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!

The Parallel Mission

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Verax Institute recently did a video series with my brother, Pastor Dean Good, regarding the big picture of what’s going on in the church right now. I know that many of you not only have questions about what is going on in the big picture, but, closer to home, what is going on in your own local church.

Some of you have a vague uneasiness about the fact that clean water and feeding the poor has taken on a more important role in your church than expositing God’s Word. You feel uncomfortable that your worship service is akin to a rock concert with a brief devotional thrown in for good measure. You see worldliness in the form of drunkenness, sexual sin, and gambling being defended under the guise of “freedom in Christ” and scriptural teaching about holiness and sanctification being totally ignored.  I know there are other concerns. In fact, there are so many, I probably couldn’t list them all here. And, while we can determine from God’s Word what is wrong with some of this,  many of us can’t figure out exactly why some of these trends bother us, we just know something isn’t right.

This series of videos will help you understand what exactly is wrong and why. The first video is especially helpful in defining the mission of the church from God’s Word and from there, we can better discern what is going on with the current trends in the church.

You may not agree with everything in this video series, but I encourage you to take the time to watch it. My brother is very knowledgeable and has the gift of sharing that knowledge in a very understandable way.

1) The Biblical Mission of the Church

2) Satan’s Mission: One World Society

3) The Infiltration of the Church

4) The New Age Movement

5) The Church as an Instrument to Bring in the New Age

6) Parallel Message, Aim, and Strategy

7) Parallel Spirituality

 

So Who Knew?

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So who knew that for the past two thousand years the church fathers were so wrong? I mean if we believe what the modern day “Christian” leaders tell us, they got more things wrong than right —

–7 Literal Day Creation (Genesis 1)

Modern Approach: They had that all wrong. God just starting the ball rolling and put it in motion. They weren’t literal days.

–Women should not be in church leadership (I Timothy 2:11-12)

Modern Approach: That was all about the culture of the time and has no bearing on today.

–We should separate from the world (I John 2:15-17; James 1:27)

Modern Approach: The exact opposite, we actually need to be like the world to win the world.

–We should be holy (I Peter 1:15-16)

Modern Approach: Holiness isn’t any big deal, it’s love that matters.

–There is a literal hell (Matthew 10:28)

Modern Approach: A loving God would never send anyone to hell.

–Church is designed to grow and encourage believers (Colossians 3:15-16)

Modern Approach: The church is a very hip, safe place to bring our unsaved friends, where they won’t feel judged or uncomfortable and may (or may not) hear the true gospel.

And the most recent— Homosexuality is a sin before God (Romans 1:24-27)

Modern Approach: We may have gotten that all wrong. After all, gay “Christians” are some of the nicest people around.

Oh, dear brothers and sisters, how we have strayed so far from the Word of God. We are relying on the tainted words of so-called leaders to shape and form our doctrine. We listen to songs and popular authors and they redefine what we think about God and His Word. It happens so slowly we don’t even realize it.

In the last fifty to one hundred years, the modern “church” (and I use quotes because I do not believe it is the true church) has turned away from almost every basic doctrine of scripture. The only thing that is left is love and the cross. And some are even turning away from the cross, encompassing anyone who believes in anything as heaven-bound.

Does anyone else find this incredibly disturbing?

But it is also refreshing. And here is why–

I was thinking about this as I read this article about the Jars of Clay band, that is supposedly a Christian group. One of the group members had a series of tweets that very clearly showed that he believes scripture is irrelevant when determining morality. You can read about it yourself, but something someone said in response to him is very worth sharing here–

“This issue will separate the true Bible believers from those who put experience or personal relationships above Scripture, and while it might result in some real challenges for those who hold to the Word, this could be just what the church of America needs today: a wake-up call to arise from our apathy and man-centered, what’s-in-it-for-me gospel, and a determination to follow Jesus regardless of cost or consequence,” Brown said.

We desperately need this wake-up call. For way too long we have straddled the fence, trying to play both sides. The time for that is over. We either believe what the Bible says or we don’t. We cannot have it both ways.

John MacArthur puts it this way in the monthly letter I receive from Grace to You–

But now, with the facade of cultural Christianity crumbling, true Christianity is starting to stand out in a way it hasn’t in our lifetime. Scripture teaches and church history confront that the Body of Christ is most potent and most effective when it simply speaks and lives the gospel without equivocation or apology. With the mask of superficial Christianity gone, I believe the best days of the spread of the true gospel are ahead of us.

