Helen’s Christmas Dream (Part 2)

Below you will find Part Two of this year’s Christmas story. If you missed Part One, you can find it here. Happy reading!

     A week later found Helen outside hanging up laundry in the late autumn sunshine. It was a breezy, brisk day and the wet clothing combined with the cold air was making her fingers freeze. She looked up as she heard the wagon. Papa had gone to town for supplies and he usually brought a small treat back for each of the children. Even though Helen considered herself to mature to enjoy penny candy, she was secretly glad that Papa still brought her some.
     “Whoah,” Papa pulled the wagon up next to the house and jumped down. In his hand he held two letters. This was not unusual as both Papa and Mama had family back east in Cleveland.
     Mama was wiping her hands on a towel as she came out to greet Papa with a smile.
     “Two letters today,” John handed them to her. Helen knew that Mama loved the letters she got from Grandma and her sisters. It was a bit hard on her to live so far from her family.
     Helen continued hanging up the laundry until the last piece was hung on the line and then she went inside to find mama reading her letters at the kitchen table.
     “Anything interesting?” Helen asked.
     “Well, actually, yes…” Mama looked at her with speculative, twinkly eyes.
     “Well…what?” Helen laughed.
     “I’d like to talk to your father before I tell you what’s in this specific letter,” she held up a piece of paper with large, scrawling handwriting and then pointing to the second letter laying on the table, “but Grandma sends her love,” she added with a smile.
     A bit annoyed, Helen wandered off into the living room where her younger siblings were playing quietly. She busied herself with her knitting basket as she pondered the author and message of the mysterious letter.
     Several hours later the younger children were in bed and the older children sat at the table doing their homework. Helen’s parents found her in the living room reading. Her mama held the letter in her hand. Helen looked up expectantly. Now what could be in that letter?
     “We’d like to talk to you for a moment,” said Mama as she sat down on the sofa. A smiling Papa sat down next to her.
     “This letter is from my Aunt Ida. She was talking to Grandma and telling her that her companion recently got married and that she is in need of a new one. Grandma suggested you,” she paused a moment to let it sink in.
     Helen sat there, dumbfounded. Wealthy Aunt Ida was requesting her as a companion? “What would I do?”
     Her father answered, “According to her letter you would help her with correspondence and entertaining, as well as simply keep her company.”
     “That’s it?” Helen asked, surprised.
     “That’s it,” Mama laughed and then continued, “What a different life it would be for you compared to your life here on the farm. But your father and I feel like you should do this. It’s a wonderful opportunity. Aunt Ida is such a dear and she’s all alone now that Uncle Harry passed away a few years ago.”
     Thoughts swirled through Helen’s mind. She had never met Aunt Ida but she did remember Mama talking about her “rich relatives”. Aunt Ida had met and married Uncle Harry when he was an up and coming businessman. He had done very well for himself and, many years ago, the couple had moved to a big, rambling mansion in the best part of Cleveland. Aunt Ida had stayed living there despite the fact that she was all alone now.
     While Helen had spent many hours dreaming of living in a mansion, she never thought it would actually happen. The excitement began to grow within her as she thought of what lay before her.
     “Yes! I’ll do it!” she said suddenly and eagerly.
     “Wonderful,” her mama said it a bit hesitantly as the ramifications of her oldest daughter moving away settled in on her heart. As with most mamas, she wanted what was best for her beloved child but that would sometimes mean hurt to her own heart. While she did rely on Helen for help around the house and with the younger children, she knew that her other older children could fill that hole. No, what she would really miss was Helen herself. As she had grown older, the mother and daughter had developed a burgeoning friendship and she would sorely miss her. But Mama knew she had to encourage her daughter to grab hold of this exciting opportunity so she shooed the unhappy thoughts away and pasted a large smile on her face as she added, “you will love my Aunt Ida. She is a delightful lady. ”
     Papa lovingly squeezed Mama’s hand. He knew how hard this was for her but he also agreed that it was important for Helen to take advantage of this unexpected and amazing opportunity.
     Mama and Helen both wrote letters to Aunt Ida in response to her letter and the next few weeks were a flurry of activity as they prepared Helen for her big adventure.
     Three weeks later, she stood by the train station with her family. The youngest children were especially sad that “their Helen” was leaving them and the good-bye was difficult. There were many hugs and kisses and not a few tears as she climbed on to the train that would take her east to her new life.

Are You Ready to Read the Bible in 2023?

It is getting to that time of year when we start thinking about our goals for the new year. 2022 is winding down and 2023 promises fresh starts and new beginnings. For those of us that are redeemed by the blood of Christ, something that often comes to mind when we consider new beginnings is growing more consistent in our Bible reading and study. But where to begin?

There are so many things that we have to do in this life. Children to care for. Jobs to go to. Houses to clean. Laundry to wash. Food to shop for and then make. Yard work. The list goes on and on. And there is also that long list of things we really want to do. Hobbies. Entertainment. Get-togethers with families and friends. Sports and fitness. Home decor. That list also goes on and on. So where does the Bible fit in that list of priorities?

