Courage

Responding to Critics and Attackers

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

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

There are a few types of attackers–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are six things we should each consider when responding–

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

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

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

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

whether by word or our epistle.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18

 

 

Preparing the Lemmings

Since the beginning of time, man has assumed that the world came into being through a Creator. This is across all cultures and lands, where you will find variations on biblical accounts (such as creation, the fall of man, and Noah and the flood).

While man has always had a rebellious heart and worked hard to remove the accountability of man to that Creator (through religions such as Deism), it wasn’t until the late 1700s that someone came up with the idea to just remove a Creator altogether. From that point on, various men put forth this idea, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the theory of evolution caught on through a man named Charles Darwin.

Now we find ourselves in a place where if we don’t believe in this ridiculous theory, we are viewed as unintellectual and even stupid.

Never mind that it goes against all natural laws and is absolutely impossible. Never mind that it takes more faith to believe that than to believe in a Creator. Never mind all those things. Just believe what we tell you. Or we will shame you and and ruin your reputation.

Sound familiar?

Fast forward over a hundred and fifty years. This has happened over and over again with so many different things, hasn’t it? Both within the church and without. They have convinced us that therapy and medication is our only hope for inner peace. That the new age practices of yoga and mindfulness will help us. We are told that it is normal for women to work outside the home and to lead in our churches. “They” have been prying our fingers from the Word of God and its literal interpretation for many years now.

Scientists, psychologists, specialists, professors, doctors, authors, preachers, and celebrities all wield a particular kind of power that is actually kind of strange and more than a little scary. We have been fully prepared to listen to any specialist or scientist rather than God. To believe what they tell us over what God’s Word tells us. And when they are all saying the same thing, it can become overwhelming in its wrongness.

And now many of these “professionals” are telling us that certain things work and certain things don’t. To follow certain paths and avoid others. Even though it is clear from the statistics and data that they are LYING.

And so here’s a reminder:

Truth is not determined by how many people believe it.

Read that again.

A million “professionals” can declare, publish, and affirm a lie while a handful hold to the verified truth. Who is right and who is wrong in this scenario?

More than a few years ago now, I read the story of John G Paton and his missionary adventures in the New Hebrides Islands (what is now known as Vanuatu). In it, he told the story of how he sat in his house with his family one night with native warriors all around. For some reason, they never attacked them. He was puzzled until, some years later, one of those warriors explained. When they came to kill the family, they had seen large men in white standing guard. Angels had protected that family.

Fast forward to a few months ago. I had remembered this story (it’s a memorable and comforting story!) but just couldn’t remember where I had read it. So I decided to do an internet search to see if I could find it. One of the articles that came up was a Snopes article “fact-checking” this event from the 1800s and declaring it false.

Dear readers, fact-checkers are not always right. And, I dare say, are often wrong. These are being used as a tool to sway and move the lemmings in a certain direction. There is a method to the madness of all that is going on right now.

And, once again, may I remind you that this is from both sides. Beware of both sides. Don’t align with either. Both are evil. The great reset side and the great awakening side are full of deception and lies.

The world is calling its lemmings to pick a side. Do you know what a lemming is? It’s a small rodent that has a long-standing myth that surrounds it: They will jump off a cliff en masse and commit suicide. How about that??

But we aren’t lemmings. We are people. And we have a Good Shepherd (John 10). Instead of looking to the “professionals” for our beliefs, we look to what the Word says. Instead of basing our lives (and the many decisions we are called to make) on internet posts and books and podcasts, we base them on the Bible. Instead of picking a side, we firmly plant our feet on God’s side.

We are the people of God and we are but pilgrims passing through. The waves of darkness and apostasy that are overtaking the world should not ruffle us as much as they do. (But, if we are honest, many of us are quite ruffled. We are nervous and upset and worried when we stop long enough to think about the future. Particularly, if we aren’t getting strength every day from the Word.)

So there are a few things we can do to keep ourselves from joining the lemmings. To set ourselves apart from the crowd. But we need to ask ourselves: Am I willing to do this? It’s not an easy route to take, to be sure. It’s a difficult and rocky path. But it is worth it and it is what we are called to do.

1. Read and study your Bible. I know I say this so often, but the reading and study of the Word by a humble and obedient soul cannot be over-emphasized. You see, as you read, many of the lies we have been fed about this world fall away as we recognize the Truth and the consistency of that Truth throughout the entire Book. It’s an amazing and incredible Book.