The gospel advances by personal testimony to Christ, one soul at a time. When the church acts like the church; when shepherds preach Scripture and confront error with clarity and boldness; when believers are sanctified, built up, and equipped in truth; people are saved. And that’s when the culture truly changes — nothing transforms the culture like genuine conversion.

For far too long we have lived in the muddy waters of a shallow Christianity in this country. As long as you said “the prayer” you can do or be whoever you like and still consider yourself saved. But this is not what scripture teaches. And as the chasm between true Bible believers and those who follow their own man-made, people-pleasing God widens,  we can and should expect that life is going to get a bit harder for us. We are no longer mainstream and we are going to need to adjust. We are quickly and consistently getting slapped with labels like “intolerant”, “prejudiced” and even “dangerous”.

Buckle your seat belt and hang on, because I am pretty sure we are in for a rough ride. But just you watch and see God work in amazing ways! I am already seeing Him work in individual lives, drawing them to Himself. He is real and alive and He is faithful!

And, in case you haven’t heard me say this before, get into God’s Word for yourself.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

If you enjoyed this post, would you consider sharing it and letting others know about Growing4Life? Thanks! :)

 

 

“This issue will separate the true Bible believers from those who put experience or personal relationships above Scripture, and while it might result in some real challenges for those who hold to the Word, this could be just what the church of America needs today: a wakeup call to arise from our apathy and man-centered, what’s-in-it-for-me gospel, and a determination to follow Jesus regardless of cost or consequence,” Brown said.
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/05/pro-gay-jars-of-clay-singerschooled-by-christian-leaders/#D9KgrlTsxROeuJsc.99
“This issue will separate the true Bible believers from those who put experience or personal relationships above Scripture, and while it might result in some real challenges for those who hold to the Word, this could be just what the church of America needs today: a wakeup call to arise from our apathy and man-centered, what’s-in-it-for-me gospel, and a determination to follow Jesus regardless of cost or consequence,” Brown said.
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/05/pro-gay-jars-of-clay-singerschooled-by-christian-leaders/#D9KgrlTsxROeuJsc.99

Losing a World

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I took one of those quizzes the other week: Which character on Downton Abbey are you most like? I wasn’t all that surprised (or displeased) that I ended up with Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess. While this woman does not always say things in the kindest way, you never have to wonder what she is thinking. I like that about her. And while I hope I am not near as cutting with my remarks and I certainly hope I am not a snob, I do want to be someone who can be counted on to tell the truth.

As I watched the final episode of season 4, I was overwhelmed with empathy for this elderly lady during a conversation she had with the American Sarah Levinson, her daughter-in-law’s mother. As was her style, she had made some sharp remark to Mrs. Levinson. In return, the woman looked Violet straight in the eye and retorted, very matter-of-factly, “My world is coming nearer. And your world – its slipping further and further away.”

Violet Crawley stared at her with eyes full of sadness as the camera faded away to another scene. And at that moment– as Violet stared–I felt a deep connection with this old woman.

The year was 1923 and the Dowager Countess was losing her world– a world of counts and countesses, butlers and housekeepers, fancy balls. A world where the classes were carefully kept separated and true feelings were hidden away and never discussed.

In its place was coming a world where anyone could make a go of it and become successful and wealthy, people could speak their mind without fear of repercussion, and men and women of different classes and even different races could be married with nary a raised eye-brow.

How heart-breaking it must have been for her, as she could see it happening and couldn’t do a thing about it. And while, especially as Americans, we see that world she lived in as stuffy and confining, for the Dowager Countess it was the only world she had ever known.

And I would guess– although I can’t be sure– that some of her acerbic responses and reactions were coming out of this realization and the helplessness that naturally goes along with it.

I feel a little like Violet Crawley. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. Maybe it’s because it’s just the nature of the world to change constantly. Or perhaps it’s because I see a very, very black sky on the horizon of our country. Maybe it’s a combination of all three.

The world I grew up in no longer exists. And, let’s face it– the world of the 70s and 80s wasn’t all that great. I don’t really look back on it and think “heaven”. But where we are now–the changes that are taking place– well, it’s a bit disconcerting, is it not? Especially for those of us who have seen it all happen.

