumptuous sin of looking into the Ark of the Lord (I Samuel 6). Because of this, they were struck by God and killed. Just like that.

What?? Is this the same God whom we sing about, lauding His grace and mercy?

As I discussed this with my brother, Pastor Dean, he said something very profound. In fact, so profound, that I believe until we fully grasp a biblical view on this, we are going to really struggle with our concept of God.

We either believe–

People are good and God is evil.

OR

God is good and people are evil.

We can’t have it both ways. If we believe people are basically good then what we see God do in the Old Testament seems harsh and cruel…and evil. But when we come to the understanding that we are born with utterly wicked hearts and are entirely dead in our sins and that God is perfectly Just, perfectly Righteous, and perfectly Holy, then what happens in the Old Testament starts to make more sense.

It really is impossible to believe that both God and people are good. Because if that is so, then we really have a problem–for how could a good God strike down intrinsically good people who simply made mistakes?

Even as I write this, I recognize the distaste that wells up inside most of us at this thought of people being born with zero righteousness. Even as Christians, this doesn’t sit well with us. Surely, we have some good to bring to the bargaining table? And yet scripture is clear–

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10b-12)

This intrinsic wickedness that is taught in scripture is just such a hard concept to accept with our Western, human rights thinking. I think many of us, even as Christians, drag our feet in fully admitting man’s sinful state.

But when we come to the understanding that God is good and we are not, then what we are reading starts to make so much more sense. A holy, just God cannot tolerate a unholy people. And so when the Israelites were prideful and disobedient, they paid dearly–many times with their lives. But we also see– over and over again–God’s generous mercy and grace when the people are humble and obedient.

Let’s fast forward a bit. When Jesus Christ died on the cross as a sacrifice for sins and then rose three days later, we moved into the age of grace–this wonderful time where God does not generally strike men down for their sins and disobedience.

But does that make our pride and arrogance any more tolerable? Or our disobedience any less offensive?

Certainly not.

We are totally dead in our sins until we receive God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Once we receive this new life, our rock-hard hearts are softened, our desires changed, and we naturally take steps to live a humble, obedient life.

Is God’s plan of redemption starting to make so much more sense now?

This also helps us to understand why people are moving away from the scriptures as the basis of their faith and why so many choose to believe only parts of the Bible and not the whole. If we are honest, some of what we read in scripture is really hard stuff. We don’t like it. And we can’t wrap our brains around it. And, most importantly, it places demands on us that many of us find distasteful and unpleasant. “Fire insurance” is what most people are after– the call for self-sacrifice, humility, and obedience is certainly not a welcome part of the plan.

But choosing only to believe the happy parts and the blessings of scripture do not make the hard, difficult truths any less true, does it?

I would say that until we can recognize that all men are born sinners and without merit– no exceptions and no levels– we cannot fully grasp the fulness of our salvation. Reading the Old Testament is helping me to understand just how much God hates sin. It is giving me a much deeper appreciation that God, in His marvelous grace and infinite mercy, has given us a great gift in salvation and that through Jesus Christ alone can I be reconciled to God.

Because God is good and I am not.

Sure, I still have a few unanswered questions. But they are eclipsed by the wonderful insight and knowledge of God I am gaining as I read. I sure do hope that you are experiencing the same thing. If not, then just continue reading, praying each time before you start. God is so faithful. He will speak through His Word to a willing and humble heart. Not every moment. Not every day. Sometimes we read because it is the right thing to do. But you will be so surprised and delighted at the end of the year just how much you have learned!

Isaiah 55:11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. 

 

In the Storm

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I thought I knew what I was going to write today. And someday soon I will probably write it. But I can’t today. Today I am just too overwhelmed by the grief and sorrow of this world.

Sometimes we can forget about it.

Sometimes.

I enjoyed a wonderful Easter with my family. I feel so blessed. But over the course of the last week or two, several really painful situations have come to my attention. Some of the suffering people I know personally and others are Christian brothers and sisters in different states or even across the world. But they all have one thing in common–they are currently tasting the heart-wrenching, bitter reality of a fallen world.