I heard a statistic the other day: 97% of people who call themselves a Christian have never read the entire Bible through. Are you one of those people? If you are, may I encourage you to make a change today? (Personally, I waited far, far too long to make this change and it is one of my biggest regrets in life.) We are powerless and vulnerable without God’s Word. It is what He has given us to live a victorious Christian life.

2. Value and search for the truth, no matter the cost. Ask God to show you the truth about what is going on in this world, no matter the consequences. One of the reasons so many people shy away from the truth is because it costs too much. It hurts too much. It’s often so much more pleasant to believe a lie. But we can’t expect to know the truth if we aren’t willing to pay the cost.

Humanity has always loved lies. From the Garden of Eden to this present day, we are so much more prone to listen to a pleasant lie than an unpleasant truth. And God even tells us in His Word about this, where He explains that the ungodly exchange the Truth of God for the lie (Romans 1:25).

But, as believers, this should not be so! We should be earnestly searching for the truth in all situations. We should be facing the world with open eyes and ears, willing to hear even the hardest of truths. Christians can face these hard truths because they have a secure future in Christ. No matter what happens in this world, we are safe from eternal harm.

3. Stop caring about popularity. Oh, how powerful peer pressure is. You can see the lemmings lining up to do as they are told because they want people to like them. They don’t want to stand out as different. They don’t want to make a scene. They don’t want others to think they are uncaring or mean-spirited. They want to be accepted and loved. As we are told that there are certain actions we must take in order to receive acceptance, love, and to look like we are a “nice person”, many cave to the pressure. But it’s important that we fully evaluate any decision before we bow to that pressure. Is this what is best or is this simply what is going to keep us from standing out as odd?

4. Expect to be ridiculed. As you make choices that go in direct contrast with the world, expect to be hated. The world has never liked the guy swimming upstream in a downstream world. They have never liked the guy who chooses the narrow, difficult path, instead of joining the throng on the easy, wide road. As you make choices that go against the crowd, these things will come.

Sometimes they come from a very sad and disheartening direction and family relationships are strained and friends are lost. Sometimes even Christian ones. These may be the price to pay if we search out the truth and follow it whole-heartedly.

 

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As we strive to live in this crazy insane world, may we choose to remember our identity: We are the people of God. We are not the lemmings of the world that can be swayed and moved any which way. As we see the lemmings prepared for the antichrist system, may we believers keep ourselves separate and apart, just as we are told to do in God’s Word (Romans 12:2).

 

 

(A Lot of) Lessons I Learned This Past Month (Part 2)

Earlier this week, I wrote PART 1 of this series. The purpose of this is to share how my month-long focus on missionary stories over on the Growing4Life Facebook page changed me. There were lots of lessons to be learned from these courageous men and women and I wanted to not only share what I’ve learned but to encourage you to do your own study of these men and women, as well.

I plan to put a PDF together with a list of the missionaries and the corresponding links and other resources I used during Missionary Month. If you’d like a copy just reply to this email (or if you are seeing this on social media, simply message me your email address.)

The first part of this series focused on some pretty foundational Christian principles. Things most of us already know but perhaps needed to be reminded of. This second part is going to be a little different as these things are applicable for all of us right now–calling for change in specific areas of our lives. At least this is the case for me. You can be your own judge… haha

So here we go. Prepare to have your toes stepped on (maybe)–

7. They had an eternal perspective. These missionaries were, without exception, focused on eternity. They cared little for their own lives as they boldly traversed jungles to reach hostile, savage tribes or subjected themselves and their families to filthy conditions and diseases that had been eradicated years before in their home countries. I thought I was doing a “pretty good job” overall at keeping an eternal perspective, but these missionaries challenged me. Their eternal perspective wasn’t only about keeping fear at bay or feeling peace and joy in their hearts. It was not self-centered. Their eternal perspective was God-centered (This is probably worth a whole post.) They wanted to bring Him glory and tell others about His plan of salvation, no matter the cost. They denied self, they sacrificed, they endured unthinkable conditions. All because they remembered what really matters. Oh, how important that our eternal perspective is God-centered and not self-centered.

8. Prayer matters– a lot! So many of these missionaries spoke about prayer in a living way that is unfamiliar to most of us. This was a vital part of their ministry and they challenged me to think more deeply about this issue of prayer. You see, I think we all say that we know prayer is important but few of us actually live like we believe this. But these missionaries knew prayer was important. And that they needed the prayer support of those across the seas as they endeavored to take the Gospel to foreign people groups who were soundly in the hands of Satan through demon worship and other pagan practices. Oh, to take prayer more seriously!

