The Sky is Turning Orange

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The other day a friend was telling me the account of a couple she knew who were staying in one of the vacation cabins in the Gatlinburg area this past week. If you are following the news at all, you will know that this was not a very good time to take a trip to Gatlinburg. Wildfires have ravaged the area and hundreds of homes and cabins have been destroyed. Most areas have been evacuated and we have seen some terrifying footage and heard some unbelievable accounts–including this one, which was relayed to me by my friend–

The couple noticed smoke in the air as they walked around town, but were assured that there was no need to worry. There are forest fires but they are far from here is what they were told. As they headed back to their cabin the sky grew darker and it started to get windy. They got nervous. The wife called the rental company asking if they should leave.

“No, no, the fires are nowhere near the cabins. No need to worry. This is not a big deal.”

They tried to relax. But they just couldn’t seem to. At one point, the electric went out. And then in the darkness they spotted an orange glow. They called the rental company again.

A condescending “no need to worry. The fires are nowhere near your cabin.”

Finally, they decided to pack up and head out, no matter what the rental company said. As they headed down the mountain road–their only way out–they came to an abrupt stop. There were trees across the road, making it impassable.

They headed back up the mountain to the cabin, where now the phone lines had stopped working, as well, and the situation was getting more and more serious by the moment. Thankfully, they had cell phone service and they called the rental company one last time to demand that someone come out to clear the road immediately.

And one last time, the impression was given that there was no hurry and this was not a big deal.

And that is when they made the decision to call 9-1-1! How wise they were! When asked where they were, they were surprised to hear the respondent ask them why they were still up on the mountain–that they were to evacuate immediately.

Thankfully, fire crews and police cleared the road and then escorted them and a few other cars in the same situation out through the fire. Fire burned on both sides of the road as they made their terrifying escape to safety.

Honestly, I am not sure I have this timeline all correct. As I was listening to her tell this story, I sat there aghast. I cannot imagine the horror of such a thing. I do know for sure that they called the rental company no less than three times. That I remember vividly. As I thought about the company’s careless disregard for their renters, I recognized a parallel that I just had to share here.

In many ways, I believe there are Christians who are asking their church leaders and their Bible Study leaders and godly people they trust: Is this false doctrine? Should we be worried about this methodology or this unbiblical teaching? And, in most instances, they are getting responses like the rental company gave to this lady.

Heresy is nowhere near us. Stop worrying. No big deal. And always with just a bit of condescension so that one feels like a fool for even mentioning it.

But the sky is starting to turn orange now. And we had better wake up. The sky is burning bright and smoke is filling the air, indicating that the great falling away is so close we can almost touch it (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). Heresy has seeped its way into even the most sound, biblical churches because people who try to warn the leaders are often shut down or marginalized immediately and then, often, are made so unwelcome they are forced to look elsewhere for a place to worship.

Just as there were four types of people in the story above, so I believe there are four types of true believers in this current Christian culture–

1. There are the ones who are sitting in the cabins blissfully unaware, trusting the rental company that all is well. They are completely oblivious and naively believe whatever they hear. This is a very unhealthy and extremely dangerous state for any believer and leaves them open to much deception.

2. There are the ones who are in the cabin and are starting to get really nervous. They are the ones who feel like something is just not quite right in their churches and Bible Studies. They are the ones who read mainstream blog posts or books and they see that they don’t line up with scripture. Or perhaps they spot unbiblical practices happening in ministries, on college campuses, or on the mission field. But they just aren’t quite sure what to do about it.

3. There are the rescue workers, feverishly working to free the trapped and the deceived. These are the ones who understand that what is going on in the church is leading very quickly to a one-world religion. They see the paradigm and they are working to save as many people as they can. They are moving trees and taking people through the fire, but not only are they finding that most people want to stay in the fire, but that some are even blocking their way as they try to move the trees! It is frustrating, lonely work with little reward. They are ostracized, marginalized, and their reputations are often attacked. But they keep going because they love their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and, even more importantly, it is what the Lord has called them to do.

