Christian Life

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.

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

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!

 

There’s a Supplement for That

Pills and supplements are a way of life in our culture. There is a pill for this and a supplement for that. Sometimes they work. Sometimes it is our head telling us they work (placebo effect) and sometimes they just don’t work at all.

When someone takes a bunch of pills and/or supplements and then complains and complains about their ailment or not feeling well and then tries to talk you into taking the supplement or pill they are taking because you have the same complaint or ailment, what is your first thought?

Yeah, me, too. Why would I try something that is clearly not working for them?

It is when we are ailing or faced with health challenges that we search out pills or supplements to help. And it is when we are discouraged or disappointed and faced with heart challenges that we seek a spiritual solution.

And, yet, so often we are like that complaining person taking the supplements. We encourage others to follow Christ but we complain and moan and act like the rest of the world. We tell them they will experience peace and joy in the midst of any circumstance but we don’t exhibit that ourselves, so is it any wonder that they aren’t interested?

If we are bound up and consumed by anxiety or anger or bitterness or disappointment or laziness or unmet expectations (or any other number of things that consume us), we are not going to be very convincing when we say that Christ is the answer. If we are easily frustrated or irritated; if we live in fear or we complain about everything, we won’t be a very good example for what life with Christ can be like. If we aren’t living a joyful life that is characterized by God’s love and peace, we may as well say out loud, “try Christ but He actually doesn’t work.”

Now, of course, we all have our moments. This isn’t about perfection but about direction. We all need to work through fear or disappointment or one of the other things listed above. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t transparent about our struggles. But if we are known by these things; if we naturally react like this without even recognizing the pattern of sin; if these things are what people think of when they think of us, we just aren’t going to be very effective for Christ.

I think Satan knows this. I really do. I think he knows full well that, while he can’t take away our salvation, he can most certainly make sure we aren’t actively helping to save anyone else.

So often these actions and reactions are extra hard to recognize or remove because they have become deeply ingrained habits. We complain out of habit. We grow easily irritated because we always grow irritated. We grow anxious before we even know we are doing it.

So how do we actually become what we say we are in Christ?

There’s a long word that sums it up perfectly: Sanctification.

Sanctification is the process of becoming like Christ. It is the lifelong process of becoming pure and holy. We will never do this perfectly on this side of heaven, of course. But, through the Holy Spirit, we can grow and change in amazing ways. We can conquer those sins that so easily beset us.

Most professing Christians these days do not give this a thought. They don’t consider becoming like Christ to be any goal worth attaining. They are more wrapped up in the world. But for those of us that are serious about our walk with God, this is something to reflect upon, isn’t it? If I am telling others about what Christ can do for them, am I showing this truth in my own life? What sins are habitual in my life? What am I doing that is hurting my testimony?

Oh, it is such a fundamental thing in biblical Christianity to be aware of and confess our sins to Christ, washing daily at the cross. And, yet, have most of us been taught this? Have you even considered this over the past few weeks? If we aren’t doing this, then we easily just accept the sins that so easily beset us rather than fiercely battling them. How important that we remember that victory can be ours by God’s Holy Word and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture assures us that we aren’t without hope for change.

I’ve been really thinking recently about the status quo Christianity most of us are stuck in. We just live the way we have always lived because we feel hopeless to change. I wrote about that last week, as well. (You can find that post here.) I think we need to understand the possible eternal ramifications of resigning ourselves to besetting sins and wrong attitudes. They do not only affect us and those we love but they can potentially affect our witness for Christ.

May we study the Word and turn away from sin; may we walk in the Spirit as we live for Jesus every single day; And, in so doing, we will brightly reflect the light of Christ and bring hope to the lost who are searching so desperately.

 

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:6)

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6)

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (John 17:17)

 

Flying Free

It is that special time of year when the dusky summer nights light up with fireflies here in Pennsylvania. My grandkids have been having a wonderful time running through the green grass, arms stretched out as they try to catch them.

The other night one of them asked if we could get a jar. After poking holes in the lid, this became our residence for the unfortunate lightning bugs caught by the little hands. The jar soon became full of little bugs with golden light shining forth from each one every few seconds.

