For the Bible Tells Me So

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How big is your view of God? Can it encompass a world that was created in six days, despite what the world’s scientists tell you? Do you believe that God and His Word are powerful enough to reach a post-modern world without any help from us?

Recently I watched a video by Ken Ham that shows clips of several well-known preachers and Bible scholars who say that we need to subject the scriptures to modern-day science. Most of these men believe that if we don’t do this, we stand to lose the entire millennial generation.

Does anyone else realize how ridiculous this premise really is?

One has to wonder just how small their view of God is.

Welcome to the world of pragmatism, as in: Just do what works. But does this work? If we remove the authority of scripture and place it on to science, do we even have Christianity left? Or does it become some malformed, unrecognizable religion?

I am so amazed at how Genesis (and other Old Testament passages, as well) are twisted and changed and turned into mythical stories in order to bow down to science. As if somehow man gets to determine the origins of the world, using fallible methods that are not even based on observational science.

If anyone who believes in evolution is truly honest with themselves, they will have to acquiesce that both world views–evolution and creationism–take a great amount of faith to believe. Trying to wed the two theories is like trying to mix oil and water. They are philosophically and impossibly opposed to one another. The fact that so many are trying to do so shows us just how thoroughly the world has seeped into the church.

If we remove the authority of the entire Bible and align ourselves with the world and with the “science” of evolution (which isn’t even actual science–read about that here), aren’t we then totally and completely re-defining Christianity as it was defined for the last two thousand years? It would seem extremely arrogant that a man would take that upon himself, but many do.

Most recently, this has been done by a preacher named Andy Stanley (watch the video linked above or see articles listed at end of this post). I have been amazed with his finesse, charisma, and smooth-talking. I have been amazed that people sit in awe and listen to a man who effectively swipes away the authority of scriptures in just a few words. And Christians continue to sit and listen and even defend this guy. And listen, I don’t know his heart or his motivation. I hope that he is simply misguided and has the best intentions but even the best intentions do not eliminate the need to test what a teacher is saying (I Thessalonians 5:20-21; I John 4:1).

Paul tells us this in 2 Thessalonians 2: 15–So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

This verse comes after he tells us about the Man of Lawlessness who is coming in earlier verses (9-12)–

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

It says that man refused to love the truth. And how do we even know the truth? We are not living in the days when Jesus walked the earth, so how can we know the truth? Traditionally, it has been taught that the Word of God is the only place we will find truth. Can you see how removing the authority of scripture turns men into “little gods”, defining God and salvation as they want to define them? It also turns the minds of men from the Bible to other, extra-biblical ways to know God–such as mystical experiences and the words of man.

So what kind of church are we left with if we deny the Word of God and just start pulling out the pieces that we (fallible man) believe to be “acceptable”? We are left with a false church. A false church that follows a false religion that can be molded and shaped into anything sinful man desires. (Remember that any religion that takes away or adds to scripture is a false religion). And, even more importantly, it becomes a church that is ripe for being melded into the coming One World Religion–a religion that will have nothing to do with doctrine and everything to do with mysticism and feelings. A religion that, even now, is forming and uniting all across the world.

These kind of posts really challenge me to dig into the Word. And, honestly, I am never disappointed. The answers are there–

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.(Hebrews 4:12)

If this is true (and it is!), you can certainly see why Satan is centering his attack on the Word of God. If he can win this battle, he can turn true religion into false religion very quickly.  It is the Bible that keeps us from swerving off the narrow path and Satan knows this!

We are sinners (Romans 3:10).

God sent His Son to die as a sacrifice for our sins (John 3:16).

We will be saved if we believe this (Acts 16:31)

We know this because the Bible tells us so!

In conclusion, I want to leave you with this link: A List of Creation Scripture References. In studying for this post, I came across this helpful list. If you scroll down you will see how many times the New Testament refers to creation. Create and Evolve are two very different words. They imply completely different things. Create implies a Creator. Evolve implies lots of time, gradual change, and no creator. This is probably worth its own post, but I just wanted you to take a look. To deny creation doesn’t mean only denying the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11, but it also means you will have to deny the literal interpretation of most of the Old Testament and also the New Testament–creation is referred to that often.

As for Andy Stanley, I am trying to give an honest review of his theology as compared to scripture. I have no intention of personally attacking him. You can read more here if you are interested–

For the Bible Tells Me So: Biblical Authority Denited…Again by Al Mohler

Andy Stanley’s Problem with the Bible by Josh Buice

And if you are really curious, you can visit this page for many article links and videos.

 

The Question of Authority

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I remember the moment vividly. I had made an off-handed comment about something unbiblical I had noticed about a very popular pastor. Suddenly, the atmosphere around me grew icy cold. Unbeknownst to me, those I were with highly esteemed this pastor and I had offended them greatly.

The temptation for all of us, of course, is to follow a person. We can see them, hear them, and touch them. And so when someone who appears to be following Jesus comes along, we are very tempted to latch on and follow them religiously.

I believe God knows this tendency of human beings, as Paul encourages his readers to follow his example as he follows Christ (I Corinthians 11:1). In Philippians 3:17 we read more about this, where Paul says to his readers–

 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.

It is interesting to note that earlier in that chapter, Paul makes it very clear that he has not arrived or is in any way a sinless man–

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

And so we know that Paul is humble and presenting himself as an imperfect servant of Christ who desires to set an example for Christians who are following him. (By the way, humility is probably one of the greatest things to look for in anyone we choose to follow!)

This all works great when the person is like Paul (and like so many other faithful servants to the Word of God that we know and love). However, we run into serious problems when the person we follow starts drawing us away from the Word and towards worldly philosophies and false doctrines.

As I sit here writing, I can think of several very popular pastors, authors, and teachers who are–even at this very moment–drawing sincere followers of Christ into false teaching. How does this happen?

I believe it is because we honor the word of man more than we honor the Word of God. I believe it is because we trust a fallible human being more than we trust the Word of God.

When we do this, we give the person we are following great power to wield deception and confusion in our spiritual lives, while we remain blissfully and ignorantly unaware that we have left the straight and narrow path and have joined the throng on the wide road.

Thankfully, if we are child of God’s that is sincerely searching for truth, God will open our eyes to the false teachings of the one we are following. But this can only happen if we know the Word of God and hold it as the authority of our lives, rather than handing that authority over to a fallible man.

This holds true for any man or woman you follow. This holds true for anything you listen to and anything you read–including this blog. One of my gravest concerns is that I lead no one astray from the truths of scripture. My opinions are irrelevant. I desire only to help you understand the Word of God and to draw you there as your authority. I hope that I am setting a godly example, however, since I am a fallible and sinful person, I will not do this perfectly. The same holds true for any person we follow. It is best we always keep this in mind and not idolize any human being.

It is important to remember that some of the people we follow are just off completely and we should stop following them. Others are leading people away from the Gospel as portrayed in scripture subtly and quickly and it is best to stop following them, as well. But, in many instances, the preachers or teachers we follow are off on just one or two trivial points, perhaps being deceived themselves, while being so on target in many other areas. Do we continue to follow them?

I think we can –but only if they are not key doctrinal issues and only if we know the Word and trust the Word over the man.

God has given us an innate desire to follow and believe in someone. We so often turn that passion towards fallible human beings rather than to the one and true God, as revealed to us in scripture. I encourage you today to let no man take the place that only God should hold. And how do we know God? He has given us His Word. This is the only one and true way to know God. Don’t be fooled!

Get in the Word. Study it. Learn it. So that if someone you follow starts leaving the straight and narrow path, you know it!

 

If I Eat, Let Me Eat What is Good

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The last time you were at the grocery store, I imagine you saw the words “organic” and “natural” more often than not. Recently, people have become very passionate about having food that is free from pesticides and poisons. Food that is in its purest form and hasn’t been processed or changed.

Somewhere around the middle of last century, food changed. As we turned from an agricultural-based society where we all grew our own vegetables and baked our own bread to a more industrial society, we became a society eating things like wonder bread and boxed mac and cheese. As shelves at the stores filled with processed, genetically modified, and prepackaged foods we became unhealthier as a nation. As we filled ourselves at fast food chains, we grew fatter and wider.

However, in the recent years there has been a real push to stop feeding people food like this. Some of the biggest industries have been taken on and challenged to change things. Big name restaurants and corporations are doing their best to offer healthier options, while still making a hefty profit. The two don’t generally go hand in hand, so I am sure this has been a bit of a struggle for them.

