What Chickens Can Teach Us

A year or two ago, we got some chickens. This past summer one escaped without us noticing and was found without her head just a few yards from the safety of her pen the next morning.

We googled what takes off just the head and then leaves the rest of the chicken (you’d be surprised at the answers!) and then filled in any gaps or places in the pen that would provide a way of escape.

Unfortunately, this was not our last headless chicken. The other night my husband went down to the pen and found a headless chicken inside the pen. He was furious. What in the world?? How had this happened??

More googling.

Did you know that chickens are very curious creatures? Apparently, this can get them into trouble.

Apparently, some animal (we are thinking a raccoon) put his paw in the pen at a place where it was dug out just a bit under the fence. When the chicken got close enough to see what was going on, he grabbed her head and pulled. Only there was not enough room to pull the entire chicken through. And so, yet another chicken lost its head.

Had that chicken curbed its curiosity it would still be alive today. But it just couldn’t resist and moved closer and closer to the fence until BAM!! Its life was over. In the course of a few seconds.

Oh, upon this experience, I couldn’t help thinking how much like chickens we are! In several different ways!

First, there are the chickens that stood by and watched that chicken approach danger.

Some of us are so curious. We just can’t resist getting as close to the fence as we possibly can.

And, as we approach danger, all of our “chicken friends” just watch. No one says a thing because–for goodness’ sake!–we might be offended. People care more about us being offended or mad at them than they do about saving our spiritual lives. Have you ever thought of that?

When it comes right down to it, if we are honest, our unwillingness to speak up against sin and false teaching is more about our own selfish desire to avoid any pain and suffering than it is about truly loving someone.

Warning that person that is steeped in false teaching or caught up in a habitual sin is taking a big risk. A risk that may cost us a relationship or even our reputation. For most of us, that risk is too high.

And so we stand by as we watch others approach real spiritual danger. Pretending we care but not caring enough to speak the truth.

And then there is that chicken that approached the danger. Let’s talk about her for a moment. Oh, how close to the world we want to get, thinking we can go just one more step to satisfy our worldly desires. But, in just a moment, the consequences for getting that close can destroy our lives. While it can never kill us if we are truly saved, it can–and usually will–wreak havoc in the lives of both ourselves and our family. Sin always brings destruction. Creeping closer to the world, being lured towards the edge by the raccoons of this world is always a bad idea.

And then there is the chicken-keeper. My husband. The guy who built the fence. Now, we are not perfect chicken-keepers. To say the least (I can hear my family laughing now!) But even as a non-lover of animals, he was downright angry about some wild animal killing his chicken and worked hard to protect the others by placing boards around the bottom and doing all he could temporarily until a more permanent solution could be put in place.

This reminds me of John 10, where Christ is our Shepherd and He promises to take care of us. He builds the fence of His Word around His sheep (which never needs mended) as our protection. But sometimes we seek to escape the boundaries of the Word. We disobey its commands, we love the world, we love a hidden sin, we are beguiled by a wolf dressed as a sheep…and, while we can’t lose our salvation thanks to our Good and Loving Shepherd, we pay consequences that are so very costly.

You know, pastors are supposed to follow Christ’s example and protect the flock in his care. They are to preach the Word, regardless of popularity and people-pleasing, in order to truly love their sheep.

So sadly, many seem to be so much more caught up in “building a business” than loving the sheep in their care. They seem to care much more about the numbers than they do about spiritually strengthening and protecting their congregation.

This is such a sad commentary on this even sadder church era.

How thankful we should be for the pastors out there who lovingly and selflessly care for the spiritual needs and protection of their flocks. There are still some out there and what a blessing they are to the true Church. And to the sheep that sit under their care.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking through after the unfortunate chicken incident. May we give as much attention to protecting the spiritual welfare of those we love as we give to protecting their physical welfare. The world is a dangerous place and filled with raccoons, owls, hawks, foxes, and minks. They are all after your heart. After the heart of your spouse. And especially after the hearts of the next generations– your children and your grandchildren.

We are charged to love them by protecting them. And this will never happen by letting them skirt as close to the fence as possible. Instead, we must teach them the boundaries of God’s Word and set the example for them of living by those same boundaries. And, through it all, realize that all of it is impossible without the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who have been saved through faith in Christ alone.

May we pray diligently for spiritual protection and monumental courage for ourselves, for our families, and for our pastors and other church leaders, in a mainstream church that’s so far gone it is almost unrecognizable.

 

 

 

The Next (Little) Thing

A month or two ago, I had the privilege of sitting down with an elderly couple and talking with them about life. The one spouse is in pretty ill health and so they are confined and unable to do much of what they did in the past. Several times during the conversation, one of them mentioned how they used to enjoy visiting people like themselves and how often they would do this. I think it is very hard for them to be a “visitee” rather than the “visitor”… as it would be for most of us, I guess.

