Self-Obsession

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Sometimes I am still so amazed with how obsessed I am with myself. Seriously. How can this be? I think I have grown in this area of loving God more than loving myself and then I am criticized or minimized and I am back to realizing just how much I love me.

In the past few weeks, two specific things happened. In one instance, a ministry I have given my heart and soul to was completely–and quite unintentionally–minimized. In another, a project I was working on was criticized behind my back and that criticism found its way to my ears. In both instances, my first thought was: Why do I even bother? 

I have found in my life that these two things– criticizing or minimizing –are the two surest ways to knock the wind out of my sails. I get hurt, I get angry, I get frustrated.

But why? Why do these things bother me so much?

As I thought about this a lot over the past few days, I realize that it is because I love myself more than I love God. I get more angry and offended if someone hurts me than I do if they commit an offense against God.

I am quite ashamed to admit this, but it is just the truth.

When I can find my way back to biblical sanity–a place that is easier to find when I am walking with the Lord–I recognize that I can learn from comments that criticize or minimize–but only if I am willing to look at them honestly and humbly. When I can look at them honestly, there is potential to learn from them. When I am humble and stop thinking so highly of myself, the temptation to walk away from a fruitful ministry because of a comment seems silly.

And so my job is to examine whether or not the comment has truth or not and then to make changes if it does and to forgive and ignore if it doesn’t. That’s it. That’s what I am supposed to do.

I have to be honest with you– I did not want to share this today. It feels far too personal. But I believe that God wanted me to share this. So much so that I had nothing else to write today. Nothing. I was a complete blank– except for this.

And I recognize that self-love is a grave temptation for all of us. When we think we have it conquered, it rears its ugly head and reminds us that we certainly do not. It keeps us depending on and trusting in our heavenly Father for grace and strength. It reminds us why we so desperately need a Savior.

I also believe this dynamic–this self-obsession–is what keeps the body of the church from being unified on many occasions. It is what causes grudges to be held, forgiveness to be withheld, and ministries to fail. It is what causes rifts in families and great divides in churches.

All because of our great idol: self. 

And so God has continued to humble me. And while I don’t enjoy it, I am thankful for it. It is always good to be reminded that I am just a pinpoint–less than a pinpoint– on the timeline of life. God can accomplish His plan and His purposes without me–and without you, too. We are here to glorify Him and to make Him known, but He doesn’t need us. However, we do need Him. I think sometimes we get that a little mixed up and view ourselves as more important than we are.

Life is challenging. All of us face criticism or being minimized at one time or another. We face hurtful remarks and slander and gossip that swirls around about us. How we handle it is crucial and very telling of how much we worship self.

The next time this happens to me, I hope my journey to humility and honesty is just a little shorter. I hope that I will be less in love with myself and more in love with God. But I also recognize that this love of self is all-pervasive and ready to rear its ugly head at all times. We have to fight this sin very intentionally. And we can never rest because the path of self-obsession leads to a very dark and lonely place.

 

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:30-31


 

The Glory of the Garden

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The dying rose caught my eye. It only had a few of its petals left. Nestled among the leaves close by this rose were still-green, closed buds, along with buds just starting to show their color, adolescent roses shyly opening their petals to the world, and full and stunning roses in the height of their glory. This last group were the ones which I had come to photograph. Is there any flower that shows its glory more than the rose? I was coming a bit late and had missed the first push of the season, but I still found many beautiful roses, bright and gorgeous flowers in shades of pinks, salmons, yellows, oranges, and whites.

But it was that fading rose that really started me thinking.

In a way, our lives are similar to that of the roses. We start as baby buds–young children with so much potential ahead of us but, still green, we give little indication of what we will look like as adults. And then, as teenagers, we open up and our colors start to peek through just a bit as we start to show who we will become as adults. A few years later, we are in our twenties and we are immature flowers that are tentatively opening up to the world around us. This stage finds us ready to take on the world and eagerly developing our talents and dreaming our dreams. It is in our thirties that most of us experience pure and stunning fullness. By this time, most of us have a good understanding of ourselves and who we are. We have found our niche and have settled in to our comfort zones. By this time we have acquired some wisdom and we also still have our health. As we hit our forties, our petals open wider and start to fade. Our bodies stop cooperating with us and we feel a bit stiff when we get out of bed in the morning. We are glad for the wisdom that age has taught us, but we are bummed about our bodies starting to let us down. And then as we head into our fifties and sixties, we start losing petals. One by one they start falling off. The things that we have counted on for security — our children, our careers, physical beauty, health, parents– one by one they start falling away. It is in this stage that we realize no one is taking pictures of us anymore. We are the rose that is fading. The one that is on the way out. And then comes the rosehip. This is what develops when all of the petals have fallen off. The rosehip can be used for so many things, just as those in their 70s, 80s, and 90s still have so much to offer a world that has lost interest in them. The older generation may be the least mined treasure in existence in a world that idolizes youth.

There is really no spiritual lesson here. Just an observation about human life. We are like the roses. And this is the way that life goes.

I heard this quote recently: “Sometimes we get so caught up in who we were, that we can’t appreciate who we’ve become.” This is very tempting for those of us who are older. We are tempted to define ourselves by who we were, rather than focusing on who we’ve become and what we can still be doing for the Lord today.