9. Music matters. Several of these missionaries mentioned the importance of Bible memory and hymns as they faced solitary confinement or other situations where they had no access to scripture. I don’t know what kind of music most of you listen to, but may I encourage you to pay attention to the lyrics? Would those lyrics strengthen and encourage you during a time of need and desperation? The music we listen to matters. A lot. It will either encourage us in our walk with God or it will move us away from Him and from sound doctrine. (Keep in mind that just because a song mentions God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit does NOT mean it is of sound doctrine. In fact, much of Christian contemporary and worship music is NOT doctrinally sound. Pay attention and be aware.) Protect and prepare yourself by listening to music that is God-honoring and faith-strengtheningOh, to listen to great songs of the faith that will be a balm to our souls during troubled times. 

10. Redeem the time. Oh, how much time we waste. I really had to reflect on this. Particularly when I considered the many Bible verses that came to the minds of these great Christians just when they needed them. How well do I know my Bible? How much have I memorized? God can’t use His Word in our lives if we don’t know it. And we can’t know it, unless we intentionally give our efforts to know it. Oh, how important to make Bible Study a priority!

I was also reminded that it is incredibly important to consider what kind of things we are putting into our minds. Not only music as mentioned earlier, but all entertainment. What do we want to remember if we are ever without TV, books, and music? What do we want filling our minds and hearts when we face difficult situations and unthinkable circumstances? Whatever our answer, THIS is what we should be listening to, memorizing, watching. THIS is what we should we spend the majority of our time on. Oh, to be more intentional with how I spend my time.

11. Stop Complaining. Oh, how condemned I felt after reading and listening to these testimonies. They are without necessities, facing the deaths of spouses and children, dealing with the indifference and hatred of those they want to help and they are doing it willingly for the cause of Christ. And then there’s me. Getting a little worked up because the customer service representative of the credit card company I called was so inept. Oh, how much I complain. Over stupid stuff. It’s honestly ridiculous. Oh, to stop being such a complainer!

 

SO WHO IS REALLY A HERO?

I get so very weary with those who are deemed “heroes” in America (not sure how it is in your country). Movie stars and sports figures, few who have done anything of value, are raised on a pedestal while those who are true heroes go completely unsung. A movie star acts and a sports figure plays. Neither of these things are worthy of honor. A true hero sacrifices. They sacrifice their own well-being, their own comfort and convenience, their own lives for a greater cause. And they inspire others to do the same!

Christian heroes do this for the cause of Christ. In my opinion, there are no greater heroes than these men and women who gave their lives for Christ. I can’t even imagine the crowns they will receive in heaven!

Oh, that we, too, may be Christian heroes wherever God has placed us!

 

 

 

The Fragrance of Christ

As I sit outside writing this morning, the incredible fragrance of honeysuckle wafts up to the porch on a light breeze every once in awhile. We have a bit of woods behind our house and the last few weeks of May and the beginning of June always bring the blossoming of, first, the wild roses and, shortly after, the honeysuckle– both filling the air with their wonderful scents.

But to some people, farmers and others, these plants are viewed as noxious weeds to be destroyed. Many don’t appreciate their amazing– albeit brief– time of glory each year and seek avidly to rid their landscape of these pests.

One person views them in a positive light and one person views them in a negative light.

As I was enjoying the scent of the honeysuckle the other evening, I examined my own life and wondered if I am the fragrance of Christ to those around me. I long to be, although that sinful nature does trip me up all too frequently!

What is the fragrance of Christ? What does it look like? It’s love and peace and joy. It’s selflessness and self-control. It’s honesty and patience and kindness.

But is that all there is to it? And if it is, then why are we viewed as noxious weeds to so many? Why does the world hate Christians so? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 helps us understand, showing us that, while we are the fragrance of life to a few, to many we are the fragrance of death(!)–

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us [d]diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

None of the things listed above would ever make an enemy. Who doesn’t like someone who is kind and patient and loving? What is the fragrance of Christ that turns people off and makes them want to attack and destroy Christians?

Let’s turn to scripture to gain some insight. For it is there that we find some of these offensive principles that make people turn away from, reject, avoid, and rebel against God. It is here we find out why the world at large hates us Christians.

