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!

 

 

Practicing Joy When It’s Hard

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Sometimes the world around us seems so hopeless. We watch the news on TV, we age and our bodies grow weaker, and we hear so many stories of brokenness and tragedy. We come face to face over and over again with the hard reality that we live in a fallen world in a body headed for death.

These tough truths also come to light in the books of the Old Testament Prophets. These men of God predict the sword, famine, and pestilence on God’s chosen people. They have turned their hearts to idols and God has decided enough is enough. How would it have felt to be in Israel during that time? What would it have been like to live with the knowledge that the wrath of God was coming?

Could it be a little like right now? Oh, I know we aren’t Israel. And I know that the wrath of God fell hard on them in a way that will probably not be repeated until the Tribulation. But don’t you sometimes wonder how long the wrath of God will tarry for a nation that kills its babies at a rate of 2000+ per day? Or a nation that has declared God to be null and void and prefers to give credit to the ludicrous and illogical theory of evolution? How long can a nation last that lives like there are no moral absolutes? What can we expect when we turn our back on God’s chosen people, Israel? (Genesis 12:3)

I don’t tend to get dragged down too often by the state of this nation, but every once in awhile it just hits me. This is not the same nation it was. It is changing so fast it sometimes feels like it’s hard to catch your breath. And in the back of my mind is always this question: what will it mean for the faithful? What is ahead for us in a country that is becoming increasingly hostile towards anyone who follows the Jesus of the Bible?

This week, while I was thinking a bit about this, the Lord brought to mind my dear friend, Bea. It’s not often that you are good friends with someone who is 35 years older than you are, but we are a glorious exception. God has blessed our family tremendously by knowing her. She has functioned for many years as my kids’ third grandmother and as a source of godly wisdom for me.

I decided that I would ask her her thoughts on finding joy when things are looking dark. She has a lot she could be discouraged about. Her health is starting to fail and life is very different than it was even ten years ago. Looking to the future doesn’t bring much hope, as her body will probably continue to grow weaker. And yet when I stop in she always has a genuine smile on her face. A smile that comes from her heart. I asked her how she finds joy in the midst of discouraging days.

She had some great thoughts and I know that you will benefit from them as much as me. As always, her practical wisdom is so helpful. When I asked her how she fosters joy in her life, she gave the following thoughts–

1. Count Your Blessings.

She went on to share just how good God has been to her through the years. She prayed for her husband’s salvation for 32 long years and God answered that prayer. And now this husband treats her like a princess, loving on her in a way that wasn’t possible in their busy, younger days. She enjoys the more relaxed, living-in-the-moment that they are able to do now. And she looks for even small improvements in her health or other situations. She says there are always plenty of blessings to be remembered.

2. Talk to God a Lot.

She elaborated here and told me she talks to Him all the time. She asks for strength to get through the day. And to help her find a lost earring. She talks to Him about her feelings of discouragement. And she prays for others. Instead of just (or perhaps along with) one designated prayer time for the day, she keeps a running conversation going with God all day.

3. Choose to be thankful.

This kind of goes with the first one, but it is a bit more intentional. She thanks God for her good days. And for the healing that is taking place despite her aging body. She thanks God for the blessings that are in her life. Even the smallest blessing is worthy of gratitude.

4. Press on through the discouragement.

When I asked if she had anything more, she added this final thing. And perhaps this may be the most important of all. We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, continuing in the service God has for us, no matter what the task. Bea’s tasks have changed considerably over the years and she now finds herself in a place where she can’t do that much physically. But she can still pray and she can still encourage others. She can still cook and do some things around the house. And she can still love her husband and her family. When we are tempted to stop walking in our difficult places, our focus turns inward and we withdraw from life if we aren’t careful. We often end up in a fog of depression and misery, oftentimes curled up in a ball in our beds or zoned out in front of the TV. Self pity doesn’t make things better. It makes things much worse.

Instead we need to keep pressing on through the pain and the discouragement, remembering the future that is in store for us if we are saved and always prepared, with hope, for the return of our Lord and Savior. Isn’t it just wonderful to contemplate a life without pain and without sorrow? It seems almost beyond the realm of our comprehension. But that is what we have been promised if we are God’s! This life is not the whole picture. It’s just a tiny part of the whole.