Well, that’s a little philosophizing for you today. Now for the photos. Below you will find a few of my favorite photos of the roses. I used my point and shoot camera, so they aren’t quite as good as usual, but I think they are still worth sharing. Hope you enjoy them!

p.s. I am taking next week off from writing. It’s time for a little break! I’ll be back the week after next. :)

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Says Who?

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As many of us already know, the Ark Encounter— a life-sized Noah’s Ark–recently opened in Williamstown, Kentucky. There has been much news swirling around this opening. As one would expect, there has been positive feedback by Christians and very negative feedback by the rest of the world.

But I have to admit that the article by Paul Bois over at Truth Revolt had me scratching my head. At first, it looks like it will finally be someone standing up for the right of Christians to have some freedom, too. Which I guess he sort of did in the article. Sort of.

Shall I summarize the article for you?

Stop bashing these poor, pathetic idiots who built this attraction. What do we care if they build a completely unscientific ark that is based on completely unscientific data? Shame on you, world.

Okay, so you may want to read it to make sure I had the right take-away, but this is the message I received loud and clear. He basically called Ken Ham a liar and then made sure the whole world knew that even though he wasn’t on the side of CBS, he really did agree with them. So he really did exactly the same thing as CBS. Which he was criticizing them for doing. Funny how that works.

So why am I even bringing this up?

He made a specific statement in that article that I beg to differ with and thought I would unpack a bit here. I am doing this because I am guessing many of you have also heard the derogatory and demeaning statements made about not only this attraction, but also about anyone who would actually believe that Noah’s ark was a historical event.

Here’s the statement–

“Though founder Ken Ham has expressed questionable–and even downright false–scientific views regarding creationism…”

Really? So one has to wonder then: was this author there–at the very beginning– when the earth was formed? He seems to have some inside knowledge the rest of us don’t have.

Sorry, I had to be sarcastic for just a moment.

Seriously, though, who gets to decide whose assumptions are correct? Follow me here–any theory of the earth’s beginnings are based on assumptions. No one on the earth today was there. There are no science or history books that date back that far (aside from the Bible, that is!) And so, with this being the case, we have to look at all the data available to us and then come up with theories. What the scientific community wants to present as facts are not facts. They are theories based on assumptions that they are presenting as facts.

Ken Ham, myself, and other believers, on the other hand, base our views on a Book. Our assumption–which changes everything–is that the Bible is true. If the Bible is true, then the rest falls into place quite nicely.

Of course, the world doesn’t want to believe in a God to whom they are accountable and so they come up with this theory of evolution. It would almost be funny, if it wasn’t just so tragic.

And we have to wonder–which one actually believes in fairy tales? The one who is using a historical book that has been proven to be accurate over and over again or the one who believes that something came from nothing? That life came from a rock? That a living, breathing person with intricately designed body systems evolved from a single cell? A belief which would require millions of transitional fossils on this earth and yet there is NOT ONE–not one, mind you–fossil of any “in between” creatures anywhere. Along with this is the fact that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever, current or historical, of anything ever coming from nothing or of order ever coming from chaos. This is because it could never happen. And yet, we have a theory that has been presented as fact that is based on all of these very unscientific assumptions. Who is unscientific now?

This theory is taught in our schools, displayed in our museums, and assumed anywhere you go. Most of the world has bought into this even though it makes no sense at all.

Look, I am no scientist. And I don’t care if someone wants to call me names because of what I believe, but let’s be clear here–anyone who believes anything about the earth’s beginnings is making assumptions. No one truly knows. We can base it on a Book or we can base it on something else, but all–in the end–are theories which require faith to believe in.

I admire Ken Ham for what he is doing and I thank the Lord for a man that will stand in the face of such accusations and threats. He knows the truth of God’s Word and he is standing firm on the truth no matter what the world says. We need more men and women like him! And we should be praying for him and for others who are in the heat of such fierce battles.

At first, when I heard about the ark, I wasn’t sure that it was a good idea. But as I have followed the progress of it all, I am starting to understand how God will use this to further His Kingdom. People are curious and Ken Ham and his staff are very knowledgeable. I am sure they will have some wonderful conversations with the media and with folks who are just passing through, plantings seeds of the Gospel that will flourish throughout this country. And, as believers, this is our main calling, isn’t it?

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

 

 

Do You Love Money?

Eight Questions to Ask Yourself

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Mr. and Mrs. Smith live in a 6000 sq ft house in a wealthy neighborhood and vacation at their second home on Grand Cayman several times each year. Mr. Smith is a top executive at a major corporation and drives a Jaguar.

Mr. and Mrs. Jones live in a small rancher in an even smaller town. Mr. Jones works at a local factory and drives a Ford truck. Their only vacation each year is to a cabin in the mountains that has no electricity or running water.

Which one of these couples loves money?

Most of us–without any thought at all–would tend to say that of course it is Mr. and Mrs. Smith. There would be no discussion. No thoughtful contemplation. We just assume that if someone is rich they must love money.

Which may be the case.

But isn’t always the case.

