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.

 

Night Song

nightsong

One of the best things about spring is hearing the birds sing. We know that warm weather is on its way when we hear them twittering outside our windows in the morning. But that same sound–so wonderful and cheery during the day– is downright irritating at night!

I know this because every year about this time–for about a week–we have a bird that sings outside our window in the black darkness.

All. night. long.

It is so annoying. Outside our window it just chatters away, barely stopping to take a breath. It makes it very hard for me to sleep, because it just isn’t a sound I am used to at bedtime.

Several years ago, I did some research to find out what kind of crazy bird sings at night in this area. I found out that it is the male mockingbird. Apparently, it has something to do with letting other male mockingbirds know that this is his territory. Or something like that.

As I groggily prepared for a new day last week, having had my sleep disturbed yet again by this insistent night singer, it hit me.

Wait.

This is what we Christians are doing. And this is why we frustrate so many people.

We are singing in the night to people who want to sleep.

Think about this with me for a moment. We, as believers, just cannot understand how our beautiful song full of God’s mercy and grace could possible irritate or frustrate anyone. Why wouldn’t they want to listen? To those of us walking in the light, this doesn’t make sense. It’s a wonderful song that we could listen to all day.

But for those still in the darkness–to those who have not been awakened to God’s marvelous light–this song is threatening to wake them, pulling them out of their sound sleep and their warm, comfortable “bed” of sin. They don’t understand the freedom and the glory that comes when they awake to new life in Christ. They don’t understand that when you are saved, the darkness loses much of its appeal.

They don’t get it.

And the darker it gets, the louder our song sounds. The louder our song sounds, the more frustrating we are to those sleeping around us. And the more frustrating we are to those sleeping, the more effort will be made to rid the world of us in whatever way necessary.

It makes so much sense, when you think of it like this. And, despite the efforts to keep us from singing our Night Song, we know that we are to keep singing and to keep singing with gusto. But how many of us–growled at by the sleepers–stop singing?

How many of us just decide the fuss isn’t worth it and choose instead to let people rest in their comfortable place without being disturbed by us? How many of us sing super-quietly, so that we do not arouse anyone? Perhaps singing a tiny bit louder if someone looks like they are starting to wake up?

But here’s the thing–

I know that it’s hard to sing the Gospel song in this current culture. I know that we take a lot of heat for presenting a biblical message. But I also know that this message is the only thing that leads people from permanent darkness to everlasting day. It is the only way to wake people soundly sleeping in their sin to the glorious sunshine of salvation and freedom! We have to keep singing! We have to stop worrying about ourselves and sing for God –and for the lost world around us. The world needs us to keep singing.

Of course, there will always be those who choose to sleep. But every now and again, there will be one that wakes. And we may be the privileged one that God chooses to use to stir them from their deep sleep. We may even be the one that gets to walk alongside them into the light.

So let’s sing! And let’s make our Night Song one that disturbs the darkness around us, filling the blackness with the biblical songs of grace, mercy, hope, truth, love, peace, and joy (Romans 15:13; 2 John 1:3; Galatians 5:22). Let’s make sure that the sleepers have heard that Jesus is the only way man can be saved (John 14:6). It is past time that we believers get out of our comfortable nests and start singing the biblical gospel in the deep, dark blackness. The time is now.

I Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

 

The great god Entertainment

Entertainment

Entertainment surrounds us. It has become the lifeblood of our communities, our homes, and our churches. Sometime in the not too distant past, life became more about being entertained than it did about living a good, moral life. Life became more about playing and less about working. And the ramifications of this in the church are quite sobering.

I subscribe to a newsletter from Grace Gems. They send me all kinds of really good quotes and excerpts written by godly Christians already in glory. When I share any of these with my readers, it is generally on my Facebook page. However, this particular passage–written in 1955 by Tozer–is so perfect, so applicable, and so accurate that I wanted to share it with all my readers.

We need to see entertainment for what it is–an idol that has stolen the hearts of many and threatens to steal even our own hearts. It is a bit uncanny just how right Tozer is here and what he could see happening to the church even in the middle of last century. He was a very wise man.

(A.W. Tozer, 1955)

The great god Entertainment is ardently worshiped by many. There are millions who cannot live without amusement–life without some form of entertainment for them is simply intolerable. They look forward to the blessed relief afforded by professional entertainers and other forms of psychological narcotics–as a dope addict looks to his daily fix of heroin. Without them, they could not summon courage to face existence.

No one with common human feeling will object to the simple pleasures of life, nor to such harmless forms of entertainment as may help to relax the nerves and refresh the mind exhausted by toil. Such things, if used with discretion, may be a blessing along the way. That is one thing. But the all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which men live, is definitely something else. The abuse of a harmless thing is sin.

