Learning From Those Who Have Gone On Before

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As you may have already guessed, I love to read. I have been reading books since I learned my alphabet. The first series I remember reading is the Boxcar Children. I loved solving mysteries with them! Next I went on to Nancy Drew and then onto Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr (same author, different pennames; don’t really recommend overall). Are you seeing a pattern here? Mystery was my genre of choice. I remember, as a teenager, staying up late one night to finish Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. The rest of the night I went in and out of a terrible nightmare, sure I was the next one to be murdered. I think I only ever read one Agatha Christie novel after that and that was just a few years ago! I was not anxious to repeat that experience!

As I got older, my tastes leaned towards Christian romance novels. I read Francine Rivers, Lori Wick, Lawana Blackwell, Karen Kingsbury, and Janette Oke–to name a few. I enjoyed them and they were easy to read, usually complete with happy endings. I still enjoy reading some of these once in awhile. They are easy and entertaining.

When I started homeschooling, I developed a love for the classics and I started reading books I never had an interest in before. In that phase, I read most of Jane Austen’s books, Jane Eyre, Count of Monte Cristo, Robison Crusoe, Oliver Twist, and Ivanhoe. I loved every single one of them. There is a reason they are called classics, and I really would like to read more from this category during my lifetime.

And then one year, I read the story of Gladys Aylward to the kids and I was hooked! I have been reading missionary biographies ever since. About that same time, I picked up a Christian Classic called Humility by Andrew Murray. These two genres strengthened my faith by leaps and bounds.  So, while I still do read some fiction and classics, I read mostly biographies and Christian classics now.

Have you ever thought how incredible the written language is? Dave Ramsey puts it this way: “We will be the same person in five years that we are today, except for the books we read and the people we meet.”

Books change us. So it is not only important that we actually read full-length books–something fewer and fewer of us are even doing–but it is critically important what we read. If we are satisfied with always reading junk food or–worse yet–the heretical stuff of modern times that leaves scripture out or twists it into something it is not (such as The Shack, Jesus Calling, Love Wins), then we may be changed but it certainly won’t be in a biblical way.

Romans 8:29 says this: For whom He {God} did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

These verses show that God has planned for us to grow more like Jesus every day. This should be the underlying passion that drives us if we are believers.

Ask yourself this question: Did any of the last three books I read teach me to look more like Jesus? Keep in mind that I am most certainly not talking about the world’s “Jesus”–the one that has been created to pacify their dull consciences. No, that isn’t Jesus. They just call their false god the same name as my Savior. I am referring to the One who is kind, compassionate, just, prayerful, loving, truthful. The One who denies Himself for the will of the Father. Who takes up His cross. The biblical Jesus that we read about in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

If not, why not?

I have thought of a few reasons why reading the words of those who have gone on to glory before me have helped me to grow in my faith. I am hoping that these reasons may compel you, too, to pick up a classic or a biography and get started. As I’ve already said, books change us. Because this is true, it is critically important that we read books that are in line with scripture.

Here is my short list of why you, too, should develop the habit of reading old books–

1.   They encourage us. Some of these people have gone through the worst circumstances possible and, yet, they faithfully continued to walk with Jesus.

2.  They teach us to turn to God and His Word in trials. If we listen to the world–and even the modern day church– around us, we will soon be convinced that God’s Word is irrelevant in this day and age. We need medications and doctors and therapists if there is ever going to be true change. But this just isn’t true.

3.  They teach us that our “Happy Ending” will be in eternity. We have this expectation as Westerners that we deserve a good life. And, yet, I am amazed at how few people really do have a good life. They are women born in middle-eastern cultures or children sold into the sex slavery trade by their own parents. Even more amazing yet are those that choose a hard life. Missionaries that give more than they can afford for little–if any–reward. Men and women who purposefully choose to live without any modern-day conveniences in order to reach the lost. Men and women who stand up for Truth, even if it means persecution and death. All because they aren’t constantly grasping and reaching for happiness and fulfillment here on this sin-splattered planet like the rest of us tend to do.

4. They teach us how to walk with God. I love God’s Word and this should be our first and foremost place to go for learning and studying. But God has gifted certain men and women with insight to exposit and explain scripture. Their works are wonderful companions to what we are learning in God’s Word. Currently, I am reading through the Gospels, following the schedule my pastor gave us at the beginning of the year. My study has been so enhanced by reading Expository Thoughts on the Gospels by J.C. Ryle and Why Four Gospels? by A.W. Pink. These books really are helping me to understand the scriptures better. I have gained such insight from these great men of God.

5. They show us that God controls the things that are outside our control. Oh, the peace and comfort that I have drawn from reading about the miraculous ways of God in seemingly impossible circumstances. Even now, as we face an impossible election with two of the worst candidates imaginable and the future looks increasingly bleak, I know that my God is in control. God’s Word says this and I have seen the truth of these words in the lives of those who have gone on before us. He will make a way for us to go through the upcoming deep waters. “He will make a way when there seems to be no way.” (Anyone else remember those lyrics from the 80s worship chorus??)