Let’s take their vehicles. A new teen driver miscalculates and backs into their vehicle in the driveway. Mr. Jones has a fit! He grows angry,  resentful, and may even let out a few curse words. On the other hand, in the same scenario, Mr. Smith is gracious and kind and tells the neighbor not to worry about it. Now which of these men do you think loves money (and his stuff)?

Or let’s take a look at their homes. What if Mrs. Jones won’t let anyone come to her house because she is obsessed with cleanliness? She doesn’t want anyone to ruin her carpet or to put marks in her cabinets and so she never practices hospitality. She spends all her time cleaning and making sure not a speck of dirt exists anywhere but no one ever gets to enjoy her home because she doesn’t want anyone to mar her perfect masterpiece. Mrs. Smith, on the other hand, while having a beautifully and professionally decorated house, welcomes others to her home regularly. She loves to play hostess and does her own cooking and cleaning. Her home feels lived-in and comfortable. Which of these women loves money (and her stuff) more?

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

Having money is not equal to loving money

AND

Loving money is not equal to having money

They are two separate things and we should treat them as such.

Many years ago, my husband and I bought a large SUV for our growing family. It was a nice car, already a few years old, and affordable for us. I was excited about our new vehicle and can vividly remember how awful I felt when someone made a derogatory statement to me about it, implying that we loved money because we had chosen to drive such a car.

I had to really think through that. Did we have an inordinate love of money? That is a question we all should wrestle through, but what vehicle we drive is not generally an indicator.

Instead of judging ourselves and others based on the stuff we have, we’d be better to judge based on our attitudes about the stuff we have. Here are eight questions we can ask ourselves to make sure we are holding on to our material blessings very loosely–

1. Do we use what God has given us to encourage others and to further God’s Kingdom or do we hoard it all to ourselves?

2. Are we quick to let others borrow our things? If someone needs something that we have, do we let them use it? Or are we too worried about it being broken or never returned?

3. Do we grow angry and resentful if someone breaks something of ours? Or do we treat them like we would want to be treated?

Okay–I have to insert a quick story here about this. One evening, our oldest daughter had a group of friends over. They were playing a Wii game in the basement, using our brand new flat-screened TV. After a bit, our daughter came upstairs with one of her friends. Tears ran down the friend’s face as she shared that she had accidentally let the Wii remote fly from her hand and hit the TV. It had damaged the screen pretty badly and she was SO sorry. We all watched to see how my husband would react. And he did not disappoint. It is one of the reasons I love him so much. He kindly told her that it was “just a TV” and not to worry about it and then sent them back downstairs. This wasn’t an act and he didn’t huff and puff about what had happened after she had left that evening. He really took it all in stride. Stuff has never mattered that much to him and this incident was just one more confirmation of that. He has taught me to always love people more than stuff.

4. What is driving us? Do we work to supply for the needs of our family (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12) and to glorify God (I Corinthians 10:31)? Or are we working feverishly so that we can buy a nicer car, a bigger home, and the latest gadget?

5. Are we generous? Do we give freely and often and without reserve when we see a need?

6. Do we grow resentful if someone forgets to pay us back? Do we fuss and fret and make assumptions about them? Perhaps we even gossip about them to others?

7. Am I envious of the stuff that my neighbor has? Am I always complaining about how little stuff I have or what I can’t afford? This indicates a heart that is wrapped up in material things and the love of money.

8. If everything I have was taken away tomorrow, would I be okay? Or is my security and happiness wrapped up in material things?

These are tough questions, but if we answer them honestly we will learn the truth about ourselves. The love of money is rooted deep within most of us. It is something for which we need to be on guard always and can never let get the upper hand in our lives. It is not a sin that only affects rich people, but has the potential to affect each and every one one of us that lives in a materialistic, western culture.

Surprisingly, the scripture tells us that the love of money isn’t only sinful but that it also has great potential to cause us much sorrow. I Timothy 6:10 tells us this–

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

“Pierced themselves through with many sorrows”. That is quite a picture, isn’t it? This tells us that loving money could quite possibly destroy our lives. We can see this in a multitude of ways–

►Elderly parents pass away and the kids find out that the will isn’t fair. Adult children fight for their “rights”, hurtful words are said, and the family is fractured beyond repair.

►Mom and Dad want a particular lifestyle. They believe it is their right to have the American Dream, no matter what it costs. Meanwhile, their children are left to their own devices and grow up, lost and lonely, selfish and spoiled, with no boundaries and no moorings. All for the sake of stuff.

►A man is obsessed with making easy money. He buys into a get-rich-quick scheme and loses his family’s life savings.

These are just three examples of a million that could be told. The love of money is a dangerous game and we best make sure we aren’t caught up in it. Let’s be good stewards of whatever God has entrusted to us, whether it be great or small. After all– it isn’t even ours, anyway.

He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much;
and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.
Luke 16:10

 

From Here to There

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I was rolling my eyes inside my head as I listened to someone sharing their frustration with me about a certain situation. I wanted to just look at them and say something like this–

You can fix this yourself. If you’d just do “A”, then you would get “B”.

I don’t know what made this conversation from the past come to my mind this week, but there it was. And I started thinking about how many of us do this. We complain about a situation in our lives and, yet, if we’d just do things the way we should, we probably could change it and get the results we so desire.