I guess you can tell how much I love my dear friend. She has been such an inspiration and godly example for me. And not only has she been a great role model, but she has always been willing to share her struggles and her heart with me. Ladies like this are rare and I consider it a great privilege to have her in my life. I want to keep learning from her as long as possible and continue mining the treasure of her 80+ years of experience.

I hope this post has inspired you to find joy in the hard places! But I also hope it has inspired any of you who are women to find a godly woman whom you can talk to and learn from. One who is willing to be open and honest and who has years of experience and can help you avoid some of the pitfalls we tend to make as wives and mothers.

And, as I write this, I find myself encouraged that perhaps it’s not so hopeless, after all. Sure, the world isn’t going anywhere great, but we can’t quit. We ordinary women can make a difference by building into the lives of others and sharing the things we have learned from God’s Word. Oh, we probably won’t change the world, but we can help the people that God places in front of us. And, according to Titus 2:3-5, perhaps that is what we are supposed to be focused on, anyway.

Great is Thy Faithfulness

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A few months ago, we celebrated my parents 50th wedding anniversary. I talked a bit about that in this post, sharing a few bits and pieces of their testimony of God’s faithfulness as they presented it on that day. But this celebration came to mind, once again, when we started Lamentations in our Bible Challenge this week (I am a few days behind, so perhaps it was last week for you). I always love to hear the stories of God’s faithfulness to His people, through all of the stressful moments, questions, and dark places.

And it becomes clear that we Christians don’t lead an easy life, but traverse through the same fallen, broken world as our unsaved counterparts. In fact, many times our lives may be harder because of the hatred that we experience from a world that can’t see the Truth.

We love to quote verses 22-23–

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

In fact, these are two of my favorite Bible verses. But I guess I never really thought about the context of these verses. The words of God’s faithfulness come after several verses of really hard things that God has allowed. Seriously, go read all of chapter three–even if you aren’t doing the Bible challenge. It’s full of unbelievable difficulty and pain. But then we get to those glorious verses of God’s promised faithfulness.

No, the Christian life isn’t easy, but we are never alone and God provides just the right amount of grace and peace we need to get through the difficult tunnels in which we all find ourselves sometimes. Some of us travel through more tunnels than others. And some are longer and pitch black. But we all have our tunnels of blackness through which we walk in this life.

I finished a book about a small country in Asia this week and it brought all of this so fresh to mind. It was the story of a new church with people who had never heard anything about the true God of the Universe who loved them enough to send His Son. It was the glorious testimony of the difference God’s Word makes in the lives of people, despite the weaknesses of the messengers. But the most noteworthy part of the story was that the people of this village that turned to Christ endured prison, persecution, and maltreatment with songs in their hearts. It was amazing. They counted it joy to be in prison for Christ and although they suffered illness and great trauma, God walked with them each and every step. (As a side note, I do not feel good about recommending this book because, although God’s powerful Word did what it always does, the missionary that brought God’s book to this village seemed to be a little mixed up in His faith, seemingly caught up in some philosophies of men and causing me to wonder if even really understood what the Bible says!)

But this story reminded me that no matter what is ahead of us, God will remain faithful. And, actually, Eric and I were just talking about that the other night as we drove home alone in the car. We can look back and see choices we have made or events that have happened that caused us great fear and trembling. What would become of us? Did we do the right thing? And, yet, through it all, God worked and changed and grew us and now we can look back and see God’s hand through it all.

Reading about God’s faithfulness, talking of God’s faithfulness with fellow Christians, and seeing it in our own lives firsthand are a big part of what makes us stronger as believers. It helps to take the pointlessness and frustration out of the hard times– giving us hope for coming through our present trials stronger and looking more like Jesus.

Verses 25 & 26 of Lamentations 3 aren’t quoted as often, but they, too provide such hope–

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord.

God’s faithfulness is real. It is not a made-up fairy tale told by naive and stupid people who need a crutch of faith to get them through life. It’s real and amazing and incredible! Follow hard after God and study His Word and you, too, will experience it. And that is a promise I feel I can confidently make.