It all seems so pointless.

And yet–

There is the cross.

I know so many think we Christians are just ridiculous. We are living in a dream world, grasping for comfort where none is to be found. Putting our hope in a man who was nothing more than a prophet, at best, or mentally unstable, at worst.

But you and I know differently, don’t we? Our eyes have been opened, our blinders removed, and we know that there is genuine forgiveness and blessed hope to be found in Jesus.

In our suffering moments, we cling tenaciously to this, trying desperately to keep hold.

And, thankfully, after our walk through that dark, dark tunnel of grief, we can often see the hand of God, working in our lives and growing us to be more like Jesus.

But this thought really doesn’t bring much comfort as we take our own journey through grief– I recognize that even as I write it.

It just helps all the blackness to not seem so pointless.

All of us have black moments. But some seem to have more than others, don’t they? Take, for instance, that first wife of Samson’s (Judges 14-15). Have you ever thought about just how tragic her life was? Just because an Israelite took a fancy to her. She is not alone. Many people seem to be born for tragedy. Like our brothers and sisters in other lands who are persecuted unmercifully for the cause of Christ.

I wish I had all the answers. I wish I knew how to comfort someone who is walking through such terrible darkness. And I wish I knew how to not feel so deeply.

But I keep going back to the same thing– HOPE is found in Jesus and what He did for us at the cross. True, genuine hope is only found there. Hope for now and hope for the future. Hope in the blackness.

How do people survive in this world without it? This is why some are willing to die for their faith. Because they recognize that true hope is only found there.

I was talking with my girls the other day about the hopelessness with which some of their co-workers live their lives. They talk about divorce before even getting married, figuring that the relationship will end sooner or later. They can’t imagine how my girls could trust their boyfriend and husband to remain faithful to them. Or how it is possible to have any fun in life at all without getting drunk and escaping reality as their source of entertainment.

What they don’t realize is the great hope that lies within my girls because of Jesus Christ. Only because of Christ.

Because on that day so long ago, He hung on a tree, bearing our sins, taking our sin and shame upon His shoulders, and then rose again –victorious over death!

True joy and peace can only be found in recognizing this, repenting of our sins, and submitting to this truth.

And, so, in this broken, fallen world, we can only point people to this hope. Other than that, we are truly hopeless and travel from one broken, cursed moment to the next, with a brief respite sometimes given in between where we simply try to forget. Forget that we will soon be mired in grief once again.

I’m sorry.

I’m not trying to be so depressing. But I just feel so sad and scattered in my thoughts. Trying to sort my way through the deep grief and questions I am feeling this morning. Trying to piece it all together with the gospel. And I keep coming to the same conclusion–

Our hope isn’t here.

It’s not in this world, or the things of this world. But, instead, rests fully in Jesus Christ and His promises to us, written in His Word.

Life is hard. Sometimes really hard. But we have a Savior. We have a Hope. Let’s cling, unwaveringly, to this as we are tossed about on the sea of life. It’s the only thing we have.

 

 

Remembering Our True Purpose

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Many times we become so used to “Bible Stories” that we forget that they happened to real people and that there was much more to the story than the short paragraphs read to us as children. For instance, let’s look at the story of Gideon and his fleece. Most of us are familiar with this well-known Bible story, but today let’s look at it from a little different angle.

Judges is a hard read, isn’t it? In fact, in modern day texting language my continual response to what I’m reading is smh (which means “shaking my head” in case you didn’t know). I cannot understand how the Israelites could be rescued supernaturally by God and then fall back so quickly into such deep sin and flagrant idolatry. Hardly a generation would pass before they would be worse than before. I would like to think that I wouldn’t have been like that, but I guess none of us really know, do we? Crowd sway (or –as it’s more commonly known– peer pressure) is a powerful thing.

But back to Gideon. If you are doing the Bible Challenge you will have read that story sometime this week. I confess as I read, I was a bit shocked at the rest of the story. I always am. But before the fleece, there was Gideon’s conversation with the Angel of the Lord (Judges 6), where he was told to fight.