The growth of the amusement phase of human life to such fantastic proportions is a portent, a threat to the souls of modern men. It has been built into a multimillion dollar racket with greater power over human minds and human character, than any other educational influence on earth. And the ominous thing is, that its power is almost exclusively evil, rotting the inner life, and crowding out the eternal thoughts which should fill the souls of men. The whole thing has grown into a veritable religion which holds its devotees with a strange fascination–and a religion, incidentally, against which it is now dangerous to speak.

For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was–a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from accountability to God. For this, she got herself roundly abused by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse, and has given up the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment–she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers.

So today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called Christians. Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God. Many churches these days have become little more than poor theaters where fifth-rate “producers” peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders, who can even quote a holy text in defense of their delinquency. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it!

The great god Entertainment amuses his devotees mainly by telling them stories. The love of stories, which is a characteristic of childhood, has taken fast hold of the minds of the retarded saints of our day–so much so that many manage to make a comfortable living by spinning yarns and serving them up in various disguises to church people. What is natural and beautiful in a child, may be shocking when it persists into adulthood, and more so when it appears in the sanctuary and seeks to pass for true religion!

Is it not astonishing that, with the shadow of atomic destruction hanging over the world and with the coming of Christ drawing near–the professed followers of the Lord should be giving themselves up to religious amusements? That in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed–vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood, and clamor for religious toys?

 

Witness Wednesday: Abrafi

WitnessWed

God is alive and at work! Do you believe that? Sometimes it can be so confusing for those of us who do not base our Christianity on experience. Does that mean we don’t ever experience God’s presence and power in our lives? Of course not! It just means that we base our Christian walk on the Word of God and not on our emotions or spiritual experiences. Because the nature of my blog tends towards discernment in these dangerous times, I tend not to focus on how God is at work –sometimes miraculously–at drawing people to Himself. But we know that it is God Who works in the heart of man for His will and His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). To Him be all the glory! As I write this, I know that there are so many of us who are witness to this in our own lives.

For awhile now, I have been thinking about sharing the testimonies of people who have seen God at work very vividly in their lives. And so today I introduce Witness Wednesday on Growing4Life. I hope to present these witnesses to God’s grace to you on a regular basis, so that we never lose sight of just how great and marvelous our God is! Some of these stories are written by new Christians, some are written by those that thought they were Christians, and others are godly Christians who may have found themselves in an impossible situation and watched God work details out that could not possibly be coincidence.

We serve a powerful and amazing God! May we not forget it in the midst of this really confusing time.

The first testimony I offer to you is that of Abrafi. She goes to my brother’s church (Pastor Dean) and has been an amazing gift to their church, as testified by both my brother and his wife. As they told me a little of her story, I was compelled to ask her to share a bit of it here with us on the blog. I am so pleased to share it here with you now–

AbrafiABRAFI’S STORY

 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.  (Psalm 19:14)

Hello, my name is Abrafi. I was born in Ghana, a country in West Africa, and grew up in a professing Christian household. I was baptized as an infant, went to Sunday school and even attended a Christian high school where I was confirmed into the Presbyterian Church at the age of 15. But while I called myself a Christian, the life I led was not godly. I attended church every now and then, but Christ was not the center of my life. Over time, I became very liberal in my beliefs and accepted the notion that the virgin birth was too far-fetched and that Christ himself was a divisive figure. I accepted the belief that all religions were the same; that it was the same God being worshiped by different people under different names.

My husband and I raised our children to be responsible, honest, and generous human beings. However, the bible was hardly read in our house. We believed ourselves to be good people—accepting of all people regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, and social background. Yet, I was dissatisfied with my life. I was full of anxiety and I knew something was missing in the life I was living.

I compared my life to my mother’s and wondered why she seemed so content with her simple life and I was unhappy in my more sophisticated one. For her, Christ was the answer to every problem she encountered in life. Over the years, she made it known that she was praying for me and always spoke to me about how much Christ loved me. Soon after spending a vacation with her I went and bought a bible and began to read the psalms and to pray.

At first my prayers were for things that I thought I needed to make my life happier, but slowly a change began to take place in my life. I began to pray for Christ to fill the void my life. In January of 2007, my husband was diagnosed with stage four cancer, and I began to seek Christ more earnestly. One night after a very discouraging visit to see an oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic, I cried out to God to make Himself known to me if He truly existed and to give me faith to know Him. I prayed for forgiveness for my sins and for healing for my husband.

I began to read the bible to my husband. Two days before he died I read the bible to him and felt compelled to ask him if he believed in Christ Jesus. He said yes and I asked if he believed that Christ died to save him from his sins and again, he said yes. I praised the Lord and left the hospital with renewed hope and faith that he would get better. When he died, I remember being confused and thinking that maybe I was not righteous enough for such a miracle. I have since come to know through God’s Word that God does not answer our prayers or grant us salvation based on our good deeds but by his grace—“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our savior” (Titus 3:5-6. In Ephesians 2:8,9 again we are told that,” for by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”It is God’s grace alone that saved a sinner like me and it is His grace that saved my husband on his death bed. And yes, I do believe that God answered my prayer for healing; He freed my husband of all his afflictions and sins and took him to Himself.