When my kids were little and I was homeschooling, I remember that we could all eat lunch at McDonald’s for $6. This would be a treat for an especially trying day or on the way home from a field trip. Now many of us won’t touch McDonald’s. If we do, it is with a huge sense of guilt and we don’t do it often. When we go to the store, many of us examine ingredient lists closely as we look for the healthiest options possible. And we try to feed our kids the most organic, pure versions of food available. Even baby food has become suspect and many moms make their own at home. It is amazing how the world has changed in just 15 short years in regards to this. For me, personally, I have become much more conscientious about the food I feed to myself and my family. We have always gardened and we never ate a lot of processed foods, but we eat even less now and, except for an occasional trip to Chick-Fil-A, we rarely go to fast food restaurants anymore.

So why am I talking about food on a blog about spiritual growth?

Because I believe that our passion to feed our bodies and our children pure food should be matched–or even surpassed–by a passion to feed our minds and our children’s minds pure spiritual food.

We are all worked up about making sure we don’t poison and contaminate our bodies–something that is temporal and is going to end up old and shriveled eventually, no matter what we eat. And yet so many of us don’t worry even a second about what we are feeding our souls. We don’t give any thought to if we are poisoning and contaminating our minds.

And, wow, let me tell you–there is so much available that will contaminate and poison our minds and to move us far from a biblical viewpoint. It is unbelievable how unraveled Christianity has become as we have moved far from the Word of God and have turned instead to mysticism and psychology.

I receive an email each day with “Christian” books that are on sale for Kindle at Amazon. I normally will glance through it, looking for classics and authors I trust. I would say that on any given day about 10% of the books in that email are written by authors I trust. Another 40% look like they could be okay, judging by the title, forward, or author’s name but I couldn’t recommend them without reading them first. But at least 50% are pure rubbish. Books that have nothing to do with scripture and everything to do with twisting and mangling the Gospel and biblical truth. In fact, the telltale sign for most of them are their titles. You can also tell a lot by who writes the forward or recommends the book.

Books and music are very powerful. Just like food changes the composition of your body, so, too does Christian literature and music change your composition spiritually. We need to do all we can to keep our minds pure from poisons.

You may be thinking that you don’t know how to discern. If that’s the case, please read this post, where I give five steps to help you get started in this area of discernment.

Of course, being dedicated to purity in Christian resources is not met with such accolades as being dedicated to purity in our food sources. While people understand why we want to feed our bodies and our children pure and organic foods, they do not understand our passion to feed our minds and our children’s minds pure and organic spiritual food. And, so, this move towards purity does not come without its challenges.

Prepare to be called narrow-minded and harsh and judgmental. Prepare to lose some friends and to be ostracized. Just by commenting to a group of friends that you are not reading a certain book because it isn’t biblical or that you don’t allow your child to listen to a certain music group because they aren’t biblical will leave you open to ridicule and criticism. Eating organic food is not cheap, is it? Neither is eating pure spiritual food. While it won’t cost you in dollars and cents, it may cost you in reputation and friendships. We are not in a Christian culture that values discernment.

But what do you get in return? You get a healthy spiritual heart and mind. You get kids who know that scripture is their final authority and go to the Word to discern. This isn’t a guarantee, of course, but God does honor your desires to keep your family pure from worldly and vain philosophies and false teaching. And God fills in the gaps and meets your needs, making anything you may have to sacrifice worth the sacrifice as you step out in dedication to God’s Word and to run everything through its grid of Truth.

We tend to believe this is a new issue for this day and age, but it isn’t. Satan has always been busy trying to get Christians to read and listen to things that are either subtly twisted or in complete opposition to the Gospel. Of course, Spurgeon can say this so much better than I can, so I will conclude with this portion from one of his sermons called The Soul’s Best Food–

Now, dear Friends, I am sure that the topic on which I have been speaking is a very important one, yet it is a very neglected one. A great many young Christians and, I am afraid, some old Christian people, especially women, read no end of tales and novels. That is not eating that which is good—it is doing that which is worse than useless! There is no spiritual nutriment and little if any mental food in most of the stories that come out nowadays. We used to keep our tales for our children—our babies—but, now, the stories are written for grown-up people—and newspapers and magazines sell best if they contain pretty stories for the great babies of the present day. Nothing will suit them but stories. “Eat what is good.” But they eat ashes! They feed upon the wind—that is their spiritual meat. Sometimes we complain of present-day Christians that they have no backbone, no stamina, no strength compared with the Christians of past ages. I should think so—they do not eat the food out of which spiritual manhood can grow. They eat what would not nourish a mouse and then hope that they may be “strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.”

 

And, then, how common is the neglect of reading the Word of God itself! A great many persons take all their religion secondhand. They never go to the good old Book themselves. Years ago it was a very difficult thing to get milk—it was not milk that was called by that name. The only way to be sure of having milk was to keep a cow—and I recommend everybody to ensure getting the unadulterated milk of the Word of God by keeping his own cow, that is, by reading the Bible for himself. If you want to get pure water, go to the fountainhead. I was once going over the mountains in Northern Italy and I wanted to drink from a little stream, but my guide would not allow me to taste of it. I did not understand why, but he went on some considerable distance and then he allowed me to drink as much as I liked. And I noticed that I was drinking at a spring just where the water flowed out, but, the time before the stream had been running down the mountainside and was full of all sorts of impurities and, besides, it had lost its freshness and sweetness by travelling over the earth in the warm sun. The guide wanted me to have water that was worth drinking—to drink that which was good. And so I would advise you, my Friends, to take no notice of anything I say that is not according to the Word of God!

 

Put it away among the lumber,  for it is good for nothing—and whoever it is that preaches and whatever book you read—if it is not according to this Book, say to yourself, “Well, I have not any time to try experiments. If I do eat, I want to eat that which is good. And if I do delight myself, I want to delight myself in what God calls fatness.” There is plenty of carrion about—plenty of religious carrion, I mean—tainted through and through with false doctrine. And unhappy is that man who has a taste for it—it looks as if he were no true child of God.

 

Why Good Things Happen to Bad People

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Last Thursday we left for our annual trip to the beach. On this trip we were joined by my brother (Pastor Dean) and his family and so we enjoyed a time of being together as a family that we rarely get anymore. As we sat and talked around the campfire one day about life and about the church, my brother mentioned that he wishes someone would write a book entitled, “Why Good Things Happen to Bad People”.

Remember the book written some years back called “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People”? (I haven’t read it, so this post has nothing to do with that book at all). Well, my brother turned the title around and explained that he believes people just don’t truly understand how wicked they are and so they mistakenly believe that they deserve so much better than they get and are entitled to certain things in life.

How true this is! Have you noticed it, too? This belief by most people that they are basically good and deserve the best things in life. But there is a fundamental problem with this point of view: It makes mankind innocuous to salvation. Think about it– if you don’t have a grasp of just how sinful and wicked you are, how can you really believe you need a Savior to save you from your sins? God, holy, just, and perfect, sent his son Jesus, to die on the cross as a sacrifice (or propitiation) for our sins (I John 4:9-10). This is the Gospel. 

As we drove home later, we were listening to a recent album put out by a Christian group. As I listened to the words, I realized that almost all of their songs had to do with brokenness, healing, strength, purpose, and love. Not once did I hear the words sin, sinner, or repentance. Now, don’t get me wrong–of course, Jesus does heal our brokenness and loves us and gives us strength. Praise God, Jesus does all of this! But not until we repent, believe in Him, and turn from our sins. If this part is missing, then salvation is missing and so are the rest of the benefits that go along with salvation.

I am not judging that music group. Perhaps I missed some lyrics as we were driving along. I only share this because I did notice that song after song had no mention of sin and repentance. And it reminded me of just how little our new Christian culture mentions these two words. Why is this?

I believe it is because of two reasons– first, we hate to think of ourselves as sinners. Sure, we mess up and make mistakes, but wicked sinners that deserve hell? No way. We compare ourselves with ourselves (2 Corinthians 10:12) and come to the {wrong} conclusion that we doing pretty good.  And, second, if Satan can get us thinking we are doing pretty good, then he can effectively eliminate the need to recognize our sin and to repent and accept Christ–the only thing that saves men from eternal damnation.

Do you believe you are wicked enough to deserve hell? When I first came to Christ, I didn’t think so. I grew up thinking I was a pretty good person. I was raised in a Christian home and never did anything really bad as I saw some doing around me. Thankfully, God opened my eyes to my own wicked heart (and continues to do so) as I have matured as a believer and this has helped me to understand and appreciate salvation in a much deeper way. It has also magnified my thankful heart for all of the undeserved blessings I receive from my heavenly Father.

You see, none of us is righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10). And this means that we deserve nothing good. Anything that is good comes from the loving Father above as an undeserved blessing. Each breath, each step we take is because God, in his great mercy, allows it.