So, what now? How do we then live?

Do we bury our heads in the sand, turn off all of the news, and live in our own small world?

Do we become acidic and irritable and grumpy?

Do we sink into a state of depression at the woes of the world?

Do we avidly watch, listen, read, and breathe the world news?

Do we volunteer for our favorite politicians or some other cause?

How do we change a world that can’t be changed? 

Look–if we are believers, we know the end of the story. We know that the world will not become a better place before Jesus Christ returns. But, instead, we can expect the worst.

So now is the time to put our armor on (Ephesians 6:12-18), prepare for battle, and know God’s Word. Now is the time to share the gospel and stand for Truth.

Let’s keep the big picture in mind. Let us forge ahead, knowing that we are led by Jesus Christ Himself. And He can’t lose. And if He can’t lose, neither can we.

And, just as importantly, let’s remember that we can be instruments of change right where we are. God is still working in a mighty way in individual lives. Just because the world, as a whole, isn’t going to get better, does not mean that your spouse, or boss, or friend, or parent won’t be saved. There is still much hope in this world and God is still quite alive and showing His power! We can still bring positive changes to a hurting and lost world. We can make our corner brighter and better by loving-kindness and by standing for what’s right.

We dare not throw our hands up in the air and say, “what’s the use?!”

I don’t know what hardships lie ahead, but I do know the end of the story. Oh, praise the Lord, we know the end of the story. This world may be slipping away, but the next one is far better. Let us be found faithful until that day comes.

 

The Football Huddle

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The team huddled closely together, taking direction from the quarterback. They all knew their job was to win. Suddenly, a player looked up to see a member from the opposing team come trotting across the field to join them. As he worked his way into the huddle, the quarterback warmly welcomed him. And while some of the team followed the quarterback’s lead, other team members wrinkled their brows in the perplexity of the situation and stood back to watch what was going on. What they saw stunned them. The opposing team member not only joined the huddle, but went on to call the plays. And the most disturbing thing of all was that the plays were designed to give the other team the win. It was a situation that just did not make sense.

Does it make sense to you?

If not, then I have a question for you– why does it make sense to invite unbelievers into our church huddles and call the plays?

Now, don’t get me wrong– I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t welcome unbelievers into our churches. It is important to first understand this fact before reading the rest of my post. I firmly do believe that when God puts an unbeliever in the midst of the brethren he should be warmly welcomed. But American churches are going beyond a warm welcome of the unbeliever. They are actually designing their services to meet the needs of them. Why?

Let’s talk about what the church was biblically  designed to be and what it has been all through the ages– until about the last thirty years.

Scripture tells us that the church was designed to be the assembly of believers. In Acts the church was referred to as a group of people with the common bond of saving faith. It was designed to edify and encourage believers. It is always referred to in this context. I, personally, know of no passage in which it does not. Here are a few verses–

Hebrews 10:25  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Acts 2:47b  And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

All through history, the church has continued to follow that original biblical model. Until about 1980. When, rather gradually, there was a shift. This was when a church model came forth that started changing things. The vision and the thrust of the church became about evangelism. Because it was so hard to get people to witness to others in their lives at home, work, and school, they changed their service format so that instead of having to do the hard stuff to share the gospel, people could just say, “Hey, why don’t you come to my church on Sunday?”

As the years progressed, more and more churches fell to this church model, designing their whole services and programs around reaching the unbeliever. Meanwhile, their sheep were starving as they were fed a solid diet of milk. No meat was forthcoming because there was so much effort on reaching the world.

The thing that they didn’t see is that instead of winning the world, the church became like the world. In having the other team join ours, we were absorbed by them.

And that is how Satan single-handedly (in my opinion) won the battle of separatism. No longer do we believe there is any reason to stay separate from the world, even though scripture clearly states we are supposed to (James 1:27, II Corinthians 6:14-18). In fact, we have believed the insidious lie that we need to be like the world in order to win the world. A principle that is found nowhere in scripture.

Satan also won another important battle — and that is the battle for scriptural literacy. If Christians would know scripture, many of the things that split churches would be non-issues. But because most are operating out of their own opinions and many aren’t even saved — our churches are full of strife and anger and quarrels. If Christians knew scripture, they would see the need to remain separate. They would understand God’s holiness and fear Him as much as they love Him. They would grasp just what Jesus did for them on the cross. But, alas, most have no idea, because they never open their Bibles at home and they rarely, if ever, open them at church, hearing, instead, practical sermons based mostly on opinion and, occasionally, on the latest Hollywood movie.