Later, I prayed a specific prayer for a church and He answered that prayer with such precision that, even though I initially was unsure as to whether I belonged there, I was compelled to stay and over time it has become one of the most precious gifts from God to me. At this church, I have grown in the knowledge of who God is, and have come to trust the Bible as the infallible and inerrant word of God, sufficient for all things that pertain to life and godliness. The Lord has also saved my three adult children (O taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who trusts in Him, Psalm 34:8)! The Lord has surrounded me with people who are grounded in His Word, and filled my days with hope and joy. I am continually humbled by His loving kindness towards me, because I am so undeserving.

Misplaced Confidence

kayaking

Over the weekend, we had a lovely time by the bay. Well, most of it was lovely. There was about an hour that wasn’t so lovely. Oh, the hour started out beautifully. My friend and I thought we would take a little ride in the kayaks they had brought along. I got into the kayak, completely confident that our ride would be uneventful and peaceful. An hour later, I got out of my kayak, drenched and declaring that I would never get in one again.

So what happened?

I started out with a confidence I should not have had. The bay was pretty choppy and I was a novice at kayaking. We were just at the point where we planned to turn around. One second I was in my kayak and the next second I wasn’t. I have absolutely no idea what happened. In talking it over later, we concluded that I must have been horizontal to the wave. Instead of putting the point of my kayak into the wave, I just rolled over with it. I didn’t even know anything about that. Whatever happened, I landed in the water and in my efforts to get back into the kayak, it ended up completely filling with water. There was absolutely no possible way I was getting back in that kayak. As I bobbed around the boat, trying to hang on to whatever I could, I could feel the panic welling up in me. I looked at the shoreline–which looked so far away– and felt quite hopeless.

My friend, in trying to help me, ended up in the bay with a boat full of water, as well. I can laugh about it now. What a sight we must have been! But at the time it wasn’t a bit funny and extremely frightening. We just started paddling toward the shore. At one point we decided to just rest a bit and as we did, my friend let out a little scream of delight. She had felt the bay floor beneath her. Somehow it felt so much safer to have the earth beneath our feet. We continued walking to the shore, pulling the water-filled boats behind us.

I won’t go into detail about how we finally got the water out of those boats and back down to our campsites, but I can tell you it would have been quite entertaining to watch! When I was finally back in the kayak (thanks to some help from my hero–my friend’s son who had walked down the impossibly rocky, uncomfortable shoreline when he noticed we were having trouble!) I found myself just longing to have my feet back on dry ground. What had brought fun and happiness when I had started out, now instead brought fear and dread. When we finally rowed (is that the right word when you are in a kayak?) into the boat launch area, I looked like a drowned rat and was quite shaken up. I also felt like a stupid idiot. Who capsizes in a kayak?? Seriously.

But while I was having my own little traumatic event, much more was going on in the world, wasn’t it? First, Christina Grimmie, the Voice contestant, was shot and killed while signing autographs and then later on, there was a horrible mass murder in Florida at a gay nightclub. Before I left on Friday, there was also a shooting at the Dallas Love Field airport–an airport that our family uses. Sometimes it feels a little like we have capsized into a swirling ocean, doesn’t it? Like we are paddling hopelessly, wondering where we are going to end up.

If you think about it, there are many analogies in my kayak story to what we are all experiencing in this world. Slowly the things we had confidence in are being removed– our freedom of religion and speech, our confidence in being able to travel or run errands without fear of being shot, and, very possibly, our freedom to bear arms.

And just like I had complete, albeit unwarranted, confidence in my kayak, so, we, too, have placed confidence in the comfortable life that we have known in our western world. But as things change and the horizon grows darker, we find ourselves becoming stripped of these things that have made us feel safe and secure. And we, too, are left paddling in the ocean with only a life vest.

But let’s not forget! We, of all people, have the one and only life vest that will always hold as we swim in this mass of chaos. The Holy Spirit comforts and helps us as we go about our lives here on earth. In fact, perhaps we are finally being stripped of the confidence we had in the things of this earth and turning towards God, the only One in whom our confidence should ever rest.

We will probably never find sure footing until we reach the shores of heaven, but aren’t you so thankful for the life vest that you have on, if you are a genuinely saved child of God? And aren’t you also thankful for the respites God gives us to rest in our efforts for a moment or an hour or a day, as we vacation with family or smell a rose in the garden or help someone in need? They are a little earth to walk on for just a few moments that renew and restore us and energize us once again.

God is so good. Sometimes it is hard to see that in the midst of all that is going on. And, yet, I was reminded as I looked up at the nighttime sky over the weekend and saw millions and millions of stars, of just how small I am. I know nothing. How can I — a tiny speck on the timeline of history–dare to judge what is good and what is not good? How thankful I am to be able to rely on God and His Word in this sea of life. It is only by placing our confidence there that we can know that our souls are safe and that we will accomplish God’s purpose for our lives, whatever that may be.

