The Lost Son (Part 1)

This is the sixth annual Growing4Life Christmas Story. It is my small gift to you, my readers, and is offered in five parts which are presented every Friday during the holiday season. If you have recently subscribed you can check out the past Christmas Stories here, should you be interested. I hope that this is a welcome break from the rest of the world for just a few minutes.

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Dear Belinda—

I hope this finds you well. We are settling into our new normal with baby Charlie. He loves Ned and just lights up when he comes in the room. I want you to know that we are happy to keep him for as long as you need us to. Please be in touch when things settle down and we will figure out how to get him across the country. Perhaps Ned and I could take a road trip. We have always wanted to do that. Take care.

Love Always,
Harriet

       Abby stared at the letter in her hand. The box of letters from Grandma’s attic had so far been boring accounts of daily life with an occasional memorable happening thrown in. They were filled with lists of canned fruits and vegetables, illnesses of farm animals, and neighborhood events. Most were from Grandma’s sister, Edna, in Omaha; a few were from her sister-in-law, Martha, in Canada; and then there were just a handful that were from her Grandma’s best friend from childhood, Harriet, who lived in Oregon. The biggest surprise up to this point had been a beautiful love letter penned by her grandfather, a staid and quiet man who rarely shared his feelings. At least that had been the biggest surprise until right now.
       Abby looked again at the shocking letter in her hand. Her eye caught another letter tucked into the large brown envelope from which she had drawn this first one. She carefully pulled it out and unfolded it. The date was five years after the first one had been written.

Dear Belinda,

I hope this finds you well. We haven’t heard from you for awhile and I am a bit worried about you. It is hard to believe Charlie is going to be six years old next spring. He has become part of our family and the girls just dote on him. It’s been fun having a boy in the family and we thank you for sharing him with us.

I do think it may be good to settle in on a plan for Charlie as we move into the future. It’s been five years and we all feel rather in limbo. Do you still plan to raise him now that things have simmered down and Felix is no longer in the picture? Each year we wait will make it harder on us and on Charlie. I guess I am just a bit confused… Will wait to hear from you.

Love,
Harriet

       Abby peered into the brown envelope, hoping for more letters to explain. But there were none. She then shuffled through the rest of the unread letters still in the old wooden box. She desperately wanted to solve the mystery she had just stumbled upon. But the only other letters to be found from Harriet were when she had gone away to camp one summer as a teenager.
       Abby thought of her kind and cheerful grandmother who had just recently moved in with her mom due to some health issues. Did Grandma have a son out west somewhere? Or was there some other explanation? Who was Charlie?
       “Mom! Preston took my doll!” a voice called Abby from the past and back to her little cottage on Willow Lane.
       “Preston…!” Abby called as she pushed her chair back from the small vintage desk in front of her and went to tend to her children.
       A few minutes later, with Preston, Kyle, and Maddy in front of a familiar movie and munching on goldfish crackers, Abby headed back to her desk to see if she could find out more about the mysterious Charlie. She felt a little guilty leaving the kids in front of the TV but she figured for this once it wouldn’t hurt. She didn’t do it often.
       Sitting back down at her desk, she stared out the window and thought of what had just come to light. What other conclusion could be drawn but that her grandmother had had a son named Charlie? It appeared that, instead of bringing him with her when she moved east to marry Grandpa, she had left him in Oregon with her best friend, Harriet.
       Had Grandma Belinda kept Charlie a secret from everyone? Or did Grandpa know about Charlie? Was Charlie still alive? If so, where was he? Did he know he had a family here in Ohio?
       The many questions came like a flood, begging to be answered. Abby looked at her watch. It was time to start dinner. The questions would have to wait.
       
       

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The Road Trip

A few days before we left to see family it became clear that a dear friend of mine wasn’t going to make it. I agonized for a whole night over the fact that I was going to miss her memorial service and then, finally, just surrendered it to the Lord. I couldn’t change my trip dates and I couldn’t change the date of the service. It was out of my control. For some reason, God didn’t think I needed to be there.

A few days into our visit, we were told the date of the service. We would be able to make it –if we’d do the 19hr drive home straight through. We aren’t particularly “straight through” kind of people and generally like to take our time and make stops as needed. But these were special circumstances and, so, at 4am on the day before the service, we crawled out of bed, threw some clothing on, hugged our family, and headed out into the night.

Things went pretty smoothly for the first few hours. Until we got to Tennessee. South of Chattanooga we ran into horrendous traffic. It was around 4pm on Friday evening. We stopped completely. Waze offered no tiny accident symbol so we couldn’t figure out what was going on. I nervously watched our waze “arrival time” creep in the wrong direction. Finally, we breathed a sigh of relief as traffic started to crawl toward the city. I had to use the restroom something fierce and was feeling discouraged about that, as well. I felt like I was going to burst when, in God’s perfect timing, a rest stop appeared. I know this sounds foolish but if you have ever had to go to the restroom when you are in a traffic jam you will know the joy I felt at seeing that sign!

We continued to crawl after that stop and then gradually started to move at a more lively pace. But it was short-lived as we ran into more traffic on the north side of that city. Again, we sat. And crawled. And then sat again. Losing more minutes, we were both pretty discouraged. The drive was long enough without this. We continued to crawl towards Knoxville. This pattern continued on the other side of Knoxville.

We had had no traffic issues on the way down and were a bit puzzled. It was Friday evening rush hour but this seemed much worse than usual. I finally remembered the popular attraction that the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area is in the autumn. I can’t help but think that perhaps people were traveling there for the weekend. But that is just a guess.

We started to travel along again and then, suddenly, came to an abrupt halt. This time there was a little accident symbol in the waze app along with a tiny red line running up the left side of the app and this discouraging number: 1 hour and 30 min. 

We could expect to be sitting in this traffic for an hour and 30 minutes. I was downright frustrated at this point. And pretty discouraged. I hate staying up late at night and determined in college, actually, that 2am was my limit. I learned pretty early on that 2am was the latest I could stay up and actually function the next day. Our original time to get home was around midnight. Our arrival time was already showing after two and now we were stuck in this accident traffic.

I stewed and stewed and stewed. And then I finally just surrendered. This was in the Lord’s hands and He knew what was going on. And how thankful we were not to be the ones in the accident. There is always something to be thankful for.

I sent out a few texts asking for prayer that we would stay awake in those wee hours of the morning as we sat there waiting to get going again. I didn’t know how this would all work but I was just going to trust God.