Is this a little too “over the top” for you? Consider these verses found in Acts 17:24-28–

 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood[c] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  (bold is mine)

God gives to all life, breath, and all things. He has determined our times and where we will dwell. It is only in Him that all men live and move and have their being.

If we understand that we are not righteous (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:10; Micah 7:2-4; I John 1:8-10; Luke 18:19) and that salvation and all other gifts–even our very breath–comes from God above and are undeserved, having nothing to do with our own merit (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:8; Romans 11:6; 2 Timothy 1:9) then we have a completely different view of the Gospel, do we not?

Instead of the Gospel being a mystical experience that makes us feel better about ourselves and gives us purpose or simply a “decision” that we need to make in order to have fire insurance from hell, it becomes the center of our very being. We admit we are a sinner, we repent, we turn from our sins. We are transformed and our greatest spiritual desire becomes to please our Savior instead of ourselves. To deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and to follow Jesus every day (Luke 9:23). If we understand our wickedness and the great mercy God has shown us in making a way to be reconciled to Himself, this is what we want to do. Oh, most of us don’t do this all that well, but it is our greatest desire to do so.

I am afraid that the gospel has been considerably watered down. I am afraid that we have become a people who have been warped by the world into believing we are basically good people. And I am afraid that in believing we are basically a good people we have become incapable of truly understanding the Gospel.

And, once again, we come back to the Word. The Word is our only source of truth on this subject. This is where we need to go to understand the plan of salvation. Authors and bloggers are nice and they can be helpful. But they can also be extremely destructive. We need to compare everything we read and hear and watch to the Word of God. I include myself in this warning. Don’t take my word for it! Go to the scriptures. Know the Word to protect yourself from a false Gospel. This is truly the only way to survive this time of unprecedented apostasy.

 

The Four Missing Elements

(or how can I have assurance of salvation?)

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If reading about the lives and faith of those who have gone on before has taught me anything, it has most certainly taught me that there is nothing new under the sun. Satan has been working feverishly for thousands of years now to keep people off the path of true, biblical faith. And he has had great success.

One of the ways we see him currently working in the church today is through a false, mystical faith that relies on experience for the assurance of salvation. The only thing that matters in many churches or the lives of many “Christians” is that there has been some sort of spiritual experience that one can look to as the moment of salvation.

I thought this was a new thing. But in reading the biography of Jonathan Edwards by Iain Murray, I see that this trick has been around for many, many years. This biography has required great thought and effort to read (I am still working on it!), but I am learning so much.

If you don’t mind, I am going to just give a really brief paragraph of history before moving on to what Edwards had to say about experiential faith. (If you aren’t interested in the history part of it, feel free to skip the following paragraph.)

From the mid 1730s to about 1743, there came a revival to America which was called the “Great Awakening”. You may have heard about it. George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards were both a big part of this exciting time in America. About halfway through the revival, Edwards noticed that the revival was taking on a distinctly emotional leaning. People were much more wrapped up in their experiences than they were in living for Christ. This led Edwards to write A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, a book that is still in print today. This is Edwards’ first paragraph, explaining the reason he is writing this particular book–

There is no question whatsoever, that is of greater importance to mankind, and that it more concerns every individual person to be well resolved in, than this: What are the distinguishing qualifications of those that are in favor with God, and entitled to his eternal rewards? Or, which comes to the same thing, What is the nature of true religion? And wherein do lie the distinguishing notes of that virtue and holiness that is acceptable in the sight of God? But though it be of such importance, and though we have clear and abundant light in the word of God to direct us in this matter, yet there is no one point, wherein professing Christians do more differ one from another. It would be endless to reckon up the variety of opinions in this point, that divide the Christian world; making manifest the truth of that declaration of our Savior, “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way, that leads to life, and few there be that find it.” The consideration of these things has long engaged me to attend to this matter, with the utmost diligence and care, and exactness of search and inquiry, that I have been capable of. It is a subject on which my mind has been peculiarly intent, ever since I first entered on the study of divinity. But as to the success of my inquiries it must be left to the judgment of the reader of the following treatise.

I have not read the Treatise of Religious Affections (at least not yet) but Murray shares portions from this book and other writings of Edwards that I have found most helpful in establishing what the Bible teaches about the assurance of salvation. Edwards felt it necessary to respond to the problem of experience-based (and false) faith that had grown like a giant tare in the midst of the true revival. I was most astonished to find this problem to be a very old one. And I am most grateful to Jonathan Edwards for expounding biblically on this very hot and current topic of today.

Jonathan Edwards uses this illustration, that seems so very applicable–

It is with professors of religion, especially such as become so in a time of outpouring of the Spirit of God, as it is with blossoms in the spring; there are vast numbers of them upon the trees, which all look fair and promising; but yet many of them never come to anything….It is the mature fruit which comes afterwards, and not the beautiful colors and smell of the blossoms that we must judge by.*

So, how do we know if we ourselves and those we love are practicing true and saving faith? What are the distinguishing marks of a true believer? How do we have genuine assurance of our salvation? This is no small question, as we all long to be right with God and spend eternity in heaven.

Someone I know recently had a conversation with a co-worker about where she would go when she dies. She stated that she was sure she was going to heaven because she was a good person. When pressed a bit, it was made clear that this woman wasn’t basing her belief on anything but her own desire to be in a good place when she dies. But beliefs do not save us. And, while I most certainly recognize that this will step on some toes, I also recognize the importance of getting a message of biblical salvation out to as many people as will hear it! Eternal life and damnation hang in the balance. How important that we know what the Bible says about these things.

Edwards, in response to this mystical, experiential religion and the aftermath of the revival, gives four missing elements in the lives of those who have no true grace. In other words, those who have had an experience but aren’t truly saved. (Keep in mind, that Edwards is assuming the reader’s high view of scripture. His readers–and even the general population–would have generally viewed the Bible as the true, inerrant, and complete Word of God and the basis for all morality. This is definitely missing from our current culture.)

1. Humility is missing. I have been thinking of this one now for a good, long while. We cannot even come to know true salvation without humility. How can we ever see ourselves as the sinners we are without it? Pride is a most dangerous and deadly sin.

2. An abiding sense of sin is missing.True saints are spoken of in Scripture not only as those that have mourned for sin, but as those that do mourn, whose manner it is still to mourn (Matthew 5:4)’ Repentance and confession are not once and done, but a continual part of a true believer’s life.

3. Reverential fear is missing. Yes, God is our friend, but He is also the most holy, omnipotent God. He is not to be treated casually, as we are so wont to do in this current casual culture. Being too familiar with God means that we don’t truly understand who He really is.

4. True balance is missing. Edwards explains balance in this way: “The real Christian, enjoying assurance of salvation, has ‘holy boldness’ but he also ‘has less of self-confidence and more modesty…He is less apt that others to be shaken in the faith, but more apt than others to be moved with solemn warnings, and with God’s frowns, and with the calamities of others. He has the firmest comfort but the softest heart. Richer than others, he is the poorest of all in spirit: the tallest and strongest saint, but the least and tenderest child among them.” *

Murray wraps Edwards’ helpful work up in one sentence: “Edwards basic and recurring theme is straight forward enough. The love and the pursuit of holiness is the enduring mark of the true Christian.”

Of course, as always, let me clarify something of great importance: True believers may be weak in one of these areas or growing in them, so lacking one or two of these elements does not mean a lack of salvation. However, I would add that if all four are missing it is a very ominous sign. I would also add that if the first one is missing it is also a rather ominous sign. There is really no way to be truly saved without the humble admission of sin and guilt.

Edwards talks about baby Christians in this manner: While the experience of a young Christian may be like a confused chaos, he will follow holiness, and true religious affections differ from false affections in that the true are always related to holiness.*

He also goes on to say this about the differences between true and false faith–

Individuals, once confident that they are converted, have no more earnest longings after light and grace….they live upon their first work, or some high experiences that are past, and there is an end to their crying and striving after God and grace. But the holy principles that actuate a true saint have a far more powerful influence to stir him up to earnestness in seeking God and holiness…The Scriptures everywhere represent the seeking, striving, and labor of a Christian, as being chiefly after his conversion, and his conversion as being but the beginning of his work. And almost all that is said in the New Testament, of men’s watching, giving earnest heed to themselves, running the race that is set before them, striving and agonizing, wrestling not with flesh and blood but principalities and powers, fighting, putting on the whole armour of God, and standing, pressing forward, reaching forth, continuing instant in prayer, crying to God day and night; I say, almost all that is said in the New Testament of these things, is spoken of and directed to the saints. Where these things are applied to sinners’ seeking conversion once, they are spoken of the saints’ prosecution of the great business of their high calling ten times.*

True Christianity is a beautiful thing. The Gospel message not only saves us, it transforms us. The counterfeit that we see today–embodied by men and women following after their own worldly lusts and dreams, claiming Christ all the while, is not true Christianity. And while I would never, ever judge an individual’s salvation (who am I to know a person’s heart or where they are at with God?) these thoughts by Edwards do give us a litmus test by which to judge church movements and revivals and the current church age. They also cause us to be more earnest in prayer for the spiritual growth (or perhaps even conversion) of those who are not manifesting the elements of true faith. And, finally, the words of Jonathan Edwards should cause us to examine our own lives, in search of these elements of true, biblical faith.