4. And there is the rental company–the ones telling everyone else to just relax. To stop making such a big deal out of everything. Some of these are doing this very intentionally and some are truly ignorant to the danger. They really believe that everything is just as it should be.

So which kind of Christian are you today? As we watch Christianity being completely hijacked by mysticism, where do you stand?

The really fascinating fact is that Christianity today is absolutely nothing like it has been historically for two thousand years. It has changed in such a subtle but fundamental way that it is no longer biblical Christianity anymore. It has become a religion based on mysticism, personal experience, and relativism.

Why the change? And why now, at this point in history?

I hope to write more about this next year. But perhaps this will start you really seeing what is going on in the church today. Maybe you will start to see what is going on in your church. If you have been feeling like something is off, but you just don’t know where to begin, begin by picking up a book and getting yourself educated. Here are two good ones to get you started–

A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen

Faith Undone by Roger Oakland

 

America 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Becoming the Enemy

Snarling German Shepherd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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!

 

 

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.

 

Brief Thoughts on the Supreme Court Ruling (It’s Not All Bad)

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As most of you know by now, the Supreme Court just ruled this morning that marriage can be between any two people, regardless of sex.

This is disheartening, to say the least, but certainly not surprising. With the steep downward decline of this culture, this should have been expected.

So what does this mean?

If means that, as believers who stand firmly on God’s Word, we are going to be called a lot more names, be targeted by government and liberal organizations, and start losing our rights to operate our businesses and churches as we choose (which has already been happening, anyway).

Our churches will eventually be forced underground and our kids forced into public education systems that will brainwash them. Study the histories of Rome and Germany if you’d like some idea of how this is going to end. While we are not a carbon copy of either culture, there are eery similarities that do not bode well for this great nation.

But what else is going to happen?

There are a couple of things about this decision that are positive. Yes, I said positive.

You can be sure that there is going to be a vigorous sifting of believers and those who call themselves believers. The true church will be purified through all of this, because anyone who has taken the Christian label but has never experienced genuine salvation is not going to stick around to take heat for something the world is telling them is normal.

While I am not making a judgment about those who call themselves Christians and believe homosexuality is okay (if they are a true believer, they will eventually be convicted about this and it is certainly not my place to judge each individual), scripture is extremely clear on this issue and this ruling will cause “fake” believers to start falling away.

The other good thing I can see coming out of this ruling is that we Christians will (hopefully) stop arguing about unimportant things. I am sometimes amazed at the debates and fights that take place within the church walls that are so unnecessary. Things that just do not really matter. But can’t you see this unifying our churches? Somehow the little stuff will fall away in the light of losing our right to free speech and the other rights we have so long enjoyed in this country as a church body.

I do believe that this ruling is the beginning of unifying and purifying the true church.

It reminds me of something I once heard Mark Lowry say in a concert. He compared the church to a river of water. When the river is above ground it is wide and shallow and often very muddy. But when it moves underground, it becomes narrow, pure, and crystal clear.

It also reminds me of something I recently heard Jan Markell say:

Things are not falling apart, they are falling into place.

God is sovereign and this did not take Him by surprise. And so, while this wasn’t the greatest news to hear this Friday in June, we need not be devastated because we are not hopeless. We know the Truth and we are on the winning side! But we’d better hang on, because I have a feeling the ride we are on is going to get pretty unpleasant.

 

Wednesday Wisdom: A True Story of Revival

As you know, I stopped doing Wednesday Wisdom officially about a year and a half ago. However, occasionally, I come across something that I can’t resist sharing–like this testimony of a pastor from the former USSR. His memories of what his country was like is so eerily similar to what’s going on in America, that I thought this may help us find the silver lining to the dark cloud. Perhaps true revival will come to America, as well!

By Georgi P. Vins
(Pastor in USSR who spent 8 years in Soviet prison camps for his faith | Author of The Gospel in Bonds)

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Photo: A communion and worship service in the persecuted church in 1984 in Kiev, Ukraine (taken from The Gospel in Bonds; from the personal collection of Georgi Vins’ daughter, Natasha Velichkin; used with permission)

Revival

At the beginning of the 1960s, the Lord sent a spiritual revival among the Evangelical Baptists of the Soviet Union. The revival preceded a great assault from the atheistic authorities. Soviet newspapers and magazines spewed an endless flow of articles against believers and the Christian faith, against the Bible and God. Radio, television, and movies were used for anti-religious propaganda. Believers were fired from their jobs, and Christian young people were kept out of educational institutions.