In the course of the conversation, it came up how few visitors they actually have. Even after they spent so much time visiting in the past.  My heart grew just a bit sad for them as I contemplated them sitting alone, day after day, unable to go much of anywhere, due to circumstances beyond their control.

This conversation has been much on my mind since it occurred. Why don’t more people visit the elderly, the sick, and the shut-ins? Why is this relegated only to the official “clergy” when it is something any of us could do? What is keeping us from this act of love and kindness?

As I have been pondering over this, I have recognized that it could be because there is no immediate reward for this type of service. While feeding the poor, taking care of orphans, being a social media influencer for Christ or doing some other public thing often yields much praise and fanfare from the church; other acts of love, such as being a full-time mommy, care-taking, visiting the sick and the elderly, teaching Sunday School, making meals for others, witnessing to someone at work, and a whole host of other “behind-the scenes” services, don’t tend to yield the praise of men.

So this makes us naturally believe (wrongly) that these services may not be as important. Often, it is not even that we are consciously thinking this. It is just what our experiences teaches us: If a service yields the praise of men, it must be important. If it doesn’t, it must be unimportant.

But, truly, nothing could be further from the truth. Thankless jobs that yield no applause are often the most important!

God tells us in His Word that we are all needed to make the body of Christ run as it should–

If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? (I Corinthians 12:15-19)

Each of us is given a different role in the body and this is a wonderful thing! If we were all a foot or an eye, how could the body of Christ even function? Some people are called to minister in very public ways and they are often truly an inspiration to us! Others are called to behind-the scenes jobs that go unnoticed. Both of these people are important in God’s eyes and necessary to keep the body of Christ functioning as it should.

We also find out in scripture that God has specifically prepared good works for us beforehand

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

God knows our strengths and weaknesses. He gave us our talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts. He knows what we are good at and where we can be used best in the Body. And that’s what we are supposed to be doing.

Many years ago now, when my youngest daughter was about twelve, she really wanted us to adopt. While we were not quite ready for that, we did decide that perhaps we could do some fostering so we enrolled in a short-term program to care for kids. When we got our first (and only) placement, it was incredibly difficult. Now, I am not scared of difficult. Many times, the path we are to walk on is difficult. However, it was more than that. I just felt in my heart like this was not what I was “cut out to do”. And I felt incredibly guilty about that. Shouldn’t everyone be cut out to take in children? Was I simply being selfish?

I eventually figured out that, no, everyone is not called to that ministry. And that this is as God has designed it. Because there are so many other just-as-important things to do for God’s Kingdom. While I have great admiration for those of you who are called to foster and adopt children or are passionately serving the poor and sharing the Gospel with them, it took me awhile to understand that there are so many of you, quietly serving the Lord in ways I will never know, who are doing jobs just as important. We need to pray and ask the Lord to show us what He wants us to do. Where He wants us to be serving right now– today– and then do it as Colossians 3:23 says: heartily and as unto God, not unto men.

And, in doing what God has set before us to do, we are promised to be prepared! In fact it says we will be filled with all grace abounding towards us, always having all sufficiency in all things to do what God has called us to do. That is quite a promise, now, isn’t it?!? Paul puts it like this in 2 Corinthians 9–

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

A few months ago I was feeling a bit at a loss. Am I still doing anything good with this tiny little corner on the internet? Should I be working on something “bigger” and “better”? In talking with my wise mother (whom I am still so blessed to have in my life for counsel and guidance!), she reminded me of the value of building into the lives of my grandchildren and the importance of supporting my children as they seek to raise children for Christ.

It was a very clarifying conversation. I didn’t need bigger and better. I just need to be faithful in what God has called me to do right now. Today. And, until He shows me differently, this calling is spending time with my grandchildren, helping my husband with our landscaping business, teaching Bible Studies, and writing to encourage the saints at a tiny, unknown blog called Growing4Life. That’s what God has for me today. I don’t need to be searching for anything bigger or better or something that yields the acclamation of men. I just need to be faithful with the things that God has for me to do on this day. And to be willing to do what He has for me tomorrow.

What does God have for you to do today? It may be adopting orphans or feeding the poor. But it may be something else. Something just as important but much less public.

May we seek the Lord in how He would have us serve Him and then may we go about it with much joy and perseverance, knowing that we are doing it for God and not for men. May we just faithfully do the next thing God has given us to do. Be it big or little.

 

My Hope Is Found in Nothing Less

Think back ten years or so. What was your life like? For most of us, it was pretty pleasant overall. We all had our challenges and trials and some walked through very deep waters, but, overall, no matter what trial we went through our outer world remained stable. Our way of life was not threatened.

Most of us didn’t realize what a treasure that was.