For instance, we may be frustrated that we are in debt, but we aren’t willing to do the work and sacrifice necessary to not be in debt.

We may be frustrated that our marriage isn’t very healthy, but we aren’t willing to give up our own selfish desires to make it better.

We may be frustrated that we don’t get a raise or a promotion, but we aren’t willing to be an employee of integrity and give a 100%, no matter what job we have.

As I thought about all of these “people” that struggle with getting from here to there, I recognized just how often I do this same thing in many areas of my life.

The one that I do this with the most is my weight. Throughout all of my life, I was able to eat pretty much what I wanted without gaining weight. I was never super skinny but I wasn’t really overweight, either. However, these midlife years have presented quite a challenge for me. Now, it seems as if I gain a pound just by looking at food. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration. But, realistically, in order for me to stay the same weight, I cannot continue to eat the same way I ate for my whole life.

So this is my new life. And I have a choice. I can choose to continue on in the way I always have or I can choose to scale back on my calories and eat healthier.

The choice is mine. And only mine.

And, yet, I often find myself complaining about this. Not so much to others–although I have been known to do that. No, my negative dialogue occurs mostly in my head. Constantly.

It feels like there are a million miles between here (typical middle-aged body) and there (skinny, attractive) and that it is impossible to reach. But I don’t really do anything about it except grumble.

As I have been working through this in my head over the last several years (yes, I said years–weight seems to be the internal battle that just won’t go away), I have thought about all of this quite a bit.

And I realize that there are some things we really need to consider, when we see a there that we want to reach. First and foremost, we need to view our goal from God’s perspective by using the Word. So often we feel pressure to be something or to do something because the world is pushing us and telling us we need to do it. But what does the Bible say?

We do know that God wants us to be good stewards of all that we have been given (Luke 16:10; I Corinthians 4:2), whether it be our bodies or our finances or our marriages, but how exactly does that look? What should be our test for this?

Scripture has much to say about all of these things and more and our first duty is to find out what it says.

And then we need to act on what we learn. If I am not being a good steward of my resources, what am I going to do about it?

One thing we do know for sure is that inaction is useless in getting us to there. And yet inaction–as much as we all hate it and desire to avoid it–is so tempting. It is always easier to float downstream than to use the energy necessary to swim upstream. And so this is why so many of us are much more comfortable floating along, bemoaning our circumstances.

Another thing we should consider is whether or not we are setting a goal that is outside of our control. Sometimes our there is just simply out of our reach and yet we keep trying to manipulate circumstances to get to where we want to go. Perhaps it is a rebellious, wayward child, a spouse who refuses to change, a dead-end job with a lousy boss that we need to survive, or we have a chronic health issue.

So what then?

This situation makes me think of Paul. He, too, was given a circumstance –we don’t know what it was–that was frustrating him. We read about it in 2 Corinthians 12–

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul wanted this thorn to be removed but God said NO. This thorn was used to keep Paul humble and relying on Christ rather than on himself. Paul’s trials drew him to Christ rather than away from Christ.

Is this what our trials do for us? It’s a good question to ask ourselves, isn’t it?

We probably cannot grow from trials until we get to the point of resting in God’s sovereignty–always continuing in fervent prayer for those we love or for our seemingly impossible circumstances and doing what we can to change the situation, and yet resting in His timing and His will instead of always trying to fix it ourselves.

And, finally, one last thing we should always consider– whether our there is within or outside of our control–is our final there. Our daily decisions here on earth should always be made with eternity in mind. Matthew 6 puts it this way–

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

So, while it is very important that we be good stewards with all we have been entrusted, it is also very important that we live with heaven in mind. I don’t know about you, but this is not always part of my decision-making process. I get caught up in the here and now and do not always give much consideration to eternity.

Well, I hope my rambling thoughts gave you some food for thought today. As you may have noticed, I am working through all of this myself and certainly have a long way to go. It is a challenge to live a victorious Christian life here on this fallen earth and I struggle every day. But it is so important that we keep moving forward in this life.

May we continually dig deeper in the Word with submissive and obedient hearts and may we give ourselves to dedicated prayer, all the while relying on God for the grace and strength to get through each day. In so doing, we will show a lost and dying world that Jesus does make a big difference–not only for eternity, but also for the here and now.

 

 

America 2016

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America the Beautiful? Or America the Broken? Perhaps on this patriotic holiday–July 4–in the year 2016, it is a little bit of both.

My pastor said something in church that summarizes exactly how I feel about my country. He shared the mix of emotions he felt as he listened to our country’s anthem the other day. What used to fill him with pride to be living in such a great country, now also brings shame. He expressed the feelings of so many of us perfectly.

I love my country. And even now, amidst the increasing lawlessness and evil, I still love my country. I am also heartbroken and ashamed of where we are headed. The grace of God that has been so wonderfully shed on this country throughout its history is now being withdrawn. If our eyes are open to truth, this is something we cannot deny.

Wildfires, tornadoes, and floods are happening in record numbers across this nation. Shootings and other crimes–once a real rarity–are now becoming a part of daily living. While all of this certainly has happened in the world for all time, it is becoming more and more frequent as we leave absolute values behind us and have declared that man can do what is right in his own eyes. Of course, we know from the book of Judges in God’s Word that this is a recipe for disaster if there ever was one. And I believe we are seeing this truth play out right before our own eyes. Sometimes I am filled with such sadness and despair over the state of our nation.