Somehow the effect of the creeping bugs lighting up in the jar wasn’t nearly so enchanting as the fireflies flying freely in the yard and surrounding fields, lighting up the night.

I’ve been thinking a lot about sin lately. Oh, not the sin that we Christians gladly call sin and have no problem staying away from. I’m talking about the sins that we’ve come to accept as just part of us, rather than sins against God that need to be eradicated from our lives.

Things like self-indulgence, anxiety, grudges, anger, pride, gluttony, selfishness, fear, self-gratification, wasting time, ungodly entertainment, laziness, arrogance. The list goes on. We have deceived ourselves in believing these aren’t as big as those “other sins”. Or maybe that they aren’t sins at all.

But they are sin. And they do come with consequences.

These sins, loved and cherished by us, keep us imprisoned in ineffectiveness, severely dimming our lights for Christ.

Like the fireflies, we are in a jar. But it is of our own making. We bleakly shine our weak light, but few can see because they struggle to see beyond the sin that is so obvious to them and so accepted by us.

We all struggle. We all battle. But we can’t—we won’t—fight until we actually recognize that it IS sin. And that’s the key, isn’t it?

I am right there with you. I struggle with many things on that list and I am beginning to understand the offense they are to a Holy God. Our flesh wants to excuse them but if we want to walk in victory, we can’t make excuses. There is no place for rationalization of sin in the life of a vibrant Christian.

When I opened the front door this morning to let out my dogs, the jar was on the porch. Inside was one lone firefly. Apparently, when we took the lid off for a few minutes to return freedom to the little insects, this one missed the window of opportunity. We put the lid back on and put it on the porch for another night, never noticing the little bug still imprisoned in the jar.

I can’t help but think of how many of us are like that little bug. We have been caught and placed in the jar through our own lusts. We are imprisoned there without hope. But God opened the lid of the jar, through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. He provided us a way to freedom. He provided us a way to shine His light before the world.

And, yet, so many of us keep going back into the jar. We get ensnared by these sins that we don’t like to call sins and back into the jar we go.

If we are a believer, the lid of the jar is open. Why are we staying in the jar? Why are we not confessing our sin and battling our flesh, in order to live in victory?

I believe it’s because we’ve been deceived into believing we must live in the jar. That there is nothing wrong with the jar and we can’t expect a better place to live in this fallen world than the jar.

But I’m beginning to understand that this just isn’t true. We Christians don’t need to live in a jar imprisoned by fear and anxiety. Or grudges and unforgiveness. We don’t need to be imprisoned by our lust for material goods, ungodly entertainment, or food. We can be free of the pride that keeps us from living a Christian life filled with joy and peace.

God has removed the lid and we are free to live in victory. But the first step is humbly admitting it is actually sin.

I am reminded of these verses in Galatians—

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:24-25

Have I crucified my flesh with its passions and desires?

While this seems like an absurd way to obtain freedom, it is actually the only way we can find the freedom we long for so desperately.

Will you join me in asking the Lord to show us how we aren’t pleasing Him? Shall we pray that He will help us to admit that our dearly held sin(s) must be admitted and then eradicated? Shall we fly out of the jar and be on our way to freedom, where we can make the most impact for Christ and shine brightest?

 

 

 

The Power of Social Media

I was following a woman on Instagram who filled her stories with interesting information. Most of it I already knew. Some of it was new. And I was skeptical of quite a bit of it, as well. But she talked about Jesus and the Bible and the return of Christ and, so it seemed, even if a bit misguided, that she was fairly solid.

Until the day she had her followers ask her questions.

Oh, my, what a mess! She was encouraging mysticism while warning against mysticism. It would have been comical if it wasn’t so sad. She was speaking of Christ and His coming, while turning the attention of her followers to the books that “didn’t make it into the Bible” along with scripture. Oh, the danger of this! She is clearly so confused and I can’t help but think of the many women she is leading into confusion right along with her by answering those questions with authority and as if she knows.