We went about our days with nary an interest in what was going on in the world or on the screens in our homes or in our kids’ schools or at work. We didn’t get too upset about much of anything and, in fact, joined much of what was going on if it wasn’t “too bad.” We didn’t get up in arms about sin or sinful living (and even brought it into our homes via the TV), as long as it didn’t affect us personally.

But, eventually, it would affect us. The world around us with its fascination with sin and sorcery would eventually affect all of us.

And so here we are. The time has finally come. We are watching the fabric of our country being eroded away. And many are angry.

But why weren’t we angry before?

I heard someone say something that gave me some insight into this. I found it rather profound and insightful as to what is going on in our Christian culture right now. And perhaps even in our own hearts.

Here is a paraphrase: If you are only angry at Disney now, then what is the reason for your anger? Because Disney has always been evil. Always full of magic and sorcery and evil. Why are you angry now?

Do you know why we are all so angry?

It is because their evil is not cute anymore. It’s not expressed by cute little fairies and pretend villains. Instead, it is overt and threatens the very core of our country. And this means a change in our own lives. It means we are or will be affected personally.

So are we upset because it is an offense against God? Or are we upset because we are losing something we love? They are two very different things. One is righteous anger. The other, self-centered.

Emotion steals our judgement. When we grow angry or frustrated we don’t make wise decisions. This emotion of sinful anger is what propels crowds in riots or moves someone to do something they regret for the rest of their life. It is a powerful tool in the hands of Satan.

As believers, we need to really think about this. Everywhere we turn we are told by many on the “white” side (conservative, mainstream evangelical side) to be angry. Get angry and fight for your country! Fight the tyranny! The cries for this are everywhere.

Now, I am strongly against tyranny. And I am deeply grieved over what I see happening to our country. But why? Why am I angry or grieved?

If I am honest, it is because it is affecting me.

If more of us would have been angry or grieved at the sin in this culture twenty, thirty, fifty years ago, it probably wouldn’t be in the state it is in. Surely, we realize that the sin that was pervading the American culture would eventually lead to this day? Did we honestly expect to ignore what was going on around us and never experience the devastating ramifications?

So is anger the correct response to what is happening in the world around us? Perhaps at some level, righteous anger is to be expected. But this is not what will change the world. And, in fact, we are not going to change the world. Scripture makes this abundantly clear. Our hope is not in this world. We are to think on things above and not on things on this earth (Colossians 3:2).

But there is another piece of this that we need to explore. What you will hear from this “white” side is that we must fight together to make the world a better place.

And, in fact, if you claim to believe in God’s timetable for the future of the coming rapture and Tribulation, the Christian “intellectuals” and mainstream evangelicals of our current Christian culture ridicule you and accuse you of being a person without hope who simply wants to escape.

So about that. Do I want to escape? You bet I do. I am so very thankful that God set it up to take His bride out of this world before the Tribulation unfolds. That is not an untrue statement but I fail to see why it is viewed as such a negative thing.

As for being hopeless…we, of all people, have hope! In fact, Titus 2:13 tells us to be looking for this hope!–

looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

You see, our hope is in Jesus! Not in this world. Never in this world.

This world is fading away (Isaiah 24:4) but God and His Word never fade away (Isaiah 40:8)!

I Peter 1:3-5 tells us where our hope should lie as believers–

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance [b]incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Without hope? That is just an empty accusation. Nothing could be further from the truth for the true Christian.

My hope is found in nothing less than Jesus’s blood and righteousness! (I will put the rest of the lyrics of this great hymn of the faith at the end of this post. It really does concisely express what we Christians should be thinking and feeling right now in this place in this time.)

It is so important that, in our desperation and anger with the world around us, we don’t lose sight of what the Bible teaches regarding the world and its inevitable future.

The Bible is our anchor. It is our only hope in discerning what is true and not true. It shows us what God hates so that we also know what to hate–whether it is affecting us personally or not. It is our only hope in piecing a puzzle together that sometimes doesn’t make any sense at all.

And it reminds us of what is to come and that we Christians will escape it. Praise God for this promise! There is no shame in being glad that God has promised to deliver us from the the specific time He has set in place to pour His wrath down upon this earth.

It is a strange time to live. But, in reflecting upon Revelation and the things we know are to come, we are now realizing that these things could never have happened in a vacuum. And so what we are seeing is the great setup for what is to come. These things are no surprise to God and they should come as no surprise to us.

So bear up under the ridicule and antagonism that will surely grow against believers who cling to the literal interpretation of scripture. And be encouraged! It is all making more sense than we could have ever dreamed. We are watching piece after piece of the end times puzzle come together in a way that would have seemed impossible even three years ago.

So let’s continue to study the Word and be watchful. And may our hope be found in nothing less than Jesus!

Someday soon now, those of us that have placed our faith in Christ alone, will meet Him in the air, leaving this wicked world behind us forever! Oh, what a day that will be!

