We Are All Teachers

And how to be the best one you can be!

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Think back a moment to your school days. Do you have a few teachers that stand out? I sure do. My third grade teacher was an older woman named Mrs. Ulrich who loved anything Navajo. She would wear beautiful jewelry of shiny turquoise in its setting of sparkly silver every day. She had a reputation for being strict, but I loved her. And she loved her students. And then there was Mr. Nolt. He had to be one of the best teachers ever! He made learning so much fun for rambunctious and confused sixth graders. We forgot we needed to be “cool” when we were in his class. Over the years, I had others who really made an impact on me through the avenue of teaching.

But then there were those who had the opposite effect. I had some really terrible teachers. I won’t name them (you know…just in case) but they were either so boring I would fall asleep; or they were so mean, you never knew if you were going to do something wrong; or they were so liberal, they couldn’t teach one class without promoting their agenda. Actually, I remember a few debates with those teachers and I honestly believe it helped to grow me in my knowledge of the Word quite a bit!

All of us have had teachers. School teachers, music instrument teachers, Sunday School teachers, coaches. Even as adults, many of us still continue to learn under the guidance of a teacher.

As I was reading in 2 Timothy 2:2, I was reminded how important it is to teach the truth of the Word to others. Paul is specifically talking to Timothy in this letter, but–as with the rest of the letter–we know that what he says is for all of us.

This is what that verse says–

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

He is talking specifically about teaching sound doctrine to faithful men, who can then teach it to others, who will teach it to others–like the stone thrown in the pond creates ripples that move outward.

But, as I was thinking about this verse, I was also reminded of Deuteronomy 6:6-7–

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

As believers, we are responsible for teaching the truth to the next generation, as well as to others.

Now, I know that many of you would not view yourselves as teachers. But, while it is clear in scripture that some receive a special gift of teaching, it is also clear that all of us end up in some capacity of teacher throughout our lives.

So how do we do our best in passing on the truth to the next generation and to others around us–even if we don’t have the gift of teaching? As I think back over my own experience with teachers (and with my parents and grandparents), I have ten suggestions that–if put into place– would make all of us good teachers in any situation, but particularly in teaching others about God’s Word–

1. Don’t have an agenda. We need to teach what we are supposed to teach without any hidden agenda. How often have you had a teacher that has been so consumed by a certain topic, that many days’ lectures led right back to that pet topic? I remember one teacher (and he wasn’t teaching philosophy) that just kept coming back to how all religions lead to the top of the same mountain. We would debate this over and over again. This was something he felt he needed to teach, even though it was completely outside the scope of what he had been hired to teach.

But let’s apply this to biblical teaching for a moment. How important that we teach the unadulterated truth of the Bible without the interference of our own personal agenda or preferences. Not doing so leads to all kinds of problems. For example, if you only desire to teach on the love of God, you miss a chunk of the Gospel by not teaching about His hatred of sin. If we only want to teach about the good things in the Bible and never on how to discern false doctrine and false teachers, we put our students at great spiritual risk. Or if we have the agenda to be well-liked, we may only want to focus on the pleasant passages of comfort and peace. But then we miss the part about how we need to grow in holiness and purity. Of course, some teachers go the other direction and only focus on sin or God’s wrath or discernment. This all leads to very unbalanced teaching. People with personal agendas never make good teachers.

2. We must care so deeply about our subject that we can’t help but teach with confidence and courage. No matter what subject, no matter what the response of the students, we must approach our subject with boldness and passion in order to be a good teacher. This is especially challenging when it comes to teaching the Bible as it is not really the most popular thing to do these days and it requires a great amount of courage. But, in thinking back to my Christian college experience, I realize that the professors who made the most difference in my life were the ones who brought personal interest to their subject and who proclaimed truth with confidence and without apology. Those who mumbled or read from a text book during class or who didn’t care about their subject all that much made little–if any–impact in my life.

3. Don’t be afraid to admit you are wrong. Good teachers (and good parents) apologize. No one wants to be taught (or parented) by someone so arrogant they can never admit to any wrongdoing. Enough said.

4. Provide a safe place for them to ask questions and to share concerns. If a student feels like they are going to receive judgment from us every time they ask a question, we will create an atmosphere of fear. We must allow questions and concerns to flow freely, always directing them back to the authority of the Bible. What does the Bible teach about this? Helping our students to run all through the grid of the scriptures will be the first step in helping them to be healthy spiritually. Of course, school teachers don’t often have this option but it is still important that you create a safe place to ask questions, so that perhaps they may come to you later, outside of school, to look for answers to life’s biggest questions.