In 1960, the Soviet leader, head of the Communist party, Nikita Khrushchev, announced a twenty-year program of definitively creating communism in the Soviet Union. By 1980, there was not to be a single Christian left, nor one church. All citizens of the USSR would have to become atheists and confess only Communist ideology.

In Evangelical Baptist churches, sermons on salvation were forbidden, and children under the age of sixteen were not to be permitted to be present at church services. As a primary measure, it was also forbidden to baptize young people under the age of thirty. This decision of the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was enforced by the KGB, the police, and other authorities.

 Unfortunately, some of the ministers of Evangelical Baptist churches, fearing persecution, accepted these ungodly decrees as the basis for their ministry and actively began to implement them in the church. The churches were going through great testings. Many thousands of believers raised their voices in fervent prayer to the Lord for help and deliverance. The Lord heard those prayers and answered His people, as it is written in His Word: “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law” (Psalm 119:126).

A spiritual awakening began. New churches started to take shape, and groups of believers who refused to compromise with atheism proclaimed the Word of God as the absolute authority in all matters of faith and life. Young people and children attended newly formed congregations whose worship services often took place in crowded private homes or in forests. These meetings were subject to cruel disruption by the KGB and police, with the police beating up believers, and throwing them out of the meeting houses into the snow. Bulldozers were sometimes used to destroy the places where the meetings took place.

The atheistic authorities went to believers’ work places with threats of arrests and trials. But no one could stop the revival, because the Word of God says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:35-37).

By 1966, several hundred independent fundamental Baptist churches had formed. Sixty to seventy percent of the membership of these churches were young people between the ages of fifteen and thirty. The hearts of believers burned with great love toward God, courage, and selflessness in ministry. My poem “Revival” was written in January of 1966, and five months later, in May of 1966, I was arrested in Moscow for taking part in the revival.

My Savior! How I love Your precious call
To slaves of unbelief, by sin defeated.
You long to bless and have each one delight
In all the joys of our eternal promise.

My Jesus! Mighty is Your matchless love,
Your hands are full of tenderness and kindness,
As constantly You lift to life anew
The sons of earth, to save them from destruction.

Our brethren You have visited once more
With Your pure flame of heaven-sent revival!
For exploits and for suff’ring You inspired
To stand for truth and infinite salvation.

When I behold the vibrant Christian youth
With glowing faces, joyous and exultant,
Their gladness like a boundless ocean’s tide,
Burst forth in ever glorious songs of triumph. . . .

And when I listen to a youthful soul
For the first time, his heart to God uplifting:
Scarce breathing then I reverently pray,
While in my thoughts the sufferers recalling. . . .

I know that not in vain their blood was spilt!
They did not bear the pain and grief for nothing.
For now I see our youth’s pure, fervent love
Their hands stretched out to Christ in supplication.

For the revival burning in our church
And for our youth rejoicing in the Savior—
We may, without misgivings or dismay,
Lay down our very lives in distant prisons.
January 1, 1966
Kiev

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.

The Value in Reviewing the Past

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Most of us do not really care for history. We are taught little respect for the ways of those who have gone before us and we don’t really spend any time analyzing the mistakes and successes of our forefathers as we plan our own futures.

But as we are reading in Deuteronomy, we can see that Moses does exactly this. He recounts all that Israel has been through since they left Egypt as they now prepare to enter the Promised Land. In giving them hope and courage for the future, he is recounting the past. He talks of God’s faithfulness (Deut. 2:7; 3:3; 4:3)  and their faithlessness (Deut. 1:26, 32; 9:7-14). As he speaks of their past and their future, he keeps coming back this–Obey the Lord’s statutes and commandments if you expect to be blessed.  If you are reading the 2015 Bible Challenge along with me, you will have noticed this.