To many of us, it looks as if the American Dream is dying a slow and very painful death.

I find this July 4 so bittersweet. As I already said– I still love my country. I am filled with such gratitude that I can still freely go to church and hold Bible studies. I am thankful that I can go to the store feeling reasonably safe. We are blessed that we can travel on roads without fear of being kidnapped or murdered. On this day, most of us have enough to eat, a home with running water and electricity, and a car–material blessings that the majority of the world does not have. We still have it SO GOOD in this nation, even with the downward spiral we are currently in.

Will it change? I have my doubts. But I do know it can change. With God, anything is possible. But while we wait and watch, let us not grow weary of doing good and standing for truth. Let us remember that our safety and security should never be found in a country or its government, anyway. God alone is our hope. He alone is our solid ground.

I had a little free time over the weekend and decided to put a little video together. Please keep in mind that I am quite an amateur at making videos. I am sure that this is no technical masterpiece. But, for some reason I cannot explain, this idea came to me and it seemed the best way to express what I am feeling about our nation on July 4, 2016. I hope you enjoy it–

 

Is Donald Trump Really Saved?

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There is a report going around the internet that Donald Trump has recently been genuinely saved. I know many Christians who are super excited about this. I know more who are cautiously hopeful. And then there are those who are downright skeptical.

I probably tend towards the skeptical, although I admit that I am also a bit hopeful. It would be  wonderful for a worldly, ungodly man who is so well-known to be transformed by Christ. With such a large platform, he would have incredible opportunities to share the Gospel and attest to the power of God in the life of a sinner that turns to Him for salvation. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

But before we get too excited, let’s talk about who Donald Trump has been. Here are a few quick facts from Trump’s life “before Christ”—

→He has been married three times. He cheated on his first wife with his second wife. His current (third) wife is a Slovenian model who poses nude (read more here and here).

→Trump has been responsible for building and establishing several casinos, several of which he named after himself. He no longer owns any of them due to financial difficulties, the most recent being sold to Icahn Enterprises in February of this year. He experienced several bankruptcies connected to these casinos (read more here).

→He has regularly made crude and unseemly jokes about his private parts (read more here or just watch one of the debates).

→According to this article, Donald Trump is a chronic liar and told an average of one lie every five minutes during the debates.

→One of the things this man is know for best is his very direct and often cruel comments directed towards others. Here is an article that features 19 of his meanest tweets, but, honestly, just hearing some of his comments during the debates also gives us evidence of this.

This is what I was able to find within a matter of minutes by doing a quick search. There is no dearth of information about this charismatic and outspoken man and he has given the gossip magazines lots to write about over the past twenty or more years.

(Quick note here: Since a few people have been upset with me for focusing on Trump’s past, let me assure you I do this only to demonstrate how his changed life will show such a marked and vast contrast to his former life, if he truly has repented and turned from his sin. It is not to berate or criticize him but, instead, to draw our attention to the wonder-working power of the blood of Jesus, should Trump’s faith be genuine. Let’s face it– we are all sinners. Most of us just don’t have the whole world watching and talking about it!)

Of course, most of us don’t change instantly when we come to Christ. It would very nice if we did, but we don’t. However there are some things we can look for in the life of Donald Trump over the course of the next few months and years to confirm if this report is true or not. In fact, we should look for these signs in any new believer, not just a famous one—

Transformation (2 Corinthians 5:17) –There will be a change in the desires of the heart and outward actions and behavior. It may be instant or it may be slow and steady–but it will occur.

Sensitivity to Sin (Romans 6:1-2)–While the new believer does still sin (as all believers do), they recognize that it is wrong and will be convicted by the Holy Spirit.

Desire to Follow the Commands of Jesus (I John 3:24; John 15:9-10)–A baby believer, once focused only on selfish goals and lusts, now has a passion and desire to obey Christ and His commands.

They Will Not Be Popular With Everyone (John 15:18-19)–Jesus makes it pretty clear that true believers will not be favorites of the world and its godless agenda. Decisions to stop partying, to be honest in business, to keep ourselves pure, etc. can really irritate old friends and unsaved family, who desires the new believer to continue joining them in their debauchery and ungodly living. Speaking the truth of God’s Word in response makes them even more angry.

Pride Will Be Replaced by Humility (Colossians 3:12-13)–Unforgiveness will be replaced by forgiveness; a mean, critical spirit will be replaced by kindness. Oh, it won’t happen instantly but there will be a gradual change.

Trials and Temptations Will Not Pull Them Away (Luke 8:13)–Many claim to follow Christ but when testing and trials come, when peer pressure becomes too much to bear, they turn their backs on Christ and fall away.

You may be thinking that you know some professing Christians who don’t exhibit these signs of true faith. While all of us may have a blind spot or two, true believers will exhibit most of the above. They are the evidence of true salvation and are given to us by God in His Word.

So is Donald Trump really a new believer?

I don’t think there is any way we can possibly answer that yet. Only God knows.

But here is what we do know–

This election coming up is a big deal. A very big deal.