If Bible Reading/Study is something that you want to work on for 2023, Growing4Life may be able to help. Back in 2015 I had the idea of presenting a Bible Reading Challenge for my readers. I took 2016 off, provided another challenge in 2017 and have been providing them for my readers ever since, making helpful changes along the way. I really believe that you will enjoy taking part of the upcoming challenge, should you choose to do so. :)

So why do I believe this is one good option (of so many good options out there) to read and study your Bible in 2023? There are a few reasons why I especially love this challenge for 2023 and I hope you will agree with me–

First, it is suitable for anyone. It is for those of you who are not a Christian (yet!) but want to know more about the Bible. It’s for those of you who are somewhat familiar with the Bible and for those who are advanced students of scripture. This challenge is unique in that it works for anyone.

Second, this study is so wonderfully flexible regarding time commitment. During busy months when you can hardly find a spare minute, you can spend time reading (or even listening) to the assigned passages. During other months that aren’t quite so full, you can reap the rich rewards of really studying the Bible passage. Perhaps life overwhelms you and you totally stop reading the Bible. Even then, this challenge makes it easy to jump right back in. There is no getting behind or catching up in this study unless you set specific goals for yourself that are not challenge-related.

Third, this challenge includes scripture study from both the Old Testament and the New Testament, which helps so very much with understanding the cohesiveness and consistency of scripture from beginning to end.

Fourth, there is a specific Facebook group to help support and keep you going (should you choose to join). This offers some accountability along with support from like-minded believers.

Fifth (and NEW this year), there is a corresponding workbook to help make the most of the challenge. It is full of open-ended questions for each chapter of study. The goal is for this to help you really think through each passage as well as to help you remember more by writing down what you are learning. I am excited to offer this to participants in this year’s challenge. (However, please note that it is not necessary to buy the notebook to participate in the challenge. It is simply an extra help for those who would like it.)

Find out more about the 2023 Growing4Life Bible Reading challenge at this link. I can’t think of any new habit to begin that is more important than making time to be in the Word. I truly hope that this challenge will help you to develop (or continue!) this habit in your life.

I’ll probably write more about this again later, but I did want to let you know that the challenge is up and ready to go, as well as to let you know about the new workbook you can purchase to help you to get more out of the challenge (if you choose to do so. Again, it is NOT necessary to participate.)

Have a great week!

Helen’s Christmas Dream (Part 1)

Today I present to you the first part of the 2022 Christmas story! For the next five weeks, I will post a part of this story, wrapping it up the Friday before Christmas. This year’s story takes place back in the Victorian era, where we meet a young girl (whom I have given the name of my beloved, late grandmother) who learns a lesson at Christmastime about what really matters. I hope you enjoy it! And now for part one–

     Helen Andrews closed her eyes to dream for just a moment before being jarred back to reality by a scream from her little sister.
     “He hit me! Oh, that hurt,” Betsy cried.
     Grabbing her six-year-old brother by the shoulder, Helen guided him to a nearby chair and told him to sit. He obeyed but his expression made it clear that he wasn’t very happy about it.
     “Now, George, why can’t you just be nice to your sister?” Helen scolded. She sat down next to Betsy, who was looking at a picture book. Picking up the novel that lay close by, she tried to read.
     Helen was the oldest of nine children, of whom George and Betsy were the youngest. The Andrews family lived on a small farm out in the country. Life was hard but the family was happy in their little farmhouse.
     Except for Helen. She was not happy. She dreamed of mansions and cities and of having a bedroom all to herself. She was weary of taking care of little brothers and sisters, of washing mounds of laundry, and of cooking for an army. She was tired of farm animals and gardening and storing up food for the winter. Being part of a large family and living on a farm in the late 1800s filled her with discontent.
     She gave a deep and troubled sigh and tried to focus on the novel in her hand. Glancing over at George, she found him staring up at the ceiling, “You can get up, George.”
     He enthusiastically hopped out of the chair and went back to the toy train on the floor as Helen returned to her daydreaming. What would her life be like if she didn’t have any siblings to take care of? No chores to do every single day? What if she had a room all to herself? What if she even had a servant to help her dress and serve her breakfast? She sighed with longing as she imagined herself in a four poster bed covered with a blue and white quilt, in a room where the walls were covered with miniature blue flowers. Over to the side sat a dresser with a beautiful and expensive pitcher and bowl. The large windows spilled the rays of the sun on to the bed where she lay…
     “Helen! Come peel potatoes for supper,” Her mother disrupted her lovely dream.
     In the kitchen she found her sisters, Eleanor and Charlotte, folding mounds of laundry. Well, at least she had gotten out of that chore for today.
     George and Betsy soon wandered into the kitchen to play by the hearth, where a roaring fire sent out its comforting warmth. Helen didn’t yet realize what a lovely picture this large family made as they worked and played together in the large farmhouse kitchen.
     A few hours later, the family was seated around the large kitchen table in front of a large ham, fried potatoes, cooked carrots, and freshly-baked bread.
     “Let’s bow our heads,” Helen’s father smiled at his children. A hard-working farmer, he always worked up quite an appetite but he was never too hungry to first thank the Lord for the food in front of them.
     While he prayed, Helen’s mind wandered back to that big bedroom in her mind’s fantasy mansion. Little did she realize that her dream was soon to become reality.

Please NOTE: You can read past years’ Christmas stories here. If you prefer to read them in a book or ebook, I have compiled them and have made them available on Amazon, which you can find at this link.