Gideon responds: So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

I was thinking a bit about this. Especially in light of some of the more popular “Christian” books that have been around for the last twenty-five years or so.

When we talk about being weak, we will use this story of Gideon– oh, he was a weak man and God used Him. We like that. We go on to read of God using the weak in scripture elsewhere, as well, so we know that it is certainly truth. (I Corinthians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

But when we are told we will be made strong– perhaps we should consider what we are being made strong for?

In this self-absorbed, self-centered, self-glorying world we live in, we all want to know our personal purpose and how we can shine. We want to be the center of attention and love to have some praise and glory.

So when we think of verses like those listed above or Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, we use these verses out of context– thinking we are going to be able to do things for ourselves and get some of our own glory.

Even if you aren’t consciously thinking this, here’s a little test to show if you are using these verses correctly– think about the last time one of these verses came to mind in reference to yourself. Were you thinking about your own selfish desires or God’s purposes and desires?

But God never works in us for our own glory, but for His own purposes and His own glory. Gideon was given strength to accomplish God’s purpose, not his own. Oh, depending what path we follow, a bit of glory may spill on to us as we follow God’s plan, but a wise man stays humble and focused on God’s purposes and glory. Getting caught up in our own glory is a dangerous place to be.

If you feel weak and tired, irrelevant, and useless as I have felt often during this past week, then, yes, we do need to remember that God can use us in spite of how we feel. I share that here so that you know I am not some icon of spirituality spilling already learned lessons here on the blog but, instead, continue to learn right along with you! It is a wonderful truth that in our weakness God shows His strength! Let’s praise Him for that.

But why does He show His strength in our weakness?

He shows it for His purposes and for His glory!

So how do we remember this when even the Christian world tells us to seek our own glory, stay focused on ourselves, and to be strengthened for our own purposes?

The best way is by doing what you are doing! Stay in the Word of God and keep reading. As the truths of scripture settle in our hearts we can keep a proper perspective and a strong sense of discernment. We can never underestimate the importance of staying in God’s Word for the health of every Christian. I know of no other way to stay firm and unmoving in a culture that is reeling with mysticism and relativism. So keep on reading, my friends, keep on reading!

 

Giving Back

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It is often said that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Whether you are on a project at work or in a church family, this generally holds true. You have a few who lead, a few who serve in the background, and the rest just fill in the chairs.

I thought of this ratio yesterday in Sunday School, as our pastor taught us about spiritual gifts and assured us that every Christian has one (or more than one) and that we are to use them to equip the saints and edify the body (see Ephesians 4).

Being raised in Christian homes, this was something my husband and I had always been taught and as we got married and raised a family, we faithfully put it into practice. And so for years we poured our lives into our church, serving in many capacities, as you are apt to do in a small church.

But one day we realized that we had to leave that church.

And, suddenly, we were confronted with the fact that it was kind of comfortable and really easy to not have to do anything at church–we didn’t have to be there on Sundays or Wednesdays, we didn’t have to go to meetings, or deal with all the drama, or worry about whether the church was staying true to God’s Word. Instead we could just sit. After giving our hearts and souls to a church family for over 25 years, it felt incredibly strange, but also quite nice and we felt ourselves growing used to it after a few months.

And so we’d gather everyone up as late as possible on a Sunday morning and slide into a pew towards the back, way out of the way, where we wouldn’t be noticed.

But somewhere deep inside of us, the conviction was growing that if we were going to commit to a new church, then we needed to also serve at this church. And, so, it was with great trepidation and not a little dragging of the feet, that I signed up to help with our church’s Awana program.

Let me state, first and foremost here, that I did not want to commit to attending Wednesday nights. I was thoroughly enjoying not having to go to church during the week and wasn’t all that anxious to start up again. I also was okay being in the background and not being responsible for anything.

But there is a flip-side to that position, isn’t there?

Because I wasn’t there much or not responsible for anything, I didn’t really know anyone. We’d come and go on Sunday mornings and realized that few people would even notice if we weren’t there or, in fact, if we ever came again.

That was probably the hardest thing about going to a new church for me, personally. We had left what felt like a family and were plopped into a bunch of strangers.