I have my opinions about it, as do you, I am sure. It is incredibly important that we give great prayer and thought to how we are going to vote.

Honestly, I still find myself perplexed and not a little dismayed that we have two pathological liars as our candidates. It is so indicative of where we are as a nation that we would support such people.

Did Donald Trump recently accept Jesus as His Lord and Savior? I hope so. I truly do hope so.

 

 

Changed Lives: Mandy

Changed Lives (final)

Today I want you to meet Mandy. I got to know her when she started attending the Bible Study I was teaching last fall. It became immediately evident that she had an unusual hunger for the truth. She asked a lot of questions, demonstrating a humble and teachable spirit that is seen in few. One evening, after the study, Mandy shared with me some of her story. I knew at that point that if I ever followed through on my idea of sharing testimonies on Growing 4 Life, that I would want to include hers. It’s a beautiful story of God’s love and redemption. I am so thankful she is willing to share it–

Mandy’s Story

As a young woman, I found myself involved in drinking, partying, and relationships with men outside of marriage. I was desperately trying to fulfill a longing to be loved but, instead, ended up deceived and alone.

I truly wanted to stop living this foolish and dangerous lifestyle and also started to develop a hunger for Truth. God brought a couple into my life who befriended me, bought me my first Bible, and invited me to their church. Even though I still did not know the Gospel, I began to believe there was hope for me.  Looking back now, I can see how God was beginning to divinely draw me to Himself.

Not long after this, I was brought to deep conviction about the sin in my life– particularly for my relations with many men outside of marriage. I had already had two abortions and was a single mother to two sons from two different men.

Around that time, bearing a heavy burden of feeling unclean from my promiscuous lifestyle, I made the decision to have a routine checkup for sexually transmitted diseases. On my way home from the doctor, I fell into deep despair. It was just at that moment that my friends stopped by.

“I deserve to burn in Hell and live with the consequences of my behavior,” I cried. It was a most terrifying and sobering thought. It was at this time that this couple presented me with the Gospel and God began to remove the blinders from my eyes that had kept me in such darkness.

Two weeks passed and, finally, my doctor called me with my test results. I nervously answered, expecting the worst. I knew I deserved it and I was ready to pay a high price for my sinful lifestyle.

But instead he shared with me that I had a clean bill of health! In fact, he told me that my pap test was clear—for the first time in seven years! I praised God for this unexpected news and it was then that I bowed my head and asked God to forgive my sins: past, present, and future. I thanked Him for sending His Son to die on the cross for my sins so that I am able to have a relationship with Him and one day be with Him in Heaven for eternity and I claimed Jesus as the Lord of my life.

Following my profession of faith, my longing to be loved was being fulfilled and I was experiencing the true joy, peace, and freedom that only Christ can give. I truly felt born again!

But all that would change when I chose once again to live in sin.

Prior to my profession, I had been introduced to an active duty marine who was on leave visiting his family. We spent the last several months of his service talking and learning about each other. He came to visit me after his term ended and it did not take us long to fall in love. We knew that we would be married someday in the future. Little did I know, sin was crouching at my door; and its desire was for me. I am ashamed to say that I did not master it. Unfortunately, we did not keep ourselves sexually pure before marriage and I conceived.

I learned the hard way that sin will take you further then you want to go, keep you longer then you want to stay, and cost you more then you want to pay. The shame was unbearable, my purity was sacrificed in one moment of passion, my friendships where falling apart, I lost the desire to read my Bible and attend church, and before I knew it, I stopped walking with the Lord completely.

Three years passed and I was now married and living with my two sons and our newest addition, a sweet daughter. My husband and I bought a home and I worked hard to make it comfortable and homey.

From a worldly view it may have looked like I had it all– a loving husband who was able to provide enough for me to be a homemaker, three healthy children, a charming house, enough money to buy what we wanted whenever we wanted it. And—yet—there was a desperate longing inside me that just wasn’t being fulfilled.

DSC_8704-8After attending a Women’s Conference at a local church in September 2015, the Holy Spirit pressed heavily upon my heart. It seemed far too easy to believe that God was waiting for me with open arms. Surely I had to do more than to confess my sin, accept God’s forgiveness, and then pick up where I left off with Him? But I did this very thing and my life hasn’t been the same since!

I am convinced life is not found in anything but Jesus. My family and I started faithfully attending church and Sunday school again and I got involved in a couple of Bible Studies. God has been pruning, teaching, and molding me through it all. In humility, I am able to say I stand more firmly in my faith because of it and nothing gives me greater peace and joy then serving and glorifying God.

 

One Thing We All Know For Sure

hourglass

A 48 year old man is on his way to a job when suddenly, with no warning at all, a car, driven by a teen-aged girl, crosses over into his lane. They are both killed.

A curious young boy steps too close to rushing flood waters and is swept away. He is one of 24 who are killed from flash floods in West Virginia.

A young family is playing on the lake beach of a famous resort. Suddenly, an alligator grabs their two year old and he is drowned.

The room is loud, the crowd is dancing and drinking, with no thoughts of eternity on their minds. Suddenly, shots fire. Over fifty are dead within minutes.

A man isn’t feeling well. He goes to the doctor and discovers that his body is riddled with cancer. Within months he is dead.