6.  And, finally, and perhaps most importantly, these books give us perspective. Oh, precious perspective. We can become so myopic and self-focused. These books teach us to look outward and upward. They remind us of the many lives that have been lived well before us. They remind us of what matters. And why it matters.

I am currently reading Iain Murray’s biography of Jonathan Edwards. I think the thing that has struck me most is how similar his battles are to ours. He, too, was persecuted for standing up for truth. He, too, was battling against experience-based religion that took hold of his culture. And yet, he kept on serving the Lord by preaching and writing. And here we are–hundreds of years later–still reading his words and benefiting from his insight because he remained faithful in the midst of the fire.

I want to do the same. And these books encourage me to do that!

Practically speaking, I know that these books are not the enjoyable fodder we want to read on the beach or during our summer vacations. We like light stuff this time of the year, and I, too, usually pick a novel to read. But I truly do hope you will consider picking up a serious book or two to read along with your novels. I will list a few of my favorite authors below. Many of these authors’ books are public domain, which means they are free or very inexpensive for Kindle.

Here are a few of my favorite Christian Classic authors with some titles–

J.C. Ryle (Holiness; Practical Religion)

A.W. Pink (The Attributes of God; The Sovereignty of God)

Charles Spurgeon (Lectures to My Students; Twelve Sermons on Humility)

Jeremiah Burroughs (The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment; A Treatise of Earthly-Mindedness)

R.A. Torrey (How to Study the Bible)

Elisabeth Elliot (The Liberty of Obedience; Discipline: The Glad Surrender)

While I have read (or am reading) most of these books, I have not read all of them. A few of them are on my Kindle awaiting their turn. However, the specific biographies below I have read and have been changed by reading them. I highly, highly recommend–

Anything by Iain Murray. He writes biographies of great Christian men; anything by him will be of great benefit to you. As I mentioned, I am currently reading his biography on Jonathan Edwards.

Isobel Kuhn has written several autobiographies and biographies. They are excellent! By Searching is a good place to start.

George Muller: Delighted in God by Roger Steer

Gladys Aylward by Sam Wellman

Under His Wings by Stephen Lehmann

The Story of John G Paton or Thirty Years Among South Sea Cannibals by John G Paton

 

I hope these will give you some ideas of a place to get started. I promise you–I PROMISE YOU–you will not be sorry if you purposefully develop the habit to read books like those listed above. You will grow in ways you never thought possible. Your faith in God will deepen and you will be changed. Let’s purpose to fill our minds with biblical books that deepen and enhance our understanding of the Bible rather than those that relegate the Bible to the background or eliminate it altogether.

Happy Reading!

 

Says Who?

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

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

Shall I summarize the article for you?

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

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

So why am I even bringing this up?

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

Here’s the statement–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

America 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Becoming the Enemy

Snarling German Shepherd

Eight years ago–2008–dawned with an important election on the horizon. Perhaps even more important than the one coming up this year. At the time, my youngest girls were 11 and 8. As we discussed what the future of the country would be under the care of a President like Obama, one of the girls became frightened and had the unreasonable fear that this new President would steal her from our house. We all had a good laugh about that one.

But eight years later it isn’t as funny. He might not have personally stolen any children from their homes, but how he has changed this country in just eight short years is almost unimaginable. And somehow, in that time, biblical Christians have become the enemy. Oh, I am not talking about the ones that cave to the culture and ignore the Bible–those kind of “Christians” have never been any threat, have they?

But for those of us who still declare that abortion is wrong, that homosexuality is wrong, that adultery and fornication are wrong, and for those of us who declare that there is such a thing as sin and that Jesus Christ desires that we live a holy, godly life on this earth–well, we now have a big problem, don’t we? In just 8 short years we have become the enemy. It had been brewing for awhile, of course, but Obama set the course in motion at breakneck speed.

When I was a little girl–perhaps about five or six–we had a little mini dachshund named Daisy Mae. One day we went to visit my grandparents and, for whatever reason, we had taken her along. It was a nice summer day and we were out in the front yard talking. Suddenly, we saw a brown streak race across the yard, straight for our puppy. It was the neighbor’s German Shepherd and he was on a mission. He picked up our little puppy and started shaking it and shaking it, amidst the screams and shouts of the adults and children there. When he finally dropped her, it was too late.

She lay there, lifeless, in a brown little heap.

I don’t remember much past that. Did the neighbor come over and profusely apologize? I have no recollection. But what I do remember is the horror of it all. We were so helpless. Our tiny little dog was defenseless. There was nothing she could do.

Don’t you feel just a little like our tiny dog standing in the middle of the yard? As biblical Christians in America (and perhaps in all of the Western World), we have become a small minority group and there is this giant German Shepherd of the wicked world rushing towards us with the mission to kill us and be rid of any accountability to God, once and for all.

Of course, we know they will never be successful. In fact, we can look back over history and see that when the church is persecuted is when it actually grows the most. And, so, its light will never be extinguished. Never.