 

On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Refrain:
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

 

 

Comparing Two Religions (that go by the same name)

Yesterday I saw a clip¹ of a well-known “preacher” declaring/demanding with his congregation that God’s material blessings would rain down upon them. With gusto, they prayed that God would give them money in its various different forms. It was disturbing. To say the least. I couldn’t help but contrast this to a couple of sermons² on suffering that I was listening to by my brother, Pastor Dean Good, a bit later.

And that’s when it hit me: It’s really not all that difficult to tell true Christianity from the fake Christianity. 

In the simplest of terms, True Christianity is God-centered and Fake Christianity is self-centered. But let’s unpack it a bit more, shall we?

True Christianity is God-centered. It is about the depraved and wretched sinner finding peace with God through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, on the cross (John 3:16), turning away from their former, sinful lusts and now living for God (Ephesians 2:2; Colossians 3:7). To elaborate further, its message is denying self, taking up your cross, and following hard after Christ (Luke 9:23); it is submitting to God’s will and obeying His Word (James 4:7; John 14:15). It is focused on eternal glory rather than temporal reward (Matthew 6:19-21; Colossians 3:2). It is a desire to be holy that supersedes the desire to be happy (I Peter 1:15-16) It is understanding that our citizenship is in heaven and we are pilgrims and sojourners on this earth (Hebrews 11:13; I Peter 2:11). It is focused on sharing the Gospel and sharing the truth of God’s Word (Romans 10:15; I Timothy 2:4).

Let’s contrast this to the fake Christianity that has overtaken most Christian churches, bookstores, music, and conferences these days–

Fake Christianity is self-centered. It is about a hurting, lonely human being going to God to get their needs met. It is about continuing in sin and declaring God’s approval upon that sin. It is about coddling self, following your dreams, and following hard after your heart. It is ignoring God’s will and His Word. It is focused on temporal gain rather than eternal reward. It is focused on personal happiness. And its focus is on this earth’s citizenship, with much energy put towards fixing the world and making it a better place.

The two religions are as opposite as day and night. And, in fact, one is pure LIGHT and the other is pitch black.

We want to pretend like there is not that big of a difference between the two and that it is a complicated thing to discern. Honestly, most of us just want to ignore it all. We do this because so many family and friends we love and respect are caught up in the fake. We may even be caught up in the fake ourselves.

And so we don’t want to declare it’s fakeness, because the consequences of doing so will be painful and costly.

Can I tell you the honest truth? I have been caught up in the fake at times. Perhaps we all have.

When I say it’s not difficult to tell the difference between the true and the fake, that is true. But it can grow fuzzy to us sometimes– mainly because we want what we want. Let me explain.

None of us wants to deny self. It goes against everything inside us to do so. And yet, this is what we are called to do as believers. We are not called to this without help. Upon salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid. Our desires are gradually changed so that we not only desire to do what’s right but we begin to understand the reward in turning from sin and pleasing God. But the flesh always resides in us and we are always in a battle against it.

And so, even as believers, we can get caught up in sin and deceit. We desire something and we know it is not God’s will. Or we hold a relationship with a person more dear than we hold our relationship with Christ. Or we choose to gratify our flesh (eating too much, going places we know do not please God, watching sin on a screen, wearing clothing that is immodest, lashing out in anger, gnawing endlessly on that favored worry or fear, choosing to hold a grudge, etc, etc.) and, suddenly, we are full-out focused on self.

And, in this state, we will often find ourselves rationalizing, excusing, and leaning into that fake Christianity that would give us reasons to do what we want to do.

So, no, it’s not difficult to tell the difference between the only true Religion of light and the religion of darkness that goes by the same name. But, yes, it can be hard to actually admit the difference.

To the unbeliever, true Christianity sounds terrible, doesn’t it? I mean we really can understand why the unregenerate flock to the Christianity designed to please self, puff up self, fulfill self. That is what the natural man wants to do.

It isn’t until the Lord fills us with His light that understanding and insight come. It will never make sense to give up everything to gain nothing in this world unless the Spirit opens our eyes to the Truth. Well, let me rephrase that: We gain nothing that looks important to anyone in this world. We do gain much, even in this temporal life lived on earth. We gain peace and joy that is based on the Lord, rather than circumstances. We gain the daily tender care and loving-kindness of the God of the universe. We gain the Comforter and the Helper. And so much more!

If you are burdened for someone caught up in the fake Christianity, pray that God would open their eyes. Pray that He would show them how little they have to lose and how much they have to gain! And if we, ourselves, struggle with releasing our grip on this world and desire that fool’s gold of false religion, then let’s pray for ourselves, as well–that God would show us, through our study of His Word, that following Him is worth it, no matter the cost!