Controlling the Fire

On Saturday, I tiredly stood in line at the airport store with two cokes in my hand. I took a step forward as one person finished paying and the next person moved up to the cashier. Quite suddenly and without any warning whatsoever, I was unexpectedly assailed by the woman standing in front of me. Move back!! There is a law to stay back five feet! Thank you! She scolded angrily.

Before I could even really see her face, she had whirled back around. 

I eyed her back distastefully, stayed where I was, and took a look around me. I had not invaded her personal space in any way. I was several feet behind her already. There were no signs on the wall nor marks on the floor indicating any “rule”. I was not only perturbed and puzzled but, strangely, I felt hurt by this stranger who I would never, ever see again. 

(And, honestly, I respect her fear. If she felt strongly about the “stay back five foot” rule that she apparently lives by, she still could have said it in a kind and loving way. Sometimes we do need to communicate something that isn’t pleasant. But it need not be said unpleasantly.)

As I reflected on this later, I couldn’t help but contrast her rude and unnecessary behavior to another conversation I had after that. Standing in line with a Southwest Mechanic at Chick-Fil-A, he was kind and friendly. What a difference!

These conversations reminded me of our effect on others every day. Strangers, acquaintances, family, friends, and co-workers. Every single person we talk to may be cheered or hurt by us. We can encourage or we can discourage. We can build up or we can tear down. All of this is with our words.

James says that our tongues are like a fire (James 3:6). Fire is deadly and can cause terrible destruction. But used in the right way, it can be a blessing of warmth in the cold. It is used to cook, to heat our homes, to mold precious metals. But fire must always be controlled.

And so it is with our tongues. We can use them for such good purposes or we can lose control and they can cause great damage.

Do you remember that old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”?

Well, it’s not true. I bet each one of you can remember something that someone has said to you that was hurtful. Words do hurt. They hurt a LOT.

We will never have a conversation with most of the people we see and run into every day. But when God gives us the opportunity to talk with someone, it should be our desire to leave them feeling loved and encouraged.

If you are like me, you will find this hardest to do with your own family. It is often much easier to be kind to a stranger. But in our families, where we feel free to let our guards down and where past hurts and frustrations mar the relationship…well, then it is not quite so easy. I find myself so easily saying unkind words to my own husband. I don’t mean to. But they are often out before I catch them. There goes that destructive tongue again! Ughhhh.

We don’t get free passes to sin at home. I think sometimes we act like we do, don’t we? We put on a nice show when we are out and about but change how we treat others when we are in our own homes.

I am so very thankful for my husband, who forgives me over and over again. Of course, I do the same for him when he says hurtful and unkind things to me. It’s part of marriage. It’s part of family. Letting things roll and forgiving much. It’s the only way to make any relationship work.

But in the midst of all of the rolling and forgiving, we must not–we cannot–stop working on how we speak to one another. We don’t want to get lazy in our efforts to really love one another.

So will you join me in really considering how we use our tongues today? Let’s make an effort to encourage and build up, both at home and out and about. Not only when we are happy but also when we are really frustrated. Both when we feel like being nice and when we don’t feel like being so nice.

It’s easy to be kind when we feel like being kind. But there are no conditions on kind and edifying words. We are to speak them always. We are to always be carefully controlling the fire that is our tongue. A true challenge for us all.

QUICK NOTE: On Friday I will begin a brand new Christmas Story. It is so hard to believe it is that time of year again already! I recently compiled my prior Christmas stories into a book that I have made available on Amazon. It includes all of the stories written so far, along with one new one. (That particular story will only be available in the book. I plan to write a brand new one here for the blog this coming month.) You can find the book here.

By the way…if you have already purchased the book and have enjoyed it, I would so appreciate your positive review on Amazon. That would be a real blessing to me. :)

Two Special Announcements!

Good morning! Today will be a different kind of post. I’ve been busy preparing some things that I hope will be a blessing to my readers. But before I share what they are I wanted to share a bit of my heart with you.

Some of you are new here, so let me first say that I still sometimes find myself wondering how I got here– writing a blog that points people to God and His Word and includes sharing about my life so publicly in the process. (The following will be familiar to those of you who are longtime readers, as I’ve written bits and pieces about this in past posts.)

When I started blogging in 2010, it was without much expectation. It was a place for me to write (and I’ve always loved to write since I was a little girl) and that was about the extent of it. But then I started feeling like I should “market” this blog. After all, wouldn’t that be the good? Isn’t that what I was “supposed to do”? It certainly was, according to podcasts and conferences about blogging.

I soon realized something: A biblical blog is generally not going to be a very popular blog and will both create enemies and let you know who your true friends are. While I never expected people to agree with me all the time, I was happy to agree to disagree. I don’t dislike or bear ill will towards anyone who doesn’t agree with what I have written.

It’s also important to note here that I have no illusion that I am right all the time. As I’ve said so often here on the blog: It doesn’t matter one little bit what my opinion is. The question for any Christian must always be: what is God’s opinion? That is the only opinion that matters. And the place we find that opinion is in His Word. It’s so important to examine what anyone says (or writes or sings) against what the Bible says.

But so many people–even many Christians– don’t want to know what the Bible says. Because it costs just too much to submit and to obey. I do understand the difficulty and I have much grace for the believer who has that battle raging within them. I’ve fought and continue to fight that same battle. But we dare not give up or reject God’s Word. We must keep fighting. We must hold on to the anchor and guide that God has given us for this life and seek to obey His Word.