But why does Moses keep recounting all of their history? What good does that do? Let’s take a look at some reasons why it may be very beneficial to take a look back–

1. We can learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before us.

2. We can trace the hand of God’s faithfulness to those who belong to Him.

3. We can see the cause and effect of bad choices much more clearly– in other words, sin and its consequences.

4. We are strengthened as we read and contemplate the courage and fortitude of those who have gone before us.

In a lot of ways, a study of church history is a lot like what Moses was doing. When we look back at the birth and subsequent life of the church since its beginning in Acts, we can see its shortcomings, its compromise, and its sinful rabbit trails, but we can also see God’s hand protecting the Truth and providing courage and strength to the remnant that is proclaiming it, whether that remnant be great or small.

There is great value in history. I know so many of us have a distaste for this subject– mostly because of boring history teachers. I remember my church history professor in college. He was a nice guy, but he couldn’t have possibly made one of the most exciting subjects more boring. It wasn’t until I was teaching my own kids history as I home-schooled them, that I started understanding just how helpful (and fascinating!) this subject is. There is so much to learn from the past. God demonstrates this to us through Moses’s words in Deuteronomy.

Most of us are so busy that we don’t take the time to read of or think about any history at all– least of all our own. But may I encourage you to take a look back. For there you will see the faithfulness of God, guiding and directing His church and weaving the tapestry of your own life, drawing you to Himself and guiding you through both black tunnels and open field.  We have a heavenly Father who loves His church. And we have a heavenly Father who loves us–despite our shortcomings. We are blessed.

 

Deuteronomy 6:1-3  Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’

 

New Isn’t Always Better (and other lessons I’ve learned about change)

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Sometimes you have to learn really expensive lessons. Sometimes you can fix it, sometimes you can’t.

But, before I talk about my lesson, first let me tell you a story–

The dark green recliner sat on the floor of our local Sam’s Club. It was a great price and we thought it would be a great addition to our living room. So we decided to purchase it. We took it home, very pleased with our bargain.

I loved that chair and spent many hours there, nursing babies and holding sick kids. I even spent the nights there when I had a horrible case of mastitis — yes, you read that right — in terrible pain with a breast infection.

About ten years after we purchased it, we moved to a new house. We took the chair with us, but relegated it to our formal living room and bought new furniture for our family room. It now wasn’t used as often. That room became our homeschooling read-aloud room and so the chair became my place to read to my kids. We read about history and God and science. We played games and argued and laughed, all while I was in that chair.

As the kids became teenagers, that room became the confrontation room. It was where we would go to talk privately with one another. The kids knew that if I asked them to go to the living room, I had something serious to discuss with them. I would sit in that chair and they would sit on the sofa opposite, as we would discuss a problem or concern together.

And, then, as, one by one, they headed off to Christian school and college, that chair became the place where I would read the Bible and pray every morning. During my busy homeschooling years, I wasn’t always able to make the time I wanted for the Lord. My time was often with the kids — teaching them to pray and to learn God’s Word. But, suddenly, one day I realized that I actually had the time to spend quietly with the Lord each day and so it was in that chair that I spent many hours reading His Word and petitioning the Lord.

Then, one day, I looked down and saw that the chair was torn.

What a sad day.

I knew I was going to have to replace it, eventually, so I started keeping my eyes open for a new recliner — a leather one this time.

The first furniture store had nothing that thrilled me. The chairs were either too soft or too hard (do I sound like Goldilocks??) or too expensive.

On a whim, I stopped at a furniture store on the way home from a soccer game. The first chair I sat in was perfect and was on sale! I sat in a few more but kept going back to the first one. Yes, that was my new chair. I purchased it and told them someone would be there to pick it up later in the week.

A few days later, my beloved green recliner was removed from my room and the new leather one was put in its place. Oh, joy!  I couldn’t wait for my devotions the next morning to sit in my new chair!

Oh, I feel foolish now. I feel foolish even sharing this story. For when I sat in that new chair it wasn’t even comfortable. I squirmed this way and that, but it just wasn’t the same. I got off of it and shifted it to the right. I tried it with the foot rest up and with it down. Nope. It just wasn’t all that comfortable. How could I have made such a mistake? I had a very difficult time concentrating on my devotions that morning.