And, so, I hope that something good came out of my weekend adventure. I am still not interested in getting in a kayak again, although my husband tells me I must try again. I doubt he will take no for an answer, so you may be hearing more kayaking adventures sometime in the future.

Have a great Monday!

 

Painting a Different Color

paintbrushes2

My youngest daughter has been after me for awhile now to help her paint her room. She is quite the little artist (I will share a few photos of her work below for anyone interested) and so she decided the other day that she would like to move back into the old room that she used to share with her sister. There is lots of natural light in that room and it will be perfect for her.

She has been talking about re-doing one of the bedrooms for awhile now but, for some reason, I have been hesitating. I think it is because I have enjoyed having a little status quo around here for a bit after all of those weddings. Whew! That was quite a ride. Just today I realized that I actually do not have to do any wedding planning (or paying!) this summer. It almost feels strange!

It is rather ironic, though, that I–the one who says never to be satisfied with Status Quo (see my tagline up above??)–am thankful for it. At least when it comes to home life. I am tired of changes. I just want something to remain the same for a year. Or two. Of course, we all know that this doesn’t happen. While changes  are always flowing in and out of our lives through the years, there are certain times that changes happen right after the other and you can hardly catch your breath. Like when your kids start to move out and start their own lives.

But I digress.

So back to the room…

My daughter found just the right comforter set and we took it to Lowe’s yesterday to match the paint. Did you know they do that? They did a fantastic job in pulling the perfect blue-green shade she wanted from the pillow sham we provided. No more staring at paint swatches, trying to find just the right shade.

We took the paint home, ate some lunch, and then got to work. I trimmed for her and she rolled behind me. As I trimmed, I couldn’t help but notice the other colors peeking out from behind my paint brush and I took a little trip down memory lane. We moved into this house when the two youngest girls were just one and three and so the first color I saw below my brush was a pale pink. I remember finding a cool idea somewhere–it wasn’t Pinterest because that didn’t exist–and painting all four walls a different pastel shade. I was pleased when I was done, although I am not sure the girls ever really loved it. And then several years ago, they started complaining about living in a “baby” room and begged to have it redone. As I painted, I remembered the girls’ giving very different opinions about colors and then finally settling on purple and gray; and so the next color under my brush was a medium shade of purple. And now I was covering the purple of the past with a beautiful aqua.

I tried to cover all of the previous colors beneath the brush but it is so hard to do that perfectly. Kind of like life. No matter what good changes we make, there are always vestiges of our past that cling to us. They peek out when we get frustrated or upset. Or when we are disappointed or anxious.

When we get saved, God provides the Holy Spirit to help us to live a life that glorifies and pleases Him. But we still battle our flesh and sometimes those battles can be quite fierce. This is one of the hardest things, isn’t it? As we grow in Christ, it is like we are painting a wall and covering our old man with our new man. But the old man is always there lying beneath the surface. And the more we grow in Christ, the less of the old man we should see. But we can never–on this side of glory–cover him completely.

Paul puts it this way in Galatians 5:16-26–

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

So this means that our flesh is always warring against us, trying to take us down and keep us from living a godly life. It means that we will always have temptations that we need to fight. And that can be exhausting. But true believers keep fighting.

So what exactly does an ungodly life look like, as compared to a godly life? Well, Paul goes on to share that very specifically in verses 19-26 of the same chapter–

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,[c] fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders,[d] drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Our old life of sin and our new life in Christ will look vastly different. Just like the walls I was painting. They were one color and I painted them a different color. I could say that I painted them a different color, but if the wall was still purple, this would prove that my words were not true. Salvation is a bit like this, as well. Many, many people say that they have “accepted Jesus”, but this is not what we use to prove salvation. The verses we see above show us what an unbeliever looks like compared to a genuine Christian and this is what will prove a person’s profession of faith.

Sure, we all have struggles with sin and some of the old color bleeds through sometimes and we will blindly miss a few spots. But true believers hold their paint brush in their hand at all times, working diligently at covering the old man completely so that he shows through as little as possible. Those who say they are believer but really aren’t will live in their sin, claiming forgiveness under the cross. But this goes against all that is in scripture. Forgiveness only comes with genuine repentance. A hard, unrepentant, arrogant heart is not one that has been changed by Jesus Christ.

Are these hard words to hear? They are if someone we love dearly is not exhibiting any of the fruits of the spirit from the verses above but, instead, abounds in the works of the flesh. What does that mean about their eternal destiny? I surely can’t judge but it does give cause for concern.

Sometimes when someone is just getting started at painting their wall, much of the old man still shows. New believers need a ton of grace, just like we did, too, when we got saved. We can only do what we know and they don’t know very much yet, do they? I shudder more for those who have claimed Christ for years and years and yet there are no changes. It is like they have a paint brush right beside them but hesitate to pick it up because they kind of like their old color. A true believer always has a paint brush in their hand. Paul puts it this way in Philippians 2:12-13–

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Paul also says this in 2 Corinthians 5:17–

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Notice he doesn’t say that someone in Christ might become a new creation. He says he is. Genuine new life in Christ is best determined by the fruit in someone’s life. Fruit that will continue to grow –albeit sometimes at a snail’s pace–throughout their entire life.