 

 

¹Bill Johnson and Bethel Church pray to the god of Mammon

 

²Sermons from I Peter 4 by Pastor Dean Good (so worth listening to!) —

The Exaltation of Jesus Christ (Part 2)
Following the Example of Christ

Next in the series (for anyone who wants to listen):

Following Christ in His Rejection (Part 1)
Following Christ in His Rejection (Part 2)

 

 

The Plain Truth

Five hundred years ago, a Catholic monk came across the book of Galatians and took the time to actually really read and study it.

It changed his life. And it changed your life, too. For Martin Luther changed the whole landscape of the Christian Faith.

I’ve been studying this book for the past few weeks and have been stunned at how much I had missed in my former read-throughs. It really isn’t until you study a book that you begin to understand it.

And as we do so, the things that are muddy often grow clear. And the things that didn’t make sense begin to make sense.

While we will never understand everything, of course, we can be sure that our study of the scriptures will lead us to have much greater understanding regarding the hard concepts and puzzles we’ve struggled through.

I’d like to take some time to give an example of this very thing from my study of Galatians. I finally understand why it was Galatians that opened Martin Luther’s eyes. The main theme of this book is: We are justified by faith in Christ alone.

Not by a little faith and a lot of works.

Not by a lot of faith and a few works.

Not by an equal share of faith and works.

NO, NO, NO.

We are saved by faith alone. Paul puts it like this in Galatians 2:16–

 yet we know that a person is not justified[b] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

As Martin Luther read these words he was steeped in the false religion of Catholicism. A religion that required faith and works in order to be saved. He recognized his own depravity. He knew he was unable to do enough good works to be reconciled to God. He had felt an utter hopelessness about this. Until he read Galatians.

Galatians makes it clear that we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone. It is all of God’s grace and of no merit of our own.

This goes against the grain for most of us. We want to think there is something we can do to be right with God.

This truth from Galatians makes it clear that any religion (no matter its breakdown of faith and works, it use of biblical names, or its claim to the Bible) is a false religion, ensnaring people in a works-based, pointless religion.

What the culture has made muddy and confusing, the Bible clarifies.

Not only are we not saved by our works, we are not kept by our works. Galatians tells us it is all of grace. As we study the Bible in its entirety and compare passages, we begin to understand that works are evidence of faith. They are never, ever to gain or to keep our salvation. 

This is a great relief, is it not? Yes, we want to live lives that please God. But, wow, do we mess up. Well, I’ll speak for myself, anyway. I mess up! (A nice way to say I sin…) Just way too often. I am so grateful that my salvation doesn’t rely on me or I’d be in trouble!

Instead Galatians tells us it is fully based on Christ’s work on the cross. Stop and consider this glorious truth for just a moment. The God of the universe loves us and sent His Son to die for us so that we can be reconciled to Him and spend eternity with Him.

Isn’t that amazing?

So I’m going to get real for a moment. I’ve been struggling through some challenges recently. Nothing major but just feels like too many for one time. And yet, I have been amazed—truly amazed—at God’s loving kindness and faithfulness to me as He stretches and grows me.

You see, once we are God’s own child we are so well-cared for. This is not some “pie in the sky”, imagined notion but a truth that you can’t really understand until you are saved.

Salvation isn’t a prayer. True salvation changes our whole life. We relate to God in a whole new way and experience His personal care for us in ways hard to comprehend. Our purpose, goals, hopes, and even our dreams change to reflect God’s will instead of our own. Everything changes because the Holy Spirit changes us. We don’t mourn that change because our hearts are changed. We are the great winner in this trade-off!

And it’s a free gift!

Galatians can be confusing to study, with some of its strong language and references to the Old Testament. I have much more to study myself and it won’t be exhaustive, for certain. But there is one thing anyone reading it will take away: We are saved by Christ’s work on the cross alone. No works required.

If you don’t know Christ, I’d love to talk to you about this. If you think you know Christ, but aren’t sure, pick up your Bible and start studying it. If you’ve known Christ and His work in your life, I hope you are filled with a passion to spread the Good News of the marvelous Gospel to those who don’t. For this is truly the best news in the world!

 

 

A Way to Be Different

You know I was thinking of something this morning as I was reflecting on some of the changes over the past few years.

I think we have all been noticing the rising prices at the grocery stores. In a recent discussion about this, we wondered how many of the prices have actually risen compared to how many have been changed just because they can.

There are always people who idolize money prepared for any opportunity to gouge people out of their hard-earned wages. We can know, without a doubt, that some of this is going on as we face rising prices. Yes, many of the prices we are seeing are warranted. But it is just a fact of life that some aren’t.

The same thing is going on in companies, as well, where employees are doing things (perhaps spending time on the internet or phones or calling off on a whim, etc) simply because they can. They can be lazy and unproductive, often without consequences. Their employers need them and can’t afford to fire them and so they pretty much do what they want.

How a person responds or reacts when the status quo changes is a fairly good indication of their heart.