But that old adage came back to me – in order to have a friend you must be a friend. And, so, instead of expecting people to reach out to me, I decided to obey God in this area of serving and  intentionally get involved.

And here is what I found– after my first year of helping, people recognized me, asked me how I was doing, and I started to develop some friendships. I started to feel like I belong. It certainly wasn’t instant but it gradually happened. As is often the case, when we follow God’s commands, we are blessed. In this instance, following God’s command to serve had blessed me tremendously.

So why am I sharing this here?

I believe in this age of “consumerism”, many of us Christians have become rather complacent in our church service. We go on Sundays so we can check it off of our list, but we aren’t really vested in any church body. I know there are several reasons for this. Trust me, I get it. Especially after our experience of being super-involved and then not involved at all. No involvement is definitely easier.

But, if we are a believer, is that option of no involvement really even open to us if we are to live in accordance with God’s will for our lives?

I now fully understand how intimidating and overwhelming it can be to go into a group of strangers as the newbie. I totally get that it’s no fun– and for some of us could even be described as torturous.

So, in a nutshell, why should we take this uncomfortable step? Let me give you a few reasons–

1. You will be following God’s command to use your spiritual gifts and to serve the church body.

2. You will start to feel like you “belong there”.

3. You will begin to recognize the visitors and be able to reach out to them in a special way, because you know just how they feel.

4. You will be setting a good example for your children by making church a priority. Who is going to serve in the church of the future if our children don’t see us using the gifts He has given us to serve the church family?

5. You will develop friendships.

And so, if you are one of those that is totally and completely uninvolved, I hope that you will consider getting involved in a ministry at your church. You can start small– like I did, working with the kids. You don’t have to do anything that’s really out there or up front. Join the kitchen committee, help the janitorial staff, or work in the nursery.

Just do something. Give back to the One who died for you. And you will be blessed!

 

 

 

How To Handle Rumors

gossip

The call came when I least expected it. It was a dear friend who wanted to ask me about a false and ugly rumor she had heard about us. She and her husband loved us enough to ask us outright about what they had heard.

Can I even begin to express the gratitude and overwhelming love I felt for her at that moment? There are few better proofs of true friendship than this.

I know it’s not a normal posting day, but this incident came to my mind as I was reading Chapter 22 of Joshua this morning. The Israelites had heard that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had built an altar in rebellion to the Lord. All of the Israelites gathered quickly in preparation for war against these tribes that threatened to bring God’s curse on them.

But before they went to war, they wisely sent Phinehas the priest, along with some other delegates, to confront them about what they did.

When it was all said and done, the tribes had done nothing wrong, but instead had built an altar to signify the peace between the tribes on both sides of the Jordan for generations to come.

How often we just go to war– often with our viperous, vicious words– against someone who may be innocent without even checking on the truth of the matter. Whether it is someone spreading an outright lie or it’s just a truth that has been tainted and twisted through a million re-tellings, don’t our fellow human beings deserve the opportunity to give us the truth before we fall into resentment, hatred, anger, gossip, and bitterness? (Of course, the things I’ve listed should never be practiced to begin with— but that’s a different post for a different day).

As I read Joshua 22, my heart was once again stirred to gratefulness for the couple who had shown us what genuine friendship looks like. If you have a friend like that, consider yourself blessed. Many “friends” choose to spread the rumor further, grow bitter, angry, and finally put distance between themselves and you rather than doing the hard work of confrontation and communication.

Let’s be more like Phinehas and confront directly and without malice, searching for the truth of the matter instead of just believing nasty, ugly rumors.

Have a great Friday!

A Change of Allegiance

rahab-scarlet-thread

“Mom, {Unnamed} says you can be an atheist and still be a Christian.” These were some of the first words my daughter spoke to me when she walked in the door yesterday.

Come again??

This is like saying an apple can be both an apple and a pear at the same time, and yet the person talking to her seemed to believed it.