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

(I Corinthians 14:33)

And then, recently, we have been watching many in the reformed crowd, who have been historical amillennialists (believe we are in the millennium right now) turn post-millennial (believe we need to prepare the earth for Christ’s return before the millennium can start). What does this mean? Well, simply put, it means that these powerful presences on social media are encouraging their followers to change the culture and fix the world in preparation for Christ’s return.

For example, Dale Partridge, well-known and trusted by many believers, recently said this (emphasis mine):

“Sadly, the “Left Behind” series has shaped America’s eschatology more than scripture has. As a result, the church has become chronically pessimistic, disengaged, and now embraces a culture where we wait for decay rather than work toward dominion. Do not retreat, revive!”

Wait…what?? There are Christians who actually believe this? Yes, many. Maybe most of them now.

He is accusing the eschatology (the doctrine of last, or final, matters) of Left Behind as being unbiblical. While I don’t necessarily condone the movies; the ideas of the rapture, tribulation, and thousand-year reign are clearly in scripture.

If Partridge doesn’t believe this, then what does he believe IS scriptural? From that quote, we must assume it is the false doctrine of Dominionism. This is the false teaching that we must prepare the earth and build God’s Kingdom before Christ can return. (I probably should write about this false teaching of Post-Millennialism/Dominionism so you can see that this is clearly not in scripture, no matter how many people say it is.)

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:

(2 Timothy 3:1)

 

But here’s my point of this post: Christians are being swayed and confused by those they follow on social media. I gave two examples but there are thousands more like them. Christians have followed these people and have found them to be biblical. They have grown to trust them for truth. They view their opinions as authoritative without ever going to the Bible to check if what they say is true. And I understand. It is a lot easier to scroll through social media than it is to get out your Bible and study it. It just is.

But if we have little knowledge of the Bible, then we will be unable to judge if what we are hearing is actually true. Most of us have also never been taught church history so it is easy to imbibe the lies that we read on social media or hear from our favorite authors and speakers.

One such example is the lie that the pre-trib rapture/pre-millennial eschatology is a “new” theory. It’s actually not. There are examples of many from the early church who believed in both the rapture and a literal millennium (It was called Chiliasm back then). It wasn’t until Augustine spiritualized the Old Testament that the eschatology of the church went impossibly askew. But most people don’t know this. I didn’t know this myself until only recently when I finally took the time to delve into the subject because the confusion around it is growing exponentially.

So, my caution for today is that we take great care in who we follow. If someone is talking about fixing the culture or building God’s Kingdom, be wary. If someone is talking about kooky, extra-biblical stuff and taking the focus off of scripture, be wary. If someone says something “new” from scripture that you’ve never heard before, don’t only be wary but research it.

This phenomenon of social media is scary. People can become “famous” overnight. They can go viral just because they put up a cute or compelling video. Just because someone can make a reel or gives interesting information does not mean that they can be trusted. Just because someone has an immense following on social media does not mean they can be trusted.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that where there is popularity there is truth. But I have personally found the opposite to be true: Run the opposite direction of the crowd if you want to find the truth.

So be careful. Be oh, so careful, who you follow. And do your own Bible Study. Do your own study of Christian history. I know, for many of you, your immediate response is probably “but that’s not my ‘thing’ “. I know it is not everyone’s “thing”. But, quite honestly, I am not sure, in this current age, that we can afford to say that anymore. The deception is growing exponentially and the bottom line is this: LIES can only be overcome with TRUTH.

Many of us have viewed eschatology as a “secondary issue” and thought it didn’t matter all that much. But we are finding out that it matters a great deal. For Satan is using wrong eschatology to prepare the world for the antichrist system.

May we be diligent and persevere in our study of God’s Word. May we be dedicated to interpreting it literally, grammatically, historically. May we be willing to do the work to test EVERYTHING by the Bible. May we be willing to research historical statements when necessary. May we be willing to stand strong, no matter the ridicule we get.

And may we gladly join the unpopular remnant in believing what the Bible clearly teaches: The rapture is close and the Tribulation is just around the corner.

It may be a negative message for the world, but for those who are redeemed, it’s the most positive message we could ask for at this juncture!