But I found that many people did not have grace and understanding for me and what I believed God had called me to do. I have tried my best to point people to the Word for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) but I have to admit that I have been stunned and deeply hurt over the rejection, antagonism, and misunderstanding I have received because of this blog through the years. But I am fine. Please don’t feel bad for me. I did have some rough years but God continued to encourage me through His Word and through encouragement from many of you and I have been able to feel at peace about this (Studying I Peter recently has also been a great encouragement to me regarding this!)

I would also like to add here how much I especially appreciate those of you who have afforded me grace and have continued to read (or to be my friend), despite the fact that you don’t agree with me on every point. I am grateful for you.

Around the same time I was realizing the hard truth of the cost I was probably going to pay in writing, I was also feeling a bit uneasy about “marketing myself”. I was so relieved when I heard someone in ministry say something about this. The wisdom of what they said struck me profoundly. This person had committed to never marketing their ministry in any way but to instead let the increase up to God. This struck a cord within me. Yes, I would leave the increase up to God. I became content with the small readership that God had given and just wanted to faithfully serve God through this tiny little platform.

One morning, a few years later, I sat down to write a post. I wrote it in just a few minutes and hit “publish”. Imagine my surprise when this post went viral. Over the course of the next year and a half, this post would make my blog known to people across the world. I was shocked and not a little disconcerted! God, as only He can do, had used that post to grow the blog to where it is today. Not really all that huge in the scope of things but much bigger than I ever expected.

I am truly thankful for each one of you who has taken your precious time to read the blog. I hope that it points you to the Bible, encourages you in your walk with God, and gives you hope in the midst of all that is going on in this world. I do believe God has called me to encourage the saints through this platform specifically and it is with this calling in mind that I share these two announcements–

First…

I can think of no other thing that is more important for a believer than to be in the Word, studying for themselves. This is why I started the Growing4Life Bible Reading Challenge seven years ago. I am excited to announce that the 2023 Bible Reading Challenge is up! (You can find more about that here.) I will write a special post on the upcoming challenge at a later date, closer to the end of the year. But I did want to let you know about something I’ve been working on related to this…

In December of last year, I had the very last-minute idea of creating a corresponding workbook for the challenge. I created it quickly, found a local printer, and went to the work of sending each one out individually to those who wanted it. Personally, I found the workbook very helpful in my own personal study. It made me dig a bit more and really figure out what the passage was saying. And so I decided to do another one for this year. But I wasn’t sure how to go about making it available to Growing4Life readers who may be interested in it. Especially those of you who live in different countries. At the suggestion of a few friends, I looked into making it available on Amazon. Lo and behold, this was not impossible and so I got to work. I am happy to say it IS available there. It should be available to you, no matter where you live in the world. You can find it here–

Second…

When I realized that publishing on Amazon wasn’t all that hard, I set about the task of compiling my Christmas stories into one book for you, my readers. I know many of you are not interested in this, but I think there are a few of you who may be. I have no grand illusions of this book’s success. I know that there will be a very select few who are interested in this. But it was a really great way to wade into the publishing world. I didn’t do everything perfectly, that’s for sure. There is a lot to think of and there is much by way of formatting that is complicated (and annoying, too!) It took a lot of work, but the reward of seeing the book listed on Amazon was worth it. In the book you will find all of the stories I’ve featured on the blog so far, along with one new story that has never been published before. You can find that book here–

Quite honestly, I have not grown any more comfortable with marketing myself than I was all those years ago. And I am not writing to earn money. In fact, my generous husband has footed the bills for running this blog each year (it costs me several hundred dollars each year to keep this blog ad-free). And so it goes against my grain to “sell these books”. But it is my prayer that both of these resources I’ve made available may be of great encouragement to some of you. And I really hope that An Extraordinary Christmas will plant seeds of the Gospel in the hearts of those readers who don’t know Christ personally. And this is why I published these two books– to encourage believers and to plant seeds of the Gospel in those who would never read the stories on the blog.

And one final note–if you used the workbook last year and found it beneficial or if you have read the Christmas stories through the years, would you consider writing a review on Amazon? Books without reviews on Amazon look so forlorn and lonely… I would appreciate so much if some of you would take the time to do this. Thank you so much in advance!!

I hope these brand new resources will be a great blessing to you!

Signs and Signals

We went camping this past weekend and, throughout the entire time, we’d hear geese passing overhead, honking loudly. Can you see them in the photo? They are there, right in the center. Sometimes there would be just a few but, often, there were hundreds of them. Here in Pennsylvania we’ve come to associate these sights and sounds with the onset of spring or the end of fall, when the geese are migrating.

The geese are a sign. A sign that change is coming. A signal that the end of a season has drawn nigh and that the next season is coming.

I found it interesting that, on this same weekend, I read about an incident that gave signs as to what was coming. I took some time to read a history magazine during my time away which featured a series of articles about Pompeii and its destruction due to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. This town was preserved in a special way by the lava and ash that covered it and would, many years later, be excavated by archaeologists, providing much information regarding life in Rome at that time.