5. Make learning interesting. Oh, how important this is. I have to be honest– I never had a good history teacher and so, during all of my school years, I thought history was the most boring subject ever. And then I started teaching it to my children and everything changed. History is a fascinating subject but it was never presented to me in a very interesting manner. On the other hand, I had a wonderful professor named Prof Gordon for my business classes. I didn’t even really like the subject of business all that much, but he made it interesting.

Sitting at a desk listen to someone drone on and on about dates or methods or systems is one of the quickest way to kill the desire to learn in any student. What a responsibility we have to show that our subject is interesting and worth learning! When we teach the scriptures–which we all should do in some capacity–how important it is to communicate Hebrews 4:12–

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

It is not some dry, old book that doesn’t matter to us today. It is the powerful and life-changing Word of God! We must teach it with this in mind!

6. Be approachable. Oh, the power of a smile and kind words. Think back in your own experience a moment. What do you remember about the faces of your favorite teachers? What about their actions? I am sure that most of you will remember a kind and warm-hearted man or woman who smiled a lot. Someone who said positive words just as often–or perhaps more–than they said critical words.

7. Teach them to apply what they are learning in their own lives and how to teach what they are learning to others. The student of a good teacher doesn’t generally leave the classroom (or home) unchanged. They are filled with a zeal to apply what they have learned and to teach others.

8. Love your students. This probably should have been number one. Again, think back to your own experience–whether it be in the home, in church, or in school. Which teachers had the most impact? If we felt loved, we were open to be taught. If we felt like a bother or the teacher was constantly irritable, we became distracted wondering why and then speculating if we were the problem…

Feeling unloved and in the way completely changes the atmosphere for teaching.

9. Share yourself with them. Sometimes it is good to step outside what is just for class or Bible Study and share how your subject has made a difference in your life. This is especially crucial in teaching the Word. When we can show how we personally had to run a decision through the grid of the Bible or how we had to submit to the authority of God’s Word in a specific area of our life, we become more “human” in the eyes of our students. We show them that we are just like them–perhaps only a few steps ahead in the journey.

10. Set a good example. And, last– but certainly not least–is that we must live out what we are teaching. We can’t effectively teach what we don’t live. Kids and adults can spot a hypocrite in a second. And that is a sure fire way to destroy any biblical teaching ministry.

 

I hope I have given all of you some food for thought. While this post was geared to teachers of all subjects, my heart mostly lies with those of us–which should be all of us–who teach the Word of God. Whether we are a parent, grandparent, Sunday School teacher, Bible Study teacher, pastor, blogger, or teach the scriptures in any other capacity, may we put these things into practice so that we can have an effective teaching ministry and create a godly legacy that will live on for years and years after we are called to glory.

 

(By the way, I would love to hear about your experiences–either as a teacher or as a student. Comment below and let me know what I missed in encouraging us to be the best teachers we can be!)

One of Our Highest Callings

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On Saturday, we attended the high school graduation of our last child. It may well be one of the most bittersweet moments of my life. How can you be so filled with joy for your child and so filled with sadness for yourself? But I know it certainly is possible to be filled with such contrasting emotions at the exact same time because it is what I experienced on Saturday.

As I went through old photos to prepare for her graduation party, I was assailed by feelings of nostalgia and joy. Wonderful memories came rushing back as I stared at photos of happy babies, busy children, and posed family portraits. And while we had our share of frustrating, angry, and hopeless moments, this was not what came to mind when I poured over our precious family photos.

When our children were born, my husband and I determined that we had one priority. Temporal things–sports, academics, accolades, and awards–do not last. But their souls–we knew their souls must be our focus. We made any decisions regarding our family with this one thing in mind. Our only goal being that our children would know God and would make Him known. We prayed that they would love Him and His Word and that they would be bold and courageous as they walked with Him. Even though they are now adults, we continue to pray this same prayer for our children, experiencing great joy as we watch the Lord grow them and use them for His glory.

The funny thing is this: We did so many things wrong. We were weak when we should have been strong. We said yes when we should have said no. We caved to our own selfish desires more times than we can count. We can see it so clearly now. Hindsight is always 20-20. And, yet, God has been so faithful to our family. Far beyond anything we deserve.

And so it is with much sadness, great joy, and a keen awareness of God’s great mercies and kindnesses to our family, that I bid this stage of my life a fond adieu. I just cannot believe how quickly the time has passed and yet here I am with the last birdie in the nest about ready to fly away. As I stare at my soon-to-be empty nest, I realize that it is time to move on to the next stage of my life. I am not sure what that looks like yet, but I know God will make it clear to me, as I continue to rely on Him for direction. I do know it includes continuing a godly legacy with my grandchildren and that will, most certainly, be one of my highest priorities.