As believers, the changes in the culture should yield no negative changes in our behavior. We should continue to operate with integrity and kindness and honesty and love and selflessness, no matter the circumstances.

Why? Because we are serving God, not man.

Two verses specifically come to mind, as we consider this—

I Corinthians 10:31: Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:23: And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

This is why, as business owners, we don’t raise prices simply because we can get away with it. It is why, as employees, we continue to serve our employers with diligence and integrity. It is why, as believers, we continue to serve the Lord and others with loving-kindness.

If anything, a status quo change should change us for the better. As we face uncertain days and unprecedented challenges, we should grow in both faith and love. As we struggle with trials, this should be a catalyst for positive change in our lives. As we are given opportunities to lie, cheat, steal like never before, this should strengthen our resolve to take no part in these blatant sins.

We have an opportunity to be different today in a way none of us probably ever expected. We have an opportunity to serve the Lord well without outside, unspoken moral laws pushing us towards righteousness. 

Will we take the opportunity? Will we serve the Lord with diligence, integrity, and joy even when we don’t have to?

 

 

 

 

Our Best and Highest Endeavor

There are lots and lots of people saying the wrong thing these days. They are promoting the unbiblical. They are promoting lies. And so many are swallowing them.

I’ve written often about how you can know if something is unbiblical. But I am not sure many people care about that all that much anymore. Yesterday, I ran into an old acquaintance. Her church is studying Revelation. As she expounded a bit, it soon became clear that it was a totally unbiblical rendering of what is actually taught in that book. By ripping a verse or two out of context, they are teaching that we are to bring God’s Kingdom to earth before the return of Christ. She trusts her church and when I gently and awkwardly mentioned that this might not be what the Bible teaches, the conversation ended. I knew that was a possibility, but I was willing to take that chance in the hopes that it would plant a seed of doubt in her mind regarding what she is being taught at church.

The thing is: Of course, I don’t know everything either. I am still learning. Don’t blindly follow me. Don’t blindly follow anyone. Don’t follow any human without checking their words by the Word. We often get ourselves in a lot of trouble when we follow a person or a group or a church without discernment.

This is why our highest and best endeavor is to study the Word of God in its literal, historical, grammatical framework in context.

If you have learned anything from reading this blog–anything at all– I hope that it will be this.

That’s all I have for today. It’s short but it’s profound. And it is what is missing from so many homes, churches, and “Christian” organizations. Instead of keeping the focus on the Word, it has moved to experiences and feelings. It has moved to keeping the peace or bending to society. It has moved to what is “truth for you” and “what works” so that what actually is true hardly matters anymore.

If we don’t have the Word, we have nothing. It is our anchor. It is where we learn about God and about Jesus and the cross. It is where we find out why we can have hope and peace and joy. It is where we learn how to live our lives in a way that pleases God. And it is where we can find out what is ahead for this world’s future and for our own eternal future.

When the Word is ignored in families, when it is disregarded and pushed to the side in churches, when it becomes twisted and warped and traditional interpretations are changed after 2000 years–well, this really does explain what is going on in our Christian culture, doesn’t it?

But, while we can’t change the world or even the church, we can change our own lives and our own homes. There, we can make a difference. If only a small one, we can be different and, in so doing, plant Gospel seeds of faith and encouragement.

So let’s be different today. Let’s live a Christ-centered life that is based on God’s Holy Word, no matter how unpopular it is.

 

A Lesson from the Candy Store

The colorful exterior drew our eyes. We had stopped next door and so we decided to walk into the colorful building, which was full of candy. Lots and lots of candy. Everywhere you looked was candy — Gummy candy, hard candy, jelly beans, Pez, vintage candy, ice cream…you name it, it was there.

We wandered a bit and let the grandkids each pick out a Pez. I didn’t see anything that really struck me in the expensive candy shop so I was prepared to walk out without anything—until I spotted the wall of jelly bellies. I don’t actually love regular jelly beans but these always tempt me. I don’t know how they make those jelly bellies so flavorful but somehow they do. I looked at the big red containers holding those beans. They were surrounded by jelly belly advertisements and jelly belly pre-made containers.

What struck my eye were the new flavors. I had never seen jelly bellies such as these before. Oh, these would be fun to try! I grabbed a small plastic bag and grabbed a few beans from each of the containers that struck my fancy.

We paid for our candy and left the store. In the truck, I eagerly opened my plastic bag and pulled out a bean and stuck it in my mouth.

Ohhh…yuck! Just yuck!

“These are not genuine jelly bellies,” I said with disappointed disgust.

“Really?” Asked my husband.

“Nope, definitely not,” I tried a couple more just to make sure.

Where had I gone wrong? What should have warned me?

Well, the unusual flavors were a definite warning sign. Why would that store have flavors I’ve never seen before in even the 49 flavor bags of these famous jelly bellies? How dumb of me not to have thought of that.

And then as I thought of the red containers, I remembered that nowhere on them had they claimed to be jelly bellies. They were just surrounded by the words “jelly bellies” to lead people to believe that what the large containers held was genuine.

I had been deceived.

I was out of a few dollars and given a dose of humility. It was what it was. Not a big deal in the scope of life.

But as I was thinking about this yesterday, it came to me that this is a great example of how we get fooled spiritually, too.

False teachers like to surround themselves with those who appear genuine and many times probably are genuine (which is probably a good part of the reason why Paul and John are so adamant that we can never be friends and conference partners with false teachers. See Romans 16:17 and 2 John 1:9-11).

False teachers also like to look just like the genuine. They appear so similar that it is hard to see the difference.

Unless…

You realize they are offering different flavors. They are offering interpretations of scripture that veer from the traditional interpretation. They change the meaning of a word or they change the definition of a long held doctrine.

It is easy to get duped by false teachers these days. They are everywhere. They look real on the surface. And they are so often surrounded by those we would call “Solid Bible Teachers”, who give them credence.

They are like that candy that looks genuine. Smells genuine. Is surrounded by the genuine. But this is not candy. And we have much more to lose.

So may we all be smarter spiritually than I was in that candy store. May we pray for discernment and wisdom as we navigate the veritable smorgasbord of false teachers who twist scripture and change the truth of God’s Word; teachers that are nowhere close to genuine Christianity despite their label of “Christian.” 

 

 

It’s All in How You Look at It

Do you remember laying on the ground when you were a kid and finding shapes in the clouds? Oftentimes, two people looking at the same cloud see two different things. One might see a dinosaur, while another may see a truck. That is because those looking have two different perspectives.

As believers, we should always have a different perspective than the world around us when it comes to the small irritations, the bigger frustrations, and even the great trials in our lives. But how often I fail at this very thing! I thought of this the other day when I took a quick trip to a store.

My eyes strained and tried to make sense of the words. But, as I stood in that toy store, I knew there was no way that I could decipher the small print on the box I had picked up. The words were just blurred blobs of black. And I have to admit that I sighed as I pulled out my reading glasses. The sigh indicated my frustration and my heart of complaint. Though I didn’t speak, my head was certainly thinking it and God knows my thoughts.

A few minutes later, this thought struck me: Have you considered just how many people in history never had the incredible gift of reading glasses to extend the usefulness of their eyes?!?

Whoah. As I thought through this, I knew it couldn’t have been but a few hundred years that they have been in existence. And, although literacy has not been in existence all that long and the need wouldn’t have been terribly great for reading glasses, I knew that it would have been frustrating to grow older and not be able to see anything close up.  All through history, women would have to have had to mend and sew and cook and bake and wash clothing. How frustrating it must have been for them as their eyesight failed and detailed work became impossible to do well–if at all.

And I was complaining? If even in my heart, I knew this was sinful. I had the wrong perspective! Instead of being thankful for God’s gift of eyeglasses, I was grumbling because I needed them.

As I intentionally turned my perspective right side up, my overall attitude changed. There is just not room for complaint in a heart that is filled with gratitude.

I wish I could say I am always so quick to see what is going on in my heart when I complain. But, alas, I am not. It’s like second nature for us all. It is the thing we turn to when things aren’t going our way. Sometimes we have the wherewithal to simply think it. Other times, we vocalize it. No matter how we express our complaining hearts, it is always sin.

The Bible says this in Philippians 2:14-15–

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.

There are no exceptions that make a complaining heart acceptable. No conditions or set of circumstances that give us a right to complain.

If we continue to read the verses, we can see that this is how we shine as lights in the world. Isn’t this so interesting to reflect upon? We shine as lights in the world by not complaining and arguing about everything.

This has to mean then that when we do complain and argue (dispute), our lights are dimmed. Perhaps even turned off.

Later on in Philippians we read the following–

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

Did you catch that word in there that keeps us from having a complaining heart? It is by bringing our requests to God with thanksgiving.

Complaints and thanksgiving cannot reside in a heart side-by-side. They are mutually exclusive.

So, practically speaking, how do we cultivate a thankful heart rather than a complaining heart?

Sometimes, we can just turn our complaint on its head and change our perspective, as I did with my glasses. When we are doing housework, we can instead thank God that we have a home. When we are taking care of the children, may we remember the tremendous blessing of caring for these precious souls. When our car breaks down, well, let’s thank the Lord for the car in the first place. You get the idea. This change in perspective can be a powerful tool.

But what about the things that happen in life that have no upside? The things that devastate us and are life-changing? How do we go from complaint to thankfulness then?

It is only through trusting God and His Sovereignty. Intentionally resting in His promises in scripture will enable us to endure and be thankful–not for them but through them as we dwell on His love, His grace, His mercy. Understanding and believing that ALL things work together for God’s purposes and for the good of those that love Him (Romans 8:28) –this truth can and will uphold us and carry us through the darkest days.

Yesterday, I was in the company of an elderly couple who has been through some very rough times in the past couple of years. Things are still frustrating and difficult for them. When I asked them how the Lord has helped them, the wife said something like, “He’s just been with us all the way.”

When she said that, I thought of these verses from Psalm 37 (vs 23-24)–

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him with His hand.

The Lord will uphold us, no matter what happens. And that is a reason to be thankful, no matter what we are going through.

Hearing this truth in the lives of those who have experienced it can be greatly encouraging. Even more encouraging is thinking back over our own lives and remembering the times we have been upheld. God won’t drop us now. We are His sheep and we can never be lost–

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. (John 10:28-29)

So may we turn our complaints into gratitude today. May we remember God’s promises. May we look at things from an eternal perspective and, with a heart of gratitude, shine as bright lights in this very dark world!

 

What Makes You Really Angry?

I think we’ve all been angry at some point or other. There are probably some universal causes of anger–such as inept or rude customer service representatives; arguing children; or being betrayed by someone you trusted.

And then there are some causes of anger that seem to be more related to our personalities. Some people get angry at laziness or lack of common sense in those around them. Others get angry at circumstances beyond their control. Some people get plain mad at God when things don’t go their way.

We know that anger is not a righteous emotion. Most of the time.

There is that little caveat in Ephesians 4:26 where it says, “Be angry and do not sin.” This means there is sometimes a righteous cause for anger.

What is something that should make us very angry?

As I was studying in preparation for my upcoming study of Galatians, I realized that the main thing that should make us angry is any attack on the Gospel. Read these verses to see just how serious this is–

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert[a] the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be [b]accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-10)

These are not simply Paul’s words but these are God’s words. We can see from these verses that God takes an attack on the Gospel very seriously. Let anyone who warps and twists the true Gospel be accursed (which means devoted to destruction; imprecate evil or misery upon.)

Has the deluge of false gospels being pandered today made us immune? What other reason can there be that Christians aren’t up in arms regarding the countless attacks on the true Gospel? Why aren’t we defending it and refusing to allow the lies to creep in? Even in to our own “Bible-believing” churches?

What must God think?

I am not sure I ever really gave this much thought until reflecting on these verses yesterday (and listening to some sermons regarding these verses.)

There are two specific ways the Gospel gets perverted. Every perversion falls under one of these two.

First, there is grace plus works (legalism) perversion. ANY presentation or teaching regarding the Gospel that adds any works is not the true Gospel. This means that if you “need to get baptized” to be saved, it’s a false gospel. If you need to take communion or pray to saints in order to be assured of your salvation, it’s a false gospel. If you need to eat certain things, wear certain things, do anything to be saved, it is a false gospel.

Second, there is the hyper-grace (licentiousness) perversion. This perversion denies the many passages that call us to live a life pleasing to Christ. It denies that we become a new creation in Christ and, instead, says that, since we are no longer under law, anything goes. Here the Gospel is given without the message of sin and repentance. It is more focused on fire insurance rather than a lost and hopeless sinner’s reconciliation with God. Say a prayer and be saved–no fruit necessary, according to this false gospel.

These false gospels are dealt with all throughout scripture but in Galatians, Paul speaks specifically to both of them. Think with me for a moment what you know about many who lump themselves in with the modern day religion of “Christianity”. What do they teach about the Gospel?

If they are not preaching the true Gospel as is clearly presented in scripture they are not actually our brother and sisters in Christ. And this should upset us! This should make us mourn for the thousands–millions–who believe a lie about their eternal destiny. Not only do they believe a lie –but they believe a lie under the guise of Christianity and true Christians are not doing anything about it. Instead, they are encouraging them in their false faith and joining with them, declaring that “we are siblings in Christ”.

This is simply appalling! When you really think about it–could there be anything more unloving than allowing someone to believe they are truly saved– when they aren’t??

But we tend to get more upset about a spilled drink or an unexpected bill than we do about this tragedy taking place across the globe. Oh, how self-centered we are. How self-centered I am.

If we believe the true Gospel, then we need to not only live by it but pay attention when there is a departure from it. We need to stop making excuses and rationalizing away the damning differences. Like Paul, we should be up in arms and ready to defend the Gospel boldly and courageously!

 

*I have a page on the blog called “What is the Gospel?”, where we take a look at what scripture has to teach us about this subject. You can find it here.

*In 2016, I wrote about in some detail regarding some common false gospels. You can find that post here.

*I am looking very forward to my study of this book. If you are in the 2022 Growing4Life Bible Reading Challenge, I hope you are looking forward to it, as well. And if you aren’t in the challenge, it’s not too late to join for the rest of the year. Find out more information here.

 

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