The thing I found most interesting was the timeline they gave of the event. Even if you don’t love history, I think you will find this fascinating…

Four days before the eruption, the people felt tremors in the town. The town had lost a quarter of its population twenty years before due to a terrible earthquake, so it is interesting that people were not more concerned about these tremors. But life, according to sources available, seemed to continue on as normal. I would imagine some people decided to take a trip to the country when the tremors started.

These tremors continued, until shorty after noon of the fourth day, when the volcano roared to life and began to spew debris into the air. The sky grew dark and menacing and soon, thousands of tons of pumice was raining down on the population of Pompeii. Some of the people had escaped into the countryside, but there was little hope for those who chose to stay. Many sought shelter in their homes but the weight of the pumice caused their homes to collapse. If their homes did not collapse, then there was the ash. Ash and debris covered the city up to 9 ft. deep. This continued throughout the afternoon and evening and into the night.

Twelve hours afterward, the roaring mountain settled down, the gases weakened, and the intensity died down. Pompeiians who had happened to survive the day before began to take stock of their neighborhoods and families. With the mountain and town quiet now, they believed they had survived the worst of it.

But they had not. Unbeknownst to them, super-heated clouds of ash, gases, and volcanic debris, would soon surge towards them around 200 miles per hour. With the heat and intensity of the flow, it is doubtful that anyone survived. (Another coastal town by the name of Herculaneum, that had missed the rain of ash and pumice due to the direction of the wind, was not spared this time and was also discovered by archaeologists some 1600 years later.)

As I read this article 1, I was struck by its relevance for us today.

Since I was a young girl, we have been feeling tremors that signal we are approaching the end of the age. We knew, even then, it was coming soon. Ever since Israel became a nation, we knew it couldn’t be long. But there were other things, too, indicating that things were changing. Some chose to ignore these tremors. Others chose to obsess about them. The wise chose to acknowledge them, while understanding that it was all in God’s Sovereign Plan for the world, according to scripture.

And then came the first big eruption. The things that put the actual last days in motion. I remember looking at my husband in March of 2020 and saying this is it. This is the beginning of the end.

Things have been abnormal since then. We want to hope that things will go back to normal. We want to think it is all over. But I rather guess we are just like those Pompeiians who wandered around after that first rain of ash and debris searching for survivors.

The worst is yet to come and the world as we know it will not survive the second and final surge of “lava”, planned by wicked men but ordained by God to bring in the final days of this age.

We’d be wise to acknowledge the signs and prepare ourselves for what is to come. I am not talking about preparing ourselves physically, but spiritually.

Are we in the Word, obeying its commands, learning what it says about the future, clinging to its promises? Are we learning from godly men and women who point us to the inerrant and inspired Bible for all of life, who believe that Jesus is our only hope, and who help us grow deep roots of faith? This is how we can prepare spiritually for what lies ahead for us in the days to come. There really is no other way.

It is tempting to grow discouraged as we consider what is ahead. My husband and I talked about this at length as we endure the crushing ramifications of all that has transpired over the past few years, knowing deep down that there is not much hope for things improving in the future.

I am not sure what will be that final surge that changes everything. News stories fill the airwaves, often filling us with fear. We all know things are not right. That something is coming. Did the Pompeiians walking around in their ash and pumice-filled town feel the same?

The signs are everywhere. The end is near. While we must not be overly focused on this and we must live every moment as if life will continue on as it always has, it is important to recognize that, at some point soon now, it simply…won’t.

The signs are everywhere and it is in our best interest to pay attention. Instead of fear, may these signs give us more love for and trust in God and His Word, may they give us a deeper passion for sharing the Gospel, and may they fill us with a growing anticipation to meet our Savior!

 

1from BBC History Revealed, October 2022

 

Resisting the Roaring Lion

We have been studying I Peter this past month in the Growing4Life Bible Challenge. It is really hard to cover this book of the Bible in just four weeks but we are taking in as much as we can! There is so much there! We are now on the final chapter, chapter 5, and verses 6-11 contain much that is profoundly helpful for us believers in 2022–

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called [g]us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The first verses gives us a framework for the rest of the passage: Humble ourselves and cast our cares on God. These are two very basic things for the redeemed to remember:

First, we must be humble. We must stop thinking more “highly of ourselves than we ought”, as Paul puts it in Romans 12:3. Later on in that same chapter, Paul puts it like this: “Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (vs 16). This is a key aspect in a healthy Christian walk for a number of reasons but the two that come to mind: To be in right relationship both with God and with others necessitates humility.

Second, we must stop fretting and worrying. Instead, God tells us to cast our cares on Him and choose to trust Him to care for us. He has promised to do this not only here in this passage, but throughout scripture. He loves and cares for His own. He will never forsake us! (Hebrews 13:5)

Now with those two exhortations, Peter goes on to talk about our adversary. In our modern day Christianity, many believers shy away from talking about the devil. Of course, there is the other extreme, where one blames everything on the devil or thinks he can be ordered around, as if that is their job to do so (It’s not!!). So what should be our right response to the truth that we Christians do have an enemy and it is the devil?

Peter gives us some instruction in verse 8: Be sober and be vigilant.

Dictionary.com gives these partial definitions–

Sober–not intoxicated or drunk.

Let’s think back to what it says in Ephesians 5: And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit. From this, I believe we can deduct that Christian sobriety comes from being filled with the Spirit. And let’s remember: It is not just wine that makes us intoxicated! We can be intoxicated by any number of things: ungodly novels, worldly entertainment, temporal goals, money, hobbies; so much can intoxicate us into a state of caring little about spiritual things. This intoxication (or idolatry!) is what leaves us open to the attacks of our enemy. 