Being the fragrance of Christ to the world also means that–

–We are committed to the truth of the Gospel. We proclaim that Jesus is the only way. There are no good works we can do or supernatural, mystical happening we can experience to make us right with God. (John 14:6)

–We understand that we–and everyone else in this world– are not good people. We are all born sinners and are in desperate need of a Savior. (Romans 3:23)

–We intentionally surrender our own desires to live for God. We give up our dreams in order to obey God. We take up our cross and deny ourselves. (Matthew 16:24)

–We separate ourselves from the world. From its passion for success. From its definition of love. From its goals and values. From its entertainment. (James 4:4) (please note that I didn’t say we separate ourselves from the people of the world–for we are clearly told to reach the lost. But, according to scripture, we must separate from the world’s system. Contrary to today’s popular opinion, you don’t need to participate in the world and its entertainment to reach someone for Christ.)

–We trust God instead of self. We turn to the Bible for answers instead of to man’s wisdom. (Psalm 118:8)

–We expect persecution and trials as we live our Christian life. We don’t want them, but we understand that we are swimming upstream in a world that is going downstream. (2 Timothy 3:12)

There are so many more things the Bible teaches that we must stand upon. And these are things HATED by the world. We teach that women are the keepers of the home and are to submit to their husbands (Titus 2:4-5). That homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27). That we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). Can you think of others?

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These things are not very popular to teach and preach and write about, are they? And they garner the antagonism and ridicule of the world and even much of the church. Only someone who is already a true believer or seeking after God will be drawn to these principles for life. Only this small group of people will recognize the benefit and blessing of a life lived in obedience to the principles laid out in the Word. Only these few will find these words life-giving, and comforting.

But the rest of the world (and much of the church) will view us as noxious weeds. People to be destroyed. An invasive plant to be gotten rid of.

And we are seeing this, aren’t we? My daughter-in-law sent a photo of a response someone sent to a Christian on Instagram. It was the very essence of what we are talking about. In a nutshell, this woman declared that Christians are a bane on society and should be destroyed. If Christianity is only about kindness and love, why would she declare this? It is because Christianity is about more than love. It’s about TRUTH.

There are a few things for us to reflect upon as we consider this idea of fragrance.

First, we should examine our own lives. Are we giving off the aroma of Christ in all ways? Or just the easy, appealing ways that will gain the acclaim of the world? This is tough and it’s getting tougher. We are all so susceptible to peer pressure. It is only through the strength of the Holy Spirit that we can speak the entire counsel of God and defend the Bible. It is only through His power that we can be the light of truth in this dark, dark world.

Second, I have to confess that one of the biggest puzzles to this for me is how Christians who love truth are often strongly disliked–and even hated–by other Christians. These are good people who are living for Christ. And, yet, when you declare someone to be a false teacher based on their own words and actions, they get mad at you. When you give clear documentation of a false doctrine or some other unpopular truth from God’s Word, they declare you to be negative or legalistic and ridicule you. What is going on here? If they are saved, why don’t they love the truth? Why don’t they want to see the Church and its members protected? I don’t have any answers but it is a puzzling and discouraging truth. If you are a watchmen on the wall, trying to protect the church, the arrows will come from both sides of the wall. And the arrows from inside the church hurt far, far worse than the ones coming from the world!

The perfect Christian life is to live like Christ. We will never attain that on this side of heaven, but this should be our desire. This will consist of those wonderful things that everyone loves but it will also consist of those things that aren’t so loved. To be a true representative for Christ, we must embrace all of who He is. Not just the parts that are pleasant.

And then we must expect, just like the wild rose and honeysuckle plants, to be delightful and pleasant to a few and to be viewed as a pernicious and virulent weed to most. This is the life of the true believer.

 

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

John 15:18-20

 

 

 

Our Response to Christ’s Sacrifice

It is Good Friday. When I was younger, this was an official holiday. Banks and stores were closed and the mail wasn’t delivered as the population at large stopped and contemplated what Christ had done on the cross. At least that was the idea. I think that the actual contemplating had stopped long before I was born but tradition remained for a long time. Until one day, the holiday was just no longer.

But this is still the day, in fact the entire weekend, that we Christians focus on all that Christ has done for us. And, oh, what He has done! I believe I realize more and more each year the wickedness of my own heart and the significance of the gift that was given to me when Christ died on the cross.