As the day progressed, I talked myself into believing that it was just in my head and I would get used to it. After all, every piece of furniture takes some breaking in. So, with renewed diligence, I was determined to make this chair work as I sat in it the next morning. But, alas, it felt the same as the morning before. Now, what to do?

And that’s the end of the story. Because I am still not sure what I am going to do. Just get used to the chair? After all, we paid good money for it. Or bring back the old one and sell the new one at a slight loss? And while that’s a possibility, I can’t change the fact that the old one is falling apart and I am going to have to get used to a new one eventually.

There are so many thoughts that surround this incident in my life that I am having a hard time narrowing it down to just one–

1.  New isn’t always better. Sometimes we yearn for a change to happen in our life. We think “if only” or “when that happens” and then when we are finally there, it isn’t near as great as we thought it would be.

2. Sometimes change needs to occur. It isn’t pleasant or fun but it is necessary.

3. Sometimes change doesn’t need to occur but we push and push for it because we are impatient and don’t want to be labeled “stuck in the mud” or “traditional”.

4. How do we change without changing what really matters?

5. With all change comes our new normal and it doesn’t take us very long to grow used to it. I just read somewhere (and, boy, do I wish I remember exactly where!) about people’s amazing ability to get used to almost any circumstance in their lives. We start living in the new normal. I think this is the case with Evangelical Christianity. We have gotten so used to the departure from scripture, the inclusion of Catholics and Mormons under the label “Christian”, the lack of standards and morals and holiness, the feel-good and shallow worship, that we have become used to this new normal and accept it as normal. But while it may be our new normal, it isn’t anything close to biblical Christianity.

My mom mentioned yesterday, as we were driving home from the mall, that when she was a girl, it was made quite clear to her that Catholicism was not the same as Evangelical Christianity. The church taught very specifically that we do not believe the same things and that they are two separate religions (which they are). And yet, now, if you try to say that you are immediately branded as someone who causes division and disunity. Because we have gotten used to a new normal and in that new normal, we have forgotten–or choose to ignore– hundreds of years of church history. And this is tragic.

We also talked about how Christians of old were concerned about their behavior. You didn’t dare call yourself a Christian if your behavior didn’t match. And so no one assumed you were a Christian if your behavior was characterized by worldly entertainment and vices. Now, in our new normal, everything is okay and even sanctioned under the word grace. This false definition of grace will leave a lot wondering why they are still here when the rapture occurs. With true grace comes repentance and life transformation. It could not be clearer in scripture (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is a lie that we can continue in our old activities and lifestyle and be saved. And, yet, that has become normal.  See what I’m getting at here?

And here is what I’ve learned. No one wants to hear this stuff. It is negative and offensive and uncomfortable.

People may read this post but they won’t like it and they certainly won’t share it. They may even agree with it, but they won’t share it for fear of offending someone (another new “norm” we have grown used to — don’t dare offend anyone lest we be labeled or become susceptible to uncomfortable discussions).

I am weary of this new normal, quite honestly. But I do believe it is here to stay. So now we learn to live –and even thrive– in it. If we respond to this right, it could become a wonderful culture to grow in Christ.

And I go back again to God’s Word. If we know it and are studying it, then so much becomes clear that is clouded otherwise. If you want to truly thrive in this increasingly hostile culture, then study and know God’s Word. It is the only thing we have in this desert of modern Christianity. I hate to even call it Christianity because it isn’t even real Christianity. It’s some shapeless, relative, false religion that has no resemblance to Christ’s teachings whatsoever.

Do I expect this to be one of my more popular posts? No, not at all. But, please, keep your eyes open in your churches and your homes. Be discerning! Satan is using any and all means possible to deceive us and to render us ineffective for the cause of Christ. Don’t let that happen to you.

And so that is the story and my subsequent thoughts on switching a simple chair. And I don’t really even know the end of that story yet. I guess I’ll go try it again this morning and see if I can get used to a new normal!