Vigilant–sleeplessly watchful

We are a spiritually lazy culture. Many people claiming Christ don’t even open their Bibles between Sundays. They are asleep spiritually. Caught up in their distractions and worldly living, they are uninterested in what really matters. Instead of being sleeplessly watchful, they are sound asleep and can’t see a thing. Vigilance is not a popular concept these days, but here in I Peter we are told it is necessary in order to protect ourselves from our enemy.

Why is it so important that we are sober and vigilant? What is the big deal? Peter goes on to tell us why it’s a very big deal:

Our adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour!

This is not just some fable or allegory told for our entertainment. This is 100% true.

We have an enemy who seeks to destroy us. Of course, if we are saved, there is nothing he can do about our eternal destinies. But he can, and often does, render the believer ineffective for the Kingdom of God by distracting us with the frivolous and the meaningless, by getting us caught up in unbiblical philosophies and practices, and, often, by tempting us to sin or to feel discouraged and without hope. And, since he often cloaks himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), he will be hard to spot–unless we are sober and vigilant and expect his attacks, both the obvious and the deceptive.

Peter goes on to say that we must resist the devil and remain steadfast in the faith.

We resist the devil and remain steadfast in our faith by submitting to God’s Will and obeying His Word. There is no other way. And, in fact, this is one of the biggest areas of life that Satan attacks us, for he does not want us in the Word of God, understanding God’s care for us, feeling conviction of sin, and recognizing the need to surrender our dreams and passions to God.

Of course, for all of us, resisting the devil and remaining steadfast in our faith is not an easy task. As Peter says, it often brings suffering. If you have read the biographies of men and women from the past, you will know that they suffered greatly as they battled Satan and stood for the truth. Whether on the African plains, in the Chinese village, or in the cathedrals and monasteries of Europe, wherever there have been people who share the Gospel and stand for truth, there is suffering.

Peter tells us to expect this suffering and to know that these same sufferings have been experienced by other believers all across the world.

But Peter doesn’t end there! (Aren’t you so glad he doesn’t??)

He goes on to remind us that God won’t just let us drown in suffering but, after suffering for just a while, God will perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle us. I wonder if God doesn’t use the suffering for these very purposes? For it is in suffering that we often experience these things. True believers aren’t weakened by suffering. They are strengthened. True believers aren’t shaken by suffering, they are settled. God, in His goodness and in His ultimate perfect plan works all things out for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28).

And then there is the final verse that reminds us of just how big this One, True God is that we belong to, as Peter reminds us that all glory and dominion belong to Him! We know glory means great praise, honor, adoration. But what does dominion mean? Well, in a nutshell, it means the “absolute right to rule”. God is the King of all.

While it may look like Satan is winning, he isn’t! Some battles may be lost, but the war will soon be over now and we are on the winning side! May this truth help us stay sober and vigilant. May it remind us that we are not resisting the devil alone, for we have the God of the Universe fighting with us and for us. And may we remember this truth as we suffer for our Savior, whom we are given the privilege to serve during our short time here on earth.

God has been so kind to give us His Word in this crazy, upside down world. I pray it is an encouragement to you as you go out into the world to soldier on for the Lord this day!

 

 

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

A few months ago I happened upon a historical documentary of the west. I had never really been all that interested in the west and how it was “won” but, for whatever reason, I turned on Part 1 and watched. The whole thing was very fascinating and I just kept watching until I had watched all of the parts.

One of the things that was disappointing was that they highlighted some missionaries but spoke very negatively about them. In fact, in listening to the series, one would have come away with the idea that they did more harm than good. At first, I was disgusted that this couple would harm the name of Christ. And then I began to wonder: Was this true? A little niggling doubt started to grow in my mind. Was this documentary actually telling the truth?

The series quoted a woman by the name of Catherine Sager quite a bit in the one part of the series, as she described her experience going west as a child in a Conestoga Wagon. She wrote a journal that has been published and I found it on Amazon. I decided to read it.

What I found in her journal was not only a vivid account of her experience going west but also a wonderful account of her time as an adopted daughter of the missionaries that were so maligned by the producers in this documentary.

In doing more research, I realized that, while the missionaries certainly didn’t do everything right, they did do much of which was to be commended, including taking in seven orphans who needed a home and loving and caring for them like they were their own.

A few years after these orphans were settled in their new home, a greedy man looking for trouble showed up at their mission station and started spreading lies about them.

Within a few weeks, the couple, along with three of the orphans, were dead. One of the worst massacres in history was started by lies. Just sheer lies.

They didn’t mention this on the series. I found this out through reading Catherine Sager’s diary and a letter to her uncle that she wrote as an adult. Isn’t it interesting how they failed to mention this but, rather, laid the blame on the methods of the missionaries?

As I considered the current agenda regarding Native Americans, I realized that this series was promoting said agenda. Making the Indians look purely like victims and the white man as evil promoted the agenda. And, while many white men were not pure in motives and were quite wicked, so, too, were the Indians, with their satanic religion and disregard for human life.

All men are depraved. Sinners from conception. What happened in the west is what we should expect from the unregenerate.