While I have used the painting analogy, the author of Hebrews uses a different (and better) analogy in chapter 12, verses 1-2–

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

However you want to explain it, it is abundantly clear that genuine salvation will involve a lifetime struggle of removing sin from our lives and growing in the fruits of the Spirit. This is not only how we will finish the race and bring glory to God, but also how others will know that we are genuinely saved.

I know this is not a popular thing to write these days. I get it. But I also know that this is what God’s Word says. As I looked for verses, I found an abundance of them throughout all of the New Testament to add credence to what I have written here. True salvation means you are a different color. If someone has remained the same color, there is much reason to doubt their salvation.

Okay, enough hard stuff. That was hard to write and I am sure it was hard to read. But don’t take my word for it. If this post has struck a cord in you, I hope that you will dig into the scriptures for yourself and search them out. Study them in context, using good commentaries and biblical helps if you need to. This is a big deal in this age of easy-believism and it is really important that we understand this important truth from the Bible.

Now, to lighten things up a bit, I will post a few photos of my daughter’s artwork below. I hope that you enjoy them–

mjart2

mjart3

mjart4

mjart1

 

 

 

What an Incident With a Gorilla Showed the World

gorillas-474728_1280

So last week (or was it the week before?) one of the really big news stories was about a boy that fell into a gorilla’s cage at the Cincinnati Zoo. Zookeepers ended up shooting the gorilla to save the boy’s life. While it is a tragedy that the gorilla had to die, I think it is a far greater tragedy to hear what America had to say about it. It really showed us exactly where we are as a nation, didn’t it?

In case you are wondering what I am talking about, let me get a little more specific and give you four things that were confirmed through this incident–

1. First, this incident showed very clearly that love and tolerance only extend to someone that fits in with the proper, politically-correct agenda. There is ZERO love or tolerance if you step outside it. The mother of that boy and the zookeepers have felt the viperous hatred of many in this country, many who probably consider themselves loving, tolerant people. If we unpack this a bit, we see that what is defined as love and tolerance in this crazy, upside-down world, isn’t really either. True love extends grace and mercy to those that we disagree with or who behave in a way that angers us. True tolerance says I can disagree with you without calling you names, destroying you, or needing to force you to agree with me.

We saw this very clearly in the treatment of this naughty boy’s mother and, also, in the zookeepers’ decision to put down the animal for the safety of the boy.

2. After 100 plus years of being inundated with the atheism belief system in our schools, the world is more upset about the death of gorilla than it is about the death of a person. From the thousands of babies who die each day at the hands of cruel and heartless abortion doctors (this was expressed so clearly by Matt Walsh in his post about this incident) to the Christians dying every day at the hand of Isis. Where is the uproar? Where is the cry for justice for human life? It has disappeared into the chaotic morass of what is this culture. A morass where the value of human life has been reduced to that of less than animals. Thank you, Mr. Darwin.

3. Third, I noticed that those who are constantly shouting “Do Not Judge! Do Not Judge!” often seem to be the first to judge in situations like this. Don’t you find this rather ironic? We live in a world that is absolutely obsessed about not judging others or telling anyone they are wrong about anything (since there are no absolute values) and yet, when a gorilla dies because a boy enters his cage, the truth shows it’s ugly head. We all judge. It is how we are created. And, further yet, it is what we are supposed to do. The question is not whether or not we judge between right and wrong. Instead the question is what standard are we using to judge? If we are Christians, it is the Bible. If we aren’t, then it could be just about anything.

4. And, finally, it is so interesting to see a world that attacks a mother for having a son who behaves in just the way a boy would behave whose parents have followed the popular child-rearing techniques. Did you follow that? Let me explain:

Modern-day parents are told that spanking harms a child. They are told that they shouldn’t say “No” or they will be in danger of breaking his spirit. Children are to be allowed to do whatever they want, wear whatever they want, eat whatever they want. This philosophy of raising children doesn’t only lead to self-centered, bratty adults, it leads to naughty children who do things they shouldn’t do. I don’t know anything about this mother. I don’t know how she raised her boy. But, I can say this–I think it is absolutely amazing that more stuff like this doesn’t happen! With so many disrespectful children who do not obey, I would expect this to happen every day in some zoo across America.

Let’s just say that this mother is parenting in this modern way, just as many parents are (even many Christian parents have been sucked into this damning philosophy of raising children). Let’s suppose that she has followed what she has heard on TV morning shows and magazines and the internet. Isn’t it so incongruous that the world that encourages her to let her child run free would condemn her when he does just that?