As we continue to live in “limbo land” and wait for all the changes that will result from the upheaval to our “normal” lives in 2020, this gift has become even more precious, hasn’t it? And I think any of us who are genuinely born again has thought about this in a different light, as we wonder what it will cost us to continue to follow Jesus in the coming days.

But Christianity has never been costless. Or at least not for the majority of people in the world. We are simply moving into what has been the normal experience for Christians throughout history.

It is difficult for many of us to pay even the price of a scowl or an unkind word when we speak up for Jesus and so we remain silent. This is because we have been deceived by the wave of self-centered Christianity that has taken the world by storm. A Christianity where it’s all about God’s love and His “genie powers” to make our lives on this earth amazing.

But, while God’s love is certainly an integral part of the Gospel, we must continue to read God’s Word to find out what salvation means. What all it entails. You see, we aren’t saved so that God can fulfill our dreams and give us a great life on this earth. His Word makes this abundantly clear. And, while it is true that we experience peace and joy that the unsaved cannot experience, it is supernaturally experienced through the trials–not in the lack of them.

So what does God expect from us after we are saved? What does He have for us to do?

Let’s look to the Word for this answer–

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.

Matthew 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Colossians 3:1-3 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

These verses clearly show us that after we are saved, our love for the world should start waning. Oh, for most of us this isn’t instant but, gradually, as we mature in Christ, the gleam of the world shows itself for what it is: Fool’s gold that has no value. The fame, the glory, the riches, the popularity of the world dim as we grow closer to Christ.

James doesn’t mince words as he also echoes this change in affections–

James 4:4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Not only are our affections changed, they MUST be changed if we are truly born again. For them not to be changed gives evidence that we aren’t saved at all since it is impossible to be friends with God and with the world at the same time.

As we stand for the truth of God’s Word in a world that hates Him, we will face difficulties and persecution. This is made clear throughout scripture–

Matthew 5:11-12  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I Peter 4:12-14 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are [e]reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. [f]On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.

Christ died on the cross to give us life. What an awesome, incredible gift! But that life is to be lived for Him, doing the good works He has set out for us–

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

In response to God’s amazing gift of grace and mercy, we are to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Christ–

Luke 9:23-26 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross [b]daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.

We are to deny ourselves. Lose our lives (all earthly advance and glory) to live for Christ. If we are ashamed of Christ, He will be ashamed of us. In a Christian culture that promotes the complete opposite of these verses, these are sobering thoughts, are they not?

Biblical Christianity isn’t popular these days and it’s growing less popular by the minute. People think we are strange and odd and even dangerous (which makes no sense at all until you read John 8:44 and I Peter 5:8 and recognize Satan’s pure hatred for believers).

As we contemplate Christ’s sacrifice this weekend, may we also prepare ourselves to pay the price to follow Him to the end. No matter the cost.

And let’s remember that we aren’t relying on our own strength as we face the days ahead. (I can’t think of a more comforting thought than that, as my heart can tend to quiver at the road that lies ahead.) We know the ending to this old earth’s history. We know the King who will be victorious and we are on His side. He will give us the fortitude and courage to stand strong. May we proclaim Him to the end, no matter the cost!

 

 

The Challenges of Being a “People-Pleaser”

The other day, my dad shared something he remembered about me as a child that surprised me. But then, as I thought about it further, I realized that it is absolutely true and it is what has caused me so much misery through these past years of blogging. God has been helping me understand this about myself recently and has also given me greater insight in how to deal with it. I am sharing here because I thought this might also be of benefit to other “people-pleasers”.

We were talking about the grandkids (my dad’s great grandkids) and their personalities when he suddenly mentioned how different my brother and I were. I was so sensitive and wanted to please people as opposed to my brother, who never really cared what people thought about him.

I am not sure why but a light bulb went on in my head. Finally.

You see, since I have been blogging and I guess for my whole life, I have had a great desire to adhere to God’s truth and to share it with others. Because the truth is so important to me, I can see often see when there is false doctrine afoot or when someone is twisting scripture. (I don’t do this perfectly, of course.)

However, this desire to share truth is in direct conflict with my innate desire to make people happy. Since people often don’t want to hear the truth, I find myself not always pleasing them. I’ve never thought about myself as a people-pleaser but as I have reflected on my dad’s words, I can see that this is what has caused me so much heartache throughout my life. Especially since I’ve been publicly blogging.