A 55 year old woman is on the beach on a windy day, celebrating her birthday with friends. Suddenly, a beach umbrella comes flying at her without warning, its point embedding itself in her heart. She is dead within minutes.

These are just six stories of death among the thousands that play themselves across the world every single day. Recent stories that you may have heard about. We don’t like to focus too much on death, but for just this one day, I want to talk about it.

There are a lot of opinions about a lot of things in this world. And with our new post-modern culture, we find that most people accept all opinions as true and valid. If you share anything about the Gospel with someone, you will most like hear something like this: well, that is true for you but it is not true for me. (As if 2+2 can equal 4 for me but equals 6 for them. The argument is so illogical I can’t stand it!)

But there is something we all can agree on–something that no one will argue over. There is one thing we all know for sure. And that is that we are all going to die. And, disconcertingly, few of us have absolutely any idea of when. This is not something we really want to think about, is it?

But perhaps we should think about it a little more often, because it would help us do a re-focus of a few things–

1. First and foremost, pondering death should make us think about our eternal destiny. Do I know where I am going to spend eternity? Am I confident in this? If you aren’t sure or are perhaps confused about the gospel, please read this post. If you think you are going to heaven because you said a prayer asking Jesus to come into your heart, then I would ask you: does your life give evidence of your belief? Do you read and study God’s Word? Would your family and friends testify to the working of God in your life? While it is true that we only need believe in order to be saved, it is also true that true belief yields a changed life. (Matthew 12:33; Matthew 25:41-46) Is your life a living testimony of the work of Christ? If not, then perhaps some soul-searching is in order.

2. If we are confident we are saved, then we also have some soul-searching to do. Death should push us to share the gospel. Many have never heard the Truth from God’s Word. Oh, they may have heard parts of it or they may have heard mangled, twisted bits and pieces taken out of context. But many people still think they are working their way to heaven. What are we going to do about it? Our days are limited and we have no guarantees. Has anyone heard the Gospel from us? Have we planted some seeds along the way? Could we plant more? These are the questions that arise when we think of death.

3. If I knew I was going to die in 5 years, what would I do differently? Would I be kinder? Would I work more? Or less? Would I really try to fix my anger issue? Or climb out of debt so my family isn’t stuck with a mess? Would I make sure my relationship with my kids, my spouse, my parents was healed? We humans like to operate on “someday” time. Someday I’ll talk to that person. Someday I’ll work on this or fix that. But, for most of us, someday never comes. We focus on the everyday cares of life and rarely give attention to changing and growing, choosing instead to live very comfortably at status quo.

4. Death is a great reminder of God’s Sovereignty. He holds our days in His hands. God has even numbered the hairs on our head (Luke 12:7). He knows everything–past, present, future. A day is as a thousand days to Him (2 Peter 3:8) God operates outside of time. We can rest securely in the care of our heavenly Father, knowing that we (and anyone we love) will not be removed from this earth before their time (which, by the way, is a concept that is SO much easier to write a sentence about than to actually live out).

5. Pondering death changes how we view our trials. We can become quickly overwhelmed with life and allow this to steal our joy, if we aren’t careful. Whether it be a houseful of children keeping us crazy busy or a bothersome physical trial, life can get us down. Whether it be a job that demands much from us or some relatives that suck the life out of us, life can move from joyful to draining in a short time. So much depends on our attitude. I feel a bit hypocritical even writing about this. I am very guilty of letting my circumstances control my mood. This is a constant struggle for me, but I am guessing that I am not totally alone in this (am I??). It is so easy to let external circumstances be the driving force of our lives. But we know that we should be controlled by the internal joy that we receive from the Lord and the peace that is available to us when we submit to His will. This is the secret to true and lasting contentment. Elisabeth Elliot put it this way: With acceptance comes peace. Somehow when we think of death it gives us a different perspective on the trials that are plaguing us, doesn’t it? It brings them into proper focus.

6. When we think on death, it reminds us of just how blessed our ordinary days are. We move from one day to the next and complain a little if nothing exciting is happening. And, yet, ordinary can be swept away in an instant. Let’s appreciate it now–before it’s too late. Life changes. Sometimes it is very gradual and sometimes it is in a moment. How important that we appreciate each day and each stage of life. My daughter actually just wrote post on this. Maybe you want to check it out.

As you go about this week, I hope that you will think a bit on this. Who are the lost that you rub shoulders with every day? Do you have a passion to share the Gospel with them? What needs changed in your life to make you look more like Christ? What work does the Lord have for you before you leave the earth? Do you spend a lot of time complaining? Is it time to start working on a heart of gratitude and a spirit of contentment?

Life is short. And none of us has any guarantees. The time to shine our light is now. The time to change is now.

Because only the Lord knows what tomorrow holds.

James 4:14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

 

Why Don’t We Discern?

why don't we

I already know that my title will keep most people from reading this post. People who do discern will figure they don’t need this post and people who don’t discern will ignore it. But I feel compelled to write it, anyway. Because perhaps the Lord will use it to wake someone up. You never know, now, do you?

From the time I was a teenager, I recognized a complete rejection by most modern Christians of discernment. Whether it was regarding entertainment or the preacher they listened to on Sunday mornings, most people did not practice discernment. And this tendency to ignore this command from scripture has grown considerably worse in the recent years.