Which is encouraging in theory. But what does it mean for us personally?

None of us really knows. But the light of America’s Christianity is waning and it’s waning quickly. And we need to ask ourselves this question: What are we going to do?

Are we going to be brave enough to stand up for Christ amidst the hostility we are facing? Or are we going to melt into the background?

Are we going to have the courage to share the truth of the Bible with those we meet? Or are we going to ignore any opportunities God may give us in order to avoid being labeled as one of those Christians?

Straddling the fence will not be an option much longer. You realize that, don’t you? Many Christians have been riding the fence for far too long. One foot in the world and one foot in the church. That may be a viable option for those who aren’t truly saved, but that is no option for anyone who is a genuine Christian. Jesus Christ puts it this way in Matthew 10, verses 38-39:

Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

If we are carrying a cross, we have no time or energy for worldly pursuits. If we are following Christ, our own wants and desires will eventually conform to God’s will and we will have no inclination or desire for the world.

These are not suggestions. This is how Christ describes His true followers.

I do not know what is ahead of us in the next eight years. But, unlike my dog who stood there defenseless, we have the God of the universe on our side. Nothing–absolutely nothing–happens outside of his sovereign care. His power and love are far deeper and greater than we could even imagine. I love how Romans 8:31-39 puts it–

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”[c]

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And so, yes, somehow in eight short years we have become the enemy. And, yes, we are living in a country that is becoming increasingly hostile towards Christianity. We may soon face what so many of our Christians brothers and sisters faced under men like Nero and Stalin–and what many of them are facing even now under regimes like Isis or radical Hinduism. Satan is on a mission to eliminate Christianity. This has been his mission throughout history. As we move towards the last days, it would seem only natural that things would heat up for Christians. Biblical Christianity, by its very nature, stands in opposition to all that Satan is trying to accomplish.

But if we are on Jesus Christ’s side, we are going to win. May we never forget that– no matter if the enemy steals our reputations, our material goods, or even our very lives–we are going to win.

So pick a side, but be sure to choose with eternity in mind.

 

Socialism and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

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It has come to my attention recently that there is a country that has been adopting socialism over the last number of years. At first, things looked brighter. But, eventually, in spite of the great promises this system makes to its people, it became very evident that this was not going to turn the country into utopia. In fact, the opposite is true. The people there are in dire straits. Socialism is tearing into shreds the quality of life the citizens of this country once knew. People die because they cannot get the medicine they need. People cannot meet their basic needs because the store shelves are empty. EMPTY. Even the food supply is scarce! Can you even imagine? I am not making this up. This is their reality.

And the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang just keeps coming to my mind. Have you ever seen it? When I was a young girl, this was my very favorite movie. I loved the crazy inventer, Caractacus Potts (played by Dick Van Dyke) and the Candy Factory owner’s daughter, Truly Scrumptious (played by Sally Ann Howes). I loved Grandpa and Jeremy and Jemima. I loved the car that could fly! And I loved the soundtrack and can still sing most of the songs by heart. And then there is the super scary part where the family lands in Vulgaria–where the Queen hates children and has locked every last one of them up in the castle dungeon.

Does anyone remember what happens next? I do recognize that I may be the only person on the planet who loves this movie! Anyway...

The “Childcatcher” comes looking for Jeremy and Jemima. He can smell them. He creeps around looking for the hidden children. But he doesn’t find them. So he tries a different tactic.

He decorates his jail wagon with brightly colored panels so that it looks like a candy store. He changes into a colorful outfit and walks around the village, shouting–

Gum Drops and Ice Cream! Lollipops! All Free Today!

Jeremy and Jemima hear him and come running. He promises them free candy if they come into his “store”. Smiling from ear to ear at the prospect of free candy they enter the wagon. In a wink, the door locks behind them, the sides fall away, and we see the children riding away clinging to the metal bars and screaming for help. They have been deceived. They were gullible and fell for his evil trick.

Doesn’t this remind you so much of the Socialistic agenda? Outlandish, wonderful promises are made and, yet, if you look at this system realistically and historically, there is no possible way for the promises to actually be kept. In fact, if we take the time to truly think about it (rather than to let our greed for free stuff take over), we can see that it will destroy the country we love–and that it is just one short step to Communism from there.

I do not generally write about politics, but this scene from this old movie just keeps playing itself over and over again in my mind. How do we get people to see that their desire for free stuff is like Jeremy and Jemima’s desire for free candy? And that if we should ever take that step into the wagon of Socialism, it won’t be to receive free stuff but instead to be imprisoned in a horrible system from which there is no escape?

We have trained our young people to desire socialism. We have done this in a million ways–from training them to be self-absorbed and entitled to never training them to work hard and to think of others. Now let me assure you that I believe there are still many, many good families–both Christians and non-Christians– who have taught and are still teaching their children good morals and how to work hard. They are teaching them to think of others and to serve their fellow man.

But the fact remains that there are many who are not. And to these young people free equals good. They haven’t been taught to think through the consequences of their choices. Let’s face it, many aren’t even being taught to think at all.