 

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,  looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

(Titus 2:11-14)

 

Life and Legos

Have you ever had assumptions made about you? People are really great at assuming. They assume they know your motives, your reasons, your “whys”. They make assumptions about choices and decisions. These assumptions are often fueled by rumors. Rumors that we are all too quick to listen to and pass along.

These rumors and assumptions can really get us down for we are rarely given an opportunity to defend ourselves.

Have you ever been faced with a terrifying bit of news? Of course you have. Whether it’s an unwelcome diagnosis from a doctor or a piece of news that comes to our ears through a news anchor, we have all had those moments.

These terrifying moments can bring on major fear and anxiety for they make us realize that we have zero control over what happens.

Have you ever been accused wrongly or unfairly treated? Whether it is through favoritism, a misunderstanding, or because of standing for what is right, these moments come to us all.

These unfair accusations can make us really angry, because, well…it’s just not fair!

Have you ever been broken-hearted or hopeless? Perhaps through the loss of a loved one, the betrayal of a friend, or the realization that you will have chronic pain for the rest of your life?

These moments of despair can make us depressed and zap all the joy from our lives because we just don’t feel like going on.

__________________________

I just finished reading the *biography of John Bunyan. He dealt with all of these things and more. As a young man, assumptions were made about him because he had been quite the wicked young man. The Lord got a hold of him and radically changed him but people just couldn’t forget the old man. He faced more trouble when his young wife died and left him with four young children to care for. Later on, he received the news of a prison sentence for a crime that wasn’t even a crime by the law of the land. It was totally and utterly wrongful imprisonment. While imprisoned, his precious Mary, his oldest (and blind) daughter passed away. When he was finally released from prison, his rabid opponents tried to stop his ministry through rumors and wrong accusations.

John found himself in a prison cell for twelve years. The religious wars in England at the time were ferocious and the tides turned every which way at any time. But, no matter which way it turned, his young wife (his second wife) found herself up against a brick wall in any effort to get him released.

Now, he could have grown depressed or angry. He could have ended up languishing in bitter disillusionment and unabated fury. But he didn’t.

Instead, he picked up quill and paper and started writing. And kept writing. And then wrote some more. His best known work is called Pilgrim’s Progress and is still a best seller among Christians today!

What was his key? Why could he continue on, despite the ill treatment and the heartbreak in his life?

There’s a small quote of his that shows us how he managed to do this. I have been mulling it over and over in my mind since I have first read it. I believe it is the key for us all–

“If ever I would suffer rightly I must first pass a sentence of death upon everything that can properly be called a thing of this life, even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyments, and all as dead to me and myself as dead to them. The second was to live upon God that is invisible.”

You see, he was putting scripture into practice. Paul basically told us this same thing in Philippians 3:8–

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

And so we must realize that it’s only in releasing our grip on the things of this world that we can experience the peace and joy that God has promised. It’s only in surrendering our sense of fairness, our reputations, our family members, our health, our finances, our futures to God and His Sovereign will that we can conquer our fears, worries, anger, and despondency.

This brings to mind an example of this I saw just a few years ago lived out right in front of my eyes. How well I remember the calm acceptance of my brother and his wife as they faced the fact that her journey on this earth was winding down to an end. It is because they were learning to release the things of this life to grasp instead the bright shining eternal gift of Christ.

As believers, the more we die to self and gain Christ, the more we are victorious in our Christian lives.

This isn’t exactly what most want to hear. In our self-obsessed culture, we want God to fulfill our dreams and pour down blessings.

But the actual blessings we receive from God aren’t all that appealing to the carnal soul.

__________________________

The other week, my son came into the house and said, “We have lots of legos!” I was confused and followed him out the door. What I saw sitting in the bed of his truck were 5-6 boxes of varying sizes filled with legos! A customer’s children had grown tired of legos and she didn’t want to bother selling them, so she asked if we wanted them. My son loaded them up and brought them home. Thousands of dollars worth of legos.