You see, I have often noticed people that I’ve counted as friends and even acquaintances take a step back from me. They start avoiding me. They won’t make eye contact. Or they just act like I’m no longer on the planet. Or blog readers just disappear. A fellow blogger became a friend (I thought) and then poof! Just like that she disappeared. I still have no idea why.

There’s been no conversation or discussion so I often surmise that it must have been something I wrote (or said). Since I am never given the opportunity to actually find out what it exactly is that I’ve said or wrote that offended them, I am at a loss to fix it.

This has caused me incredible turmoil through the years and I will tell you why. It is because I have absolutely no way of knowing if someone is upset with me because of some truth they read (or heard me say) OR if I have done something sinful.

The questions that I repeat over and over again to myself when this happens are: Did I do something wrong? Did I write something that wasn’t biblical? Did I say it in a way that was unloving? Did I make a big deal out of something that shouldn’t have been a big deal? Father, have I sinned against Thee?

These go round and round and round in my head whenever someone so obviously backs away from me. And, contrary to what many people think about me, I don’t enjoy this. I HATE conflict. I HATE making people unhappy. I HATE when people don’t like me.

So why do I keep doing what I do? It’s because I care about pleasing God more than I hate people not liking me. I care more about God’s Word than I do about offending people. And it’s because so many of you have reached out and told me how the Growing4Life posts have encouraged and helped you. It’s because, for whatever reason, God has given me this platform and I want to faithfully accomplish what He has given me to accomplish.

But there is this dreadful uncertainty in the midst of all of this. Do people disappear because I have sinned or do they disappear because they didn’t like a particular truth I mentioned? I have spent hours in agony over this question. I am not exaggerating.

If people don’t like me for speaking truth then so be it. Scripture makes it clear that this is the price we should expect to pay. But if they don’t like me because of something sinful I did, then I must fix something. But what is it? Because it’s just easier to disappear than to have a conversation, I am rarely given the opportunity to know just what is going on.

Sometimes God will reveal something to me and I will apologize to someone. Or I will go back and change a sentence or two in a blog post. But that question still haunts me. Because if I had my choice, everyone would like me.

As I thought about this yet again a few weeks ago and spent a morning in turmoil, I finally, by the grace of God, found peace. For the first time since I started writing publicly, I found peace regarding the disappearing readers and friends.

And this is what I wanted to share with you. I hope it is an encouragement to those of you who have people-pleasing personalities like mine.

A week or two ago, as I once again sat agonizing over this, wondering if I have sinned against someone, it suddenly hit me. I can do nothing if people aren’t willing to share with me why they are offended.

My responsibility is to humbly surrender and change as God reveals things to me. But if someone is offended and they won’t share that with me, then there is really nothing I can do. I am helpless to make them happy or to be at peace with them, because they have found it easier just to walk away.

At that point I am not responsible. As long as I am living out Romans 12:18 (As much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men), there is nothing further I can do. The fact that Paul even wrote that verse shows that it is not always possible to be at peace with all men.

This is all compounded by the fact that, over the past few years, a rather strange new thing has entered our culture: We only like those with whom we agree. This change is extremely sad and causes so much division and heartache.

So I’d like to just go on record to say that I still like you even if we don’t agree about everything. I count you as a friend even if you and I differ on eschatology or how we view a specific Christian teacher. And if you can show me, from scripture, why I should change my view, I’ll change it. I am always open to discussion. I never want to be hard-headed or the kind that needs to prove I’m right. If scripture is clear that I am wrong, I am not too proud to admit it.

And, quite frankly, it is those of you that have kindly shared your disagreements with me who have led me to really dig deeper into the Word to clarify and confirm what I have said I believe. I am thankful for those of you with whom I can have candid and kind discussions. This is how we sharpen one another. This is how the family of God is supposed to work.

And, so, that is just a brief look into the window of my heart. I have made myself rather vulnerable with this post but I do so because I believe we are going to face this dilemma more and more as we stand for the truth of the Bible. It’s growing increasingly unpopular and I believe we are going to please people less and less as we cling tenaciously to God and His Word. We people-pleasers will have to come to grips with this.

So may we stand firm. May we unapologetically proclaim the truth of God’s Word–all of it! The pleasant parts and the not-so-pleasant parts. And may we humbly acknowledge when we have sinned, repent, brush ourselves off, and begin again.