Please NOTE: One of my greatest fears in writing a post such as this one is misrepresenting an author. I have not read all of Edwards works and I am only becoming acquainted with the Great Awakening and the dynamics surrounding it. If you have anything helpful to add or have any corrections to the information I have given, it will be most welcome. I generally stay away from this type of post, but felt this topic to be of particular importance and relevance to the current church culture we live in.

*This quote and all following come from Banner of Truth Trust‘s The Religious Affections, Select Works of Jonathan Edwards.  This organization has done a wonderful job in bringing the works and biographies of great men and women of the faith back into print.

Some Thoughts on Love and Hate

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Would it surprise you to know that some of my favorite people in the whole world don’t agree with me on everything?

I am not sure when the rules changed and agreement on everything became a prerequisite for friendship. In fact, it has gone far beyond that now, where we are told that if we do not agree with someone it means we hate them. This seems to be the “politically correct” assumption that rules the day.

Does anyone else see how ridiculously illogical this is??

Seriously.

Yes, I believe the Bible is true. And yes, I believe that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27). But, NO, I don’t hate anyone who is practicing it. I love them!

Yes, I believe that the Bible is true. And yes, I believe that you cannot go to heaven without trusting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior (John 14:6). But, NO, I don’t hate those who aren’t believers in Jesus Christ. I love them!

Now, I do recognize that there is a lot of hatred and condescension coming from people who call themselves Christians. They have done great damage through the years, arrogantly sitting on their porches passing condemnation on all who walk by and yet never getting in the trenches to share the Gospel. They have done great damage through protests and violence while saying and doing things that no true Christian would ever do. They have caused irreparable damage with their wagging tongues and fierce arguments.

This is a burden we true believers need to bear. Many have tainted and continue to taint the name of our precious Savior with their ungodly, worldly, and decidedly unchristian behavior.

But we are not them. And we are not filled with hate. We are filled with love. Of course, our closest, dearest friends are believers. They build us up and keep us accountable in our desire to grow more like Christ. Christian fellowship is a wonderful blessing in our lives. But this doesn’t mean we are filled with disgust for people who don’t agree with us or live like we do. We recognize that where they are now is where we came from. We know that we, too, are wicked sinners who were desperately in need of a Savior. Jesus is the only difference between us and them and we know it.

We are filled with a desire to tell them about Jesus, yes. We are filled with concern, yes. We are filled with a grateful heart for our opened eyes, yes. But not with hatred. Never with hatred.

Of course, the biblical message of sin and repentance isn’t popular. No one wants to be told they are accountable to God. No one wants to be told that their lifestyle is sinful.

But speaking truth is not equal to hatred. And speaking lies is not equal to love. And, in fact, it is quite the opposite, isn’t it? Funny how that works.

If someone is telling us what we want to hear instead of telling us the truth it means they care more about themselves than they do about us. And if they are telling us a truth we don’t want to hear at the risk of their own reputation or friendships, it is obvious they care more about us than they do about themselves.

Somehow the truth of this has been swallowed up by the mucky mire of relativism.

But we know the truth and we are not going to be swallowed up by relativism. We know that sharing truth means we love our fellow man, not that we hate them. So let us speak the truth of God’s Word with courage, even at the risk of our own well-being. Let us rise up and react to the hatred of a world gone mad with truth and grace and love.

 

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
Luke 6:35-36

Standing Out in a Sea of Black and White

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On our recent visit to an aquarium, we saw this featherless penguin (see photo above). We all noticed him. The poor guy. He looked awkward sitting there among the beautiful black and white penguins. Instead of a sleek black and white coat, he was covered in a brownish-gray fuzz. He looked quite pathetic.

I spoke with the Aquarium representative and he shared that this particular penguin has an issue with molting. Instead of his feathers coming in every season, they only come in every other year. They had made a special wet suit to help this little guy get through the harsh Connecticut winters.

I think we Christians are a little like this featherless penguin.

In some ways, before we come to Christ, our good deeds function as our feathers. They comfort us and make us believe that we are right with God. Wearing them, we fit in with all of the other Christians and non-Christians, as we strive to be kind, do what’s right, and follow man-made rules. It isn’t until we stand before God without any of our righteous deeds covering us that we can fully understand God’s plan of salvation. The truth of the matter is that we can never be saved when we are counting on our righteous deeds to save us.

This means, simply, that there are really only two world religions –God has provided a way of salvation through His Son Jesus alone (True Christianity) OR Man is trying to reach God through self-righteousness and rules (All other world religions–including some that are labeled “Christianity”).

If we are part of the first religion, we stand out in a crowd, don’t we? When we came upon the penguins, they all melted together in an array of black and white life–all except for that brown fuzzy one. He stood out among them.

I guess this is what I really want to focus on. If we are a true believer in Jesus Christ, we have been given a wetsuit that can only be provided by God. Yes, we look funny. And, yes, we will stand out. And maybe the other “penguins” won’t like us and will pick on us. This is how it is when we step away from the crowd.

This has, historically, been part of what makes it so tough to be a believer. We hate to look different. We don’t want to stand out. And, yet, this is part of being a true Christian.

Paul writes about this in Ephesians 5:8– For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

If we are a light in the darkness, we are definitely going to stand out! Unless we try really hard not to. Which we do in a myriad of ways, don’t we?–

–We join our friends in their gossip, complaining, and crude jesting.

–We go along to that ungodly movie that our group of friends or our family wants to see.

–We ignore the horrible lyrics on the radio because we want to be the “cool” mom.

–We (and our daughters) wear the same thing to the beach as everyone else. (A little side note here– this is definitely a way to stand out. People think you are absolutely ODD if you are a young woman who doesn’t wear a bikini. I still shake my head over how it became appropriate for Christian women to be almost naked in public. How did Christians come to accept this as okay? How do dads– who I know love their precious daughters deeply –allow them to dress like this when they know how mens’ minds work? This will forever be a puzzle to me. I will step down off my soapbox now…)

Bottom line: Many people who call themselves Christians are just like the world. They wear the same things, they curse, they have sex before they are married, they watch the same entertainment, they look just like the world. 

With the onset of the Olympics this week, many people have been posting an article about Micheal Phelps becoming saved in 2014. I was disturbed to find out that he is living with his fiancee and that they had a son together five months ago. Surely, even a baby Christian would understand that living out of wedlock is a sin? But not in this sick world we are in. I have no idea if this young man is truly saved but what I do know is that he certainly shouldn’t be held up as some kind of Christian role model.

We are to stand out! We are to be obedient to the words of scripture. We are not to join the world in all its lusts and sinful activities. And, yet, somehow this has all become fully acceptable with nary a word. I just don’t get it.

We are to be that penguin that looks different among all of the black and white. That is part of the cost to being a Christian. Yes, the plan of salvation is simple, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Following Christ means taking up our cross and denying self (Matthew 16:24). It is not a self-centered decision –filling us with purpose, giving us happiness, etc.

When we fall humbly before God confessing our sin and asking Him to save us, it is a God-centered decision, making us right with the One, True God so that we can stand righteous before Him through the blood of Jesus Christ. It is the only way to be reconciled to God.

When we surrender our wills and lives to God, our happiness, our purpose, our health and wealth are irrelevant. Paul makes this clear in Philippians 4:11-13–

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ[b] who strengthens me.

Are you standing out? Are you focused on your own personal happiness and fulfillment or on surrendering your will to God’s? This is a constant battle. For me, too. But we know that God’s Word teaches that true salvation yields transformation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20). Truly saved people stand out like featherless penguins in a sea of black and white. Truly saved people rely on Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Any good works are done because of the deep love they have for their Savior–not because of some drive to save themselves. Sure, we all grow spiritually at different rates and we give grace to those who are young in the Lord (Philippians 1:6). But this cannot keep us from speaking these important truths.

It is critically important that this is the Gospel we not only preach but that we also live! Eternal destinies are at stake.

 

 

 

Are You Planting Seeds or Building Walls?