When our grandchildren laid eyes on those boxes they grew wide with excitement. As we pulled one off the truck and they saw all of the pieces and parts and potential, they were thrilled. Particularly the oldest, who at six years old, could really appreciate them.

Now, to an adult or a small baby, eh… who cares. Legos are not really their thing, right? Not really considered that big of a blessing. And maybe even a nuisance.

But to a child? Wow.

I think God’s blessings are a bit like that. They don’t look all that attractive to the unbeliever. Forgiveness of sins and peace with the God of the Universe? Eh. Not all that important, as they yearn after the worthless “fool’s gold” of this world. Peace and joy in the midst of trial? But they want promises of NO trials.

It isn’t until we are saved that God’s blessings fill us with awe and appreciation. Because they are specifically for those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation and eternal life.

And so victory and blessing in the Christian life isn’t going to look all that appealing to the unbeliever or perhaps even to the immature believer.

It isn’t until we give up the temporal for the eternal that we begin to understand.

 

I wish I could say I am able to live out the truth of John Bunyan’s statement above. I wish I could say that God’s blessings are always enough for me. But, unfortunately, in my battle with my flesh and my {ever-loosening but still tight} grip on this world, I cannot. I can only write about it in hopes to encourage us all towards this ideal, knowing that God will faithfully continue His work in those of us who are His as we journey together towards the eternal city.

 

for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13

 

 

*A Pilgrim Path: John Bunyan’s Journey by Faith Cook. Highly recommend!

 

Sometimes a Look Back Is Invaluable

The past is a tricky thing. Look back too often and you may end up in the quick sands of pride or bitterness. Never look back and you might repeat your mistakes. But there is always much to be gained by looking back at the lives of those who have gone before us. Unfortunately, this is generally neglected and viewed as “boring”.

I am deeply saddened by this because it is from these godly men and women of the past that we find examples of God-fearing, stand-firm-no-matter-what, holy Christian lives. God has always had His remnant–the true Church– woven throughout history. It has never been a group of great size or much popularity and it was often persecuted mercilessly. But it was always there.

If you have never heard of the Covenanters, the Huguenots, the Anabaptists, the Reformers, or the Dissenters then you may be unfamiliar with the persecution of the past. These are some of the more well-known persecuted groups. There are countless others.

Parenthetically, the true Church has been most persecuted by the followers of the false religion that goes by the name of Catholicism. It never fails to astound me to see the efforts to join with this church when I know the history of it. Only recently, I saw a video of Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin worshiping at the feet of the pope. These two popular artists are known by all. If not by name then by their songs, which are sung in churches around the world. Their apostasy in this way should alarm us beyond measure!

Protestants (named thus because they protested the false doctrines and abuses of the Catholic church) fought long and hard to divide from Catholicism. Many, many lost their lives pulling away from this false church to join Christ’s true Church. They lost their lives in horrible, unconscionable ways. Should we now join it in the name of unity and ecumenism? May it never be!

Some of the stories of these martyrs are recorded in a book called Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Which I read just a little at a time. It’s taking me years. Literally.

It’s actually a little overwhelming. So why would I even want to read a book like this?

There are a few reasons. I want to tell you what they are and then share a profound excerpt from the book itself.

First, one of the main reasons I like to read this book is to remind myself that God’s promises are true. He really will never forsake us. Even when we are overwhelmed by evil and wickedness in this life. Even when we are attacked, ridiculed, or betrayed. Prison, death sentences, or banishment can’t remove God’s grace and blessing from His children.

The accounts of these martyrs, recorded in this book written in the mid-1500s, are filled with amazing stories of God’s all-sufficient grace. Firmly standing on God’s Word, these men and women refused to recant in front of councils and in trials. There are many records of a martyr singing as he or she burns on the pyre. This can only be strength that comes from God.

So let me tell you… this is a LOT easier to write than to actually contemplate. We can tremble with apprehension when we consider what might lie ahead. But the testimonies of these faithful ones are a much needed reminder that God’s grace will be sufficient for whatever lies ahead.