As she further described the context of the conversation she was having, it became rather clear that those participating in the conversation had fallen prey to the unbiblical belief that a prayer said as a child is proof enough of salvation and you can go on to live in whatever manner you want and never, ever doubt your salvation.

But Rahab demonstrates to us that this is not true. If you are still reading with me, you will have recently read of this woman who put herself in danger for the sake of God’s people and then walked completely away from her old life. If she joined the Israelites, as we know she did, then we also know that God would not have tolerated worship of other gods in the camp. That means that her life radically changed when she declared her true faith.

In fact, nowhere in scripture do we see true faith without it being followed by dramatic change. They go hand in hand. Genuine salvation leads to transformation. Repent and turn from your wicked ways. Rahab is just one example– let’s also remember Paul (Acts 9) and Zaccheaus (Luke 19). We can also see this in the compelling stories missionaries from across the world share with us. To become a Christian means a dramatic change in lifestyle– so much so that many new converts put their lives in danger and sacrifice all they have to become a disciple of Jesus.

But here in our comfortable, materialistic, tolerant Western world, well—it’s quite a bit different, isn’t it? People can claim they are saved and yet never make any change at all and the “church” and the people within it will gladly affirm their claim and declare that all is well, deathly afraid to make any demands of anyone, lest their numbers go down and they are labeled as the church who judges–the ultimate sin, apparently.

My dear readers, this is not biblical salvation. While we certainly can never lose our salvation and it is true that some of us grow and change at a snail’s pace, we do have every reason to question if we were ever saved at all if we live in sin and disobey God’s commands without any conviction at all, if we have no love for God’s Word, or if we hold to a belief system that is not taught in scripture (such as atheism!)

Rahab shows us that true faith means walking away from your prior life. She was unable to stay in her town and in her old life– for if her life was to be saved, she had to join the followers of the true God. She couldn’t remain half-Canaanite and half-follower of God. She had to choose one or the other, as do we (Matthew 6:24).

While there is great grace and mercy for those of us who turn from our wicked ways and, in faith, acknowledge our need for a Savior–just as Rahab did– there is no room for purposeful wickedness to continue to reign in our lives. We must turn whole-heartedly to a brand new life. The old has passed away, behold all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I can see why people want to believe that salvation is like a “heaven insurance policy”. It’s so much more palatable than the truth, isn’t it? How easy it would have been for Rahab to declare her faith in God but then proceed to reveal the spies to the local authorities and remove the danger of being arrested for treason. But her temporary respite from danger would have cost her her life and the lives of her family in the long run. Most times the easiest, most comfortable, convenient solution is not the right one.

And so when scholars and well-known pastors and people we know claim that salvation is guaranteed despite zero lack of evidence in a life, our sinful, human minds jump at this wonderful claim. This means we can do what we want and still be saved. It means that Grandfather or Uncle Max or Aunt Sally was saved and is residing safely in heaven (after all, they said a prayer as a child), even though there was never even one tiny bit of spiritual fruit in their lives. This belief is understandably very appealing and it’s very common, but, according to scripture, it’s just not true (see references below).

I know this is a really hard truth. It is for me, too. It makes me examine my own life more carefully (2 Corinthians 13:5) and also can cause me to grow worried about some around me that claim salvation but show zero interest in spiritual things (Matthew 7:21-23). This truth changes my prayer life and makes me more sensitive to the opportunities God puts before me every day.

Simply put, we cannot deny that true Christianity means a complete and utter change of allegiance. My allegiance moves from myself and false gods or idols to the one and only true God. Just as Rahab changed her allegiance from her false gods and worldly system to the true God–and was blessed for it! Oh, let’s not forget the grace and mercy shown to her by our Heavenly Father and the blessings she received because of her faith!– so we, too, will change our allegiance when we come to true salvation.

And remember this very important thing–it’s not a “have to”, but simply an inherent fact of true faith. For that, my dear friends, is the crucial difference between legalistic, works-based “salvation” and life-transforming faith.

Verses that help us understand this truth–

I Corinthians 6:9
Hebrews 12:14
2 Timothy 2:19
Titus 1:16
I John 2:3
I John 2:9
James 2:17
James 4:4