So what is the point of this post? It is to encourage you–whether you are a parent, grandparent, favorite aunt or uncle, or teacher–to make the souls of those in your care your priority. When each of these precious children reach the end of their lives, it will be only this that matters. All else will fade away as they come face to face with the One who made them. We cannot get so wrapped up in worldly pursuits that we lose sight of what really matters.

A few months ago, I just “happened” across a song that says what I am trying to say so perfectly. As I couldn’t find a video for it, I made one of my own with some old photos of our family. I have debated at great length about sharing this video, knowing that these photos won’t mean much to those of you who don’t know our family. But decided to go ahead and post it, in the hopes that these pictures may remind you of all of the good memories you have had with your own families.

As you listen to this song, I hope that you, too, will be filled with a passion for the souls of the precious children in your lives–for this may well be one of our highest callings. May we be faithful stewards of these treasured souls. The song is called Steward of Their Soul and is by a group called Seven Arrows. I hope you enjoy it–

 

 

 

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.

 

Pressing Through the Storm

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Raising kids is hard. Really hard if you want to do it right. It means saying no when everyone else says yes. It means setting boundaries, being consistent, and setting a godly example in all areas of life–at least giving it our best effort and then resting in the knowledge that God will make up for our weaknesses. It requires much prayer and lots of time in The Word.

Being an influence for good in the workplace is hard. It’s really hard if you want to not only be a good influence, but a godly one. It means forsaking popularity. It means that you may be teased, harassed, and targeted. It requires lovingly telling the truth when no one wants to hear it. And standing apart from the crowd, being lonely, and loving difficult people.

How about being a godly spouse? Or a blessing to your church family?

These are things we know are God’s will. We are supposed to be godly parents and spouses. We are supposed to be working for God’s glory in our church family and in our workplaces. But sometimes it’s just downright hard. We try so hard to do the right thing but it doesn’t always work out like we hope. People don’t like us. Or they get in the way of the good things we are trying to accomplish. Sometimes very intentionally. We are hurt. We are attacked. We are afraid.

It is at this point that many–if not most–of us cave. The storm rages around us and we grow frightened. We lose any bit of courage we may have had and we tuck our tail and run.

We go into hiding in our workplaces, staying quiet as a mouse when the subject of God comes up. We laugh at the dirty jokes and gossip by the water cooler. Anything to keep from standing out.

We stay at the fringes of the church family. Never really knowing anyone. Or offering to help in any ministry. It’s just easier and much less painful.

We become ineffective (or even negative influences) in our homes. We let our screaming toddlers and rebellious teenagers do whatever they want. We give up on our spouses and we stop praying for them. We become tired and hopeless.

But yesterday, as I read Ezra 4 for our G4L Bible Challenge, I realized anew the importance of pressing on through the storms of life. When the Jews were sent back to rebuild the temple, there was a group of people who plagued them constantly. They tried to discourage them, to frustrate them, to keep them from building (Ezra 4:4-5). And, yet, they kept on plugging away. At one point, they were required to stop working because of a letter filled with lies that this group sent to the King. But they didn’t give up hope. And, sure enough, they were back working at the temple years later.

God wanted that temple re-built, and so it was going to be re-built.

No man can stand in God’s way.

But that was then. And this is now. Those were God’s chosen people living that story and we are Americans living a world away and thousands of years later. If we don’t need to build a temple for God then what does God want for our lives? What is His will for us?

Perhaps we are supposed to be temple-building, as well–

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.(I Corinthians 6:19-20)

Our body is a temple– the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Our calling as believers is to keep our temples pure and holy, obeying and glorifying God. We are to be confessing and eradicating sin. We are to live apart from the world and shine as bright lights of hope.

Building our temple is giving our whole-hearted efforts to our roles as spouses and parents. It’s building up the church and being a godly example at work. As we build our temple, it will change every area of our lives.

When we grow scared or angry, we have to keep working on our temple. We weather through powerful storms with scripture study and prayer. We do this for the sake of our marriages, our kids, our churches, and for the lost who live and work beside us. We can’t become ensnared in human drama and give up. Like the Jews in Ezra, we need to keep building, placing one brick at a time until, one day as our eyes close in death, we can see the temple we have built before us– A lifetime of service to the one, true God!

Sure, we may be given a mandatory pause due to illness or some other unforeseen circumstance but then we get back at it again. And if it’s in our control, then let’s not pause for too long. Because when we stop using our muscles we atrophy. Our bodies grow weak and useless. And because kids don’t wait. Before you know it, they have grown and there is no more time for Bible memory verses or family devotions. And because people die and move away. And tomorrow, that co-worker may no longer be there.

We need to keep our eyes on the goal and let the rest go. Just let it go. The storm may howl around us. The winds may blow. But, through it all, we keep building, remembering what’s important–

To know God and to make Him known.

 

 

One Lone Voice

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One of my daughters decided to comment on someone’s outspoken support of Friday’s Supreme Court decision on one of her social media accounts. She was polite and kind and truthful, using God’s Word as her guide.

What she got was–

HATE.

Malicious, hostile, cruel hate.

I find it so extremely interesting that the cry is to love, love, love. But somehow that love does not extend to those who disagree. No matter how lovingly and gently you state your disagreement.

I want to unequivocally state here that I am not against people who support gay marriage. I know and care deeply about several people who live gay lifestyles. I do not have to agree with you to love you.

Somehow we have grown just a bit confused about what love really is.

Love and tolerance are the words of the day, but those two words that are thrown about by this group are not extended to Christians who simply want to practice their faith. In my mind, the vicious attacks made upon Jesus Christ and His followers are a great confirmation that we are on the right path. Few others are maligned the way we are these days.

The coming trials and persecution are going to give us many opportunities. We are going to be able to share Christ’s love and the Gospel with those who are confused and hurting. And we will be used by God in a mighty way if the Gospel is lived out in our lives like never before.

But are we brave enough for this daunting task before us?

Since the Bible Challenge began in January, I have been writing about what we are reading on Thursdays. But on Saturday I read something in my Bible reading that is so fitting— so pertinent— so applicable— to what we are going to face soon in this nation as true believers that I just had to write about it today.

In I Kings 22, we read of a man named Micaiah. As a little background, we read first of Ahab and Jehoshaphat discussing whether or not to join forces against the King of Syria. To confirm their decision, they decide to ask the prophets of the land. All 400 men– four hundred men who claim to be men of God– tell Ahab that he will experience victory. There is not even one voice of dissension.

But there is one man by the name of Micaiah, who has not been asked. Ahab even states that he hates to ask this man of God anything because he always gives him an answer he doesn’t like! (I Kings 22:8) But with Jehoshaphat’s encouragement, Micaiah is brought before the two kings.

Micaiah chooses to speak truth, rather than tickle the Kings’ ears, even though he is going against the message of the 400 men who call themselves men of God. The truth of the matter is that Ahab will not return home from that battle alive. Micaiah bravely shares this bad news with the King. He is the one lone voice of truth.

In reaction to this unpleasant news, the King throws Micaiah into prison.

A few days later, Ahab is killed in battle.

There is so much to learn from this biblical account, in light of what we are facing in America today. Here are a few of the lessons that came to mind–

1. We need to speak truth, no matter how many people disagree with us. Our truth does not come from visions and supernatural messages anymore but from the Word of God–the inspired and inerrant Book that God has protected throughout the ages. It doesn’t matter if the whole world disagrees with us– we still speak the truth as it is presented in the Bible.

2. We speak truth, knowing full well to do so could be at our own peril. Micaiah landed in prison because he chose to spoke the truth. Are we prepared to lose our freedoms, our reputations, our jobs, our comforts, our wealth, our friends, and our families? We are moving into a strange new land. It is not the land of our grandparents. And to follow Christ is going to mean sacrifice. Are we ready for this? Even as I write this, I realize that to do this will require the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in my life, giving me the courage and grace I need. Because when I think about this in my own strength, I tremble. Will I be strong enough to bear what’s coming?

3. We cannot alter our message to please the hearers. Micaiah could have tried to soften the blow and just hedged around, but he did not. While he wasn’t mean or unkind, he was forthright. If you recall, our ultimate example, Jesus, was very much the same way.

4. The majority does not represent God. The 400 men who told Ahab to expect victory were very obviously wrong. The majority can be– and often is– wrong! I am not sure what it is about peer pressure, but humans have this strange “herd” mentality where they just believe they need to follow the crowd. But the crowd is rarely right. Micaiah stood against the crowd. And so should we.

5. So-called revelations are not trust-worthy. These 400 prophets claimed to have special revelation from God. But they were lying. Just because someone says that God gave them a message doesn’t mean He did! These men were either lying to please the King or had been given a false message from demonic sources. Whatever it was, they were not trustworthy and we should take a lesson from this. With so many running around saying they have heard a special message from God–and particularly if it goes against God’s Word–we can know that they have not had a message from God. It may have come from their own selfish thoughts or from a demonic spirit but it certainly did not come from God.

6. The consequences of sin are real and Jesus is the only way, no matter what we choose to believe.  Ahab chose to believe that the majority was telling the truth but he was still dead by end of the day. Have you ever heard someone say that “whatever you believe is true for you?” I do not understand how a logical, thinking person could be brainwashed into believing such garbage, but most of our young people today do believe this. (This fact gives great proof to the brainwashings of our public education system and higher institutes of learning, in my opinion.) Truth is truth. It cannot be swayed or changed or twisted. And it certainly isn’t going to bow the knee to my whims and desires. Ahab was set to die and his choice to not believe Micaiah’s message would not change the outcome. And so we, too, are going to pay a very real price for our sin unless we come to the Savior. We can choose to believe this or choose not to believe this but, in the end, it doesn’t change the truth.

Fellow believers, we live in a frightening time. While many of our brothers and sisters in other lands have faced persecution and hard times for following Christ, we have lived in our comfortable homes, freely worshipping and sharing our faith. But the storm that was off in the distance for such a long time has now settled in upon us. Oh, it may not affect you directly…today. And you will be able to fool yourself for a few more months, or if we are fortunate, a few more years. But I encourage you to get in the Word of God and to grow your knowledge of His great strength and help in the time of trials. I encourage you to deepen your relationship with God and to grow a strong prayer life. Prepare to be the one lone voice in your churches, your families, your work places.

Because it’s coming.

It’s just a matter of time now.

 

Leaving Jerusalem

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If you are still with me in the Bible Challenge, we are in the midst of the gripping tale of David’s life. From a shepherd boy to a King on the run, we have read all of his well-known tales. We have read of him killing a giant, committing adultery and then murdering the woman’s husband, and we have read of the heart-breaking treachery of his son, Absalom.

It was hard to pick what to write about today. But there was one obscure passage in 2 Samuel that really stood out to me. Especially in our current situation as believers.

So I am writing today about Ittai the Gittite.

Have you ever even heard of him? This is not really that memorable of a story, as “larger than life” stories go. Let me set up the background–

Absalom, over the course of a few years, undermined his father’s authority and got enough men on his side to attempt to overthrow the King. Instead of fighting his own son, David makes the decision to just abdicate in order to protect the people of Jerusalem. He pulls all of his house together, with the exception of 10 concubines left to care for the palace. Along with him, showing their loyalty and serving as his body guards and corps d’elite were the Cherethites, Pelethites, and Gittites.*

As they walked out of the city, David stopped Ittai, the leader of the Gittites, telling him to go back into the city. Here is the conversation between the two (from 2 Samuel 15)–

Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why do you also go with us? Go back and stay with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile from your home. 20 You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander about with us, since I go I know not where? Go back and take your brothers with you, and may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you.” 21 But Ittai answered the king, “As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.” 

Whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.

What an incredible testimony of loyalty. Ittai chose to follow David out of the safe zone, knowing full well that it would most likely mean hardship, wandering, and even death.

This struck me, because in a lot of ways, I feel like we are soon going to be forced to follow Jesus out of American culture very soon. Oh, we may not be forced to physically leave, but the storm clouds we saw on the horizon only a few short years ago are now starting to bring fierce wind and dark, dark skies. Life is changing here. And the message is Get on Board or Be Persecuted.

Gone forever are the days of the beautiful religious freedom we enjoyed from the inception of this country. They are over. You do realize that, don’t you? They aren’t returning, no matter who is voted into office. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but this ship has left the dock and it’s not coming back. Not without a supernatural miracle from God (My God is that big, so I don’t rule it out, but I don’t expect it either– not when I read the plan of the future as recorded in the Word of God).

I think it is time to follow our King out of Jerusalem. It’s such a heart-breaking time for those of us, the remnant, that remains faithful to the Word of God, isn’t it? We have become such a minority that sometimes we find ourselves wondering if we are even right, after all? But then we turn back to the Word and we read of church history, and we can see that this is exactly what we should expect. We Christians have really, here in America, been living a rare, cushy, comfortable existence. This has not been the norm for most of our Christian brothers and sisters throughout history, in foreign lands currently, or as recorded for the church’s future.

So are you ready to follow your King, whether it bring life or death? Are you ready for hardship, persecution, and wandering? Are you ready for slander, scathing remarks, intolerance for your views, and false accusations? Because if you have plans to remain faithful to the Jesus of the Bible, it will come. Some of you have experienced a bit of this already.

Are you going to be like Ittai– a loyal soldier for the King or are you going to tuck tale and run back into the comfort zone of the city? You will soon have to make a choice. Are you prepared?

Read and study the Bible, read biographies of great Christians who have gone before us, read classic authors of yesteryear. If you need ideas, check out my favorite books-where I have added a couple of new suggestions for you just this morning.

By reading and studying you will grow deeper, fixed roots of faith. These will hold you steady in the wind that is starting to blow. There is no time to waste. The perilous storm is almost here.

 

*As explained from the following websites: Jewish Encyclopedia and Bible Hub.

What Kind of Advertisement Are You?

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Have you ever seen an unfit, overweight personal trainer? How much confidence would you have in them helping you reach your goals? I am reminded of a shop I was in that had a prominent display for some magic weight loss formula sitting on the counter. Staring up at me were photos of smiling, super-fit people and words that held incredible promises for a changed body. My eyes inevitably swung to the shop owner.  It seemed to me that if this wonderful weight loss product worked miracles, this owner would be living proof. But that was not the case.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it rather undermined my confidence in trying that particular product.

And I guess that is exactly how it is when we Christians try to tell people how wonderful Jesus is, all the while standing in a filthy mire of our own making. We don’t trust, we don’t forgive, we love the world, we worry, we use foul and crude language, we walk away from distasteful and unpleasant situations, we lie, we cheat, we quarrel, we envy, we betray, we complain incessantly, we have a bad work ethic, and our entertainment choices are just like everybody else’s. In other words, it would appear as if Jesus just doesn’t make a bit of a difference. Why would we expect someone to want what we have?

Of course, sometimes Christians fail. That is a fact of life. There are lovely, godly people who are divorced, who have spiritually lost their children, and who have had abortions. I am not talking about the past. And I am not talking about the flesh that continues to plague us even after salvation. We do slip in our language sometimes. We go to a movie and realize half-way through that this was definitely a wrong choice. We struggle through forgiving. But the key word is struggle— sincere believers are continually fighting their sin.

What I am talking about are the patterns of sin that are so ingrained in us, we aren’t even aware of them.

What kind of advertisement are we for our Savior? Seriously. Let’s stop for just a minute and think about our last 24 hours. If someone saw where we went, the words we spoke, the entertainment we set before our eyes and ears, and the food and drink we consumed, would they give evidence that we are a follower of Jesus Christ?

There is so much talk about “God looking on the heart”– and so he does–but that doesn’t excuse sinful actions, for out of a pure heart comes a holy life. We certainly do not need works to be saved but our works our evidence that we are saved. (See I John 2:3-6; 2 Peter 1:5-9; Matthew 7:16-20)

You can have righteous actions without a right heart, but you cannot have a right heart without righteous actions. It’s impossible.

I hope and pray that I am a good example of a believer. I mess up so often– especially at home. Many times I don’t even feel qualified to be writing. And yet God leads me on and continues to nudge me to keep writing.

I just know I don’t want anyone to wonder at my funeral whether or not I was a believer. I don’t want any “I think so’s” or “she said a prayer when she was little but…”

Instead, I want people to say with confidence that I was someone who followed hard after God. I am certainly far, far from perfection. Each day brings me deeper and fuller knowledge of just how far, but I want to be going the right direction, without question and without wavering.

I hope that you want the same to be said of you. Because it is only through this that we can make any difference at all. After all, what good are we if we look just like everyone else? If our decisions are made from our feelings and emotions, just like everyone else? If we don’t handle life’s tough situations differently, if we don’t bring integrity to the work place, or love and kindness to our relationships, then we are like that shop owner. We are advertising something that obviously isn’t working.

 

 

Oswald Bunny and a Lesson Learned

Oswald_rabbitWe were exploring Hollywood Studios, Disney’s movie-themed park when everyone decided it was time to ride the Tower of Terror. I thought briefly about going along but then realized that I would enjoy wandering around the park by myself much more than standing in line for a ride I wasn’t even sure I’d like. And so I wished my family well and told them I’d meet up with them in an hour.

I first stopped at a little bookstore set back away from the crowd. I paged through a few books, especially enjoying the first few pages of a biography about Walt Disney. I made a note of the author and then moved on. I then came to the Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream attraction. I enjoyed seeing the journey of this man and his “empire”, from its humble beginnings to its present state. The one thing that really stuck with me was Oswald Bunny.

Oswald Bunny was a character that Walt had created in his early years. Around 1928, through a series of unfortunate and hurtful events, Oswald Bunny was stolen. Not only that, but Walt also lost many of his best employees through the fiasco. Was this the end of his dreams as an animated artist? Of course, we know it was not.

Instead of drowning in his sorrows and giving up, Walt went on that same year to come up with another original idea. As he was riding on a train with his wife, he told her his idea of a mouse he wanted to call Mortimer. She suggested the name “Mickey”, as the name “Mortimer” sounded too pretentious. And thus was born the famous Mickey Mouse. While Oswald the Bunny faded into obscurity, Mickey Mouse became the icon of all that is Disney.

Now why am I sharing this history?

Because the one thing I took from this particular event in Walt Disney’s life is his perseverance through hurt and trials. While I have no idea if Walt was a believer or not, I think we can definitely learn something from him about perseverance.

Perseverance: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

So, how does this relate to our Christian walk specifically? In 2 Peter 1:5-9, we can see that, if we want to avoid spiritual blindness and stumbling, perseverance is a necessary trait. But perseverance can be quite challenging to develop in our own lives. It is so tempting to give up in the midst of trials or when we can’t see any success in the near future. This has probably gotten so much worse with the event of this age, where if things don’t work instantly, they are quickly abandoned.

So how do we develop godly perseverance in our own lives? I believe there are a few key ways–

1. Don’t compare yourself to others.

It is so easy to look at someone else’s success and just want to give up. But there will always be someone more successful than you are. We need to keep our eyes focused on the ministry, the spiritual growth, and the duties that God has set before us, instead of focusing on others.

2. Don’t measure your success by how much applause and praise you get from mere mortals.

As I write this, I think of some of the great missionaries who sacrificed all to go to pagan lands a hundred or more years ago. When they arrived in these foreign countries, the natives were not falling all over themselves to hear the gospel. Instead, these missionaries practiced much perseverance, receiving little praise or glory. The fruits of their perseverance are evident today, but they weren’t very evident during their ministry. They persevered, anyway.

By the way, If you haven’t read any missionary biographies, I highly recommend doing so. They are so interesting and so much more useful to our Christian growth than romance novels. Some of the most interesting and life-changing that I’ve read are the stories of Gladys Aylward, Isobel Kuhn, George Muller, Amy Carmichael, and Gracia Burnham.

3. Keep your eyes focused on the Lord.

Sometimes, when we receive no praise and glory and we see the successes of others, it is tempting to start relying on our own human deductions. Thoughts like “This isn’t worth it” or “I will never be able to get over this in my past” or “this ministry will never be successful” crowd our mind and we give up. Instead, we need to continue to trust the Lord, ask Him to guide and confirm that we are in His will, and then continue on. We need to turn away from the thoughts of discouragement that plague us and instead keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

4. Learn from our painful moments.

When we are most hurt or embarrassed or torn apart is when we are most vulnerable to the voice that tells us to give up. But instead of giving up, we need to turn to the Lord for comfort and guidance, asking the Lord specifically what He wants us to learn from this time and then be humble enough to learn it. Sometimes, we do need to give up a favorite project or ministry. The key is being able to discern when that is. And, of course, we are never to give up on growing more like Jesus. So that is never even an option.

5. Be careful how you define success.

In this day and age of social media and quickly rising stars, we have to be careful in how we define success as Christians. If you can help even one person understand salvation, is that not a great success for the Lord? The Bible says that the angels rejoice when even one sinner repents! (Luke 15:10)

Sometimes we rely a little too heavily on the numbers. You can even see so many pastors fall prey to this line of thinking, as they become obsessed over the attendance numbers instead of focused on growing the sheep that are already in their fold. But can we overestimate the value of even one soul coming to know the Lord or growing closer to Him through your ministry? If even one person is changed by your ministry, is that not worth it?

Perseverance is really not a popular concept these days, but may I encourage you (and myself, too!) to keep on keeping on. If you are discouraged– as a ministry worker, as a parent, as a pastor or pastor’s wife, or just simply as a believer– then turn your eyes to Jesus and keep your eyes focused on eternity.

 

 

Will Mark Driscoll Say Thank You Someday?

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The removal of Mark Driscoll from Acts29 has been swirling about in Christian circles for a few days now. First, I have to admit that I do not have inside information regarding this celebrity pastor. I really don’t know if the accusations are true or not. I was never a big Mark Driscoll fan and my interest in his ministry disappeared completely when he started challenging long-held beliefs on some of the most basic understanding of scriptural passages –or did he just choose to ignore them? I don’t really know his motives, his thoughts, or his heart. Obviously.

But this incident has really turned my thoughts toward the modern day expectations of pastors. We–the average church goer– feed into this new church model. The model that is driven by the goal to grow bigger and better and ever more cool.

Instead of focusing on shepherding his flock (as scripture commands), the pastor becomes obsessed with making sure more and more people come to his church. If he is one of the “fortunate” ones that has the charisma to attract a crowd, he now fights a battle that is a temptation to all people, but perhaps most tempting to charismatic leaders — and that is the battle of pride.

Pride worms its way into all of our lives in one way or another (even discouraged cries of “Woe is me!” and “I deserve better than this!” stem from pride), but pastors seem to be most vulnerable of all.

This is probably for a number of different reasons —

1. People naturally follow them.

2. People naturally praise and lift them up.

3. Satan would like nothing better than to destroy a church and what better way than attacking the leader?

 

So back to Mark Driscoll. If what is swirling about is true and Mark Driscoll has fallen prey to this temptation to be arrogant and dictatorial, could it be that this may end up being a very positive event in his life?

Acts29 did him a huge favor! One that should happen much more often in the church today. They said to him, “We care more about you than we care about our reputation or even your reputation. We care more about what God’s Word says in how to handle this, than we do about what is ‘politically’ correct.”

I applaud Acts29 for taking a stand. I am sure many sleepless nights and much heartache went into their decision. If Mark Driscoll is as smart as I think he is, he will use this as a wake-up call to return to the humility and servant’s heart that is required of all of us as believers– no matter what earthly position we find ourselves in.

This could well be the best thing that has ever happened to him. Painful for him and his family and his church — by all means. Sin usually is. But if he humbles himself and turns to scripture, I imagine that one day in the future he will say a very heartfelt “Thank You” to his friends at Acts29.

And one more thing– if you are blessed with a humble pastor who loves God and His Word more than he loves himself, who cares deeply for his flock and desires to shepherd them, who turns the hearts of his people to the Word of God and expounds faithfully each week (instead of telling stories and entertaining), why don’t you take a moment to say thank you? You are so blessed.

 

Pineapple Popcorn

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We were on a long trip and I had a small bag of jelly bellies in my hand. I love the variety of flavors and generally eat my jelly bellies one at a time, so I can savor each one. Usually, if I am traveling, I will look at each bean first and try to guess what flavor it will be. It helps to pass the time. For some reason, this particular day I popped two in my mouth before even looking at them.

Instantly, my mouth was filled with an unpleasant sensation.

What exactly were those flavors mixing together in my mouth? I focused on what I was tasting. Definitely pineapple. And what in the world was the other flavor?? Popcorn! I was tasting pineapple and popcorn and the two flavors were decidedly incompatible.

Needless to say, I won’t be mixing those flavors together again anytime soon. And I highly recommend that you avoid that combination, as well.

And it got me to thinking– I wonder how we “taste” to those around us when we say we are Christians, but don’t act like it?

How exactly do we appear to others if we are proclaiming to be a believer, using words like God, Jesus, and prayer, inviting others to our church, and even quoting Bible verses and then —

–blow up in anger

–tell crude jokes or use bad language

–watch a movie filled with sex, violence, or bad language (or, as is most common — all three)

–turn away in disgust or embarrassment when we see someone who is “not normal”

–gossip about and malign fellow church members

–listen to a radio station that regularly plays songs glorifying drugs, sex, and alcohol

–complain and whine about our current situation

–tempt men to lust by dressing immodestly

When we allow any sin to become a regular part of our lives we become hardened. Of course, we all make mistakes and fight our flesh. But when we become lazy and stop fighting and just give in to our human lusts and desires instead of examining our hearts, repenting of our sins, and growing more like Jesus, we start tasting like pineapple popcorn. Is it pineapple or is it popcorn? And it all meshes into something that is altogether unpleasant and unappetizing.

Some things you can mix together and it really works. I am thinking of peanut butter and chocolate as a grand example. But pineapple and popcorn are not a good mix. And neither is Christian talk and actions and worldly talk and actions. They are completely opposite and mixed together they make something totally unappealing.

You know, if we can remember that our purpose for living after we are saved is pretty simple — to glorify God and to spread the gospel–then life becomes rather simple. We desire to do all to honor Him. And when we get caught up in some fleshly endeavor or sin, God’s Holy Spirit draws us back and we are truly repentant. This is what true transformation looks like. This is what salvation looks like. Oh, it’s a tough journey and we have dark moments and sinful times, but we need to be moving the right direction, which is only possible with examination and repentance. As John MacArthur says: It’s not about perfection, it’s about direction.

I want to be the taste of genuine and life-giving Christianity to those I meet. I am assuming you want that, too. In order to be that, we need to examine our lives carefully for sin and wage a constant war against it. Satan is subtle and sly and will use even the “small sins” (as if there were such a thing!) to trip us up and render us ineffective for God.