Second, this book is a reminder of the price that has been paid by the true Church throughout the ages. Satan hates the Bride the Christ. He will do anything he can to shut it down. He has tried to snuff it out (persecution) and he has tried to join it (false religions that use the Bible). But God’s true Church lives on. Yes, it is small and unimpressive, by the world’s standards. But the Holy Spirit has moved and worked throughout the ages and continues to do so. The true Church will live on until she is raptured and taken home where Christ has prepared a place for her (John 14:1-4).

Third, a book like this (along with so many others that tell of the sufferings of believers in other times and lands) reminds us that suffering for speaking the truth should be expected. The Truth of the Word is never welcome to the world. Yes, the Holy Spirit continues His work of convicting and drawing individuals but it will never be the majority. The Word of God will never be appealing to the world at large, which loves its sin and wants no accountability. Wherever someone stands for Christ and His Word, there will be hatred and hostility. Some will give up their years in a prison or give their lives. Others will pay with their reputations or by losing precious relationships. Ridicule, attacks, and suffering should be expected. There is always a cost involved in following Christ whole-heartedly. Always.

And, finally, fourth, it is a great reminder that we need to fear only God. Matthew 10:28 says this–

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 

It is easy to get caught up in protecting our physical selves, isn’t it? I think many of us were surprised at how precious our lives were to us a couple of years ago in the midst of the 2020 craziness. We Christians thought we had our eyes on eternity but, all of a sudden, we had to actually ask ourselves that question. Do I have an eternal perspective? Or am I loving this world? That time made me really consider the hope that I had within me. Was it based on things above or was it based in this world?

These are questions we believers need to answer now. We need to build our healthy fear of God, which will naturally diminish our sinful fears. We need to strengthen our hearts and minds through our memorization and study of the Bible. We need to redeem the time in these evil days and stop squandering it on frivolous, worthless things. We need to pray that God would strengthen and prepare us for whatever lies ahead. And reading a few biographies of Christians who refused to waver wouldn’t hurt, either.

Since I know not all of you will pick up a book and start reading, I wanted to share this small excerpt from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. It profoundly impacted me. I thought it may also do the same for you–

*A merchant of Prague, going to Breslaw, in Silesia, happened to lodge in the same inn with several priests. Entering into conversation upon the subject of religious controversy, he passed many encomiums upon the martyred John Huss, and his doctrines. The priests taking umbrage at this, laid an information against him the next morning, and he was committed to prison as a heretic. Many endeavours were used to persuade him to embrace the Roman catholic faith, but he remained steadfast to the pure doctrines of the reformed church. Soon after his imprisonment, a student of the university was committed to the same jail; when, being permitted to converse with the merchant, they mutually comforted each other. On the day appointed for execution, when the jailer began to fasten ropes to their feet, by which they were to be dragged through the streets, the student appeared quite terrified, and offered to abjure his faith, and turn Roman catholic if he might be saved. The offer was accepted, his abjuration was taken by a priest, and he was set at liberty. A priest applying to the merchant to follow the example of the student, he nobly said, “Lose no time in hopes of my recantation, your expectations will be vain; I sincerely pity that poor wretch, who has miserably sacrificed his soul for a few more uncertain years of a troublesome life; and, so far from having the least idea of following his example, I glory in the very thoughts of dying for the sake of Christ.” On hearing these words, the priest ordered the executioner to proceed, and the merchant being drawn through the city was brought to the place of execution, and there burnt.

Read what the merchant “nobly said” once more.

This is the bottom line, is it not? May we never “sacrifice our soul for a few more uncertain years”. May we never sacrifice our soul for a bit of popularity or in our desire to be admired by the world. May we never sacrifice our soul to keep the peace. May we never sacrifice our soul to be spared a moment of ridicule or embarrassment.

By God’s grace, may we never sacrifice our souls.

Oh, these are evil days as the world grows more and more hostile to biblical truth. But God still reigns and nothing can touch us until He says so. May we soldier on in full armor as His ambassadors in this world until He calls us home.