But there were true believers who went west with the right motives. We can’t call all men of a certain color (whether white or red, black or brown) evil just because of their skin color. What an incredibly evil and manipulative thing to do.

So what is my point? (You know I have one!)

I have been convinced more and more that we cannot believe what we hear. There are so many agendas out there that we must always read, listen, and watch everything with our guards up– no matter which side it is coming from.

While I learned a lot of interesting facts from that series on the west, I recognized fairly early on that they were only sharing the facts that they wanted me to hear. They made the choice to share only the bad (and no good) about missionaries who went west to share the Gospel. They chose to make certain groups victims and certain groups perpetrators, without giving the dynamics, nuances, and facts surrounding the happenings.

This is no different than the news we watch at night or the best seller books we read or the TV show or movie that slithers its way into our homes by calling itself “entertainment”. It is also no different for the many things that are labeled “Christian” and “right”. Few of these things are just stand alone offerings to provide us with something to do with our time. Most have a specific agenda in what they are teaching. There is a very specific way they are trying to change the culture.

Don’t believe me?

I guess you don’t have to. But this is backed up by facts, quotes, and reality so you really can’t say you don’t believe me honestly until you do a little research on your own.

There are many, many lies and agendas that are demanding our attention and getting “our danders” up. (And so they should!) But don’t be manipulated by what you hear. Don’t let it steal your peace. And make sure you have all of the facts before you make a decision about where you stand on any given situation or issue.

And, more than ever, we need to understand the true treasure that the Word of God is. As we begin to understand the plethora of lies and agendas that surround us and come at us from every avenue, including both secular and sacred, we begin to understand the value of a book that holds within its pages absolute truth; a true and loving gift from our Heavenly Father.

Only there can we trust everything written. Only there will we find an explanation for what is happening in the world around us. Only there do we find the puzzle pieces that help us start putting the puzzle of the future together in a way that makes sense. Only there do we come face to face with our sin and find the way to a glorious reconciliation with God. And only there do we find the promises of peace, joy, and love that God offers to those that are His, no matter what circumstances we face.

We are sinners. Jesus died for sinners. He rose again and lives today, caring for and protecting those who love Him and have believed on Him for salvation. And, in that, there is hope, no matter how many lies and agendas swirl about us.

 

 

As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is [a]proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

Psalm 18:30

 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

 

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

 

 

Bears don’t live in the jungle…

Anyone remember that game where you put a paper headband on and then you had to guess what was written on the headband by asking questions?

I bought an inexpensive kids’ version of this game and so I thought this would be a fun thing to play with the grandsons while I babysat them a few days ago.

We had a grand time taking turns being the headband wearer/question-asker. This game’s buttons were all fairly easy animals to guess and so the kids caught on pretty quickly. “Do I live in the forest?” “Am I small?” “Do I have four legs?” It was fun watching them think of questions to ask.

Even the two year old got involved. He’d run over and shout “my turn! my turn!” and so I’d find an easy animal that makes a sound and we’d all start making the sound and tell him to guess. He’d sit there with a big smile and then he’d be off to play with something else until he decided it was “his turn” again!

For the last turn of the game, my oldest grandson picked out a “really hard one” for me. I smiled and thought how hard could it be?

And so I started asking questions. The first question I asked was “Do I live in the jungle?”

Yes! He said. You DO live in the jungle.

Every other question I asked or animal I considered was based on this answer. Yes, I do live in the jungle.

I asked question after question after question. But it just didn’t add up. No animal fit all the criteria. I really had no idea.

Finally, he gave me a few BIG hints.

And you know what? It was a bear.

But bears don’t live in the jungle. And so I was starting with a wrong premise. From there, it became literally impossible for me to reach the correct conclusion.

Did you know it is impossible to reach the correct conclusion if you don’t start with the right premise?

It’s no different with spiritual matters. You won’t reach the right conclusion, if you don’t start with the truth. And there are a few things that we must know about the truth.

Contrary to popular opinion, the truth is not determined by what we happen to believe is true. Believing something doesn’t make it true. The fact that my grandson believed bears live in the jungle does not change the fact they they do NOT live in the jungle. He couldn’t just decide they do just because he wanted them to. He can’t have his “own truth” when it comes to bears and where they live. Why do we think it is any different regarding matters of eternity?

Truth is not determined by the majority. Did you know that the whole world could believe something and it could still be a lie? Popularity, numbers, and votes are irrelevant to what is true.

The truth doesn’t change. Truth does not blow every which way, upon a new cultural trend or direction. Truth is truth and it is immutable. Which we would expect from the determiner of that Truth, who is God– “with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

We also need to be aware that people lie. Now my grandson may have been playing a joke on me and told me that bears live in the jungle even if he knew full well that they didn’t. Jokes are one thing. But eternity is no joking matter. And there are many false teachers out there plain out lying to you about the matter of how you get to heaven.

People can be confused and deceived. Some people aren’t purposefully lying. But the fact that they are so kindly sincere in their deceived and confused assertions doesn’t change the fact that what they are passionately sharing just isn’t true.

The truth about eternity can only be found in the Bible. How do we know the Bible is different than any other religious book? Why’s the Bible so special? If you are really sincere in asking that question, then may I refer you to Pastor Dean Good’s series on The Bible (find it here), where he will explain in detail how it is not only special but will also tell you why it can be trusted.