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So often those of us who are passionate about the truth can be abrasive. We don’t mean to be. We don’t want to be. But we are just so thrilled to know the truth, we are sure the person we are talking to will be thrilled, too! When they aren’t thrilled–or worse yet, take the opposing viewpoint– we can grow frustrated, angry, and defensive. I hope to show you why this is never a good idea as we look at four different types of people with whom we may have the opportunity to share the truth of God’s Word.

But before we talk about that, this may be a good time to share that I have learned, after so many long years, just how important it is to not get so worked up about things that aren’t biblical issues. Oh, how I wish I would have learned this sooner!! (I could add a few more exclamation points here!) Those of you who knew me in my teens and twenties will attest to this. I used to argue over so many stupid things. My pride demanded that I prove I was right. How many bridges did I burn? How many walls did I build? My cheeks grow warm thinking about this. Thankfully, life has proved to me over and over again how often I get things wrong. Humbled, I have also learned that grace, love, and kindness are far more important than being right when it comes to issues that are not of biblical importance.

And the beauty of this is that if we are kind and loving and uncritical in our disagreements over inconsequential things, we will be given much more credence when we have something to say regarding God’s Word. Instead of having been branded as an unreasonable, harsh, and difficult person who builds walls, we have a reputation of one who is reasonable, humble, and kind, thereby opening the door to plant seeds.

Okay, so back to the list. As believers, we will have the opportunity to share God’s Truth with four types of people at one time or another. Here are a few thoughts on how a defensive, angry spirit will affect not only our relationship with them, but quite possibly their relationship with the Lord–

1. Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of these will agree with us, but many won’t. It is important to never let side issues become major issues. Molehills often become mountains in these discussions. And this is how walls are built between people and churches are split. Now, it takes wisdom to discern if an issue is a molehill or a mountain, does it not? And this is where it can get a bit tricky. There are definitely many issues that qualify as mountains in the church these days. But how do we know what they are? The only way to do this wisely is to be reading and studying the inspired, inerrant Word of God and to be in sincere and biblical prayer, humbly asking God for insight. So many of us are still relying on childhood knowledge of God, spending very little time in the Word, and spouting off opinions and ideas that are ours–not God’s. This is a surefire recipe for division and disaster. And if we have determined that the issue is a mountain, let us remember in our attempts to speak truth that even this does not give us license for an unkind, angry spirit.

2. Baby Christians who are immature in spiritual things. Frustration or irritation in a conversation with a baby Christian can really yield some bad fruit. Many of them have not reached a place of humility nor have yet developed an interest in the deep things of God. If we come across as prideful and arrogant, we can quickly turn into their enemy instead of an encouragement. Instead of being an example of someone they should want to be like as they mature in Christ, we become an example of someone they don’t want to be like! This is not rare–and all because we leave love and grace out of our conversations so often.

3. People who are just starting to think seriously about God. He is drawing them and beginning a work in their hearts (John 6:44). Displaying a defensive and angry spirit is never a good thing but it can wield a deathblow to the heart that is questioning and has just started to open up towards God and the truth of His Word.

4. The unsaved who are antagonistic. These are perhaps the most frustrating for us. They think they know all the answers and have no interest in listening to our viewpoint. But a wrong response in these situations can mean the difference between light and darkness for a soul. This is for two reasons: First, I remember hearing a man give his testimony of how he came to Christ and he shared that this is just how he acted when he had a discussion with a despised Christian. So, the bottom line is that we don’t know who will or who will not come to Christ. We should never write someone off! And, second, is because people are always watching us. If we claim to be a Christian, they are watching to see if we actually act like one. When we get upset and defensive in the office or on the soccer sidelines as we discuss an issue with someone, they say “Aha! I knew it! I knew he (or she) was one of those legalistic, holier-than-thou types!” And a door closes. Maybe forever.

With each of these four groups of people we have the opportunity to plant seeds or build walls. We can say something with loving grace and kindness or we can say it with a harsh spirit. We can open doors or we can close doors. We must never compromise truth, but oh, how important that our resistance to compromise be accompanied by a warm and loving spirit!

God is the One who moves and works in hearts. The Holy Spirit opens eyes and God’s Word is powerful! We only need present the Truth. It is not our job to prove anything. We can walk away from a disagreement still as friends with the person with whom we disagree, confident that God is the One who works!

So I guess this is the question: Are we planting seeds with our words and attitudes or are we building walls? It has to be one or the other, as there is no in-between. Think about the last argument or disagreement you had with someone and ask yourselves these questions:

Was I unkind and brusque?

Did I need to prove I was right?

Did I raise my voice?

If the answers to these questions is yes, get on your knees and ask God to help you. He is faithful and it is never too late to change.

 

I Corinthians 13:1-8 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Colossians 3:12-15 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

 

The Thing About Wolves

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There are many things that make me shake my head in this world. One of them is movie stars who play parts in ungodly movies (that no Christian should watch much less be a part of) and then point to Jesus when they win an award. Another is athletes who point to God after a good play, when their lifestyle of bedding women, gambling, and other sinful activity is well-known. Musicians do this, too–singing about God with one breath and then singing about adultery or hatred or drinking with the next.

But what really makes me shake my head are the Christians who make these claims: “Oh, so-and-so is a Christian! Did you see them point to Jesus? Did you hear them sing that song about God?”

We do realize, don’t we, that people do things for a variety of reasons? They may be pointing to God to please their grandmother. Or perhaps they have a Christian fan base that will help them achieve their purposes. They could possibly be a tiny baby Christian that has a lot of growing to do. But, either way, they shouldn’t be idolized as someone to follow and be like with their worldly ways and sinful lifestyles.

One thing these famous people do is make it pretty easy to discern if they are a godly role model. With Facebook and Instagram it isn’t hard to see if famous people are living for the Lord or living for themselves. I am not on Instagram much at all, so it was my daughter who told me she goes there to see what kind of life a person lives if they call themselves a Christian. It is very, very telling.

But far more difficult to discern are the wolves. As you already know, I am reading through the Gospels. Something in Matthew 26 and John 13 caught my eye. It’s also recorded in Luke 22 and Mark 14. All four gospels record this incident. Jesus is in the upper room. He is soon going to sacrifice His life for the sins of mankind. And He knows that He will be betrayed by one of the men in that room. And He knows which one. Here is how it is recorded in John 13:21-22 —

When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” 22 Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.

The disciples didn’t know which one of them it was!

They. Didn’t. Know.

Think about that for a moment. Judas had walked all over Israel with them. He had served and ministered alongside them for three years. He had cast out demons and healed the sick in the name of Christ (Matthew 10:1). The whole time he had put on one amazing act and no one suspected that he may be a wolf.

Wolves are like that.

So what are we to learn from this? That we should never trust anyone?

No, of course not! But we can and should learn that not everyone who says they are a Christian is one. And not everyone who acts like they are a Christian is one. We should never idolize anyone. We should never allow a fallible person to be the foundation of our spiritual growth. Our foundation should be in Jesus. Only in perfect, holy Jesus.

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!

The other thing I think we can learn from this is to keep our eyes wide open, discerning at all times. Deception is rampant and we can’t afford to rest. 2 Corinthians 11 shows us why–

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 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.

Wolves look like Angels of Light! How important that we remember this!

So what do we do? How do we know?

God’s Word is the answer. It is there that we find the insight and wisdom we need in this age. 2 Timothy 3:13-17 puts it this way–

But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

If Judas could fool the men he worked with every day, how easy it must be for those in Christian ministry to fool us today. The only way we can discern–whether it be a famous preacher’s sermon, a popular book written by a famous author, or our own Sunday School teacher’s lesson– is if we read and study the Word of God and know it. And know it well.

Biblical illiteracy is probably the main reason the Church finds herself in such a state of apostasy today. Somewhere along the line our focus changed from the Bible to programs and entertainment. Oh, the tragedy!

But you and I can make sure we keep the focus on the Word. We can’t change the Church but we can make a difference in our own lives and the lives of our families. And by doing this, we may go on to make a positive difference in our local churches and communities.

I don’t know if there will a huge revival before my time on earth is done but I do know that we can make an eternal difference. And that difference starts with the Word of God.

Wolves may abound but they are no match for true disciples of Christ!

 

 

 

Changed Lives: Melanie

Changed Lives (final)

A few months ago, I received an email from one of my readers. As we emailed back and forth, we realized that we had a lot in common and a friendship grew. As we got to know one another better, she shared with me a little bit about the years she spent searching for God’s presence through subjective experiences and how God opened her eyes to the truth in His Word.

As I listened to her, I realized that her testimony would be a valuable one here on Growing4Life. If you or someone you love is caught up in the IHOP, NAR, or any other subjective, experiential movement, you will definitely want to read this. If you or someone you love is valuing personal experience over God’s Word, this testimony will show the danger that is involved when we do this.

A few things have stood out in my conversations with Melanie. First, the demonic things she was experiencing looked right and good on many occasions. Satan masquerades as an Angel of Light, and her testimony shows this very clearly. Second, the Bible was irrelevant and unnecessary when she was caught up in this movement. It was only when she started filling her mind with God’s Word that He showed her the truth. Third, true joy and peace came to her when she surrendered her need for an experience and gave her life to loving God, denying self, and doing God’s Will. And she clarified that this movement is all about the raising of self–the antithesis of what we find in scripture.

Melanie’s testimony shows us clearly that God will give answers to those who are truly searching for the Truth. It gives hope and clarity to those of us with loved ones caught up in these movements. And it gives us insight into what is really going on in this movement. Recently, very popular evangelicals that we have counted on to remain true to God’s Word have been pairing with the likes of Mike Bickle and others. This testimony shows us why these men and women are actually partnering with false teachers.

And so, with that introduction, I offer to you Melanie’s testimony–

From the beginning…
Jesus called me as His own daughter (John 15:16) at Hume Lake Christian Camp one summer during my Junior High years. I have been following Him ever since. I still remember that special moment going from darkness to light and the joy of that experience– just as sweet and precious as though it were yesterday.

Walking the path of those young years alone was not an easy one, as my parents were not Christians at the time. I remember coming down from the mountain top shortly upon returning home and my parents quickly informing me that they were happy for me but my “religious thing” was not for them. Yet, in spite of my parents not being Christians, how wonderful God’s ways truly were!

As God would have it, I happened to live directly across the street from a Presbyterian church! The youth leaders of that very same church happened to take an interest in me and they were the ones who invited me to Hume Lake. This became my new home and church family through my high school years. I still remember the liturgy, the robes, and even the boring hymns. In that day, religion seemed so boring, but Jesus was a whole different story. He was exciting! This is really where my foundation of God and Christianity was laid. Etched in my memory was the difference I saw between the Jesus I learned about at camp, a Savior who is personal and alive, and the form of Christ that was portrayed on Sundays in my church. The “church Jesus” seemed more distant, boring, and untouchable. Thereby, the two seemed miles apart and very different. And yet, I thirsted to know Jesus, the One who gave His life for me.

So how does one get to know this Jesus personally? How can one really connect with Him?

Early years…
As a young wife and mother of three small children, I had a strong desire to connect with other women on a deeper level. I decided to begin a women’s prayer group in my home. We prayed for our husbands, our children, our church and church leaders, and our individual walks with Jesus. At this time, my husband went to church on Sundays but I knew where his heart was the rest of the week. All of us ladies had one thing in common—a desire to connect with Jesus on a much deeper level. If there was a way to explore the depths of this relationship and really connect spiritually, then we were going to find that doorway and walk right through it.

The problem began when I decided to lead the group in “practice listening” and “experiencing God” exercises.

These were harmless and innocent –or so I believed. This would certainly grow our faith and we all agreed in the group that we wanted to know God better and, of course, more deeply. Please understand that no one showed me these things but, instead, I simply learned them on my own as I leaped out in what I believed to be faith.

·       What could possibly be wrong with wanting to know Jesus on a greater level?

·       Was it not God’s desire that we know Him well?

·       Who doesn’t want to sense or feel God’s Abiding Presence?

Growing in these “gifts” and rather quickly, I also seemed to be very good at them. Without going into detail, I will say here that I recognize now that I had some experiences as a child with the demonic world that played right into the hands of Satan and this “new” way to be drawn to “God”.

Growing steadily in what I believed to be “gifts” (as this is what I was told) through “words of knowledge” and dreams, I developed the ability to see in the spirit realm–a place I had no business to be! My own church leaders even took note (I was attending a Dutch Reformed church at that time). They would send sisters my way when they did not know what to do or have answers for them. If those sisters seemed oppressed or could not move forward in their walk with Christ, they were directed to call me.

Perfecting my craft…
As I daily worked on my “craft” with determination, I also desired to gain understanding. Hungry and eager, I read every book I could find that would help me grow in this area. Many of these were found in Christian bookstores. Sadly, lining many of our Christian bookshelves today are literally hundreds of these books by so many different authors. This might lead one to think that these teachings are perfectly normal and acceptable under the Christian umbrella. Don’t be fooled!

It grieves me to say that I led twelve precious women astray for almost ten years. I lead them right into the heavy experiential/contemplative movement and what I know today are false teachings and false doctrines. Today, these dear sisters believe I jumped ship and have gone off the deep end of legalism. In fact, only one of these will have even very limited contact with me.

Seeking the experience…
Three of us from the prayer ministry excelled and bonded which made us a pretty tight team.  Because I seemed to be most “gifted” in this area of hearing I became the natural leader. Now you must know there was no accountability. I had no one to whom I was accountable to in any way (big mistake).

As word spread, women who needed inner healing would come to me, seeking an appointment. I would tell them I did not want to know anything regarding their situation because I wanted them to have an “experience with the Lord” which would solidify their faith in Him. (I recognize now just how dangerous and wicked this was!) I would then go into prayer on their behalf and write what I heard from the spirit realm. 99% of what I wrote was accurate (just like a medium)! I would then share with them and expose things only the Holy Spirit could possibly know! Or so I believed. Now I know that I was dabbling in the demonic world.

I would also write a love letter for them from the Lord, which would only increase their belief in Him as this also was very personal and highly experiential. (What does this remind you of? Perhaps Sarah Young of Jesus Calling fame? She, too, claims to use automatic writing in order to share “God’s messages”).

As I write this, I’m reminded of one clear day, early on, which sticks out in my memory. I heard, in the quietness of my heart–not an audible voice, mind you, but more like an impression on my heart– “Is this something the Lord would approve of?” But instead of tuning my heart towards the Lord and His Word, I continued on in a dangerous direction.

I also remember thinking at that time that anything the devil had meant for evil, God had surely redeemed, restored, and thereby deemed it all good. Therefore I believed that even automatic writing could be a good thing. This led me to believe that this could be useful and benefit the body of Christ. Tragically, this is what was taught in some of the Christian circles I floated in and out of and it was even approved of by my own church. (This is an absolute lie, of course!) And so I had been clearly warned and yet I ignored the subtle warning and dismissed it as from the devil! I was so young, and, oh, so very foolish.

Sadly, I was also very naïve to anything the scriptures had to say against witchcraft. The lie was really on me, as I believed I had been given a great level of discernment by the Lord! I recognize this now as nothing but pride!

This same lie sadly circulates today in many Christian circles. Just look at yoga, for instance. “God has redeemed it, and if I don’t use it for evil, then it isn’t evil.” We’ve (His church, His beloved bride) gone even so far as to deem that which is blatant and purely evil worship of another god by calling yoga holy. What an oxymoron!

Beautiful witchcraft…
More than once, I was given information from the spirit world about different pastors, leaders, and churches regarding their immorality and sin. Sometimes I would have dreams the night before a scheduled meeting. And so when I went into the meeting I knew things and was able to reveal the darkness and discern the lies going on between the leadership. Now this part was based always in repenting and confessing. I honestly believed that I was doing right by God as I “ministered” in this way. And while some of my theology was correct, partial truth of knowledge is dangerous. The devil also has a partial truth of knowledge but not the whole truth.

Knowing ALL of God’s Truth Matters!

Like so many today in the body of Christ—dare I say most– I simply did not know the Word of God accurately.

I spent many years leading many believers and even a few pastors through “deep inner healing”. This was done mostly by visualization which I believed was being led by the Holy Spirit. It appeared to be so beautiful. How could this not be of God? Especially, if the outcome was good and what we did was all in the precious name of Jesus…

In these inner healings and visualizations, I was able to see and walk people through what was presented in the spirit realm. This led to a high point when they “encountered Jesus” for themselves. This would, naturally, make Jesus more real to them because the experience itself was very real and usually highly emotive.

I remember one pastor who was moving on from his current church and struggling with what direction to go. He was having a difficult time choosing between the churches he had been offered and was looking for confirmation. I told him what I believed to be the place of choice, and with just that word of confirmation, he lives today in that very location. I can see now that this was simply “divination” and certainly not a special message from the One, True God.

I have learned now that we must always look to God and His Word for our answers. We must always put our trust in Him and never in man or in our subjective experiences (Psalms 146:3).

Beware of Christian cults…
As I became more immersed in this new “Christianity”, I was very naturally led to Mike Bickle of Kansas City IHOP (International House of Prayer). Maybe you have heard of him? My group of ladies hailed him as a super–mega Christian leader who was truly connected to the Holy Spirit. I actually flew out to Kansas City to participate in this cult movement.

Sadly, our prayer group followed many who were just so far off from the truth of God’s Word as to be truly dangerous. I shall list a few as pure warnings:

·       Graham Cooke (Third wave theology)
·       NAR (New Apostle Reformation, another name for Dominionism) and the many self- proclaimed prophets (too many to count)
·       Cindy Jacobs (Generals International)
·       Jack Deere (Third wave theology) Deceased
·       Rick Joyner (Morning Star Ministries)
·       Che Ahn (Harvest International Ministries, Pasadena)
·       Mike Bickle (IHOP) and Lou Engle (Joel’s Army)
·       Heidi Baker (Iris Global Ministries)
·       Bill Johnson (Bethel, Redding CA)
·       Jill Austin (The Masters Potter) Deceased
·       Patricia King (XP Ministries)
·       Peter C. Wagner (leader to the NAR and many of those listed here)

Sadly, you can see this was my “circle of influence” for many years. And WHAT an influence they had on my life! They were leading me far away from the path of godly, biblical living with their crooked theology. Reading as many books from these authors as I could get my hands on, I devoured their sweet sugar, this false gospel, and passed on their heretical teachings to my brothers and sisters in Christ. I cannot tell you how sick and grieved my heart is over what I’ve done in the name of Jesus.

Please take a moment and carefully examine your own circle of influence–

·       What gospel is being preached and proclaimed?

·       Does it elevate Jesus as reigning Lord and Savior instead of man and his works of wonder?

You see these men and women draw others unto themselves, instead of to the true majesty of God who forever reigns from His throne–the One who is high and lifted up, the train of His robe filling the temple (Isaiah 6).

My friend, a true encounter with the living God would make one shudder and want to hide in awesome fear! We would never be able to stand one minute under the weight of His Holy presence in our sinful condition. Fear and dread like a dead man would come upon us. No one could handle the “true” magnificent glory cloud of God. We see this in scripture over and over again. It is in complete opposition to the fake experiences that these false prophets provide, conjuring up glory clouds from the spirit world to make you believe you are having an encounter with God himself.

Going from one circus tent to another, (I can’t call them Christian seminars or retreats because they simply were not!) I gleaned much from these well-known self-proclaimed prophets and apostles. Often times in Christian circles we are led to believe these “apostles” have something which appears to be “extremely special” and of “great value”. We are led to believe we must have what they are selling. If you wanted more of God’s anointing, you need to give to their ministry, be blessed by their “special prayers of release”, or perhaps buy their newest book of the month.

These special elitists were supposedly also so special in God’s eyes they were given heaven’s keys, with the ability to tap right into heaven itself, thereby always receiving new revelations. This may sound strange to some but, when you are in this movement, this can be rather addicting. I therefore began to seek my own special revelations and God’s Word no longer seemed sufficient. In fact, I remember telling people: “God is not bound or even confined to His Word as He lives outside of time and space and therefore can do what He pleases.” Obviously, I was confused and certainly didn’t know my Bible.

My passion in going to these events was often driven by this thought: “Maybe they will have a personal word for me today.” I (and people caught up in this movement) are often so desperate to hear from God, that we believe that these men and women have direct connections to God Himself! And yet, now I realize that God has given us His very Word, which is perfect, trustworthy, completely inerrant, and sufficient for all our needs today. There is nothing more deep and satisfying than God’s Word. Just look at Psalms 119! But I am jumping ahead of myself here.

Birds of the same kind…
Please understand, “birds of a feather flock together.” And flock together we did! Circling around these teachers and going to those hosted events, we sought deeper and more vivid spiritual experiences. We were never satisfied by these conferences alone. We were continually commanding, demanding, decreeing, and always releasing a fresh “anointing”.

For years, people would prophesy very confirming things to me at these events such as: “You’re a prophet to the nations” and “you are going to give birth” (not happened yet! And I am 51 years old!) This same “special word” happened everywhere I went in these experiential circles, almost as if others were drawn to me. This became common place as I floated in and out of this movement for over 20 years. Satan really wanted me to think I was something great in the kingdom and pride was always lurking in the shadows! Sadly, because I also walked in the “supernatural” it was easy for me to walk up to strangers and give them direct prophesies or words of knowledge during these conferences. So often at these events the air itself was electrified with the super-natural. There was no doubt, as we could sense it—even almost feel it. However, I eventually learned that these experiences were counterfeit experiences, with the Great Deceiver working his charm on the deceived believer.

My dear friends, the reason for the “knowing” and the supernatural “experiences” is this:

We are simply tapping into “familiar spirits”!

May I also note that at these special events someone always mentioned the endless miracles or gold dust floating through the air! We continually chased the next spiritual high. Commanding, releasing, decreeing as if we were equal to God somehow and had supernatural power. It was really all based on pride and our desire to be “like” God. (It really reminds me of the serpent in the garden when he spoke to Eve and put the thought in her head that she could be wise, like God). A broken and contrite spirit God will not despise as it says in Psalms 51:17. A mature believer demands nothing from his Father but seeks only to do His will. We don’t need nor demand the prayers and blessings of false prophets and apostles or supernatural experiences.

I practiced many forms of what I called beautiful witchcraft and did not even know it! How blind I was– just so very blind.

Spending hours in prayer and visualizing Jesus meeting with me in a beautiful field, my heart was soaked in idolatry. I actually believed that He was leading, guiding me, and giving me many messages. The ladies in my prayer group were always amazed how quickly I was able to find this special place just about anytime and anywhere. (Let me tell you I believed I was tapped in, never realizing that what I was involved in was actually dangerous demonic activity!) I’m sure it made me appear to be very spiritual!

The missing piece…
Please remember I met with these ladies in my prayer group regularly, weekly for 10 years to have “Jesus experiences”. To my shame I could share so many years’ worth of stories with you.

Once you dabble in this camp, coming out and away from it is often times very difficult. Having been so blinded by our own “experiences” which we now believe to be true on every account, it has sadly solidified what we believe, even if it doesn’t match what is actually the truth from scripture. I was in grave error, as I was relying on myself and my experiences to teach me about God rather than on God’s Word. When we do this Satan will deceive us every time! Scripture tells us we are to walk by faith and not by sight! 2 Corn. 5:7

The missing component in my life was the soundness and the accuracy of God’s Word. You see, something that I would have never have told anyone is that I read my Bible as little as possible. I could justify reading other books which had scripture in them. They seemed much more alive and “tingly” to me. I had absolutely no way to weigh these teachings/books against scripture because I simply did not know God’s Word very well. The Bible was a dead book in my heart. I would read it but only to mark it off my list of duties and obligations.

I began– over time– to realize others were coming to Christ as new babes and were years ahead of me in their knowledge in the scriptures. This became a conflict in my heart. Oftentimes they would quote scriptures from the Bible with such passion. Watching with perplexity I realized they didn’t just know their Bible but they loved God’s very word! This Book seemed very much alive to them. Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Sadly, I knew I did not know and love God’s Word like this. It remained a mystery to me–ancient, old, and more dead than alive. Fear began to settle into the depths of my heart. Bethel Redding, Bill Johnson’s church, was next on my to-do list. The odd thing was that from early on in my walk with Christ, I truly did have a keen sense for wanting holiness in my life. I really loved the Lord and my desire–as twisted as it was– really was to please Him. And so God—in His righteousness and grace, being such a good Father — intervened! By God’s pure, direct hand in my life, and His grace which had been poured out over me, I was kept from my trip to Bethel Redding! I thank God, as this was a very good thing indeed!

Mother’s Day, roughly 11-12 years ago, I went to my mom and dad’s church up in the high desert and a couple were up on the stage sharing about their mission trip to the Philippines. Why were my hands sweating? Why was my heart racing?

They presented a slide show and asked if anyone would like to go along on their next mission trip to the Philippines. I remember telling God, “no way, don’t even ask me to go because I can’t fly in an airplane.” Remember now, I was living in the experiential and so speaking and listening for His voice was normal. While I didn’t hear any voices, I did feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit, challenging my comfortable life and pushing me out of my comfort zone to serve Christ in The Philippines. Long story short, I did go. I went in faith, terrified to fly, but putting it all in God’s hands.

The very moment the plane took off so did my dreaded terror of flying! I was free! What an on-time God we serve.

A shaking must take place…
However, around this time some of the women in my prayer group were prophesying to me, saying “it wasn’t God’s time for you to go to the mission field.”  They believed they confirmed this by special messages from God. Because I did not listen to them, the prayer group started to crumble, as a shaking was inevitably going to take place. God’s plan and design was to bring this out-of-control, unstable ministry down to rubble and dust. Obviously, this prayer ministry had never been grounded in the Word of God.

This led to the beginning of a new life of living in faith! A tiny seed had been planted. Two weeks prior to my trip I pleaded earnestly and begged God to give me a deep love for His Word. Upon returning home from my trip, I opened my Bible and my love for the Word was instant, like a veil had been rent from my eyes! (2 Corinthians 4:3) The Old Testament was like a new story! For the first time, God’s Word was truly alive!

I simply could not get enough of scripture to satisfy my thirst for my Savior. That next year I read as much as possible and simply could not put this precious Book down. I took it everywhere, never wanting a substitute. I only craved God’s precious, undiluted, pure Word.  Meanwhile, on the homestead, cracks and fissures were bubbling. Discord was in the prayer ministry and jealousy was brewing underneath the surface.

Waking up…
After coming home from a few days in Kansas City under Mike Bickle’s IHOP, I had purchased a few books and it happened that I left one on the dining room table. My husband, in passing, just happened to notice this book and picked it up. To his shock and horror, he could not believe what I had been reading and how far off I had gone from the truth of God’s Word! He had been absent spiritually for many years. This was the day of him coming out of his slumber and waking up to the reality of what can happen when a husband does not assume the spiritual role as head of the home that has been ordained by Christ himself. (Eph. 5:22)

My husband and I had experienced great patience by the Holy Spirit. We had both been in a deep spiritual slumber and this would not be easy to undo in one moment. I had bought– not one– but many lies over the years and my husband had been uninterested. However all of this changed that day. My husband began to notice who I flocked to for spiritual guidance and he would search the internet to find truth regards to their standing, weighing each of them against scripture. He would then leave the articles around the house for me to find and read. Maybe a day or two later he would ask me casually if I had found the time to read the article that he had found. He knew I really wanted biblical truth in my inmost being as I loved God dearly. At this time, my love for God’s Word was continuing to grow. As I began to read these articles and discover the depth of deception in these ministries, anger would fill my heart! Thus began the beginning of my husband and I exposing false teachers and digging deeper to find out exactly what was going on in the lives of those who are in leadership positions in these movements on a national level. Exposing toxic teachings and false teachers which do not line up with the Word of God and sound doctrine is not a popular endeavor!

Not everyone wants the truth…
As I began to find huge contradictions and false teachings within IHOP and its famous leader, Mike Bickle, it was now time to share my discovery with my most trusted, beloved sisters in the Lord. After ten years of ministry together, they were like sisters to me. One lady and I were especially close. Our bond was a very special one, one for which I shall always be grateful. No one knew me quite like her. When it came to prayer with her by my side, on behalf of others it was like a synchronized dance. We were always in perfect step together, synced up in perfect harmony. I knew this news would come as a shock and horror to her as it did me.

However, to my disbelief, she was not so eager to hear or believe. After giving her the evidence of what I had discovered, her answer after a few weeks, was simply, “God did not tell me to read this.” (yep, we were that far in) From here the fractures and splinters were now severe and un-mendable in the prayer group. The Lord, in His mercy, swiftly brought down this unsanctified, messy, unbiblical nightmare.

Into the desert…
Now left without friends, confused, stripped of pride, I found myself not just deserted, but also beginning a long journey into the desert. Stripped of everything familiar, I found myself in the desert to be crushed, molded, and reshaped. Isa 64:8 Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay; you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Thankfully, even in the desert, pools of refreshment bubbled up. Finding springs of living water (God’s Word) quenched my thirst, as I longed to be forgiven and made whole. I was completely broken and yet, ironically, I was complete in Him. Desperate and depressed and riddled with shame, His word was restoring! God’s Word was a life line, a true help, and never more alive and living as it was in that desert. I spent nearly 2 ½ years in the desert but it was the greatest place of growth for me. I realized I was finally getting to know my Lord in the right and only way possible–through the reading and applying of His Word. Trusting that He was enough, I realized that I did not need to “feel” His presence in order to be holy and spiritual. God’s Word tells me He will never leave me nor forsake me (Duet. 31:6), no matter what I feel. Where I go, by faith, God is already there. Today I now live by faith and not by sight!

A light unto my path…
His word did not just soothe me, but also restored all the brokenness of what I had done. His Word had become a light unto my path (Psalms 119:105). As the magnitude of my sin weighed heavily upon me, I found myself daily confessing and repenting. Sometimes the unbearable anguish of my heart would try to swallow me up. A season of mourning could not be avoided as I was the cause of so much pain to my sisters, church, and to my dear Savior. Times of true darkness tried to engulf me. Still, to this day, I grieve over what I have done. I had never in a million years believed I could be swayed to believe another gospel– a false gospel– or that I would be responsible for leading others away from the one true gospel of our Lord and Savior. Now daily trusting my Savior, leaning on His Word, I live to obey it. As His daughter it is my utmost desire to live to His glory. With this comes my responsibility to carefully check everything against scripture. Like the Bereans, we are to test:

·       Teachers
·       Leaders
·       Books
·       Teachings and Sermons (theology/doctrine)

Laying it all down…
After laying everything down, I had firmly decided that I was never going to do any ministry again. I wanted nothing to do with being in charge of others, never wanting to hurt another with wrong doctrine and bad teaching ever again. The weight of responsibility was much too great and so I made the decision to never again lead others in any form of ministry. Ministry was obviously not for me and far too risky. I had found that it was far too easy to be led astray and thereby to lead others astray. It was so much easier than most would even dare to believe. In fact, there is a good chance you have bought into some wrong doctrine and do not even know it! Sadly, within the body of Christ today many do not really set their hearts and minds to really study the Word of God. Without knowing God’s Word, you are a sitting duck! You are open to the hundreds of false teachings and bad doctrines which come your way via friends, internet, YouTube, and, yes, even preached and passed on right from the pulpit.

I came out of the desert with a real sense of the majesty and awe of this God in whom I serve. I now have a healthy fear of God. I never want to bring shame to His name again. I promised God I would be content to be a good wife, mother, and homemaker. I let all go for His glory!

Fully Surrendered, yielded vessel…
When we abide in the one true vine as we read in John 15 and allow the Master Gardener to cut away and carefully prune anything which does not bear fruit, the result is a cultivated heart that will produce an abundance of fruit. “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples”. John 15:8

My desire here is to give God all glory and credit for the work in which He has done in my life. As God has restored not just myself but my husband, also, He graciously entrusted a very tiny ministry into the care of my husband and myself. Something we do not take lightly.

·       We have the privilege of leading teams into prison to give a once a month full church service. I am a volunteer chaplain to the women prisoners, leading weekly Bible studies and one-on-ones with female inmates.

·       This past year the Lord, with the assistance and guidance of His precious Holy Spirit, helped me to write and teach a curriculum based on His Word. This is something I would have never believed I was capable of doing, let alone ever desire to do! It is completely out of my comfort zone as I am much too timid for any of this.

·       I hate public speaking (it is the worst!) yet God has me speaking and putting on conferences!

The days are long gone of me seeking or needing to be filled with a “presence”. In the past, I had to have some kind of a “spiritual connection” in order to go about my day but today I simply live by faith and strive to obey God’s Word! I always give God my entire day as in Psalms 37:4-6. I have set my heart in doing the necessary work which needs to get done. My Father’s business is now my concern. This is in stark contrast to making my own needs and desires my main concern in the past. We are actually called to work as His children and it is a privilege to serve Him. Such joy comes from obedience! Luke 10:2 says,” He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Photo1It’s not the end of the road…
People perish apart from Christ everyday because they do not know him. We should want that no man would perish apart from Christ! If we won’t go into the fields, if we won’t share our faith, then who will? We have been given a charge by Christ Himself in Matthew 28 in The Great Commission. Jesus had not yet ascended to the Father and was having a last conversation with His disciples in this key passage. He tells them to go and make disciples of all nations.

God can’t use a vessel (certainly not very well) which is not completely void of self. Luke 9:23 “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

This is a very hard saying and many are not willing to “deny self” for the sake of Christ.

It is impossible to be done in your own effort so don’t even try to do it on your own merit.  Christ can change your heart and give you His desires! Only ask of Him from a pure heart and He shall hear your prayers. I pray as God has changed my heart and given me a love and understanding for His word that God will do the same in you. My dear friends, this is certainly not the end of the road but the beginning! As we strive to do things His way, in the way which pleases Him, you will find true life and such abundant joy in the serving of our precious Lord and Savior.

John 4:14 “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.” So come to the well of living water, drink and thirst no longer! To God be the glory!