 

And so the incident with the gorilla really gave us a true picture of this nation, didn’t it? And something is really wrong with this picture. I don’t have any advice or deep spiritual insight to give. Only to encourage you to keep your eyes on the Lord. He alone is our rock and our fortress. He alone provides the way of salvation. The sea around us may heave, the winds around us may threaten to knock us over, but we have an anchor that will not fail.

 

The Education Dilemma

Education Dilemma

Mandates regarding public education are coming from the federal level that cause any Christian parent –or any moral parent, for that matter– to shudder. Should Christians remove their children from the public schools? How does a family know when it is the right time to leave (or not leave) the public school system? And what is the best choice for education if the choice is made to leave the government-run schools?

Education has been a source of disagreement and contention among Christians for a long time now. Homeschooling, Christian Schools, and Public Schools all have their passionate supporters. But sometimes that passion turns into hurtful, arrogant remarks that cause dissension and strife. There is a lot of emotion and strong feeling around this very personal decision and many walls have been built between relationships because of it.

I have purposefully not written very often about education on this blog. I have my opinions, but, alas, I cannot find a specific command about this subject of educating our children anywhere in the Bible. And, so, that means that each Christian family is called to make a wise, thoughtful, and very personal choice about how their children are going to be educated. Thankfully, we still have that choice–at least for now.

But whatever we decide is extremely important. Adolf Hitler put it this way “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.” I am not a big fan of Hitler, but he does have that right. And, so, it is crucial that we keep the hearts of our children, no matter which choice we make.

Any education we choose for our child will have its advantages and disadvantages and many different things will weigh into our decision. A few public schools still have quite a bit of Christian influence, while a good many are a lost cause. Some families have a decent, affordable Christian school nearby and some do not. Some mothers love the challenge of homeschooling and others do not feel gifted in this area. These are all things that will affect our decision about education.

It would seem to me that the bathroom mandate from President Obama probably has many Christians thinking just a little harder about how they are going to make sure their kids get a good education without being destroyed morally and spiritually in the process.

Making a change, however, can prove to be very confusing and challenging. Friends and family will list the pros and cons of their education system of choice. Very strong and loud opinions are spouted by our friends and acquaintances as to what they think we should do. But the decision does not need to be made by our parents, sibling, or friends. It is a decision that has to be made by each individual family. So how do we decide as a family what is the best choice for the education of our children? This very question came up in our Sunday School class last week and I have been thinking about it ever since. I thought of five factors we should all probably consider when making such an important choice–

1. What is the best choice for my child? If we aren’t careful, the choice we make will be based on a mother’s desire to work outside the home. Notice I used the word “desire”. While there are certainly some moms that are forced to work due to a variety of reasons and there are also some who work so that they can afford to send their children to Christian School, there are also so many others who work simply because they long for the satisfaction and fulfillment of a career outside of home life. One of the hardest things to do as a mother is to put the needs and interests of our children before our own. Our natural selfishness can cause our own personal purpose and fulfillment to trump what we know in our hearts is best for our children. This is promoted and bolstered by a world that sees “self-fulfillment” as the ultimate goal.  In order to make a wise decision about education, we moms have to cast aside our own desires and dreams and answer this question: What is best for my child?

2. Remember that soldiers are thoroughly prepared before engaging in combat. I so often hear the argument that we need Christians kids to be salt and light in the dark world of the public school system. While I believe there may be a few, valid reasons to choose to use the public school system, I do not believe this should ever be one of them. Just as a young recruit would never be thrown into the battlefield without intense training, so, too, should we never throw our children onto the battlefield of the world’s stage without first training them in the things of God. Our children are like sponges, soaking up everything they hear. While you may be telling them that the world was created by God, the government school system will be telling them otherwise. And while you will be telling them that there is absolute truth and right and wrong, they will be hearing the complete opposite throughout all of their years in the system. This will be confusing to them. They are not yet prepared to handle such conflicting messages. While you can work through this at home, it will take great diligence and lots of work to undo the damage done during their school days, as any parent with a child in public school already recognizes.

3. Consider your child’s personality. Each child is so different and, while some are born leaders and will never sway from the convictions they have learned at home, others are easily swayed by even the lightest of peer pressure. What is your child like? If they are a follower, public school (and even Christian school) could potentially be a very dangerous place for them.

4. Consider your family’s and each individual child’s communication style. Does your family communicate effectively about the stuff of life that really matters? Are conversations about God and the Bible and godly, life choices a natural part of dinner conversations? Does your child participate in these conversations? Does your child ask big questions and tell you about his day when you tuck him into bed at night? Do you know if she is struggling internally with a problem or question? If the answer to these questions is yes, then this will give you a wonderful window into what’s going on in their soul and mind, making any education choice feel a little safer. If the answer to this question is no, then it is important to consider the ramifications of this in regards to education.