But I guess many of us fall for a similar trick when we fall for sin. We see pleasure and easy money and fun and believe Satan’s lie that it won’t cost anything. But when we step through that door, the candy-coated walls fall away and we see the prison bars of addiction, debt, and obesity. Just to name a few.

Yes, we are all guilty of this to some extent. So it would be best not to be too terribly hard on our friends who think that Socialism is the answer to our country’s problems. It does look pretty good to anyone who hasn’t thought through how the system ends, looking at it both realistically and historically.

It’s important we think anything out to its inevitable end–whether it is a system of government or a choice to sit down at the gambling table.

Everything costs. We’d best remember that.

 

*If you are interested in reading further, here are two posts on two different countries and there Socialism nightmare: One article is here and another one is here.

The Line

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The other morning I heard a song that started me wondering about something–

If I stood completely alone in my stand for Christ with no fellow believers to be found anywhere, would I continue to stand? If I was rejected and abandoned by family, friends, and co-workers for my faith; If I was mocked and scorned and persecuted, would I cave?

Our pastor once told the story of The Line as part of his sermon. I am going to paraphrase it here–

There was a college professor who one day came up with an interesting little experiment to try on his classes. He showed different lines on a screen in front of his students. The lines were very obviously different lengths. When he pointed to the longest line, he asked how many of the class thought this was the longest line. (Now remember, it was very obviously the longest line). Only one student raised his hand. As he looked around him, he became hesitant and slowly pulled his hand back down to his side.

What the student didn’t know was that this had been a set-up. The professor wanted to know how many would raise their hand confidently at the objective truth in front of them, even if they were the only one.

75% of the lone students caved.

Seventy-five percent!

Now doesn’t that help us understand the state of the church a bit more clearly?

We aren’t teaching our kids to be courageous! We aren’t teaching them to stand up for the truth no matter what the cost!

And forget the kids for a second. What would you have done? I would say that I don’t care all that much about man’s praise, but when I think about that scenario, I think even me, at my stage in life, may have questioned myself. We are so caught up in the herd mentality that we have lost site of what matters. We so loathe being singled out, pointed at, and ridiculed that we do everything possible to avoid it–even if it means compromise.

And it’s getting harder and harder to stand. There used to be some tolerance for people who believe the Bible to be the inspired and infallible Word of God. Now there is very little–even from people who call themselves Christians. This change in our culture certainly gives us lots of opportunities to stand firmly for Christ– or to not stand.

The thing about compromise is that once you do it once, it becomes easier and easier. For solid Christians who actually know the Word of God the first step into the murky waters of compromise feels very uncomfortable. But it gets easier and easier and if we aren’t careful, we are surrounded and immersed in it and don’t even realize it.

Jesus tells us in John 15:18-25 that the world will hate us. That we should expect this. We find similar thoughts in 2 Timothy 3:12, I Peter 4:12-14, I John 3:13. In fact this theme is so woven throughout the scriptures, that we can come to the conclusion that if we aren’t persecuted and hated by at least some of those we come in contact with we may not be walking with God the way we should be.

This is very opposite of what you hear today, isn’t it?  Instead we hear that peace and unity are the signs of a “good Christian”.  Of course, if we are hated, it should be because of speaking truth. We never want it to be for the unkind way we speak truth or for promoting our own selfish agendas couched in “Christianese”. This is how Christians get such a terrible reputation.

I remember hearing John MacArthur say something that echoes my thoughts exactly on this. I can’t quote him word for word because I don’t have it. But it was something that stuck with me and it was something like this–

I am not concerned if people hate me for speaking the truth from God’s Word because they don’t like it. But I am very concerned if people hate me because of my sin–because I’ve been rude, or arrogant, or unloving.

I wish I had his exact quote, but I just don’t. But I remember hearing him and saying–YES! This is what we Christians need to remember! It’s okay to be hated for speaking the truth but it is never okay to be hated for being unloving or rude.

It’s a convicting challenge that requires constant testing of our own hearts. If Satan can’t get us to compromise then he instead tempts us to stand for the truth in an unloving, arrogant way. We can never let down our guards. As it says in I Peter 5:8–

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Hmmm. I got a little off-track there for a moment. Let’s go back to the story of the line. Are you a little worried, like me, that you wouldn’t have the courage to raise your hand and stand for the truth all by yourself?

I remember as a teenager being so concerned about this. I would hear stories from the {former} USSR about people who would be shot or sent to Siberia for their faith and worrying that I would cave if I should ever face that same thing. But God gave me great comfort in two ways regarding this. First, in the promise that no matter what we face, His grace will be sufficient–

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (I Corinthians 12:9)

We will get the grace we need when we need it and not a moment before.

And, second, I take great comfort in the life of Peter. Isn’t it great encouragement that Peter–the man who denied his association with Christ three times (John 18) wasn’t rejected by Christ, but instead went on to do wonderful and amazing things for the Kingdom–even dying for Christ in the end? We should take great encouragement in this. For even one of Christ’s very disciples struggled with this and yet, in the end, stood strong and firm!

I hope these things encourage you, too, because I think our opportunities to stand alone are going to become more and more frequent. It is sobering and actually quite frightening. But it’s not impossible. And–as my pastor says–there is always a remnant–a remnant of those of us who believe the Bible wholly and fully. Praise God! We are never truly alone, even though it may feel like it for a moment.

Many of you are part of that remnant. Let’s encourage one another as we face the unknown. Let’s put the foolish arguments that don’t matter aside and unite in our commitment to God and His Word. Let’s stand boldly–no matter the cost.

 

The Greatest Miracle of All

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When we think about the word “miracle”, our minds tend to think of miracles having to do with a person’s health, wealth, or welfare. Things like miraculous cancer recoveries, disappearing tumors, or an unexpected check in the mail or bag of groceries on the porch. While these miracles are certainly amazing to witness and demonstrate just how personally and deeply God cares for His children, I would like to submit to you that the greatest miracle of all is a heart deadened in sin that is awakened to new life in Jesus Christ.

I just finished a wonderful book called The Story of John Paton or Thirty Years Among South Sea Cannibals. I really can’t recommend this book highly enough. As many of you already know, I love reading missionary biographies. They have changed me, because they change my perspective of Christianity. You see, when we are in our comfortable homes with all our modern conveniences and plenty to eat, we can forget what many people give up to tell others about Jesus. It can slip our minds that our faith in Christ is to transform our lives and push us to share the gospel with fervor and zeal.

As I read this book, I was once again reminded of these things. Mr. Paton’s autobiography, which takes place on the New Hebrides Islands (now called Vanuatu) in the mid to late 1800s, includes miraculous escapes, nail-biting journeys, and many testimonies of saved souls. There are so many excerpts I would love to share from this book with you, but I decided to narrow it down to this one testimony of a young chief, troubled and antagonistic, miraculously saved from sin by God’s outpouring of grace on his life. Yet another evidence that the greatest miracle of all is a changed heart.

I hope you enjoy reading this short excerpt and that it will move you to pick up the book and start reading it. The chapter is entitled–

THE CONVERSION OF YOUWILI

THESE events suggest to me another incident of those days, full at once of trial and of joy. It pertains to the story of our young Chief Youwili. From the first, and for long, he was most audacious and troublesome. Observing that for several days no Natives had come near the Mission House, I asked the old Chief if he knew why, and he answered, “Youwili has tabooed the paths, and threatens death to any one who breaks through it.”

I at once replied, “Then I conclude that you all agree with him, and wish me to leave. We are here only to teach you and your people. If he has power to prevent that we shall leave with the Dayspring.”

The old Chief called the people together, and they came to me, saying, “Our anger is strong against Youwili. Go with us and break down the taboo. We will assist and protect you.”

I went at their head and removed it. It consisted simply of reeds stuck into the ground, with twigs and leaves and fiber tied to each in a peculiar way, in a circle round the Mission House. The Natives had an extraordinary dread of violating the taboo, and believed that it meant death to the offender or to some one of his family. All present entered into a bond to punish on the spot any man who attempted to replace the taboo or to revenge its removal. Thus a mortal blow was publicly struck at this most miserable superstition, which had caused bloodshed and misery untold.

One day, thereafter, I was engaged in clearing away the bush around the Mission House, having purchased and paid for the land for the very purpose of opening it up, when suddenly Youwili appeared and menacingly forbade me to proceed. For the sake of peace I for the time desisted. But he went straight to my fence, and with his tomahawk cut down the portion in front of our house, also some bananas planted there—the usual declaration of war, intimating that he only awaited his opportunity similarly to cut down me and mine. We saw the old Chief and his men planting themselves here and there to guard us, and the Natives prowling about armed and excited. On calling them, they explained the meaning of what Youwili had done, and that they were determined to protect us. I said. “This must not continue. Are you to permit one young fool to defy us all, and break up the Lord’s work on Aniwa? If you cannot righteously punish him, I will shut myself up in my house and withdraw from all attempts to teach or help you, till the vessel comes, and then I can leave the island.”

Now that they had begun really to love us, and to be anxious to learn more, this was always my most powerful argument. We retired into the Mission House. The people surrounded our doors and windows and pleaded with us. After long silence, we replied, “You know our resolution. It is for you now to decide. Either you must control that foolish young man, or we must go!”

Much speech-making, as usual, followed. The people resolved to seize and punish Youwili; but he fled, and had hid himself in the bush. Coming to me, the Chief said, “It is left to you to say what shall be Youwili’s punishment. Shall we kill him?”

I replied firmly, “Certainly not! Only for murder can life be lawfully taken away.”

“What then?” they continued. “Shall we burn his houses and destroy his plantations?”

I answered, “No.”

“Shall we bind him and beat him?”

“No.”

“Shall we place him in a canoe, thrust him out to sea, and let him drown or escape as he may?”

“No! by no means.”

“Then, Missi,” said they, “these are our ways of punishing. What other punishment remains that Youwili cares for?”

I replied, “Make him with his own hands, and alone, put up a new fence, and restore all that he has destroyed; and make him promise publicly that he will cease all evil conduct towards us. That will satisfy me.”

This idea of punishment seemed to tickle them greatly. The Chiefs reported our words to the Assembly; and the Natives laughed and cheered, as if it were a capital joke! They cried aloud, “It is good! Obey the word of the Missi.”

After considerable hunting, the young Chief was found. They brought him to the Assembly and scolded him severely and told him their sentence. He was surprised by the nature of the punishment, and cowed by the determination of the people.

“To-morrow,” said he, “I will fully repair the fence. Never again will I oppose the Missi. His word is good.”

By daybreak next morning Youwili was diligently repairing what he had broken down, and before evening he had everything made right better than it was before. While he toiled away, some fellows of his own rank twitted him, saying, “Youwili, you found it easier to cut down Missi’s fence than to repair it again. You will not repeat that in a hurry!”

But he heard all in silence. Others passed with averted heads, and he knew they were laughing at him. He made everything tight and then left without uttering a single word. My heart yearned after the poor fellow, but I thought it better to let his own mind work away, on its new ideas as to punishment and revenge, for a little longer by itself alone. I instinctively felt that Youwili was beginning to turn, that the Christ-Spirit had touched his darkly-groping soul. My doors were now thrown open, and every good work went on as before. We resolved to leave Youwili entirely to Jesus, setting apart a portion of our prayer every day for the enlightenment and conversion of the young Chief, on whom all other means had been exhausted apparently in vain.

A considerable time elapsed. No sign came, and our prayers seemed to fail. But one day, I was toiling between the shafts of a hand-cart, assisted by two boys, drawing it along from the shore loaded with coral blocks. Youwili came rushing from his house, three hundred yards or so off the path, and said, “Missi, that is too hard for you. Let me be your helper!”

Without waiting for a reply, he ordered the two boys to seize one rope, while he grasped the other, threw it over his shoulder and started off, pulling with the strength of a horse. My heart rose in gratitude, and I wept with joy as I followed him. I knew that that yoke was but a symbol of the yoke of Christ, which Youwili with his change of heart was beginning to carry! Truly there is only one way of regeneration, being born again by the power of the Spirit of God, the new heart; but there are many ways of conversation, of outwardly turning to the Lord, of taking the actual first step that shows on whose side we are.

Like those of old praying for the deliverance of Peter, and who could not believe their ears and eyes when Peter knocked and walked in amongst them, so we could scarcely believe our eyes and ears when Youwili became a disciple of Jesus, though we had been praying for his conversion every day. His once sullen countenance became literally bright with inner light. His wife came immediately for a book and a dress saying, “Youwili sent me. His opposition to the Worship is over now. I am to attend Church and School. He is coming too. He wants to learn how to be strong, like you, for Jehovah and for Jesus.”

Oh, Jesus! to Thee alone be all the glory. Thou hast the key to unlock every heart that Thou hast created.

 

Paton, John Gibson (2012-05-16). The Story of John G. Paton Or Thirty Years Among South Sea Cannibals. Kindle Edition.

Our Reason to Hope

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Have any of you been keeping an eye on what’s going on in this presidential race? I guess that’s a rather foolish question, given the coverage this election is getting on almost any outlet possible. I have to admit that I just shake my head at the hopelessness of what I see. While there is an outside chance of having someone decent to vote for, the upcoming election looks to be quite bleak for so many different reasons. My husband is still hoping some white knight will come riding in to save the country. We laugh, but it’s how we both feel. We think of the great country we knew and loved and cannot believe how far it’s come.

But here we are.

So now what?

I think, first, it’s good to remember some very important facts. As believers, we should view the election and state of our country a little differently than most. After all, we are not in the same desperate situation as our unbelieving friends for two reasons–

1. Our hope is in the Lord. Our hope should not be placed in presidents and kings (I Peter 3:15; I Timothy 1:1) but in God Almighty. We are not those who hope in vain, but instead can rest in the knowledge that God not only knows everything that is going on, but that it all falls under His sovereign plan. Elections, wars, uprisings, revolutions–these do not come as a surprise to God.

2. We know the ending. If you believe the traditional view of the book of Revelation, as I do–that it is literal and will take place here on earth–then you, like me, will be astonished by how this prophecy is coming to life right in front of our eyes. The Bible has to be true. There is no other explanation. While what we read there is rather terrifying, we cannot help but recognize that the pieces of the end days puzzle are fitting together so quickly we can hardly catch our breath.

When I was a child, I wondered how the world would ever get to a point where we could only buy using a mark on our hand or forehead (Revelation 13:17). I don’t wonder that anymore. RFID chipping (which is taking place in humans already for many different reasons) will make this not only possible but inevitable. There is already talk about it.

Way back when, I couldn’t understand how the whole world would see the two witnesses (Revelation 11:9-11). But with the birth of satellites, real-time news became second nature to us all. In fact, we have come to expect to know what’s going on while it’s going on.

And, of course, we could never have comprehended how there would be a one-world religion, a one-world economy, a one-world government. And, yet, while it may not be on the horizon tomorrow or next year, it is most certainly on its way. Globalism is being forced upon us and patriotism is viewed as evil. We are being forced to meld Christianity together with all sorts of other religions. And those of us who are not cooperating are not viewed very kindly. To say the least.

I could add so much more here. If you follow the news, there is so much taking place so fast, it is hard to keep up. The world is changing. And it’s changing quickly. We are back to an era similar to the Tower of Babel– an era where man believes he can accomplish anything and is purposing to do so. Just google transhumanism if you don’t believe me.

So where does all of this leave the United States of America as a country? I know this may not be what you want to hear, but I can’t find any indication anywhere in the book of Revelation that she plays any part in the last days. And, if that’s the case, it would seem that eventually she will be weakened beyond recognition with little part to play on the world’s stage. And we also have to admit that a democratic, capitalistic society cannot exist in a world dedicated to globalism. It’s an impossible combination. As to when and how this all will happen, I have no idea. But the fact that it will happen cannot be denied if we hold to the book of Revelation. Of course, we can hope and pray for revival and for the Lord’s hand to hold off for a little while longer, but to hope that America will return to her former greatness and glory, I believe is to hope in vain.

On a personal level, as we watch all of this play out, we find that it is getting harder and harder to share our faith. Not so much because we are outright persecuted, but because we are viewed as almost sickened in the mind–loony cast-offs that are un-enlightened. This is very powerful stuff–this ostracizing of a whole group of people. And it can’t be denied. For just one example (of a zillion), you can wear t-shirts to public schools that promote Islam, witchcraft, and any other religion–but will be in danger of prosecution if you wear a t-shirt with the name of Jesus on it. Meanwhile, in the church, the name of Jesus has come to mean something completely outside of who the Bible says He is. We have been deceived in numbers I never thought possible. It is astounding and so disheartening.

And so what is our task in these dark days? How do we respond? As my husband and I have pondered this on many occasions, we have come to this conclusion–

We are to focus on our family, first and foremost. We have a duty and responsibility to do all we can to encourage them in their walk with God. Personal knowledge of the Word of God, along with boldness and courage, are going to be critical as we strive to live in a post-Christian society. We believe it is our duty to do all we can to encourage and strengthen our family members, so that we can all stand firm together in the oncoming storm that threatens to knock down even the strongest of believers.

Second, we believe we are called to be a light in the darkened world we are in. No easy task, as the horizon grows darker and darker. It can be scary to speak the truth of God’s Word in this current culture and sometimes we chicken out. I just have to be honest here. But we know that this is what we are called to do. And so we keep trying to shine brighter and brighter in a world that grows darker and darker.

When you really think about it, we have so much reason to hope! The last days are here and that means that we could be rescued at any time. While I know there are many views on the rapture (pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib) and I wouldn’t go the wall for any particular stance, I do believe that the Bible teaches a pre-trib rapture. Wouldn’t it be incredible to be the generation that is rescued from darkness by a meeting in the sky with Jesus? How awesome would that be? This is the hope we have, if we cling to God’s Word.

But, no matter what is in our future, we know that God is faithful. If we are in His Word and we hold fast to its truths, testing all things that come our way, then we will be able to stand firm in the upcoming days. Hold fast, my friend, hold fast.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,  for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

 

 

 

Why Crime Will Continue to Rise

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Everyone is so shocked when a shooting occurs in some part of this country. We hear of banks being robbed, young ladies being molested, and drug use abounding. And we are surprised.

But my question is why?

Why are we so shocked? I can think of a number of reasons why we should not be. And why crime will continue to rise in this country–

  1. We have brainwashed our kids in the education system for almost 100 years, teaching them that they are nothing but a bunch of cells thrown together by chance.
  2. We have taught our young people that there is no God to which they are accountable.
  3. Somewhere in the midst of the sexual revolution, the general population started believing there are no absolutes. Something can be right for one person but be wrong for someone else. It just depends on the situation.
  4. The entertainment industry has spewed forth tv shows, video games, movies, music, and books filled with all that God abhors. Violence, sexual perversions, illegal drug and alcohol use, and filthy language are not only portrayed but glorified. Instead of our youth learning to work at a job, they are sitting in front of screens learning how to murder and shoot.

When these philosophies started making it mainstream, did anyone ever consider the devastating consequences that would result? All philosophies have consequences.

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out the consequences of a culture that has decided there is no God and no absolutes. Barring unforeseen revival or some other miracle, anarchy almost has to be the final result.

Because what keeps a desperate drug addict from shooting a store owner? What keeps a sexually hungry man from raping a young girl? If there is no God and there is no right and wrong, then NOTHING will stop them. Their conscience has been completely hardened (Romans 1).

It is a rather frightening thought, isn’t it?

If we are a Christian, we need not fear. Many believers before us have gone through awful, terrible times. God has not deserted us, for the Holy Spirit lives within us. He will walk us through these tough times and dark valleys.

If we aren’t a Christian, then these events –like the shooting on an Oregon campus this week–should demand our attention. You need to be asking yourself this question: Where am I going to spend eternity? Because at any moment–at any time–you could be murdered. Instantly, you could find yourself face to face with God. Are you ready? Don’t delay in finding a godly Christian to talk to about this (or feel free to email me at leslie@growing4life.net if you don’t know who else to talk to).

These stories we hear on the news are absolutely frightening. Whether we are believer or unbeliever, may they lead our thoughts towards the eternal.

 

 

The Making of a Hero

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What makes someone a hero?

Is it their strong muscles or shapely body? Is it that they can keep a crowd entertained for a couple of hours or more? Maybe they are extra-good at making baskets or touchdowns or home runs?

Ummm… no.

Just because our upside down culture labels beautiful actors, entertaining musicians, and skilled athletes as heroes does not mean that they actually are heroes.

I have my own definition of a hero. Here it is–

A hero is an ordinary person in unordinary circumstances who responds in an extraordinary way.

Like Daniel and his friends, for instance. Here are four boys — probably in their late teens– who are removed from their homes, families, and culture. They are taken to the palace of another kingdom and prepared to be servants of the King.

Now put yourself there for a moment. You are seventeen. You have no parents or adults looking over your shoulder and telling you what to do. Would you have had the fortitude and integrity to do what’s right?

While each of these boys had the opportunity to step up and prove themselves to be true heroes a little later on, they got their feet wet right when they arrived in the new kingdom. The king’s servant wants to feed them delicacies and wine. Daniel, because of their strong convictions, asks for he and his friends to be excused from eating this and to be only given vegetables. (That makes me think that the delicacies probably didn’t contain too many vegetables! Not that I’m surprised!)

Four boys are given the opportunity to eat really cool food and drink alcohol. Mom and Dad are not watching. Their Jewish culture has been left behind. What kept Daniel and his friends from following the crowd?

We can see that they were willing to stand apart and do what was right, even when no one was watching or would ever find out.

A little later on, we see that Nebuchadnezzar requires these same boys to do something they cannot do if they serve the Living God. We have to remember that this King is an angry king. If something happens that doesn’t suit him, he starts executing people quickly and indiscriminately. There was little bargaining with him.

First, in chapter 3, we see that this King requires all his people to bow down to a giant gold statue or they will be thrown into a fiery furnace. Some busybody makes sure the king knows that Daniel’s three friends refuse to bow, and, quite suddenly, they become ordinary boys in unordinary circumstances who respond in an extraordinary way.

And so they are thrown into the fire. Nebuchadnezzar is so angry that he makes the fire seven times hotter than usual (Daniel 3:19). In fact, it was so hot that it killed the men that threw the boys into the furnace (Daniel 3:22). But God saves the three boys and they are unharmed.

A few chapters later, Daniel faces his own opportunity to step up and be a hero with a different king. We are all familiar with his time in the Lion’s Den because he refused to stop praying to the One, True God. This all happened because a few rulers were jealous of him and his good standing with King Darius and concocted the whole scheme. They felt confident that this would be an effective way to get rid of Daniel. But God had other plans, didn’t He?

Because these two accounts are part of God’s story of redemption and the sweeping history of the Jewish people, things end really well. Daniel and his friends are miraculously saved in an incredible way.

But do you realize that throughout all of history there have been believers who have stepped up to do what’s right and were not saved by a miracle? They gave their lives in Roman amphitheaters, village gallows, castle dungeons, and concentration camps. In fact, they are still giving their lives in dank, dirty prisons and hostile village squares.

But not all heroes are martyrs. We don’t have to give up our lives to do something extraordinary. Sometimes we are faced right here at home with unordinary circumstances, aren’t we?

What do you do if you see–

~Someone stealing a wallet from a pedestrian on the street?

~A toddler wandering away from his mother at the beach?

~An elderly lady lying in distress on the sidewalk?

~An extra twenty dollars in your hand because the clerk didn’t know how to count change?

You see, true heroes step up and do what’s right. They aren’t worried about their schedules, their reputation, or their own selfish agendas. At that moment, when it matters, they are worried about doing the right thing.

How important it is to teach our kids the definition of a true hero. Don’t let them turn worldly movie stars or selfish athletes into their heroes. Okay, yes, I know. There are a few exceptions. Some of these stars are doing really good things. But I am still not sure that this would qualify them as a hero. If you give one million dollars away but still have twenty million in the bank, does that make you a hero? I think it makes you a nice person. But hero might be stretching it.

I believe that we are going to have more and more opportunities to step up and do what’s right in this country. We will either cower in fear or we will rise with courage. What will you do? What are you going to teach your children and your grandchildren to do? If you can’t step in and help an elderly woman in distress when it’s inconvenient, then what makes you think you will stand up for God when it counts?

Let’s practice in the little opportunities that we get each day. Let’s be ordinary people who respond to unordinary circumstances in an extraordinary way!