When the traffic started moving again our arrival time had crept to after 3:30am. We realized that we should grab supper soon, as it was already after 8pm and restaurants would start closing. When we stopped I also grabbed a large cup of coffee and stuck it in the Yeti cup I had brought with me on the trip. The cup was a last minute, unplanned thing to grab that morning we left and, oh, how thankful I was for it now.

Around 10pm, Eric laughed and said we only had a trip “to see my brother” left. He lives about 5 1/2 hours away. That was pretty discouraging but we were happy to be moving along at a good pace and so we laughed and kept going.

Around 11pm, the coffee was working pretty well so I told my husband I would drive for a bit so he could rest his eyes. I turned on a radio drama of The Prince and the Pauper that I had on my Music app but had never listened to and sipped on my coffee as I drove into the night.

I was surprised to feel pretty wide awake and drove until 1am while my husband slept. I know that it had to be those prayers that had been lifted for us. My husband took over the wheel and the rest of the night was uneventful. We pulled into our home driveway just a bit before four.

So in the midst of that frustrating day, I was reminded of a few things and wanted to share with you here.

First, God was so good to allow me to be at my dear friend’s memorial service. Just when I had resigned myself that I would have to miss it, He made a way for me to be there.

Second, He provided small blessings that just wouldn’t have been necessary. A perfectly placed restroom and a travel coffee cup that was a last minute grab reminded me that God cares about the little stuff. The King of the Universe cares about the littlest details of our lives and I am always so amazed by that.

Third, It wasn’t until I finally just yielded my will to God’s that I felt any peace in the midst of those traffic jams. I think this is true in little stuff like road trips, as well in the big stuff of life. I always remember this profound statement by Elisabeth Elliot: With acceptance comes peace. That is just so true. While we fight against God and His will, no matter what the circumstances, we will be in turmoil. It is only when we surrender that we experience the “peace that surpasses understanding” that God has promised His children.

And, fourth, when we started moving along again, I had a moment to reflect on the frustrating hours behind us. In the past, those hours would have been filled with an irritated and short-tempered couple snapping at one another. We don’t tend to fight a lot but those kind of circumstances usually bring out the worse in us. Imagine my surprise when I realized that we hadn’t fought even once. Oh, we came close a time or two but we both restrained our tongues and our tempers in ways never before. God used that opportunity to show us that we are growing in Christ. We are actually changing and growing. It was an encouraging realization that we would have never noticed or become aware of– had we not run into those problems on the road. Our true colors generally don’t show themselves until we are put under some form of heat. We had been in a bit of heat and we could see growth. God is changing us!

This post may seem rather inane and silly to some of you. Who cares about a road trip, anyway? But I feel like this road trip is a microcosm of all trials and what we learn through them.

 

No matter what the trial, God is good.

No matter what the trial, God pours out His mercies (both small and large) on us.

No matter what the trial, we must surrender our will to God’s will.

No matter what the trial, we experience the opportunity to examine ourselves spiritually in light of our responses.

 

Life is full of troubles and trials–both great and small. But if we are Christ’s own, we are not alone. God walks with us, supplying us with His sufficient grace and mercy. No matter what the trial, they are all within His Sovereignty and He is using them for His eternal purposes and for our good.

 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Romans 8:28-29

 

 

Thirty Pieces of Silver

Betrayal is an ugly word. The heart of betrayal is always love of self. Take Judas, for example. He betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Can you even imagine?

Here he was, impersonating a disciple and professing to follow Jesus, but deep down it was never real. Deep down inside this man had an insatiable desire for money that stuck with him because he was never saved.  He never believed the message of Jesus but was simply pretending.

There are many parables in Matthew with this same theme of impersonation. The parable of the seeds, the parable of the wheat and tares, the parable of the wedding garment, the parable of the dragnet, and the parable of the wise and foolish virgins all seem to focus in on this truth: There will be many who claim to follow Jesus but are actually only pretending. 

At the end of the age and when Jesus comes back in all His glory, He tells us that he will finally separate true believers from the pretenders (Matthew 25:31-46). True believers will go into the Kingdom that has been prepared for them and the pretenders will be cast into everlasting darkness.

This is a sobering truth.

And, with this truth, comes a few questions we all should be asking.

Am I living for God or for self?

Am I a true follower or a pretender?

What would it take for me to turn my back on Jesus? A little ridicule? Unpopularity among my peers? Severe persecution?

Pretenders always show themselves when it becomes difficult to be a true follower of Jesus. And with the way this world is going currently, I would guess we will start to see many who show their true colors.

The thing that makes it difficult to discern is that so many pretenders continue to pretend but they change the rules. They make up all kinds of falsehoods about God and His Word and twist scripture irreparably, all while claiming to be a follower of Christ. This is why all things must be examined in light of the Bible.

Judas betrayed our Lord for thirty pieces of silver. But many betray him for far less than that. They betray Him for a few extra dollars on their IRS return check. They betray Him for a job promotion or to be liked by their co-workers. They betray Him to avoid discomfort and conflict. Or to gain a popular following on social media.

May it never be said of us that we have betrayed our Lord.

Thankfully, in this same chapter where we learn of Judas (Matthew 26), we also see the failure of the disciples to acknowledge Jesus when He is arrested. This reminds us that a true disciple can really mess up sometimes. We can turn our backs temporarily as we fall to temptation.

But a true disciple will feel deep remorse and repent and change. That’s how we can know the difference. False disciples fall away and never return. True disciples ask for forgiveness and change.

I am so glad God put those verses about the disciples in that same chapter so that we can understand just how great His grace is and that sometimes true followers really fail.

And so Matthew 26 gives us so much to consider. What would it take for you to turn your back on Jesus permanently? Hopefully, the answer to this question for all of us is nothing.

I often think of something I read a long time ago about the martyrs who were burnt at the stake for Christ so many years ago. While they hung on a pole with the flames licking their feet, many of these martyrs sang praises to God. They sang.

Oh, what a great encouragement this is by demonstrating that God can give us a song in the midst of any trial or persecution. Oh, may we keep singing by and through God’s all-sufficient grace, all the while knowing that we have a far greater glory that awaits!

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The worst kind of deception is deception about our eternal destiny. Please click on link below to read what God says in His Word about our eternity–

What is the Gospel?

Preparing for What Lies Ahead

The other night I awoke in the early morning hours and just couldn’t fall back to sleep. A million thoughts swirled through my mind. Sad thoughts. Scared thoughts. “What-if” thoughts.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything…

In the midst of the turmoil in my head, God reminded me of this verse I had memorized. Philippians 4:6-7 has been a balm to my soul during many a sleepless night over the past two years.