 

Why Does It Matter What I Believe About Creation?

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I have not really addressed the topic of creation on this blog before. Or at least I don’t remember having done so. But as I have been reading through Jeremiah I have been struck by a few of the statements this prophet makes that absolutely discount evolution. I wonder– if you are still with me in our G4L Bible Reading Challenge— if you caught them, too?

Jeremiah 10:12  It is He who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.

Jeremiah 27:5  It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me.

When I read these verses, I am reminded once again that scripture unapologetically confirms that God is the powerful Creator– creating all that is in the world from absolutely nothing and doing so completely in six 24-hour days. For my theist evolutionist friends, I ask you: What power is shown by an outstretched arm that creates a tiny cell? That statement seems completely incongruous, does it not?

There are many passages in scripture that would also confirm a six-day creation–

Deuteronomy 4:32  For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of.

Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Psalm 148:3-6

Praise him, sun and moon,
    praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
    and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord!
    For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
    he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

These are just a few of the verses that confirm God’s creation of the world. You can choose to believe it or you can choose to not believe it. But melting two totally opposing world views together is just not a logical possibility.

But why does our viewpoint on creation even matter? What is really the big deal?

I learned a really key point several years ago from Ken Ham, whom I was privileged to hear at a conference for homeschoolers. Many people haven’t given this a lot of thought but it is critical to this argument of theistic creation. And that is the subject of death. If the world was only started by God and then left to develop on its own, as many Christians proclaim, then death would have entered the world before sin. Do you see how this changes everything? Millions of creatures would have had to die before Adam and Eve came upon the scene. And yet, we are taught all through scripture that death is the result of sin. If death came before sin, then what exactly is the punishment for sin? And if the gospel doesn’t save us from death, then what does it save us from? I turn your attention to the following verses–

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

James 1:15  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

 I Corinthians 15:21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.

 

These are verses from the New Testament confirming that death is a result of sin–that death came by man. Can you see how believing in any form of evolution systematically destroys the inerrancy of the Word of God? If death isn’t the result of sin and the world’s theory of evolution is correct, then not only do we need to conclude that the Genesis account is allegorical, but we also are forced to believe that the New Testament authors lied, therefore concluding that we can’t trust any of  the Bible. Believing in theistic evolution doesn’t only destroy Genesis, it destroys the whole Word of God!

I find it more than a little interesting that we Christians find ourselves caving so easily to the brainwashing of society. If you do any studying at all, you will realize that there is no possible way that such a vast and wonderful creation could have ever happened by chance. There is NO scientific evidence for an intricately designed organ developing from a simple cell. Not even one shred. And, in fact, do a quick google search of intelligent design and you will find that even many non-Christian scientists are coming to the conclusion that there must be a designer–although they will certainly not admit to God as Creator. In fact, some of them even suggest that aliens on another planet created the world here before they will admit that there is a God. (Romans 1:22)

Did you know that even Darwin himself admitted the implausibility of his theory? John MacArthur puts it this way–

“It was a hard sell.  Even Darwin had a hard time with it.  If you read anything of Darwin’s you find he’s continually filling all his writings with tremendous doubts.  For example, he says in the sixth chapter of his Origin of Species, “Long before having arrived at this part of my work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to the reader.  Some of them are so grave that to this day I can never reflect on them without being staggered.”  In his chapter on instinct he conceded, “Such simple instincts as bees making a beehive could be sufficient to overthrow my whole theory.”  And to think, he said, that the eye could evolve “by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.”  In his chapter on imperfections in the geological record he complained that the complete lack of fossil intermediates in all geological records was perhaps, quote, “the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.”  In other words, he was at least honest enough to admit that the thing didn’t make any sense.”**

So why this elaborate theory to remove God from the picture? A look at Darwin’s life may help us gain at least a bit of understanding. Charles Darwin lost his precious daughter, Anne, to illness when she was only ten. She was the light of his life and he was absolutely crushed when she died.

Wikipedia says this about Anne Darwin

According to biographers, she was a delightful child who brought much happiness to her parents. Eminent Darwin scholar E. Janet Browne writes of her:

Anne was… the apple of her proud father’s eye, his favourite child, he confessed to” [his friend and cousin William Darwin] Fox. “More than any of the other children she treated him with a spontaneous affection that touched him deeply; she liked to smooth his hair and pat his clothes into shape, and was by nature self-absorbedly neat and tidy, cutting out delicate bits of paper to put away in her workbox, threading ribbons, and sewing small things for her dolls and make-believe worlds.”[1]

In 1849, Anne caught scarlet fever along with her two sisters,[2] and her health thereafter declined; some authorities believe that she suffered from tuberculosis. In vain pursuit of help from Gully‘s water cure, Charles Darwin took his daughter to the Worcestershirespa town, Great Malvern. She died in Montreal House on the Worcester Road, aged ten, and was buried in the Great Malvern Priory churchyard.

Annie’s death was a terrible blow for her parents.[3] Charles wrote in a personal memoir “We have lost the joy of the household, and the solace of our old age…. Oh that she could now know how deeply, how tenderly we do still & and shall ever love her dear joyous face.”[4]

 

Here was a man greatly distressed at the hand he had been dealt in life. Instead of shaking his fist at the Heavens and cursing God, he chose to write Him completely out of history. Perhaps that was an easier explanation for the tragic events of his life than believing in a God who would allow such a thing? I don’t really know this, of course, having never met the man nor studied him at great length, but grief is a very powerful thing. And so it does make one consider the possibility.

I wonder if Darwin had any inkling that the ridiculous and illogical theory he concocted would become a giant, hard ball of snow, hurtling down the hill that is the world, destroying all in its path?

Even if the majority of the scientific community changed their viewpoint to intelligent design right now at this moment, the damage of Darwin’s theory has been done. There is no going back. We have an entire country– or perhaps a whole world–who believe they are nothing more than a bunch of cells and that there are no moral absolutes. Ah, yes, enormous damage has been done. The God of the Bible has been effectively removed from the picture and man feels free to do whatever he wants without fear of consequences. The world will never be the same.

As believers, we need to continue to stand strong and firm on the Word of God. I leave you with this statement by John MacArthur–

And there are only two options when it comes to origins.  The two options are: there is a Creator God, or there is not. Those are the only two options. There either is a Creator God or there is not. If there is not, then everything is an impossible, implausible, irrational result of chance. And the equation that I gave you last week is “nobody times nothing equals everything.” If on the other hand there is a creative intelligence, if there is a Creator God, then creation is understandable. It is possible, it is plausible, it is rational. And even the scientists who have left their mark on the scientific world, those who think honestly and make honest confessions about origins, will tell you that there must be a creative intelligence. Even Einstein said that.**

Be strong and courageous, my friends! Keep the Bible as the fixed and solid ground beneath your feet and you will stand firm. Let the scientific world sway you and you will become like the wind, shifting and lurching with every new “theory” that comes along.

 

**John MacArthur quotes are from his excellent series “The Battle for the Beginning”, which I highly recommend and is available for download, free of charge.

 

It’s Never Too Late

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We hear the testimonies of wretched sinners who have received salvation through the grace of Jesus Christ. And we praise God and then we sit back to watch and see if they were serious. If we aren’t careful, we can grow a little skeptical. This may be because, in our culture, Jesus is often used a little like a rope thrown to a person hanging over the cliff—useful for a moment or two and then cast aside when the person reaches safety.

But when someone becomes genuinely saved, change is non-negotiable. It just happens. We see this very thing in the life of Manasseh.

I feel like, as the summer has moved along, I have lost quite a few Bible Challenge readers. If you are still reading, I would love to hear about it (just to remind me that there are still people plugging through these Old Testament prophets along with me!)

But, this is a great reminder for everyone– whether you have given up on the reading or not. The lessons that I learned from chapter 33 of 2 Chronicles can be summarized into two main points that I found quite helpful in the current culture we find ourselves in–

1. No one is beyond God’s grace.

Every day we hear horrible stories of great and heinous sin. We can’t imagine how man could do such evil things. And yet, even the worst of sinners is free to accept God’s great gift of salvation.

Manasseh did horrible things. In fact, he even gave his son as a human sacrifice! It is hard to imagine something worse than this. Think through how awful that is for just a moment. This is the description of Manasseh’s sinful acts–

But he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he raised up altars for the Baals, and made wooden images; and he worshiped all the host of heaven[a] and served them. He also built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem shall My name be forever.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.

Manasseh’s sins were grave and numerous. And the Lord speaks to him and the people about this (vs 10) but they choose not to listen. An undetermined amount of time later, Manasseh is carried away to Babylon in bronze fetters (vs. 11). There, in great affliction, he humbly repents.

And how does the Lord respond? Does He tell him I told you so? Does He let him there to wallow in the consequences of his sinful choices?

No.

Instead, our merciful God extends grace. Here’s what we read–

Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13 and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.

After such great evil, God would have been justified (at least according to our human sense of fairness) to just leave Manasseh to die in Babylon, a broken and contrite man. Instead, He reached out and restored him.

What great and marvelous grace and mercy! And it is still there for us today! God is the same–yesterday, today, and tomorrow. No sinner is beyond His grace, including you! If you don’t know Him, I encourage you to reach out and be restored.

2. True conversion is followed by true life change.

Manasseh does not go back to live the same life he always lived. He grabs the rope of rescue God extends and then makes changes that give the evidence that his repentance was quite genuine. We read–

He took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem; and he cast them out of the city. 16 He also repaired the altar of the Lord, sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it, and commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.

True repentance always brings about change. It isn’t legalism. It just is. It is never our place to judge anyone’s salvation, but if someone claims Christ and then has gone back to their old, sinful life and stays there without a battle, without any efforts to extricate themselves, it is evidence that they may have just grabbed the convenient life rope thrown their way but weren’t serious in their repentance.

 

Many of the stories in the Old Testament are wild and beyond anything that is familiar to us. We can’t imagine sacrificing our children or worshiping formed idols. And yet, people are people, and within us is the same capability for horrible sin. Oh, we may not worship a golden calf, but if we aren’t worshiping the one, true God, we are worshiping something. But the good news is that, no matter where we find ourselves today, none of us is beyond God’s grace. And if we reach out and receive that grace with genuine repentance, then our lives will be transformed in a marvelous and unbelievable way. It is never too late to grab on to the rope of rescue!

 

Picking Your Path

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Weddings and funerals often make us think, don’t they? They tend to take our focus off of the temporal for a brief time and move our thoughts to the eternal. One thing I have really been thinking about with all of the weddings this past year is the fact that we all need to deliberately make a choice about what our lives are going to look like. When we grow up and leave home permanently we purposefully step towards the unknown and move away from the familiar.

If you are blessed with a wonderful family, leaving home can be hard. And yet you know that the bright future of your dreams isn’t possible without stepping out into the unknown and choosing the path, in this case, of marriage.

When we choose to get married, we are purposely choosing to leave our family homes (or our bachelor apartments) and live with someone else. Yes, there are risks and it is scary but we leave completely and start a new life.

If we would get married but still live in our childhood home, while our spouse lived elsewhere, it would raise many questions, wouldn’t it? Even when we, as adults, are forced to go back to our childhood homes for a brief period of time, we usually view it as a temporary setback. It is not viewed as our final destiny, but instead as a safe place to land during a difficult time.

As we wind up our reading of the kings of Israel in the Old Testament, I find myself thinking about the allegiance of these kings. If you have been keeping track –in your head or on paper– of which kings were evil and which were good, you will see that the majority were evil. No surprise there, as most men do choose the path of wickedness. You will also have noticed that some of the kings were sort of good, but chose not to serve God completely. And then you will notice that there are just a handful that served God whole-heartedly, removing the high places and re-establishing the temple practices.

When we look over all that was written about these kings, in particular, we can see that their works and success were directly correlated to their allegiance. If they served God, they were blessed. If they didn’t, they weren’t.

So back to my example of leaving home…

When we choose to get married, we must leave home. We can’t choose both paths. We cannot stay on our old path and get on the new path. It is physically impossible.

Why then, do we think we can choose the path of Christ, and yet stay on the path of the world?

This has been such a puzzle for me–these Christians that try to put one foot on the path towards Christ, while leaving most of their bodies on the path to destruction. The problem with this is that these paths are diametrically opposed and move further and further apart. Eventually, you can’t do the split that this requires and you have to pick a side.

If you are a believer, have you turned your back on the world? Have you denied yourself and decided to follow Jesus whole-heartedly?

We can see the destruction that occurred with the kings when they tried to live a life of compromise. And living a life of compromise at home would cause great problems, as well. Can you imagine your spouse telling you that they are headed to their parents each week for a sleep-over? Of course not. When we leave our homes to get married, we leave. To not do so is not normal.

So, why then, do we think we can live a life of compromise as believers? It goes against all that is not only written in the Bible but even against all that is logical. And yet many men of intellect inform us that we can– and some even tell us that we should–live a life of worldliness. They tell us we can be on both paths at the same time. That worldliness and holiness are not mutually exclusive.

But who are you going to listen to? Men who pretend to know what they are talking about or the Bible, which is very clear on this subject?

I can certainly understand the temptation to listen to the voice that is telling us what we want to hear. It is what so often gets us into trouble. One of the best things we can do is to hear the hard stuff from the Bible and then act on it in obedience.

I have absolutely no idea, as you read this, if you claim to be a believer. I do not know if you are straddling the fence right now or not. I have no way of knowing if you have pledged your allegiance to Christ but are living a life of great compromise, living for yourself instead of for the One who died for you.

What I do know is that to compromise is easy. To not compromise is hard. The only way to avoid it is to be consistently and purposefully living each day to serve God. This is why we are told to examine our lives regularly–

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5

Now for the really good news!

Sometimes, when we first trust Christ, we look back on our old lives with real longing. We think we are missing out on all of the fun and we long for the world. But this doesn’t last! The truth of the matter is that as we move towards holiness, we became much less enamored with the world. Just keep putting one step in front of the other towards the light and soon you won’t even miss the world.

 

 

 

If You Believe

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Disclaimer: I feel rather hypocritical even posting this. I try to share God’s Truth here at Growing 4 Life, but sometimes struggle greatly to live it. This time of my life, as my nest empties, has been a great challenge for me. I never realized that such great joy and such deep grief could reside side by side within my heart. But there it is. Feelings in complete opposition warring for my attention at almost all times. I tell you this to let you know that I am no spiritual giant. I am weak and pathetic and desperately in need of a Savior.  I hope this post encourages any of you who are struggling to continue walking through your dark place.

Sometimes we can get so discouraged. By the world. By our circumstances. By life.

I am not sure who is still reading through the Bible with me, but even if you have stopped or never started, please stick with me. This post is for everyone.

I know you are familiar with the well-known Biblical accounts–

~God creates the world (Genesis 1-3)

~God destroys the world and saves Noah, his family, and the animals in an ark (Genesis 5-9)

~God calls Moses to leadership and miraculously saves His people and then takes supernatural care of them in the wilderness (Exodus).

~God destroys the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6), uses a boy and a stone that impossibly hits Goliath’s impenetrable armor in just the right place to knock him down (I Samuel 17), and, later, in the Syrian camp creates the frightening sounds of horses and chariots coming, causing the great army to flee (2 Samuel 7).

~God decides to keep Elijah from the experience of death and takes him up in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2).

~God keeps Jonah safe and sound in a big fish for three days and nights (Jonah 1-2).

~And we didn’t get this far yet in our reading, but we all know the courageous tales of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3) and Daniel in the Lions’ Den (Daniel 6).

Do we really believe these things happened?

And if we say yes, then do we honestly think any problem we may face is a challenge for God?

We serve such an awesome and mighty God. When we see his power and grace at work, we can’t help but realize that our problems are small compared to such circumstances.

God is sovereign. His way is best. As we study the scripture and grow to know God in a deeper and fuller way, it will grow easier to trust Him. Whether he chooses to refine us or comfort us, to stretch us or to give us a break, to rain on us or to shine down on us, we can take it all from His hand when we start to comprehend just how much He loves us. Life starts to make more sense when we really get to know our heavenly Father and understand His purposes.

Life is hard. There is no doubt about it. And some of you are going through really tough times right now. Today. Please don’t neglect your Bible reading during this time. This is how God has chosen to convey His great love for us. It’s what He uses to convict and challenge and change us. When we turn away from His Word during times of great challenge, we are ignoring the single most important tool that He has provided for our benefit and comfort.

I hope that you believe that God’s Word is literal, inerrant, and inspired (If you don’t, then I challenge you to really do some studying instead of just saying you don’t believe). And if you do, then keep reading and studying the Word of God. For from its pages, we receive our best hope and our greatest comfort. Scripture provides conviction, refinement, and, most importantly, Truth about the God of the universe and His plan for salvation.

 

The Setting Sun (and a message of hope!)

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We are finally at the prophets in our Bible Reading Challenge. These are the books that gave me the greatest challenge when I was reading through the Bible last year. So far we have read Jonah, Amos, Hosea, and now we are in Isaiah. Prophets are what God used to speak to His people before Christ came to the earth. I do love seeing where each prophet fits chronologically. Isn’t it helpful to see what was going on in Israel when they prophesied? The hearts of Israel and Judah were turned far, far from God. They had sacrificed their relationship with the living God to prostitute themselves with the gods of the pagans. The books of the Old Testament prophets make so much more sense now.

But the prophets can be very hard to read. There are so many predictions of death and destruction and exile. God had had enough and judgment was coming.

And it did come. The sun was setting–at least temporarily–on God’s special people. They had chosen to worship idols and there were grave consequences for this.

The prophets weren’t a bunch of wild, long-haired guys waving their hands all akimbo as they preached to no one in the wilderness. They were real men with real messages from God. They took a lot of heat (and some even paid with their lives) to present God’s messages to the people.

I find myself wondering what it was really like in Israel when the prophets were giving their messages? Were there a faithful few? A remnant who still worshiped the true God? Or was it like in the days of Noah, when only Noah and his family were found faithful?

Unfortunately, if there was a remnant, those faithful few experienced the same judgment that the unrepentant did. They were exiled, they were attacked, they were in the land when judgment hit.

Isn’t this taking on extra meaning, as we enter the strange, new world that America has become? The faithful are shrinking quickly. Those who stand for the Truth are becoming smaller in number, as most fall away through the deception that is so rampant in this land. And while we don’t have prophets speaking to us, we do have God’s Word to show us what is to come. (By the way, if you have never done it, do a study sometime on the fulfilled prophecies of the Word of God–it will remove any traces of doubt you may have about the Bible).

So the discouraging message is that, if the Lord tarries, we will experience persecution against the church and we will also experience the judgment of the wicked. The sun is setting on America and her days are most likely numbered (barring a miracle–which is possible, of course!)

Many of us have been thinking about this in the back of our minds a lot in these past few years, given what’s been going on in America.

But there is also an encouraging message. If we experience persecution and if we are swept into the coming judgment, we are still God’s people. He will not desert us. I was reading the other day in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs of the horrendous atrocities that the Catholic church committed against true believers during the Spanish Inquisition. Torture that we can’t even fathom. And, yet, people sang during their gruesome deaths. They sang!

You may think why read of such terrible things? I read them because I want to be encouraged by their strong faith during such terrible persecution. I read because it strengthens my faith. God is real. And He will not desert us. If we receive a martyr’s death, we will receive a martyr’s crown.

Be not discouraged. He is faithful and will give His people the right amount of grace at just the right time.

I know this is easy to write, but as things start heating up, it will get harder and harder. Are we ready? How do we get ready?

I was talking with a friend the other day and she expressed her desire to memorize scripture because she just wonders how long we will be able to carry our Bibles freely. This is a great way to prepare for what is coming! Memorizing scripture and some of the great hymns of the faith rich with doctrine is a great place to start.

But even as we try to prepare our hearts and minds for what is coming, we can’t stop living our lives now. We can’t spend our hours in fear and worry of what is to come.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

We are in the care of the great God of the universe. We need not live in fear. No matter how this thing ends, we have so much to look forward to– like all of eternity!

So live joyfully! Extend love and grace freely! Share the gospel! And never, ever cower in fear! For we are told in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Now let’s go live these words!

 

Diamonds and Axeheads

Diamond Necklace

Several years ago, I lost a necklace. Not the big, chunky kind made out of brightly-colored beads. This was a delicate chain with a small diamond charm. The special kind your husband gives you to celebrate a special milestone or anniversary.

I had taken it off at the end of a long day and placed it on the end table. When I thought of it the next day, it had completely vanished. I searched everywhere. I couldn’t find it.

We came to the conclusion that it had probably fallen in the small trash can next to the table. I sadly realized that it was lost forever. We have a big dumpster which holds all of the trash that our sizable company discards. The bag holding this necklace was in that dumpster. The chances of finding a tiny little gold chain inside a large trash bag in an even larger dumpster were slim to none. We didn’t even know which trash bag was the right one.

My husband decided to look, anyway. That’s just the kind of guy he is. I sent up a little prayer letting the Lord know that I would greatly appreciate finding this special necklace.

Within just a few minutes, Eric came inside the house holding the chain in his hand. Unbelievable. Why would God care about such a thing?

A few years later, I lost my anniversary band. It was a little big and when the weather grew cold and my fingers shrunk even further, the band must have slipped off. How well I remember that Monday at lunchtime. I looked down at my hand and realized it was gone. We searched everywhere for it. But my heart sank, knowing full well that it was unlikely that we would find it.

For several weeks, I prayed that it would somehow miraculously turn up. This ring meant even more than the necklace, as it was bought to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. It was very special and also rather expensive. I was heartbroken.

It never turned up.

But when my birthday came around a few months later, my husband presented me with a small wrapped box. When I opened it, I found the exact same ring that he had purchased over a year earlier. He had bought me this because he knew just how disappointed and upset I was about the loss of that ring. And you know what? This ring means almost more than the first one. It symbolizes unconditional love even through my failures and stupid moments. It shows me commitment and willingness to go above and beyond. He could have been furious and never bought me another piece of jewelry again. Instead he bought me a replacement for the ring I had lost.

So why am I telling you this?

These events came to mind as I read the account of the floating axehead in 2 Kings 6. Elisha’s servants decide to build a new dwelling. At least one of them is so poor that he needs to borrow an axe to fell the trees. While they are working by the Jordan, his iron axehead falls into the Jordan. He is in much despair over this, because it is not his and he does not have the money to replace it. Elisha asks him where it has fallen, throws a stick in the water, which causes the iron axehead to float, and the servant picks it out of the water.

This whole story takes place in only six verses. It’s only a minute portion of the Bible, but there is much to learn here. This man’s life was not in danger. His home, his wife, his children, his education are not mentioned. We know nothing about him.

What we do know is that iron was very expensive in those days and this lost axehead would cause him financial difficulty.

What we do know is that God cared enough about this man and his seemingly trivial problem to provide a miracle on this man’s behalf.

Now, I’m sure this didn’t happen every day and there were probably some axeheads that sat on the floor of the Jordan at the great displeasure and inconvenience of their owners and borrowers. God did not make every axehead float.

But in this instance, God decided to intervene.

This incident shows us that, just like my diamond necklace, God cares enough to help in the little things. Sometimes He chooses to show Himself in an amazing way.

But sometimes, as in the case of my ring, He instead has a lesson to teach us or something to show us by not interceding. And that’s okay, too.

No matter how God chooses to answer us, He knows best. We can count on Him to take care of us all the way. He will give us the strength and grace that we need–and even occasional little miracles–as we go.

And we come once more to the necessity to rest wholly in God’s Sovereignty. I am convinced that this one thing is what will bring us joy and peace as we travel through life. God cares about us. He cares about even the smallest thing. We know that He is in control, no matter what comes our way. What a comforting thought!

 

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.