 

 

 

 

*Foxe, John. Fox’s Book of Martyrs (Or A History of the Lives, Sufferings, and TriumphantDeaths of the Primitive Protestant Martyrs). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

A Few Thoughts on the Uvalde Shooting

I wanted to share today what my daughter wrote on her Anchor for the Soul social media sites this past week. I think it’s important because it goes to the root of what we see taking place in culture. But it’s not a popular perspective. It’s much easier to dig our heads in the sand and pretend that this “just happened”. It’s much easier to ignore–or even deny– the really good reasons behind what we see taking place in the current culture.

And, I might add, what happened in Texas is the extreme of what we see taking place. The world is made up of so many hurting and broken people who only care about themselves and their dreams and their desires. Society has changed dramatically and much of it is because of what Jess writes below.

This is a hard read but it is true. If we believe the Bible and that what God says is best for us both personally and societally than we know this must be true.

Scripture makes it abundantly clear that we won’t change the culture. But we can change ourselves. And that’s all the Lord asks of us. Submit, obey, be transformed by the renewing of our minds. And, in this process, He will use us to help change and encourage others.

Here’s what Jess had to say over on Anchor for the Soul

 

So, let me get this straight.

We take moms out of the home, leaving their children to be raised by daycares, schools, coaches, and the television. We cheer for them as they sacrifice their children on the altar of their career dreams.

Divorce rates skyrocket. Kids are shuffled back and forth. Children are increasingly born to single moms or unmarried parents. It’s rare to see fathers actively involved in their children’s lives for a full 18 years. The stability and security that the family was intended to give children crumbles.

We schedule their sports and their camps and their after-school activities. We force them to study to get those straight A’s. We medicate them when they can’t sit still for 6 hours in a row. We skip church because we’ve got sports tournaments to go to. We want them to be the smartest, the most athletic, the most liked. Meanwhile we steal away their very childhood.

We tell kids to follow their heart and that truth is whatever they want it to be. Don’t tell them no. Gentle parenting, remember? Just redirect. They don’t need to obey. When they misbehave, we label them with some disorder instead of calling it sin. We take away God, discipline, values, and morality and then we’re somehow surprised when we see the consequences of that.

Our boys play video games in isolation for hours upon hours while they use guns to shoot real or cartoon characters. Kids spend hours watching things that glorify evil and darkness. Then we pretend it won’t affect them.

Parents don’t care enough (or “don’t have the time”) to instill value and worth in their children at home. So they’re faced with an identity crisis. They join whatever group gives them attention or helps them fit in. We tell them it’s normal to switch genders or be both genders or whatever it is their heart desires. Then we applaud them and pay for their life-altering surgeries while we ignore the statistics that show most plummet into regret, depression, and suicide.

As they grow, they give into peer pressure or the allure of a new experience and try smoking and drugs. They don’t have parents who have time to check up on them. It’s easy to hide. They don’t have a family at home who is providing them with acceptance and fun times together so they have to find them somewhere else. Then they face a lifetime of addiction. We shrug it off and call to decriminalize it. It’s no big deal. Just a coping mechanism.

We cry about these 10 year old children while simultaneously fighting for their deaths if it was 2012 and they were tucked away in the “safety” of their mommy’s wombs. We shout about how banning abortions will only ban safe abortions while claiming gun laws will somehow stop these people from obtaining a weapon.

We throw out morality and turn our backs on God’s rules, His design, and His way and then somehow act surprised when one of these children walks into a school intent on killing 4th graders. It’s horrible. It’s heartbreaking. But it’s not surprising. And we should expect it. This is the result of unrestrained, evil hearts. Access to guns did not create this problem. We’ve created this problem. Our God-hating, self-worshipping, reprobate culture.

And the Bible told us these evil days were coming. Days like the days of Noah. We won’t change the culture or the world as a whole. So what can we do?

Pray that the Gospel might shine a light in Texas through this tragedy. Hold on and fight against these cultural norms in your families. Christians are just as guilty of many of these things. Stand firm on the Word of God and do not waver. Be ready to be used by God to change individual hearts with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pass on your faith to another generation. And do your best to snatch any children God puts in your path (in your church, your family, your classroom, your home, your team) out of the fire of this culture.

 

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