You may assert that the Bible isn’t true or that it’s just a book full of myths. But you can’t really say that honestly until you’ve done the research. Why not do the research? Your very eternity may depend upon it. Isn’t it worth a bit of your time?

Oh, may we start with the right premise: the Bible is true

          so that we can come to the correct conclusion about eternity and where we will spend it.

 

Fiat Religion and Its Utter Worthlessness

In 1933, President Roosevelt began fiddling with gold reserve requirements in relation to United States currency. This set the trend in motion for separating the dollar from gold. In 1971, President Nixon canceled the convertibility of the dollar to gold, making money totally and officially, “fiat”. This means that the government has determined its value but there is literally nothing backing it except for the government that has determined its value.

Fiat money is a rather scary concept since its value is determined not by anything of value but rather by our trust in the “issuer”–which is the government.

Fiat means: An arbitrary order or decree.

And it’s important we know what arbitrary means…

Arbitrary means: Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle.

_________

The other morning at Bible Study, one of the ladies mentioned how so many have a view of religion that’s not backed up by anything. And, this is, in fact, especially true of so many that call themselves a “Christian” and yet make decisions based on nothing more than a favorite author, a preacher with charisma, a TV series, or, quite simply, on how they feel.

This conversation reminded me of this principle of “Fiat”. In this world where we can decide our own truth, we have many who are following fiat religions.

And so what we find are people–including so many who would claim Christ –walking along the smorgasbord of beliefs out there and choosing what they will believe, much like they would choose mashed potatoes but pass by the carrots at a bar filled with food.

“No, thank you, I am not interested in that one”, when they pass by the belief of people going to hell.

Oh, that belief that says my ticket to heaven is based on a one-time prayer that can said without turning from sin or the world–“I’ll take that!”

The world is going to get worse? “Oh, I don’t like that one.”

I can get my dreams fulfilled and be both healthy and wealthy in the process? “Oh, yes! I want that!”

Oh, and here is a promise for stress reduction and peace… “Well, I need that, now don’t I?”

Isn’t this how so many approach religion? And, yet, it is simply fiat religion…an arbitrary decision based on what they want to be true. There is literally nothing to back it up!

This is where true, biblical Christianity sets itself apart from all other religions and beliefs. It is not based on the whims of a fickle person or the dreams of a dead man. It is based on a Book. A Book that has proven itself over and over. A Book that has a 100% accuracy rate when it comes to its prophecies. A Book that is marvelously consistent and cohesive from beginning to end. This Book is all of these things because it was written by God.

In it we find the answers to all of life’s questions. But here’s the rub: Some of the answers are unpleasant. We don’t really like them.

And, so, in this postmodern world, instead of accepting the hard truths, people just “choose” not to believe what they don’t like. It’s a precarious worldview, always upending itself and rocking this way and that, based on the whims of the believer. There is no rock of Truth beneath them, but rather waves of opinions and trends and desires.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that a dollar backed by gold would be a much better dollar than one where a government arbitrarily determines its value.

Religion is no different. Religion backed by nothing is worth…nothing. Oh, it may buy you a bit of peace or it might reduce your stress for awhile. It may get you through some trials or temporarily provide comfort. But, at the end of your life, it will be worth nothing.

We are such rebellious creatures. We want what we want. And so many follow that course of destruction to the end. And, in the process, there is the belief that they are determining their eternal destination simply by “believing”.

But we all know deep down inside us that belief doesn’t change the truth. Is the sky red just because someone believes it is red? Does two plus two equal five upon belief? If we are all honest with ourselves, we know the answers to these questions are the same, no matter what someone believes. Spiritual realities are no different than physical realities. There is one Truth.

So what IS that Truth?

The truth is that God’s Word says that He doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). He has set up a very specific way for us to be saved, both to experience glorious freedom in this life and as the only way to heaven. But we must do things His way. He is God, after all. Who are we to question?

For us believers, this means we must turn to scripture not only for salvation but for all of life. The new life we experience in Christ puts within us a love for His Word and, with a submissive heart, we should be regularly opening up the Word, prepared to obey it, no matter how we feel about what it says.

And for those of you who recognize you are basing your beliefs on your own preferences and the trends of the day and beginning to feel uncomfortable with this, this is a great time to seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and you will find Him! (Deut. 4:29) Call upon His name and He will answer. (Romans 10:13) Open up to the book of John and find out what the Savior has done for you. Yes, you! God wants you to be in right relationship with Him. He has given us the Bible to show us how. Submit your doubts and rebellion to God and allow Him to do a marvelous work in your life.

Last night, we had a couple in our home who has served for over fifty years as missionaries. Their accounts of God’s faithfulness left no doubt to the fact that we serve a loving and faithful God who cares about us personally. But what struck me most was the man’s testimony. It was a trail of amazing and unbelievable “coincidences” and happenings that leads us to the only conclusion possible: God was at work in a mighty way.

He may be at work in your heart today. Don’t ignore Him. Let the seeds of the Gospel that have been planted along the pathway of your life take root and come to life! Today is the day. Now is the time. God is so patient but life is so fragile. Today could be your last day on earth. Don’t base your eternity on whims and feelings but, instead, base it on the Holy Word of God!

 

Find out more about God’s way of salvation here.

 

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: