Lindy’s Headaches

Tension-headacheREV

Lindy remembers the day of that first headache. The bright sun was shining through the bedroom curtains, gently waking her. Before she opened her eyes, she felt the pain. It coursed through her head like waves. What a beautiful day to have such a bad headache. She tried to get up to get some things done, but she was useless and by 11am she was lying on the sofa with an ice pack on her head.

Over the course of the next few weeks the headaches came several times each week. Each one a little worse and lasting a little longer than the last one.

Finally her husband, Tom, told her to go to the doctor.

Lindy dialed the number of her family physician, Dr. Slater. Dr. Slater was a female physician who took great personal interest in her patients. Over the course of the fifteen years that Lindy had been in her care, they had become friends.

Lindy secured an appointment for the following day and then went to lie back down with the ice pack that seemed to be her constant companion.

The next day, she arrived at Dr. Slater’s at her appointed time. The doctor welcomed her to the office and they had a few minutes of personal conversation. And then it was time to turn professional.

“So what can I help you with today, Lindy?”

“Well, I have been having these terrible debilitating headaches over the last few weeks. I don’t know what is causing them. They are different than any I have ever had.”

“How long is the last few weeks? Two? A month? Longer?” Dr. Slater was busily writing notes in Lindy’s chart.

“Probably around a month.”

“On a scale from one to ten, with one representing very mild pain and ten being the worst pain you have ever felt, how would you rate your pain?”

She continued to write as Lindy rated the pain and then offered a few sentences of further explanation.

She then asked Lindy about any recent changes to her diet or her routine.

After she had gotten all of the details she could, Dr. Slater put down her pen and rubbed her eyes. And then she began to speak.

“So from what you are describing, your headaches could be caused by a number of different things.  They could be adult onset migraines. I have seen this before and it is possible. They could also be caused by a reaction to some kind of food you are eating. It could also be an allergic reaction to a certain type of pollen or dust in the air,” she sighed before continuing, “of course, there are a few other options. It could be a deadly brain tumor or you could be in danger of having a blood vessel burst–an aneurysm– at any time. It could also be the sign of an upcoming stroke.”

Lindy’s eyes had grown big with fear, “So what is the next step?”

“Well…which diagnosis do you prefer?”

Lindy didn’t think she heard correctly, “What?”

“Which of these do you prefer? Which one do you like the most?”

Lindy laughed nervously, uncertain at why Dr. Slater was using humor at such an inappropriate time, but she decided to play along with her, “Well, it would be nice if it would be an allergic reaction to food or pollen. That would seem to be the easiest thing to treat.”

“Okay. Then let’s go with that. So over the course of the next few days, why don’t you record what you eat and…”

“But what if it’s a brain tumor?”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter. You just choose to believe that it’s an allergic reaction. What you believe to be true will be truth for you.”

“But what if it actually is a brain tumor?” Lindy asked again, puzzled by Dr. Slater’s reaction.

“Honey, it only matters what you believe to be true. Now let’s go with your diagnosis and get to the bottom of this.”

Needless to say, Lindy walked out of the doctor’s office with plans to see another doctor.

If doctors responded like this when we went to them we would say they are a terrible doctor.  We want to know the truth about our physical bodies. And we know that the truth exists about our condition, no matter what we choose to believe.

So can someone please tell me–if we won’t accept this nonsense for our physical diagnosis, why do we accept it for our spiritual diagnosis and our eternal destiny?

Have you heard this as often as I have? –“Oh, you can believe what you want. That is Truth for you.” This is the philosophy of truth that has pervaded the society.

But is truth subjective and personal? By its very nature, it cannot be. It cannot be twisted and turned and personalized, for then it becomes a lie.

Just because someone believes something doesn’t make it true. What if Lindy’s bad headaches were caused by a stage 4 cancerous brain tumor but she had played along with Dr. Slater and said she genuinely believed the headaches were caused by an allergic reaction?  Would that change the facts?

Of course not.

The world will try to tell us that God’s Word is not truth and that we can determine truth for ourselves–that we can choose whatever we want to believe and we will all end up in Heaven together.

Of course, we can see why it is so very appealing to believe this. Lindy would much rather have her headaches be caused by an allergic reaction than a deadly brain tumor. Of course, we would prefer to believe in a world where no one goes to hell or a faith that doesn’t require us to be separate from the world or to deny ourselves. But if we choose to believe that, does that make it TRUE?

Of course not.

But don’t take my word for it. All of nature cries out against this relative view of truth–

Two plus two is always four, even if we choose to believe it is five.

Brain scans show brain tumors, even if we choose to believe it will be clear.

Winter is cold in the North, even if we choose to believe it will be warm.

Lions eat gazelles, even if we choose to believe that they eat grass.

You see, we don’t get to choose what truth is. What we believe just doesn’t really matter.

So how do we know what is truth? How do we know if we are believing in the right thing and not in a lie?

The only thing I stand on is God’s Word. It alone contains Truth. It has stood the test of time through storms and fire. There we can find solid ground and refuge in a world that is tilting wildly in relativism and craziness.

What we believe is irrelevant to what is true. Just like Lindy could not choose a diagnosis, so we cannot choose what to believe about our eternal destinies.

And, let’s face it, believing in the truth is a matter of eternal life or eternal damnation.

 

*This story was based on an illustration I heard from John MacArthur in his excellent series entitled “Principles of Discernment”. You can listen to part one here.

 

 

Would I be ready for this?

 torture

What do the following people have in common:

Timothy, Symphorosa, Germanicus, Blandina, Ponticus, Felicitas, Perpetua, Cecilia,  Julian, Denisa, Alexander,  Epimachus,  and Agatha?

Any ideas? Are these names ringing a bell, somewhere from the deep recesses of your mind?

Every single one of these listed above (and thousands and thousands more) were martyred under the Roman government at one time or another. Here’s a quick rundown of how they entered heaven:

Timothy – reproved the idolatry of the people and was beaten with clubs so badly that he died from the bruises within 2 days.

Symphorosa – refused to sacrifice to heathen deities, along with her seven sons. She was scourged and then hung up by the hair of her head; after a time a large stone was thrown around her neck and she was thrown in the river.  All seven sons were fastened to seven posts with pullies and torn asunder, all their limbs dislocated; they were all eventually stabbed, except for the youngest who was sawed in half.

Germanicus – a young man, delivered to the wild beasts; he handled his death with such astonishing courage, several pagans were converted.

Blandina – Attached to a pole on the ground and exposed to the wild beasts for food; during this time her earnest prayers encouraged others; The wild beasts wouldn’t touch her. She was sent back to prison and forced to endure all kinds of torture, and then was eventually slain.

Ponticus – A 15 year old boy, who was in prison with Blandina and partook of the same sufferings and torture, eventually dying by the sword, as well.

Felicitas – A very pregnant young woman who, along with another lady named Perpetua, were forced to run between hunters of wild beasts and they were severely lashed; they were then stripped and thrown to a wild bull, where they were gored dreadfully, and then finally perished by the sword.

Cecilia – a young lady of good family, who converted her husband and brother, who were beheaded, and also the officer who led them to their execution, who was also beheaded; she was forced naked into a scalding bath for a considerable time; eventually she was beheaded with a sword.

Julian – He was put into a bag with serpents and scorpions and thrown into the sea.

Denisa – a 16 year old girl who was beheaded for her faith.

Alexander & Epimachus – beat with staves (plural of staffs), torn with hooks, and, at length, burned with fire.

Agatha – a godly and very beautiful Sicilian woman who caught the eye of the Sicilian governor. When put into a position to compromise her faith, she refused, and therefore she was “scourged, burnt with red hot irons, and torn with sharp hooks. Having borne these torments with admirable fortitude, she was next laid naked upon live coals, intermingled with glass, and then being carried back to prison, she there expired on the 5th of Feb, 251.”

____________________________________________

Perhaps I should have not written so many of these stories. I couldn’t decide which ones to use and which ones not to. There are dozens more and I am only a few pages in the book Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

Here’s the thing — these were all REAL people. So, yes, they lived a long time ago but that doesn’t make them any less real. A 15 year old boy, a 16 year old girl, a pregnant woman, wealthy people, poor slaves, bishops, and beautiful women. All perished at the hands of evil men and women, whom Satan used in his efforts to douse the light of Christianity.

But it didn’t work! Here’s what it says regarding one of the persecutions: “but though the persecuting malice raged, yet the gospel shone with resplendent brightness; and, firm as an impregnable rock, withstood the attacks of its boisterous enemies with success.”

Fast forward 2000 years. Most of us have no clue what it means to suffer for Christ. Many of us wonder if we would choose to do so, if it really came to that.

I can’t help wondering if it will. Soon. Each year brings more and more persecution to those who stand firm on biblical Christianity. The persecution is nothing like those our persecuted brothers and sisters faced all those years ago, or even what many of our Christian brothers and sisters face in foreign lands. But if it comes, will we be ready?

I think it comes down to this: If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, Christianity isn’t a religion, it is your whole life. There is no part that remains untouched by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s conviction.  We know that we are condemned to hell without Jesus’s death and resurrection and we won’t trade anything — not worldly reputation, material wealth, nor our very life– for it.

As I write this, I feel very weak as I read the sufferings of those mentioned above. I imagine my body being torn by hooks or burnt by scalding water or hot coals and I shudder and cringe. Lord, am I strong enough to withstand that?

But it’s not my strength that will see me through that day, should it come. It’s HIS.

The men and women who have died and continue to die for their faith in Jesus Christ do not do so on their own strength. They can’t sing and pray while being tortured on their human strength. Only God can supernaturally supply that strength. We are so far from needing that kind of strength in our own lives that it is a completely foreign thought to us.

Is it coming? I don’t know. I tend to think it is. We’d like to think that man could never become so evil again, but if we read recent history –of Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot– or we follow current events–Sudan, Eritrea, and Iran, for example–we can see that men are still coming up with horrible ways to torture their fellow man.

Will I be strong enough to stand if that day comes to America? Only if I rest in God and draw on the strength that He will supply only to those who are truly His.

 

Find Foxe’s Book of Martyrs here.

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom: This World– Playground or Battleground?

624782_35801667This excerpt from A.W. Tozer needs no introduction. It is profound (as usual) and the truth of it rings in my ears. The frightening and serious ramifications of modern Christianity’s wrong view of the world are becoming more and more evident each day. 

Things are for us not only what they are—they are what we hold them to be. That is to say, our attitude toward things is likely in the long run to be more important than the things themselves. This is a common coin of knowledge, like an old dime worn smooth by use, yet it bears upon it the stamp of truth and must not be rejected simply because it is familiar.

It is strange how a fact may remain fixed, while our interpretation of the fact changes with the generations and the years. One such fact is the world in which we live. It is here and has been here through the centuries. It is a stable fact, quite unchanged by the passage of time, but how different is modern man’s view of it from the view our fathers held! Here we see plainly how great is the power of interpretation. The world is for all of us not only what it is—it is what we believe it to be. And a tremendous load of woe or weal rides on the soundness of our interpretation.

Going back no further than the times of the founding and early development of our country, we are able to see the wide gulf between our modern attitudes and those of our fathers. In the early days, when Christianity exercised a dominant influence over American thinking, men conceived the world to be a battleground. Our fathers believed in sin and the devil and hell as constituting one force, and they believed in God and righteousness and heaven as the other. By their very nature, these forces were opposed to each other forever in deep, grave, irreconcilable hostility. Man, our fathers held, had to choose sides—he could not be neutral. For him it must be life or death, heaven or hell, and if he chose to come out on God’s side, he could expect open war with God’s enemies. The fight would be real and deadly and would last as long as life continued here below. Men looked forward to heaven as a return from the wars, a laying down of the sword to enjoy in peace the home prepared for them.

Sermons and songs in those days often had a martial quality about them, or perhaps a trace of homesickness. The Christian soldier thought of home and rest and reunion, and his voice grew plaintive as he sang of battle ended and victory won. But whether he was charging into enemy guns or dreaming of war’s end and the Father’s welcome home, he never forgot what kind of world he lived in—it was a battleground, and many were wounded and slain.

That view is unquestionably scriptural. Allowing for the figures and metaphors with which the Scriptures abound, it is still a solid Bible doctrine that tremendous spiritual forces are present in the world. Man, because of his spiritual nature, is caught in the middle. The evil powers are bent upon destroying him, while Christ is present to save him through the power of the gospel. To obtain deliverance he must come out on God’s side in faith and obedience. That in brief is what our fathers thought, and that, we believe, is what the Bible teaches.

How different today. The fact remains the same, but the interpretation has changed completely. Men think of the world not as a battleground, but as a playground. We are not here to fight; we are here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land; we are at home. We are not getting ready to live, but we are already living, and the best we can do is rid ourselves of our inhibitions and our frustrations and live this life to the full. This, we believe, is a fair summary of the religious philosophy of modern man, openly professed by millions and tacitly held by many more millions who live out that philosophy without having given it verbal expression.

This changed attitude toward the world has had and is having its effect upon Christians, even gospel Christians who profess the faith of the Bible. By a curious juggling of the figures, they manage to add up the column wrong and yet claim to have the right answer. It sounds fantastic, but it is true.

The idea that this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of fundamentalist Christians. They might hedge around the question if they were asked bluntly to declare their position, but their conduct gives them away. They are facing both ways, enjoying Christ and the world, gleefully telling everyone that accepting Jesus does not require them to give up their fun—Christianity is just the jolliest thing imaginable. The “worship” growing out of such a view of life is as far off center as the view itself—a sort of sanctified nightclub without the champagne and the dressed-up drunks.

This whole thing has grown to be so serious that it is now the bound duty of all Christians to reexamine their spiritual philosophy in the light of the Bible. Having discovered the scriptural way, they must follow it, even if to do so, they must separate themselves from much that they had accepted as real, but which now in the light of truth is seen to be false.

A right view of God and the world to come requires that we have a right view of the world in which we live and of our relationship to it. So much depends upon this that we cannot afford to be careless about it.

—Excerpt from This World: Playground or Battleground? by A.W. Tozer

Facing the Fear

As our congregation bowed in prayer, I found myself distracted by a sudden thought: where is the closest exit? I sighed with relief as I saw a door nearby through half-closed eyes and then went on to think about what I would do if a gunman entered the church. All while we were supposed to be focused on the Lord. I am not excusing myself, but after Friday, I doubt I am the only one finding myself thinking unfamiliar thoughts about murderers and escape routes. What a world we live in.

I never dreamed last week at this time that my heart could feel so heavy for people I have never even met.  That I would be writing about death and murder and fear during the holiday season.  It just feels…wrong. Jesus came into the world to save us and give us eternal life and, while murder is absolutely horrific any time of the year, it seems especially tragic at Christmastime.

We grieve for families we have never met. We hear the cries for gun control from the media. We see Facebook statuses that promote returning God to our schools. Everyone has an opinion.

But there is one thing I haven’t really heard much about: FEAR.

There have been multiple stories of shootings and assaults– Friday’s was the worst, by far, but there have been others. And, if I am not careful, I can start to become controlled by fear.

When something happens like what happened last Friday, we suddenly become aware that we are not in control of our lives. We could be violently shot down at any time. Life could end for us or our loved ones instantly. We start to fear for ourselves, even more for our children. And then the fear grows as we think about what the world will be like for our children and the worry and anxiety can start overtaking us if we aren’t very careful. Or maybe I should say “I”. I may be alone here. Not really sure.

So what do we do in the face of fear?

This has happened to me in the past and there are a couple of really helpful things I do that I thought I would pass along, just in case I am not alone.

1. I thank the Lord for what I currently enjoy.  There is nothing like a tragedy to remind you of the fragility of life and the wonderful gifts we have been given in our spouses, our children, our parents, our siblings, and our friends. We need to thank the Lord everyday for these blessings. Somehow — I can’t explain it — fear lessens in a thankful heart.

2.  I memorize God’s Word. When I went through a very fearful time many years ago, I turned to God’s Word and found many scriptures that speak to fear. I memorized a couple of them and when I would be filled with fear, I would start saying them to myself. It was very comforting and I still go to these verses today when I am struggling with fear.

3.  I am very careful about what I watch and listen to.  I am one who becomes very disturbed in my spirit if I hear all of the negative stuff going on. It will give me such a heavy heart. It is very difficult for me to see that someone’s life has been destroyed and then go about my business of the day. Because of this, I rarely watch any news at all. If something especially tragic happens, I usually will hear about it from someone or see it on Facebook. But I try to be very careful about how much news I feed myself, because that feeds the fear.

4.  I discipline my mind. This is so much easier said than done, although, after many years of practice, I have become much better at it.  I find in my life a tiny thought will become a gigantic worry if I am not very careful.  And so I try to turn my mind away from dwelling on any thoughts of fear and worry.  Although, I have to be honest, I am definitely being tested in this — as is obvious by my thought life in church yesterday!

5.  Dwell on the Truth. God knows all. Nothing happens without His knowledge. Yes, the world’s going to get worse but His grace is sufficient. If we are truly saved, then we truly have nothing to fear. He will take care of us and our children. He will see us through. I have read missionary biographies attesting to this fact. I have talked to people going through the worst of circumstances and yet they see God’s faithfulness clearly. We are not alone and bereft. God has not left your heart or this country.

Fear won’t disappear in an instant. It will take time. And we will think we have it beat and then it will crop up again in the face of the next tragedy or accident or disease-stricken relative. It is a battle I fight on a regular basis. But we can’t give in to it. We are called to live in love, not in fear.

 

PSALMS 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

 

There’s No Place Like Home

Last week I was on vacation.  The posts you saw here had been written ahead, my husband prepared a weeks’ schedule for his employees, the kids took off work, and our whole family packed up and headed to the Great Smoky Mountains.  We had an awesome time doing all kinds of things.  Of course, 6 adults and “almost” adults being together 24/7 in a camper makes for some challenging times, too!  But, overall, it was a lot of fun.   However, as our last day rolled around, I found myself ready to go back home.  Nothing bad had happened on my trip to drive that desire, it’s just that I love going home.  Home is the place where I am most comfortable and where I feel like I belong.  I know that I am blessed because I actually love going home.

As we talked about this readiness to go home, one of my girls mentioned a conversation she had had with Grandma  about a favorite relative that had died recently.  My mom had told her that she thought perhaps dying was a little like that if you are a believer.  You have had a great life on this earth, you really enjoyed it, but you are, after all, a traveler in a foreign land and you are ready to go home.  That analogy took on new meaning for me this past week.

It makes perfect sense.  I feel so blessed to be here on this earth and to be living the life the Lord has laid before me.  But I know that I don’t really belong here.  I realize it when I watch the news or when I look at Facebook.  I can feel that I don’t belong when I am in the store and I hear a song with lyrics that make me cringe or when I hear the foul language coming from a group of people nearby.  Oh, I am having a great time here — but it is not my home.

I find this a comfort as I think of those who have gone on to Heaven before me. They are home!  They are no longer pilgrims on this earth where they do not belong, but instead are home in the arms of the one Who loves them most. What an incredible realization!  What a blessed hope!

Philippians 3: 20-21  For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.