5. Whatever choice we make does not eliminate our need to educate our children spiritually. How many kids do you know that have been placed in Christian School because Mom and Dad thought it would fix them? What they don’t recognize is that what is happening to their child is not about external circumstances but about what is going on internally and spiritually. But figuring all that out can be hard, tedious work that is sometimes messy, awkward, and incredibly difficult. It is so much easier to place a child in Christian School and hope that the teachers there will fix a rebellious child. But there is not any education choice that we can make that will fix what is broken or turn our child into some spiritual giant. The main responsibility for this lies in the home. It is our responsibility, as parents, to see that our kids leave our homes with a deep love and respect for God and His Word. It is our job to teach them that they are ultimately accountable to God and that they are sinners but are so deeply loved by God that He made a way for them to be reconciled to Him through His Son, Jesus. It is our job to teach them that the Word of God is their authority and to obey and submit to it joyfully. It is our job to teach them that obedience and submission to the Word will yield a joyful, peaceful, and fulfilling–albeit not trial-free– life. It is our job to teach them that the world is a dangerous, evil place and we are safest and happiest if we avoid its pleasures, its entertainment, and its lusts. It is our job to teach them to trust in God’s Sovereignty during difficult times, to forgive others just as God has forgiven us, and to love and serve others. This is our job as parents and belongs to no one else–not the school, not the teachers, not the pastor, not the youth group.

 

I hope these five factors will help any of you who may be struggling with this decision. Personally, I have experience with all three kinds of education–I went to public school from kindergarten through high school, I homeschooled our children for 16 years, and then our younger three children attended Christian School for several years. It is hard to believe that our youngest will be a senior next year. As I look over the past and consider the choices we made regarding our children’s education, there is one thing that really stands out in my memory and that is that God always showed us which fork in the road to take when we would come to a crossroads. I can think of at least three specific times where we agonized over what to do regarding this subject and the wonderful way that God so faithfully answered our prayers, showing us His will in this area of our family’s life. God, in His ever faithful way, provided very clear answers to our prayers. If this is something you are struggling with, take it to the Lord in prayer. If you are praying with a heart to submit and obey Him–no matter what answer He gives (even if you don’t like it!)– then you can be sure that He will answer that prayer.

And, finally, let me conclude with this–

We need to offer much grace and kindness in this area of education. We need to allow our Christian friends and family to make their own choices, based on their own convictions and circumstances. If we feel strongly that someone we love is making a wrong choice, the best thing to do is to pray for them. Strongly stating our opinion only leads to broken and strained relationships.

As our family approaches our final year in answering this education question, I find myself filled with compassion for those of you with young kids. It is an evil, pagan world we live in and this is spilling out into all areas of life, including the government schools. It will, most likely, only continue to get worse. You will have big questions to face as you raise your precious little ones. Get on your knees and ask God to show you what to do. He is faithful!

Psalm 121 is a wonderful reminder of this–

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

Consider the Blossoms

IMG_3909

Sometimes–with everything that’s going on in the world and within the church and, perhaps, even in our own lives– we can start to feel a little anxious, overwhelmed, or fearful. We lose sight of perspective and take our eyes off the Lord and turn them to earthly things. This is so easy to do, isn’t it? How quickly we forget that we serve an almighty God who will be the victor in this fierce battle for the world! I Chronicles 29:11 puts it this way–

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord,
And You are exalted as head over all.

I thought it might be a welcome break to take our eyes off of the problems, battles, and sadness of this world and turn them to the wonder of God’s breathtaking creation this morning. I had the wonderful opportunity to visit a nearby gardens with my camera yesterday. I just wanted to share a few of my favorite shots from that trip plus a few from my own backyard. God has clothed the flowers, which are here today and gone tomorrow, and yet He has done it so marvelously! O, How much more He cares for us! What a wonderful reminder (Luke 12:27-28).

IMG_2

IMG_1

IMG_3768

IMG_3763

IMG_3761

IMG_3756

IMG_3721

IMG_3907

IMG_3711

IMG6

IMG_3700

IMG_3919

IMG_3962

IMG4

IMG_3949

IMG_3830

IMG_3880

IMG_3875

IMG_3868

IMG_3862

IMG_3838

IMG_3812

IMG_3846

IMG8

IMG5 (2)

IMG7

IMG_3935

 

 

Danger Zone

Danger

I had an idea of what I wanted to buy for a graduation gift but time got away from me and the other day I realized that it was too late to order it. I groaned within, as I realized this meant I would have to buy it at my local Christian bookstore.

I have generally tried to avoid any bookstore labeled “Christian” over the last five or so years because I find them most disheartening to walk through. But that day I had little choice.

And so I headed off to the store to once again be dismayed and disgusted by the heresy and false teaching that is promoted and sold in “Christian” bookstores.

The first display I saw–just like the last time I was there and the time before that– featured Jesus Calling. You can read here why this book goes against scripture and why Christians should not be reading it. How long will that book be in the stores? I cannot believe it is still actually selling. It has had an incredibly long shelf-life compared to most books.

Then I headed to the Bible section. There I found both the good and the bad. One has to use great wisdom in picking out a Bible these days. We should always do our research before purchasing one. All Bible versions are not equal.