We, the church, have lost sight of the reason we exist. We have neglected our duty to be witnesses in our everyday lives by falling back on the “come to church with me” sentence instead of doing the hard duty of sharing the gospel personally with unbelievers around us. Meanwhile, we are starving spiritually because of the lack of good, solid meat we should be receiving in our church services.

And, so, our church huddles have become full of the world. And instead of turning the world towards Christ, we have become like the world, ’til there is hardly any difference. And, instead of the term “Christian” meaning someone who has a transformed life because of their love for Christ, it is just a term– leading us to wonder who is really saved, trying to leave that judgment firmly in the hands of God while we tremble at the thought of who actually may be lost.

Somehow I can’t help but think that God must be very sad about the state of the church today.

 

Wise Counsel for A Son

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I came across this the other day. It was written by hymn writer, Paul Gerhardt, who lived from 1607-1676. I found it on the Hope Blog (you can find the original post here). I believe the counsel given here is incredibly wise and timeless– beneficial for both our sons and our daughters, and perhaps even for ourselves. Hope you enjoy this–

Now that I have reached the 70th year of my life and also have the joyful hope that my dear, holy God will soon rescue me out of this world and lead me into a better life than I have had until now on earth, I thank Him especially for all His kindness and faithfulness which, from my mother’s womb until the present hour, He has shown me in body and soul and in all that He has given me. Besides this, I ask Him from the bottom of my heart that when my hour comes He would grant me a happy departure, take my soul into His fatherly hands, and give my body a peaceful rest in the ground until the dear Last Day, when I, with all of my [family] who have been before me and also may remain after me, will reawake and behold my dear Lord Jesus Christ face to face, in whom I have believed but have not yet seen. To my only son whom I am leaving behind I leave few earthly goods, but with them I leave him an honorable name of which he will not have to be ashamed.

My son knows that from his tender childhood I have given him to the Lord my God as His possession, that he is to become a servant and preacher of His holy Word. He is to remain now in this and not turn away from it, even if he has only few good days in it. For the good Lord knows how to handle it and how sufficiently to replace external troubles with internal happiness of the heart and joy of the spirit.

Study holy theology in pure schools and at unfalsified universities and beware of the syncretists [those who mix religions or confessions], for they seek what is temporal and are faithful to neither God nor men. In your common life do not follow evil company but rather the will and command of your God. Especially: (1) Do nothing evil in the hope that it will remain secret, for nothing is spun so small that it is not seen in the light of day. (2) Outside of your office and vocation do not become angry. If you notice that anger has heated you up, remain still and speak not so much as a word until you have first prayed the Ten Commandments and the Christian Creed silently. (3) Be ashamed of the lusts of the flesh, and when you one day come to the years in which you can marry, then marry with God and with the good advice of pious, faithful, and sensible people. (4) Do good to people even if they have nothing with which to repay you, for the Creator of heaven and earth has long since repaid what humans cannot repay: when He created you, when He gave you His beloved Son, and when He accepted you in Holy Baptism as His child and heir. (5) Flee from greed as from hell. Be satisfied with what you have earned with honor and a good conscience, even if it is not all too much. But if the good Lord gives you something more, ask Him to preserve you from the burdensome misuse of temporal goods.

In summary: Pray diligently, study something honorable, live peacefully, serve honestly, and remain unmoved in your faith and confessing. If you do this, you too will one day die and depart from this world willingly, joyfully, and blessedly. Amen.

Source: Christian Bunners, Paul Gerhardt: Weg Werk Wirkung (Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), 301-302. Translated by Benjamin T. G. Mayes, 5/4/2007

Am I a Frog?

1391908_95226559frogWe have all heard of the proverbial frog boiling in the pot. You put a frog in cool water in a pot on the stove and turn on the heat. Instead of jumping out as the water grows hotter, it will lay there, seemingly unsuspecting, as the water grows hotter and hotter, not knowing that it is going to die a slow and tortuous death. Now I have never tried this. Has anyone? But if it is true, then I can’t help but thinking that perhaps many of us Christians are just like that frog–sitting in water that’s now starting to boil and not jumping for our lives. Why do I think that, you may ask?

Here are a few reasons–

–I heard a statistic yesterday that 91% of Christians no longer believe in absolute truth.

–I read recently of a Christian organization that received angry mail from Christians for their biblical stand against homosexuality.

–Thousand upon thousands of Christians attend churches where social justice (a term that comes directly from Karl Marx, by the way, and has no biblical basis) has taken top priority and doctrine has become irrelevant.

–Many believers are judged as judgemental (don’t you just love the irony??) by Christians if they stand up for what the Bible teaches.

Not convinced yet? Let me give a few more reasons–

–Entertainment in the this country is filled with everything God hates, and yet Christians, by the hundreds of thousands, waste their God-given time and money, filling their minds with sexual sin, crude and profane language, witchcraft, and dreadful violence, and see absolutely nothing wrong with it.

–It has become acceptable for Christians to hang out at bars and casinos.

Christians debate over the age of the world and its creation, as if somehow science trumps God’s Word.

Now, I do admit I am using the term Christian rather loosely. Of course, many of those who call themselves Christians are that in name only and do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But it is amazing how the culture has shifted even in my lifetime. We shouldn’t be surprised, though.

The pot was put on the stove a very long time ago. Take a quick walk through history with me. In the 30s and 40s we can see Hollywood’s push for worldly living to see that all was not well in this country. If we read anything by A.W. Tozer (who was born in 1897 and died in 1963), we can see that the church has been sick and on a downward spiral for a very long time. Everyone wants to talk about how perfect the 50s were but if you do any studying you will see that that decade was simply the beginning of the huge rebellion that would take place in the 60s, the era when the bubbles really started to form on the surface of the water. Of course, in the 70s and 80s, we grew to love ourselves and our entertainment more than we loved God. We were taught there are no absolutes and that God is irrelevant in our day to day lives, at best. And here we are, in 2013, in a culture that is drastically different than most of us remember from days gone by.

So what now?

Well, first, may I encourage you to jump out of any specific pot that is effectively killing your relationship with Christ. It may be a church that is subtly leaving the truth. It may be your TV, where the offerings grow worse and worse each year, hardening your heart. Or it may be your group of friends, who are not encouraging you in your walk with the Lord, but instead draw you into worldly living. It could be your computer, where you spend hours wrapped up in Facebook or the news or the happenings of the celebrities. Or maybe it’s the books you read or the music you listen to that is slowly chipping away at your faith. It could even be the college you attend, where God is attacked on a regular basis and you know that you are not strong enough to stand for your faith and are starting to falter.

Just jump out of that pot TODAY!  Don’t be like the frog, sitting there in ignorant naivete of his circumstances.

And, second, may I encourage all of us (including myself) to live with our armor on securely and our eyes wide open, always looking to discern between truth and error. We cannot afford to sit comfortably letting life happen to us, but instead need to be proactively learning scripture, using our hands and feet to do things that are pleasing to the Lord, and turning away from sin.

If not, we will become like that frog, slowly but surely dying a tortuous death in a pot instead of living victoriously for Jesus Christ!

 

This has been shared at the Encourage One Another Link-Up #96. 

Nothing New Under the Sun

Edward_Hicks,_American_-_Noah's_Ark_-_Google_Art_Project

There are just a few short chapters that tell us about Noah in the Bible. Most of our attention has been focused on the building of the ark, the flood that wiped out life on the earth, and the beautiful rainbow that was the sign of a holy covenant. But yesterday as I sat through a dramatic presentation of this fascinating piece of history, I realized how very much we have in common with this man who lived so long ago. If Noah was human (and scripture assures us that he was), then it is very likely that he, too, struggled with some of the same things we do–

1. Doubt. It had never rained before. Noah and his family must have doubted a few times while they built a huge boat far from the sea, waiting for the rains to come.  But God had told him and they were trusting. Like Noah, we are waiting for an event–the rapture–that has never happened before. But God has told us in His Word and we are trusting. It may not be in our lifetime, but then again, it may be!

2. Wickedness. Noah and his family were the only ones found righteous on the earth. They loved God and truly wanted to live by His statutes. Can you imagine? Sometimes we may feel like we are alone as we stand for righteousness and Truth in a world gone crazy. Although, while the number seems to be shrinking each day, we can be thankful that there are still many out there who love God and truly desire to live by His Word.

3. Mockery. I couldn’t find this in the scriptures, but I can’t help but wonder if as Noah and his family were busy building that boat they felt the mockery and hatred of others. It is just human nature to despise and make fun of anything that is different. Building a boat in your backyard is certainly different. These days we aren’t building a boat, but, instead standing against the flow of what is popular. It is not a very comfortable place to be, but I wonder if Noah felt that way sometimes, too?

4. Confirmation. Through the building of the ark and the subsequent flood waters, Noah must have seen God’s Hand work in amazing ways. Just the fact that he gathered wild animals and kept them in a big boat for many days would have required a miracle or two. These workings of God were perhaps assurance to Noah that he was doing the right thing. We have confirmations, too. God is truly personal and cares so much that He provides us with encouragement just when we need it. Oftentimes He teaches us a new truth from His Word, confirming that we are on the right path. How faithful is He!

5. Heartache. How great the heartache must have been to shut that ark door, knowing that all of humanity outside would perish. Have we ever thought of that before? They weren’t just all strangers to Noah and his family.  I am sure there were many aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family members. The wives of Noah’s sons probably had parents and siblings. All would perish in the flood waters. Don’t you sometimes feel great sorrow at the many who are perishing today? We encourage them to come into the ark of safety through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, but they have no interest. We experience that same heartache, as well.

It is not my intent to add any words to scripture. I just think that oftentimes we forget that these stories were true happenings to real people. They weren’t fairy tales. Old Testament men and women weren’t perfect. And many of them dealt with similar feelings and experiences that we are dealing with today. Somehow I find that comforting in this world where so much seems to be going wrong. And knowing that God is in control and has a plan that we can read in His Word is encouraging. Sure, just like Noah, we don’t know every detail. But we know we will be with God, just as Noah knew he and his family would be safe in the ark. We just need to trust that God will care for us through the storm of wickedness and evil that seems to be overtaking this nation, knowing we will land safely in Heaven eventually.

I thank God for showing us the examples of men and women who loved Him deeply and were willing to sacrifice whatever was necessary to serve Him. May we be like them, as we strive to please our King!

 

150 years later

quoteNext week it will be 150 years since that terrible battle of Gettysburg. Over the weekend, we spent some time there visiting the  delightful little town. Only a few bullet holes gave evidence that such a terrible battle had been fought there. As we drove through the beautiful, rolling hills of the countryside, there wasn’t a sign of the tragedy anywhere. Sure, there were a few cannons and fences–but the human tragedy that played itself out those three days wasn’t seen on any of the faces around us. 150 years is a long time. Long enough to recover from the terrible human losses and financial setbacks.

As I wandered through the halls of the Visitor’s Center, those three days were played out vividly in my mind. I thought of the young boys who had given their lives by the thousands in this battle. I thought of the innocent farmers and townspeople who got stuck in the crossfire and lost everything they had. I thought of the thousands of people who poured into the town, looking for their loved ones after the terrible days were over. No matter which side you were on, the casualties were high.

I was about halfway through when I came across this quote written by a soldier named T.T. Fogle and taken from a letter to his sister: “O, sister, you folks at home have no idea what a soldier has to endure…I have been cold, hot, wet, dry, ragged, dirty, hungry, and thirsty, marched through clouds of dust, waded mud knee deep, and suffered from fatigue and loss of sleep.”

It reminded me of Paul’s passage in 2 Corinthians, where he talks about what he has endured for the sake of the cross–

in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.               ~2 Corinthians 11:26-27

That passage reminds me that we believers are soldiers in a battle. For a long time now, we have been able to hang around the edges of the battlefield, enjoying our accommodations quite nicely. But the battle here in this country is heating up considerably. It only takes a few moments of  internet surfing or tv news-watching to realize it. And we are being flanked on all sides — from the media, the lawmakers, and the so-called church, which has twisted Christianity into something that would be unrecognizable to the godly men and women who have gone on before us.

Are we prepared to fight the battle? Or are we still back in our tents playing games?

I make no prediction as to whether this country will survive this attack on its core values. That battle will be won or lost by the will of God.  But the fight, more importantly, is for the destiny of each human soul. The battle is raging in our homes, our churches, and our workplaces. Are we standing up for the truth? Are we willing to take a bit of ribbing or name-calling or even the loss of reputation to stand for what is right?

quote2I think we can join Sallie Myers, who said this a few days before the battle: “We may expect a battle both near and soon. God help us! For surely our cause is one of justice and humanity.”

The beauty and hope of this whole battle is the future! Just like Gettysburg has recovered 150 years later, so we, too, shall be fully recovered if we know Jesus Christ personally. The hope of eternity grows brighter and brighter as the battle before us grows more and more frightening. We know where we will be in 150 years. Let us hold on to that hope, as we fight in the trenches here.

To close, I leave you with this quote from the NY Times from those days, which profoundly describes the heated battle we are in for this country right now: “The contest touches everything and leaves nothing as it found it. Great rights, great interests, great systems of habit and of thought disappear in its progress. It leaves us a different people in everything.”

 

Wednesday Wisdom: The Church’s Power Over the World

1195995_44850378revI haven’t used one of my favorite authors on here for awhile. As I find in almost everything he writes, the following excerpt by A.W. Tozer seems like it could have been written yesterday rather than over fifty years ago.  While some of the terms have changed over the years, I can’t help but wonder if this is even more relevant today than when it was written, if that is possible. 

The world seems to possess a real genius for being wrong, even the educated world. We might just let that pass and go fishing except that we Christians happen to be living in the world and we have an obligation to be right—in everything, all of the time. We cannot afford to be wrong.

I can see how a right man might live in a wrong world and not be much affected by it except that the world will not let him alone. It wants to educate him. It is forever coming up with some new idea which, by the way, is usually an old idea dusted off and shined up for the occasion, and demanding that everyone, including the said right man, conform on pain of deep-seated frustration or a horrible complex of some kind.

Society, being fluid, usually moves like the wind, going all out in one direction until the novelty wears off or there is a war or a depression. Then the breeze sets another way and everyone is supposed to go along with it without asking too many question, though this constant change of direction should certainly cause the thoughtful soul to wonder whether anyone really knows what all the excitement is about after all.

Right now the zephyrs are blowing in the direction of social integration, sometimes also called social adjustment. According to this notion society is possessed of a norm, a sort of best-of-all-possible model after which we must all pattern ourselves if we want to escape sundry psychosomatic disorders and emotional upsets. The only safety for any of us is in becoming so well adjusted to the other members of society as to reduce the nervous and mental friction to a minimum. Education therefore should first of all teach adjustment to society. Whatever people happen to be interested in at the moment must be accepted as normal, and any nonconformity on the part of anyone is bad for the individual and harmful to everybody. Our highest ambition should be to become integrated to the mass, to lose our moral individuality in the whole.

However absurd this may appear when thus stated baldly it is nevertheless a fair description of the most popular brand of philosophy now engaging the attention of society. So many and so efficient are the media of mass communication that when the Brahmans of the educational world decide that it is time for the wind to change, the commonality quickly get the drift and swing obediently into the breeze. Anyone who resists is a kill-joy and a spoilsport, to say nothing of being old-fashioned and dogmatic.

Well, if to escape the charge of being dogmatic I must accept the changing dogmas of the masses, then I am willing to be known as a dogmatist and no holds barred. We who call ourselves Christians are supposed to be a people apart. We claim to have repudiated the wisdom of this world and adopted the wisdom of the cross as the guide of our lives. We have thrown in our lot with that One who while He lived on earth was the most unadjusted of the sons of men. He would not be integrated into society. He stood above it and condemned it by withdrawing from it even while dying for it. Die for it He would, but surrender to it He would not.

The wisdom of the cross is repudiation of the world’s “norm.” Christ, not society, becomes the pattern of the Christian life. The believer seeks adjustment, not to the world, but to the will of God, and just to the degree that he is integrated into the heart of Christ is he out of adjustment with fallen human society. The Christian sees the world as a sinking ship from which he escapes not by integration but by abandonment.

A new moral power will flow back into the Church when we stop preaching social adjustment and begin to preach social repudiation and cross carrying. Modern Christians hope to save the world by being like it, but it will never work. The Church’s power over the world springs out of her unlikeness to it, never from her integration into it. (emphasis mine)

—The Price of Neglect, A.W. Tozer