Last week, I struggled through something that happened with a dear sibling in Christ. Romans 12:18 has been the verse running through my mind throughout the struggle– If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. I can’t control the other person but as much as it depends on me I need to live peaceably with that person. Do I need to ask for forgiveness? Do I need to overlook an offense or offer grace? This memorized verse led me to ask these important questions and then take the necessary steps to right the situation. 

Last night I was preparing a short devotional and I Thessalonians 5:9 jumped out at me–  For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

I am familiar with this verse and have read it many times. I have also known that this is often used as an argument for the pre-trib rapture. But last night, in those few minutes of preparation, I understood that verse in a way I’ve never understood it before. And, while I wasn’t necessarily waffling on my pre-trib rapture stance, I did need to see that verse and be reminded that God has not appointed us to wrath. And the Tribulation is clearly God’s wrath poured out on man. Genuine Christians will not be here for that. It was a comforting reminder that I needed at just that time.

And, finally–as one last personal story– Throughout the past few years I have watched popular Christian after popular Christian join with false teachers teaching a false gospel. Romans 16:17 is why I recognize this as a huge RED FLAG. God’s Word tells us to avoid false teachers. It teaches us what to look for as we choose whom to listen to and read. And it gives us the red flags we should look for through verses like this. It’s an invaluable resource for discernment in an age of great deception.

So are you wondering yet why I am telling you these random personal stories? Have you noticed what they all have in common?

I am convinced that the greatest thing we believers can do to prepare for whatever lies ahead is to be in the Word. And, even better yet, to be memorizing it.

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. Hebrews 4:12

The only way we can truly be prepared to build up, lead, support, and encourage our families, our church families, and other fellow Christians is to know and study God’s Word. The only way to shine an unquenchable light in the darkness is to be immersing ourselves in the Bible. The only way to share the Truth of God’s Word with the lost around us–some of whom, given the circumstances, will be searching in a way they have never searched before–is to know God’s Word.

The Bible is our anchor. Our guide. Our lamp on a dark path. Our comfort.

This isn’t some cliche. This is real life. We American Christians have been playing at Christianity for a long time. It’s not that we have desired to be shallow but our circumstances gave us few opportunities to live a life of faith. We are headed into a time where we will often be left with little option but to trust God. Trust God for a job, for the health of ourselves or our loved ones, for the future of our children, perhaps even for our very necessities.

The future looks grim and we cannot walk into it unarmed and without knowledge of God through His Word. For here we find out that God cannot go back on His promises. Here we find that what we are experiencing is what we can expect to experience at the end of the age. It all makes so much sense when we take God at His Word.

Our study of the Bible should take precedence over everything else. Our desire to know it and study it should be a priority for us all. We all have different schedules and demands on our time. I don’t know what that looks like for you. But I encourage you to make a study of the Word a priority. I encourage you to make it more important than keeping up with what is happening in this crazy world; to prioritize it over that TV show that isn’t honoring to God, anyway; to make Bible Study an essential part of your day before turning to the hobby, the golf game, the book, or some other distraction.

Satan knows the power for the Christian life is in the Word. He knows that Christians are pretty much rendered helpless and ineffective without it. And so he has created a million different distractions.

He has even caused many of us to believe we are wasting time if we are sitting. Do you equate sitting with laziness? If you do, know that this is a LIE from the devil. To feel guilty when we sit down means that we feel guilty when we read God’s Word. Think about that for a moment. Oh, Satan is so very crafty. Don’t be deceived. There is NOTHING more important than getting in God’s Word.

If you have been around for awhile, this is not a new message for you. I have been talking about the importance of God’s Word in the life of the believer for many years now. Little did I know, however, how critical this would become for our survival and spiritual health.

We give little thought to the air we breathe when we are walking in the fresh air outdoors. But when we start drowning, air becomes more precious than anything else. It’s literally the only thing that matters. The Bible is the air to Christians in this drowning world. May we never neglect the air tank that God has so graciously provided for all those who love Him.

 

 

The Veneer is Dissipating

Awhile ago, I was doing laundry and found a penny. I am not sure what adventures that penny had been on but what I learned that day was that pennies aren’t copper all the way through. The copper is only a thin veneer that covers what I imagine must be some cheaper, undesirable metal.

A few days ago, my daughter told me she was in an elevator with her two year old. The masked man in the elevator said to my granddaughter, “you can push the button.” My daughter thought he was being nice. And then he said the words that showed his true heart and removed the thin veneer of courtesy: Let her get the germs.

That awful man cared more about his own health and safety than about the health and safety of a two year old little girl.

But this is not a lone story. Everywhere you turn you are learning things about people you just never wanted to know. We are learning the priorities, the fears, the selfishness, the ugly hearts. We are learning this about strangers; and about neighbors, church family, and co-workers; about extended family, and, sadly, even about our own dear family members.

Status Quo has a way of covering up the truth. When status quo is shaken, the truth –which was always there– starts showing itself.

So that’s kind of depressing, really. I mean it’s been so heartbreaking to see the division, the anger, the unforgiveness, the selfishness, the fear-driven decisions. It’s absolutely disheartening, isn’t it?

But within those depressing, heartbreaking, disheartening circumstances lies an unprecedented opportunity for believers.

Let’s go back to that penny for a moment. We believers still have that undesirable flesh that resides within us causing all kinds of trouble. The only difference is our coating. Instead of a thin veneer of courtesy and morality, we are now covered by Christ’s blood. Our veneer has been replaced by the indestructible gold of Christ’s sacrifice. And that covering will start changing our ugly old flesh into something precious. It takes a while and we all have our own journeys, but we should be battling the flesh less and less as we grow in the faith.

So now comes that opportunity to which I was referring.

In this world gone mad we have the opportunity to look different than the lost around us because we are different. Our responses, our choices, our actions, our lifestyles, our decisions–they should be born out of faith instead of fear. They should be born out of a love for righteousness instead of a love for evil. They should be born out of a heart surrendered rather than out of a spoiled, selfish “I want my own way” heart. Some questions to ask as we reflect on this: Are my responses and choices determined by my thoughtful study of God’s Word? Do I care more about the welfare of others than I do about my own? Do I trust the Lord for the days ahead? These are the changes that are made in the heart of God’s child.

Oh, not instantly. Rarely instantly. But we have the Word as our guide and help. And we pray. We ask the Lord to show us our weak spots. Our ugly sins and flaws. We ask Him to make us more like Christ. And then when we stumble, we readily and humbly admit we have sinned and try again.

And so…it isn’t that we are perfect. It isn’t that we are some icon of calm in the midst of the chaos. It doesn’t mean that we are without an occasional short temper or curt word.

No, the difference is that we humbly admit when we are wrong. The difference is that we desire to be a light in this dark night and we act on that desire. We aim to grow in our faith. We are never satisfied to look like the dying world around us. Instead of hypocrisy, we are characterized by frank honesty. Instead of hiding our heads in the sand, we are are characterized by a willingness to face the hardest truth with courage. None of this is done perfectly. We just bring a willing and wanting heart to do what is right.

The other day someone treated me very rudely at the store. I hadn’t done or said anything to them but simply wasn’t doing what they thought I should do. I reflected on how rude some people are becoming in the midst of all of this uncertainty. And I pondered for a moment how bad it would get if there literally was only some food on the shelves and not enough to feed everyone. What would people be like then? Visions of the toilet paper shortage from early 2020 come flooding back and we know how people would act. It’s kind of scary, isn’t it? But a more important question is what would I be like? If I couldn’t get my basic necessities how would I respond?

Will this happen? I have no idea. But a great time to practice for that is right now. We can and we must be intentional in our responses right now. When we can’t get that item we need because it’s out on a cargo ship somewhere; when the waitress is overworked and struggling in the short-staffed restaurant; when the store clerk is just so incompetent; when the customer service rep on the phone couldn’t care less about you or your problem; when the neighbor ridicules you for your worldview; when a family member makes a choice you 100% disagree with; when that employee calls off yet again; when a fellow believer hurts you deeply; when life just doesn’t go our way.

THESE are opportunities to respond with love and grace and truth and kindness. These are the opportunities–and they are becoming more and more plentiful, aren’t they?–which God can use to grow and prepare us for whatever lies ahead.

We may still be ugly metal on the inside, but we are promised transformation. And little by little that ugly metal is changing into something much more precious. Oh, we will always have some of that flesh within us here on earth but, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can diminish it’s presence and power in our lives.

I wish I could say I have this down perfectly. But, like always, I am simply writing about what God is teaching me. The other day I had such a frustrating conversation on the phone with a customer service rep and I found myself growing angrier by the minute. While I do think I handled it better than I would have ten years ago, I still have such a long way to go. But I am getting lots of opportunities to practice these days and I am guessing so are you. So, together, and with God’s help, let’s intentionally be different from the rest of the world. And, through that difference, may God use our light to draw the lost to Him and to encourage fellow believers along the way.

 

 

Just Traveling Through

Imagine you are in a small foreign country on a long-term mission trip. The country might be in Asia or Africa or perhaps you are on an island nation in the South Pacific. Wherever it is, while you are there serving the Lord the country goes to war. You are stuck there. There is no way to escape the carnage you see around you. And this isn’t just any war. This is a civil war that has divided the nation in half.

Do you pick a side? I guess it depends how much you have invested there and if you plan on returning permanently. If you are only there for a few months or a year, you probably stay pretty neutral. There is no reason to be involved. This country is not your home. However, you do stand strongly for life and do what you can to help save lives as well as minister to the needs of the hurting around you.

How you respond in a country that is not your own is probably very different than how you would respond in a country that is your own.

I’ve actually never had that happen to me and I doubt you have, either. But maybe it’s happening to us right now. To all of us, probably no matter where we live. Oh, we may not be in an all-out civil war, but we are in a war, nonetheless. It’s a war of philosophies. The competing philosophies are in utter opposition to one another. It’s especially bad here in the states.

I was thinking on this the other day while I was meditating on I Peter 2:11. This is one of my memory verses from a year or two ago that came up for review. (One of the reasons I love memorizing verses is because of the ability to meditate on the memorized verses in the car or when you are in bed at night.) Here is what it says in the NKJV–

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,

We won’t dwell on the end of the verse today (although it, too, has been the cause of much personal meditation). Today I want to focus on what Peter calls us followers of Christ: Sojourners and Pilgrims.

Let’s take a look at the definitions of these two words–

Sojourner–A person who lives somewhere temporarily

Pilgrim–A traveler or wanderer; especially in a foreign place

Now Peter uses these two words to describe believers. Why does he do this? Why does he feel the need to write down both words? Of course we can’t know for sure, but I do find myself wondering if God, moving Peter to write this, knew how easily it would be for us to set down deep deep roots in this world.

I don’t know about you but one of the greatest lessons this past year and half has taught me has been that very thing. I didn’t think I was so invested in this world, but I found out that I was invested far more than I thought. That the roots of love for the things of this world and for the life that I never thought would change ran deep.

As I am pulling up each root one by one, it’s a rather painful process. But this verse has helped me. It has reminded me that I am no longer a citizen of this world but belong to an everlasting Kingdom. This is just my temporary home.

We need to remember this as we face the uncertain days ahead but I also want to consider this fact in light of all that is swirling around us and just take an honest look at what’s going on and why we must not pick sides unless it is clearly biblical in scope.

There are many divides in our nations. Here in the U.S. it is the divide between the V’s and the unV’s. It’s the divide between the socialists and the capitalists. It’s the divide between the pro-death and the pro-life. And so many more. Sadly, this country has been split in what feels like a thousand different ways.

But we have to be so very careful not to get too involved. We are not citizens of this world. I know this message won’t sit well with some of you. You believe that you are here to bring change to this world. You want to make it a better place. You may even believe it is God’s mandate for us to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. Or perhaps you believe that we can still stop the madness that is happening. That if enough of us just come together to fight this, we can make a difference.

So let me address these two viewpoints briefly.

First, the Bible never teaches that we are to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. There is a real push in several “Christian” movements to popularize this inaccuracy and it’s just not true. There is no biblical mandate to prepare the earth for God. None whatsoever. This is probably worth a whole post, in and of itself, and has, in fact, been the subject of several books. If you would like to read more on this, I recommend Alva McClain’s The Greatness of the Kingdom or Andy Wood’s The Coming Kingdom.

Second, not only are we not told to bring God’s Kingdom to earth but we are clearly told that, in the last days, the world will grow more wicked. There are many signs of the last days that we are told to look for in the books of Daniel, the minor prophets, Matthew, I Timothy, I&II Thessalonians, Jude, and Revelation that show us what to expect. (There are other books, too, but these are the main ones that come to mind and are a good place to start for any student of prophecy.)

At the end of the age, we are clearly to expect lawlessness, natural disasters, wars, false christs, certain things in the middle east, and a setting up of the beast system. That’s just a few of the things that we can expect. There are so many more. And, dare I say, every one of these things we are told to expect is beginning to take shape before our eyes in a way never seen on this earth before? A serious student of Bible prophecy recognizes that we must be close to the end. A wise person will never make predictions on dates or time frames, but we are clearly approaching the end of this age.

So what does that mean for us? I think it means that, while we certainly work together to improve situations in our churches, our families, our places of employment, our schools, and any other opportunities we are given, we don’t expect to fix the world. We don’t expect that we can push the snowball back up the hill (so to speak). While we may win small victories and rejoice over them, our expectations should not be shattered when this world continues on its collision course to God’s final years of wrath on this earth called the Great Tribulation.

One final thing that is critically important is the nature of both sides of this current “war” we are in in our nation. Listen closely to how each side talks about God. One side is very clearly going against Him. It’s easy to spot their rebellion against Him and His set laws. But I’d like to submit to you that the other side is doing the same thing, in just a much more subtle way.

Listen closely to the language of the other side. The new age phrases and notions are pretty easy to spot once you know what to look for. Both sides are rotten to the core and the one side may be more dangerous, simply due to its deceptive nature. Be. So. Careful.

If we are sojourners and pilgrims (and we are!) then let’s live like we are these things. May we remember that we are on this earth for just a short time. This world is not our home. Let’s rise up to the opportunities that God gives us to serve and minister in these dark, dreary days but let’s not get too involved in the sides of it. Neither side is “God’s side”.

And there are many opportunities, aren’t there? Practically speaking, what are some ways we can honor God and bless others during this time? A few things come to mind–

1) We can talk to others about our permanent home with enthusiasm and joy (in other words, share the Gospel often and freely!); 2) We can send cards and letters and emails and texts of encouragement; 3) We can face our job losses, our financial setbacks, our health crises, and other trials with a peace the world can’t know but longs for; 4) We can be a light in our churches and work places and schools, pointing others to God and His Word; 5) We can save lives by getting the truth out there; 6) We can join with others in the crucial battles that are taking place in our work places and schools and communities; 7) We can be instruments of God’s peace, joy, and love in this ugly world we find ourselves in.

May we believers step up boldly and courageously to the unique opportunities God gives to each one of us. For such a time as this! But, in the process of stepping up, let’s remember that this world is not our home. We are just traveling through.

 

 

The Enemy Within

Today I am sharing something written by my youngest daughter that is important for us to all understand regarding the church. There are really no words to express the feeling you get when one of your kids picks up the baton and runs with it. I love sharing what my kids write because I think it’s so important to understand that truth is ageless. It’s timeless. It’s not something we eventually find in our old age. All of us should be on this search for truth, comparing everything to scripture, no matter how old we are. And, oh, how much heartache and consequences we avoid if we start on this journey earlier rather than later.

And so I love sharing what my girls write. I love not only that they “get it” but, more importantly, I love showing whoever is reading that young people can get it. They don’t need to wallow in self-absorption and shallow Christianity. I believe we just don’t give young people enough credit. So I hope this not only challenges your thinking on the church but also gets you to thinking about the young people in your own lives. Start having some good conversations and see what they believe. Point them to the Word and show them the truth. They may grab on to it with gusto and do great things for the Lord. And, even if not, you gave them the opportunity. We can’t discount the young people. They are our future.

Now, for some very important words about the current state of the church from a 22-year-old–

I believe the church of America is failing. You heard me right, failing.

Christians whine and complain about the declining morality of the world. However, have we stopped and taken notice of the declining morality of the church?

The church has been on a downward spiral. In general, its morality is compromising, its effectiveness diminishing, and its true purpose straying.

I believe there are a few reasons for this:  #1, the Word of God is not being viewed as authoritative and all-sufficient in the lives of believers. #2, the church is losing the daily battle against the world and its influences. Lastly, #3, the world is seeping into the church and destroying it from within.

I want to focus on #3 today: “The world is seeping into the church and destroying it from within.” Your first thought may be, “wait, I thought the church is used to reach the world.” I think it is vital to camp-out on this thought for a moment in order to biblically understand this idea. The church (the place and body where believers meet to receive teaching, worship, and admonish one another) is not the place to reach the world. Before I lose you, let me explain further. The believers of the church are the ones who must leave the church and reach the world.

The problem lies in this: The church is trying to do BOTH. The church is trying to teach and admonish believers while welcoming the world with open arms. These two ideas are in stark contrast to each other. This approach will always end in one of two ways: The church compromises or the world leaves the church.

Unfortunately, this approach often ends in the compromise of a church. Let me paint a picture for you:

The church you attend is Bible believing and mostly solid. You have thoroughly enjoyed your past few years attending and often walk away from each sermon convicted. However, the past few months you have noticed small, subtle changes that begin to concern you. The leadership of the church is concerned they haven’t been growing enough in attendance. Therefore, they’ve started to add efforts to reach their community. While you love the idea of witnessing to your community, you’re unsure of their approach. The church leadership has decided that they’re just not “welcoming” enough and the sermons may be a bit too convicting for the general public’s liking. Soon, the worship service becomes more concert-like in order to draw in better crowds. The sermons become softer and kinder in order to comfort those who walk in the doors and not offend. The weekly youth group begins every teaching time with an excerpt from a popular movie. Your church’s efforts work: attendance is indeed growing. In fact, some of these new attendees are offering to help in ministry positions. However, while attendance is growing, the believers are not. The pastor begins to notice that his flock is growing complacent and their sin is abounding. He thinks, well, “at least the attendance is up and the world is now being reached inside the church doors.”

While I know that story may have sounded a bit absurd, I’m afraid it’s truer than we may like to believe. The drive to appeal to the world is slowly destroying the church. Appealing to the world is always going to result in moral compromising of the church.

I believe each church needs to take another look at its God-given purpose: to teach the Word of God, offer discipleship, worship, and Christian fellowship. If church leadership clings to teaching and growing its body in holiness and righteousness, evangelism will naturally overflow. The church will be healthy and unscathed from the world and the body will be reaching the world as they exit the church doors.

 

 

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

For many years, I waffled back and forth. The question of Halloween was more difficult when I had young kids, demanding an answer. I never did really come to a conclusion. However, as the celebration of this holiday has taken a very gruesome turn, discerning what to do has become much clearer.

My daughter, Jess, did some research and wrote about this over on her Anchor for the Soul Facebook page and I wanted to share what she discovered here—

Should christians celebrate Halloween? If you’d ask around, you’d be sure to get many different answers to that question. I’m not here to tell you that it’s an outright sin to let your kids go trick-or-treating or suggest you turn your lights off and refuse to hand out candy. I’m simply going to offer a few things to consider before you make a decision about how (and if) your family will celebrate Halloween.

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐡𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐇𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧. Samhain was a pagan religious festival that originated in ancient Celtic tradition. It is believed that the barriers between the spiritual and physical world are broken down during this time, allowing for interaction with the dead. People would leave sacrifices for their ancestors, have seances, and dress up in animal skins to scare away unwanted spirits.

As Catholicism gained a foothold in these pagan communities, church leaders tried to reframe Samhain as a “Christian” holiday. In the 9th century, Pope Gregory declared All Saints Day as an alternative celebration on November 1. This new holiday failed to do away with the pagan aspects of the celebration. October 31 became known as “All Hallows Eve” and later “Halloween.” It still contained many of the traditional pagan practices and was brought to America through Irish Immigrants in the 19th century. Most of the demonic, pagan rituals were eventually abandoned by the general public. Yet Halloween continued to be a celebration of what Samhain was all about- darkness, death, and evil.

𝐇𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞. So no, people aren’t generally dressing up to ward off evil spirits nor do they believe they can communicate with the dead on Halloween night. Now it’s just a fun holiday with parties, candy, and costumes. Some Christmas traditions are rooted in pagan practices, too, aren’t they? These are common arguments. But what we can’t argue about is that Halloween continues to be rooted in darkness and death. It’s not as spiritually innocent as we’d like the believe. Just look around at your local Home Depot or take a drive through your town. Decorations are all themed around the idea of death- zombies, gore, goblins, ghosts, horror, nooses, witches, and demons.

𝐇𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐚𝐬 𝐚 𝐒𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐜 𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐢𝐝𝐚𝐲. The founder of the church of Satan, Anton LaVey, once said that Halloween is the most important day of the year for Devil worshippers. It is a sacred holiday in the Wiccan world and I refuse to even mention the kinds of rituals I read are performed on Halloween. LaVey said that he’s “glad Christian parents allow their children to worship the devil at least one night out of the year”. A prominent occultist stated that “this night, we smile at the amateur explorers of their own inner darkness, for we know that they enjoy their brief dip into the pool of the ‘shadow world’’. So Halloween clearly did not leave all its demonic, evil rituals and meaning back in the 19th century.

So now that we’ve established those three facts about Halloween, what do you think? Is it something we should take part in? If Satanists don’t think it’s an innocent holiday for our children, should we? Do we want to take part in something endorsed by those who literally hate God? Satan is strategic. He knows that Halloween is, at the very least, making our children comfortable with evil. The Bible is clear. We need to stay away from witchcraft, sorcery, the occult, Satan, every form of evil, and darkness. We are to pursue what is true, pure, lovely, praiseworthy, and of the light. Which side does Halloween fall on?

𝐄𝐩𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝟓:𝟖-𝟏𝟏: “𝐅𝐨𝐫 𝐚𝐭 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐫𝐤𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐋𝐨𝐫𝐝. 𝐖𝐚𝐥𝐤 𝐚𝐬 𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 (𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐫𝐮𝐢𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐠𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐞), 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐫𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐞𝐫𝐧 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐋𝐨𝐫𝐝. 𝐓𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐧𝐨 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐮𝐧𝐟𝐫𝐮𝐢𝐭𝐟𝐮𝐥 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐝𝐚𝐫𝐤𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦.”

𝟏 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐚𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝟓:𝟐𝟎-𝟐𝟏: “ 𝐓𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬; 𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐝 𝐟𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐠𝐨𝐨𝐝. 𝐀𝐛𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐦 𝐨𝐟 𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐥.”

𝐏𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐩𝐩𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝟒:𝟖 – “𝐅𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲, 𝐛𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐬, 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐞, 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐬 𝐡𝐨𝐧𝐨𝐫𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞, 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐬 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭, 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐮𝐫𝐞, 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐬 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐥𝐲, 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐢𝐬 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞, 𝐢𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐞𝐱𝐜𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞, 𝐢𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐲𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐡𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐩𝐫𝐚𝐢𝐬𝐞, 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐤 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬.”

𝟏 𝐏𝐞𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟓:𝟖 – “𝐁𝐞 𝐬𝐨𝐛𝐞𝐫-𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝; 𝐛𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐟𝐮𝐥. 𝐘𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐚𝐝𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐥 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐰𝐥𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐚 𝐫𝐨𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐥𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐬𝐞𝐞𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐞𝐯𝐨𝐮𝐫.”

We are celebrating things God hates. We are celebrating what Christ came to destroy. Darkness and death and evil. Halloween is a blatant celebration of wickedness. So now what do we do? Should your kids trick-or-treat? Should you hand out candy? Should your church do a trunk-or-treat? You need to prayerfully make that decision. But I will urge you to consider a few things before you do. First, you need to guard your children’s minds and hearts above all else. What will they come into contact with if they go trick-or-treating? What kinds of things will they see at that Halloween parade? Evil and grotesque displays and costumes? I’ve driven around my town and am absolutely disturbed at the type of Halloween “decorations” I’ve seen. I will not allow my children to come into contact with that kind of evil if I can help it. What are you allowing your children to dress up as? Are you allowing them to participate in evil by dressing up as a witch, goblin, ghost, wizard, or zombie? It’s simply not harmless fun. (also keep this in mind when you decide what they can watch, read, or play with)

We’ve decided, as a family, to have nothing to do with the holiday. Our street doesn’t get trick-or-treaters so we haven’t had to make a decision about that. Prayerfully make your own decision. Not the decision you want to make, the decision your kids want you to make, or the decision that’s the most popular or will allow the least amount of ridicule from your friends and family. The decision that would most honor the Lord. After all, if we’re Christians, that should always be our ultimate goal in every single decision we make.

Beware the Bridgers (revised)

Imagine you are building a house. You have carefully chosen your builder based on referrals, reviews, and personal interviews. During the project, your builder recommends and uses different subcontractors to finish the house. You do not know anything about these subcontractors but you trust them because you trust your builder.

Your builder is a bridger. He is bridging you to the services of someone else that you don’t know, have never heard of, but will choose to trust because of his recommendation.

Now if he is connecting you with a subcontractor that is dishonest or unqualified, you will find this intolerable and demand a change be made. I doubt you would be satisfied to allow the poor work to continue on the house in which you are investing so much time and money.

I’d like to submit to you that growing in Christ is just a tiny bit similar to building a house. We are intentionally trying to grow spiritually and we choose “builders” (preachers, teachers, authors, etc) to help us with this. Along the way, those builders recommend other subcontractors (or builders). We choose to trust because of the recommendations of our favorite “builders”.

For example, if I see that my favorite author is favorably quoting another author in a book I am reading, I will naturally think that quoted author is someone I can trust. Why else would he be quoted?

Or if my favorite preacher is hanging out with other preachers, I will naturally assume that they are trustworthy preachers. I can hardly expect someone of integrity and truth to “hang out” with those who just don’t care very much about either.

But what seems so cut and dried in the physical world (builder-subcontractor-dismiss if they don’t do a good job), gets very sticky and complicated in the spiritual world.

There are so many “solid” spiritual leaders that are bridging their followers to those who are deceptive and unqualified. It’s been a very interesting dynamic to watch, particularly over the past thirty years or so (although the beginnings of this go back way earlier.)

I have watched men and women I trust recommend and join with word-of-faith preachers (which preach a false gospel), Bethel and Hillsong (which are fatally compromised and without the gospel), social justice warriors (which preach a social gospel), and all sorts of other compromised and spiritually twisted leaders. I have seen them recommend and join with false religious leaders that preach a gospel that demands works (Catholicism, Mormonism, etc.) and call it “unity”.

These people are functioning as bridgers. They are giving validity to false religion and false teaching, bridging you to a different way of thinking, even changing how you think—probably without you even realizing it.

So you may be thinking: That’s all well and fine but what is your scriptural basis for what you are saying? Does it really even matter?

I’m so glad you asked! Let’s turn to scripture to explore this specifically.

There is a small verse in Romans 16 that I find many Christians are simply ignoring. Paul is ending his letter with loving greetings to specific people of the Roman church. And then he gives these instructions to the church in verse 17–

Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

Here Paul makes it abundantly clear that we are to have nothing to do with those who would preach anything contrary to the “doctrine which you have learned”. I think we could easily say this means anything contrary to the Holy Scriptures.

Let’s turn to one more passage but, first, let’s talk about darkness and light from a spiritual perspective. In His Word, God tells us that we once walked in darkness but are now in marvelous light. How did we end up in that marvelous light? Let’s go to I Peter 2:9-10 to find out–

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

God called us. He called us out of the darkness and into his marvelous light. There is a vast difference between walking in darkness and walking in light. Now, let’s go to Ephesians 5, where Paul talks a bit more about this idea in verses 8-11–

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the [b]Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather [c]expose them.

Again, we are told not only to have no fellowship with those who walk in darkness (which most certainly would include those who preach a false Gospel, teach heresy, etc.) but to actually go a step further and expose them.

Now compare these scriptures to what you see happening in those who I will call “platformed Christians”. These men and women have a grave responsibility to lead their followers circumspectly and to lead them away from (rather than toward) false teachers and heretics. And, yet, is that what we are seeing? I’d suggest we are seeing the very opposite of this. Not only are we seeing these platformed Christians bridging believers to those who preach a different gospel, but we see those same believers refusing to acknowledge the dishonesty and lack of qualification of these false teachers. Their spiritual welfare is being undermined and so few seem to care. Instead of saying “halt the work”, they are embracing these false teachers recommended by the men and women they trust.

I’ll give you one clear (and rather extreme) example before I wrap up. Several years ago now, I heard R.C. Sproul in an interview. I had a fairly decent view of this guy going into this interview and had appreciated some of his writing. However, in this interview he talked favorably of Alice Cooper. Now, I grew up in the days when this rocker was known for his satanic and disturbing concerts. Sproul claimed that Cooper had changed and was now saved. I was surprised but took him at his word. However, something inside me needed to know and I started researching. It didn’t take me long. Cooper’s own website showed that he most definitely had not made any changes in his life.

This is one of the most disturbing partnerships I have ever witnessed (even to this day, I am so disturbed by this and can hardly stomach hearing the name of Sproul). Why would Sproul speak positively of a satanic rocker who was still satanically “rocking”? I will honestly never know. But can you see how Sproul assuring us that he is a “brother in Christ” gives him validity in the eyes of Sproul’s followers?

There are a plethora of much less obvious (and, therefore, often more dangerous) bridgers who are busily at work leading their followers astray by their partnerships, recommendations, and connections.

We each need to personally decide how we handle these bridgers. I am not here to tell you to never read or listen to them (although that is generally my own personal response). I am not here to tell you what to do. I am simply warning you that it is happening. And that we must beware these bridgers.

How do we do this?

We pay attention. We pay attention to who our favorite speakers and authors are partnering with in conferences. We pay attention to who they are quoting. We pay attention and we research.

However you decide to respond to a bridger, I hope that it will lead you to trust that person just a little less. At best, they are completely ignoring God’s Word in a very important area. At worst, they are intentionally, if subtly, leading their followers astray. Either way, they are either ignorant of the scriptures they are supposed to be so well versed in or they are nefarious in their purpose. Neither option is great, is it?

Bridgers are here to stay. This has become a popular thing to do, under the guise of unity. But this is not and can never be true unity. Jesus tells us He is the way, the truth, the life. True unity only comes when we are united in the true Gospel, which is the person of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. Any teacher that adds to, takes away, or otherwise changes the Gospel must be avoided.

So please beware the bridgers. They are everywhere now. And, in fact, I would venture to say that most platformed Christians function as bridgers. View this as a red flag and keep your eyes open.

 

Please note: Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes point people a direction they later find out was wrong. I myself have done that. Watch for patterns and long-time connections. And watch for those partnerships with those that are so obviously heretical and false. And then give a bit of grace to those who may just not know and simply watch and be aware. Because we can all be deceived at some level. The key is to be willing to admit it and then make changes.

 

And another note: A few hours after I wrote this I received a very insightful comment from a reader that I believe is very important and needs to be included in this post. Here’s what he said–

Noteworthy is that if a subcontractor messes up or is just bad, the contractor is responsible nonetheless.  Also, my favorite go-to verse on this is 2 John vs 10-11.  We are not to greet false teachers or even invite them into our home– or you, in fact, share in their evil deeds.  I would elaborate on this and explain it that if people see you greeting them and even inviting them into your home, they assume the person is okay.

I believe that what he says is absolutely true and I wish I would have thought of these things myself! We must remember that 1) We most certainly are responsible for who we lead people to (which means we should take it very seriously before promoting anyone) and 2) We shouldn’t even greet or invite someone into our home who does not share our doctrine (again, this is the Gospel and the key doctrines that make up biblical faith). Please keep in mind that the reference here is regarding those who claim to be of the faith but actually and clearly aren’t.

 

Responding to Critics and Attackers

When one starts publicly comparing the current Christian world to what the Bible teaches, all kinds of criticisms and attacks accompany it. Whether it’s on a blogging platform, in a church business meeting, on social media, or in a weeknight Bible Study, there is always someone who will be offended if you point out that someone or something is false or compromised when compared to scripture.

Why do Christians have such a hard time seeing these false teachers and the false doctrines they are promoting? I personally believe it is because they are not in the Word, studying to understand it with humility and submission to it. It is truly and LITERALLY our ONLY protection against deception. I believe that most who claim to be Christians are actually not reading and studying the Word. I also believe another reason is PRIDE. The unwillingness to admit we were wrong about something or someone is difficult for all of us.

There are a few types of attackers–

The Condescending One— these are difficult because they are so very judgy and think they know so much more than you do (which they might). They have a very high opinion of their opinions and refuse to even contemplate anything you say. There is no possibility for even a thoughtful discussion because, in their mind, there is nothing to discuss.

The Mean One— these are the ones who call you judgy while calling you names and judging you. It would almost be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. They are hypocrites at the highest level but, truly, they can’t even see it. They are blinded in their false philosophies and hatred for anyone who doesn’t agree with them. It doesn’t matter how lovingly you state the truth, they hate the truth. And they hate you for speaking it.

The Diverting One -these are generally genuine believers who claim to believe the Bible is true. They can’t respond to the biblical argument you are presenting so they change the subject and try to get you off topic.

The “Holy” One–these are the ones that claim that God showed them that you are the wrong one. They will say they heard His voice or that He led them to a special song or conversation that “proved” you are wrong. Instead of the Word, these people rely on experiences to determine their truth.

The “Attack the Messenger” One–these also tend to be genuine believers and, when they can’t answer the biblical argument, they just start attacking you personally. They call you names and make painful remarks. Sometimes they even gossip about you or slander you.

The Silent One— these are the toughest and contain the largest group of our critics. These are the ones who will never say a word but just disappear because they don’t agree. They won’t even be willing to have the discussion and they hate conflict so they just disappear.

Oftentimes, our critics are a combination of these listed above. If you speak up about the truth with regularity, I’d rather guess that you have experienced all of those mentioned. It can be very painful–especially when coming from fellow believers.

But this will be the price we pay for speaking the truth. We must prepare ourselves, praying for courage and boldness to speak up in a time when speaking the truth is vilified by the world and the church. (There’s a reason for this. This belief that speaking negatively is an unloving and unchristian thing to do didn’t just happen. It was a very intentional thing that started many years ago and has finally reached it’s peak. It’s a stunning and shocking thing to research this belief that we should only “speak the positive” historically. It’s so clearly not of God.)

So for those of you who are brave enough to stand for the truth, in spite of the darts and arrows that come your way, let’s talk a bit today about how we best handle it. No matter the type of attacker or critic, I have been learning some things we should always do if we want to handle this in a way that is honoring to God. (And–just to be clear–I don’t have this down. In fact, I am not even close. I am still working on this and praying to grow in this area of responding to my critics and attackers.)

Here are six things we should each consider when responding–

1. Give time to prayer before responding. I have to confess that I am learning this from a dear friend. She has been experiencing a bit of kickback regarding something and, instead of responding immediately, she took a few days to pray about how best to respond. I do this sometimes but in watching her respond to these attackers, I realized that I need to do this all the time. Before I ever open my mouth or put my finger on a key, I need to pray. Pray for wisdom, pray for the person who is attacking me, pray for help in loving that person instead of being angry at them.

2. Give humble and honest evaluation to what they are saying. Does their comment or thought have any merit at all? Oftentimes, at least in my case, I won’t post something until I am 100% sure regarding the compromise and there is no doubt that this person or doctrine is false. That being said, I did learn a hard lesson years ago when I posted something on social media without knowing the whole story. That was a good lesson for me. I was even more thorough after that mistake. But, even in my carefulness, it is important to take their words seriously and evaluate them rather than getting all worked up and defensive. We must remember that we can easily be rendered ineffective if we get all worked up and refuse to listen to their side of the discussion before responding in a thoughtful, loving manner.

3. Point them to the Bible. Seriously. I can’t say this enough. My opinion doesn’t matter. Your opinion doesn’t matter. Every argument needs to be defended using the Word of God. If it can’t be, then just stop arguing. I realize that this can get confusing because people twist and warp the Word to suit their own lusts and desires. Something that has been super helpful to me regarding this particular thing is 2 Thessalonians 2:15–

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught,

whether by word or our epistle.

 

This reminds me that if the (true) church taught something for 2000 years, it didn’t just change ten or twenty or fifty years ago. If someone is trying to twist scripture to match this current (debased) culture, you can be sure they are not speaking the truth. While there have always been attacks on the Bible, our biblical understanding of doctrine has remained pretty stable within the genuine church for thousands of years. It’s only recently (last 100-200 years) that these attacks started in earnest on the Word and the traditional beliefs regarding the Word and its interpretation.

4. Respond lovingly and firmly and gently and humbly. We cannot be responsible for how people respond to us but we are most definitely responsible for how we respond to them. We must do so in a way that honors our heavenly Father.

5. Know when to walk away. We live in a culture of debate. Everyone wants to tell people their opinion. There is a lot of anger and ugliness when this happens. People no longer are willing to agree to disagree. Even in my own church, there are people who set themselves up as my enemy simply because I don’t agree with them (nothing breaks my heart more than this.) We must stand out as different in this area. We must point people to the Word and then, if they are unwilling to have a thoughtful discussion, we must walk away. Not only must we walk away but we must walk away without grudges, without bitterness, and without anger. We must walk away with love, with prayer, and with forgiveness in our hearts.

6. Recognize that it is the Holy Spirit who changes people’s hearts and minds. It’s such a relief to know that I don’t have to change any minds or hearts. I just speak the truth and then let the Holy Spirit do the rest. We can’t change a mind. And so we speak up and then we pray for that person.

____________________________________

This is a tall order. We are all naturally defensive, prideful people. Only the Holy Spirit can make these things possible. Only the Holy Spirit can ensure that we do this the right way. If we rely on our own “intelligence” and methods, we will fail every time. (I am personally familiar with failure of this nature!)

Oh, my friends, don’t get discouraged. IF people are persecuting you, know that they persecuted Jesus before you. IF they are upset with you, know that we can and should expect it. IF you are 100% committed to God and His Word, taking the time to meditate and study what He has told us in His Word while humbly desiring to submit and obey everything within its pages, and this is happening to you, then these attacks are simply proof that you are on the straight and narrow road of LIFE.

Keep your heads up! You are not alone! And one of these days, the battle will be done and we will be together in heaven!

 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be

compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18

 

 

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