I headed next to the Bible Study section. There I was dismayed to find a whole section by Beth Moore. She has made some seriously wrong doctrinal turns in the recent years and, yet, it doesn’t seem to have affected her sales in any way. You can find good biblical articles refuting Beth Moore here and here.

As I continued to look around, I found many books by Henry Blackaby of Experiencing God fame. His books were everywhere, along with Bible Studies he authored under the title Encountering God. He is quite a prolific author but, unfortunately, he writes from a mystical, experiential point of view (which you might have been able to deduce from the title of his first book). You can find a solid reproof to his false teaching here (this link is Part 1 of a 3-part article). There is another good article here.

And then I turned a corner in the store and saw a large area of a bottom shelf taken up by Rick Warren’s Daniel Plan. There are few authors who have affected the church so negatively over these past fifteen years as this man. His book Purpose-Driven Life has changed the Gospel, watering it down and removing sin and repentance. His book Purpose-Driven Church has completely changed how we do church and it is certainly not in a good way. Seriously, this man has almost single-handedly changed the whole church culture. But the Daniel Plan–his plan for health and fitness–may be his most dangerous yet. For it is in this plan that he incorporates new age practices and ideas, partnering with doctors who don’t even claim to be Christians. Read more about this plan here and here, and run from it as fast as you can!

Sadly, I could present many more names of authors who have twisted and bent scripture to write supposedly “Christian” books that, while bringing a pleasant message to the readers, are doing great harm because they are not biblical.

And so my most recent trip just confirmed my opinion about Christian bookstores. And I was reminded of just how very few books (and music–I didn’t even get into the music) that we can trust there. Even books that may be written by solid, biblical, unfamiliar authors are suspect in this place where there is such a dearth of good, biblical resources.

SO why is this? Why has there been such compromise in this area of buying and selling things that are not biblical? From companies we should be able to trust? I have a few ideas about this.

First, we, as a society, have become obsessed with ourselves. Even we who claim to be Christians are often self-centered and self-absorbed. And so we want to read things that will help us solve our problems. We want to read things that will make us feel good about ourselves. And we want to read things that will lift us up and tell us how wonderful we are and how much God loves us. In response to this, companies will stock their shelves with these resources that sell. While Christian companies shouldn’t, in theory, compromise and sell unbiblical material, most do. They are in business to make money, after all. And, if you do some checking, you will see that many of these so-called Christian publishing companies are just branches of secular companies.

Second, most of us Christians do not know the Word of God and have very little discernment. When we spend time reading, we’d prefer it to be a light and easy reading not some heavy-duty study of the Word. Few of us do more than lightly read a few verses each day so that we can put a check-mark by “devotions” on our to-do list. No wonder we Christians have been hood-winked. We don’t know what the Bible teaches, so anyone pulling verses out of context or twisting a passage can fool us.

And third, the authors mentioned above and any other false teachers teach a lot of good things. If they didn’t, Christians would spot them in a heartbeat. Have you heard of Rob Bell? Recently, this “pastor” has joined up with Oprah, claiming there is no hell and a variety of other very heretical things. And with this out and out heresy, most mainstream Christians have rejected him. But, do you know, that only ten years ago, his videos played in biblical church youth groups all across America, including my own? And when anyone spoke against them, we were told what we are always told — you are exaggerating, you are worrying about nothing, this will help us reach the kids, you need to relax, you are too harsh and unloving.

That is because those videos were mostly true, with just a tiny bit of error. And so most churches let it slide. Even though scripture warns us of this very thing in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. If Satan and those who promote his kingdom of darkness only presented themselves as evil would we fall prey to their methods? Of course not. How much more effective to bring heresy and false doctrine into the church by being mostly biblical but not quite.

And I ask you: If you were given a bowl of soup that was 99% filled with the best cut of meat and the freshest produce around but was 1% arsenic, would you eat it? Of course not, because you know that arsenic would harm you.

Somehow we don’t apply this same principle to what we put in our brains.

All of this has left us in a very vulnerable place as a church. We are being groomed to join the one-world church. We can see this happening almost before our very eyes and a walk through the Christian bookstore only confirmed this once again for me.

I could say lots more about this area of books–like there are some people I read who I don’t agree 100% with on secondary issues but they have not changed the Gospel message and I feel safe reading them. And that there are some really great authors who left this earth long ago–men like Spurgeon and Ryle who are very readable and biblical and trustworthy. And, I guess, most importantly, that you wouldn’t even trust me without running everything I write here through the grid of scripture. I am not sinless and I certainly do not have some corner market on truth. Test what I write. Test anything you read, no matter who wrote it. We live in a very dangerous world, where even a store labeled “Christian” has become a dangerous place. Don’t let Satan fool you. Know the Word and be aware of the false doctrines around you, so that you won’t be deceived.

I Thessalonians 5:21– Test all things; hold fast what is good.

Acts 17:11– These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 

2 Thessalonians 2:15– Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.