Why? Why is this command in scripture so soundly ignored by so many solid believers? What is the deal?

First, what does discern mean? According to dictionary.com it is–

to distinguish mentally; recognize as distinct or different; discriminate

In a practical sense, discernment means that we can distinguish between good and evil in our minds. We are willing to take a hard look at every single thing that we allow to enter our minds and consume our thoughts–from the book we read on the beach to the podcast we have downloaded to our favorite TV show to the preacher we listen to on Sunday–with the heart of a Berean (Acts 17:11), viewing all of it through the lens of scripture. It means that we are willing to reject anything that doesn’t line up with what we read in God’s Word.

Second, let’s take a quick look at what the Bible has to say about this (btw, this is just scratching the surface. There are many more verses and passages dedicated to this)–

Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment, But a man of understanding walks uprightly. Proverbs 15:21

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, Philippians 1:9

But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:14

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  I John 4:1

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. I Thessalonians 5:21

Okay. Now that we know that we are to discern between good and evil and only hold fast what is good after that process, let’s talk about why so few people are actually doing this. Why are so few Christians unconcerned about their entertainment choices? Why the big disconnect between their Christianity and their entertainment? Why are so few uninterested in discerning the times? Why do so few Christians care so little about what is really going on in the world around us, according to scripture?

I think there are some very good–albeit inexcusable–reasons–

1. Pure Selfishness (and a tad of rebellion). Many just want to watch what they want to watch when they want to watch it and nobody is going to tell them they can’t. They are going to listen to whatever radio station they want and no one had better judge them for it. No one. Because that would be judgmental and we know that is the worst sin ever (says the world, by the way–not scripture). They say they aren’t convicted, but we know if there is no conviction, then there is something wrong spiritually.

2. We want to be popular. Peer pressure is a powerful thing and to admit we haven’t seen the latest movie or don’t watch the trendiest show of the day is really, really hard for some of us. We want to be cool and hip (are those even the right words anymore? I am definitely getting old) and so we are willing to make compromises.

3. We hate change. We just want everything to remain the same and so we will stay at a church that is no longer preaching the gospel or has followed after the worldly, modern day church model just because change is so painful (and that is true–change is painful). Or we will keep watching the show that gets continually worse because it’s what we do on Tuesday nights or whenever. We hate change. Did I mention that already??

4. We don’t want to know or think about it. Some just don’t want to think about the hard stuff of life. They want to take everything at face value. If someone says they are a Christian then they surely must be one. If a book is found in a Christian bookstore, then it must belong there. If a show doesn’t have swearing or sex or violence, well, then it must be a good show, right? (wrong–philosophy can be just as dangerous as the other stuff). But it takes work to think. And we, as a culture, have been trained to only want to play.

5. Some aren’t saved at all. J.C. Ryle puts it this way on his expository comments on Matthew 25–

At present, we must all be aware, the vast majority of professing Christians care nothing at all about it. They have no sense of sin. They have no love towards Christ. They know nothing of being born again. Repentance, and faith, and grace, and holiness, are mere words and names to them. They are subjects which they either dislike, or about which they feel no concern. But all this state of things shall one day come to an end. Knowledge, conviction, the value of the soul, the need of a Savior, shall all burst on men’s minds one day like a flash of lightning. But alas! it will be too late. It will be too late to be buying oil, when the Lord returns. The mistakes that are not found out until that day are irretrievable. Are we ever mocked and persecuted and thought foolish because of our religion? Let us bear it patiently, and pray for those who persecute us. They know not what they are doing. They will certainly alter their minds one day. We may yet hear them confessing, that we were wise and they were foolish. The whole world shall one day acknowledge, that the saints of God made a wise choice.*

Do you find yourself not discerning because of one of the reasons above? Most everyone who chooses not to discern falls into one of these categories. Look–this is not a blanket judgment on anyone. I recognize that — just as some Christians struggle with anger or lying and fight it all their lives– so do some Christians struggle in this area of discernment. But recognizing that not practicing it is not only sin but also a big detriment to our spiritual walks should push us to change this. Being aware is always the first step to making a change. Let me finish this post by giving five wonderful benefits that come when we choose to discern–

1. Our hearts don’t become hardened to sin, but instead we stay softened and sensitive to the will of God in our big life decisions, as well as in small, everyday decisions.

2. We love what God loves and hates what He hates, which leads us into a deeper walk with our loving heavenly Father.

3. Our hunger for scripture grows as we turn away from sin and false teachers.

4. We experience true peace and joy that results from a life of obedience, instead of the fake stuff conjured up by the “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14)

5. We remove ourselves from the slippery slope that leads into deep and abiding sin.

I hope this has encouraged at least one of you to turn off the TV or to switch the radio station or to starting thinking about leaving your worldly church. If even one of you changes something, I will know that God has used it for His purposes and His glory.

Search the scriptures for yourself. Get in the Word and be changed. For it is there–and only there–that true change is wrought. Turn away from your personal experiences and turn to the Word of God. I will leave you with Hebrews 4:11-13–

Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

 

 

*Ryle, J.C. . Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: The Four Volume Set. Kindle Edition.