 

Moms and Dads, Please Protect Your Daughters

Once again, there it was on Instagram for the whole world to see. A scantily clad young lady in a provocative pose. I knew that girl once, back when she was a little girl. I see so many kind and loving Christian girls that have never been taught the harm they are doing to both themselves and to the young men around them. Not only through dressing so immodestly but also by broadcasting it to the whole world via social media.

You see, as a woman when you dress immodestly and then pose in a seductive way, you receive attention. Men look at you appreciatively and often give much desired attention. And women will comment about how beautiful you are. These things naturally make you feel good.

But is this how a Christian woman should dress?

Let’s think about what scripture teaches us about the Christian life, as a whole, for a moment. We know that we are to deny self (Luke 9:23). We know that our priority becomes glorifying God. He must increase and I must decrease (John 3:30).

If this is true (and we know that it is), then anything that draws attention to ourselves in an unhealthy, sexual way is a very bad idea. This would be the complete antithesis of godliness.

But let’s take it a step further. Men are designed in such a way that immodest dress excites them sexually. Most men are aroused by seeing a woman’s body. The more of that body they see, the more tempting it is for them to think thoughts that the Bible teaches them are wrong to think about any woman other than their wives.

As women, do we want to tempt men in such an unloving way? And yet, over and over, I see this happening by young women who call themselves “Christian” and come from “good Christian homes”.

I confess that I am completely and absolutely befuddled by this.

You may notice that the title of this post addresses parents. That is because I believe it is the parents who have dropped the ball in this area for our daughters.

They can’t know how men think unless you–dad– tell them.

They can’t understand that modest dress not only keeps them from becoming a sexual object to a world obsessed with sex, but also helps them to protect the men around them–particularly the godly ones who are trying so hard to do what is right–unless you tell them.

They can’t buy bikinis or revealing shirts or super tight pants that leave nothing to the imagination unless you buy these things for them (or allow them to buy it).

YOU are accountable to God for how your daughter dresses.

Why are we not, as parents, discussing these things with our daughters? Why are we letting them walk around and post photos that draw the wrong kind of attention? Why are we not teaching them to be modest?

Many of these girls are wonderful, thoughtful, kind girls. I can only surmise either one of two things–

They truly are naive because these things just aren’t talked about in the home

OR

Mom and Dad may have tried to set down some rules and have some hard conversations during the preteen years but then didn’t have the courage to keep at it. Worn down like a rock in the river, they caved to the constant begging of the daughter to dress like her friends. (And I get this. I truly do. It was a very real and regular battle in our home and it was exhausting.)

But whichever it is, it is a real tragedy. A hundred years ago you wouldn’t have even seen prostitutes dressed as scantily in public as many Christian girls these days.

This has been on my heart for a very long time. This seems to be one of those acceptable sins that no one wants to talk about. To even mention this is to be viewed as judgmental and harsh and ridiculous. I do realize this. In fact, most Christians don’t even want to call immodesty a sin.

But let’s remember: Anything that is done out of a desire to glorify self rather than God is a sin. Any action that causes a Christian brother to stumble is sin. It is time we call it what it is.

If you are a personal friend of mine and you have a daughter who dresses this way, please know that I am not judging you. I am only begging you– please, oh please–begin today to protect your daughters. Have the hard conversations with them. Point them to the Word and teach them what it says about how a godly woman should dress. And then set a good example yourself.

This is an extremely touchy and difficult subject. Modern fashions often are revealing. Sometimes this means not being as in style as we’d like to be. Wearing swim shorts and a modest swim top will make you feel odd among a beach full of bikini-clad young women. I get it.

But I can also tell you that it is possible. We had three daughters–each one very different in personality. And we had some real battles in this area of modesty. But they now range in age from 22 to 30 and each one of them is committed to modesty. Did we have some really difficult times? YES! Did we mess up sometimes in what we allowed? YES! Did we cave to peer pressure on occasion? We sure did!

But we never gave up in this quest to teach them to dress in a way that honored the Lord. And God was so faithful to us, through all of our flubs and mistakes and mess-ups. We kept at it, learning from our mistakes and continuing to make an effort to honor the Lord in this area of dress. And these three girls will tell you now that they are glad. Just as I would tell my parents the same thing. My husband and I have been blessed to have good examples in this area of parenting and we can take no credit for doing anything special. Many of you are breaking the chains of habits of many generations before you when it comes to these things. I so admire you for trying to make changes in your family that honor the Lord. This is not easy. But it is possible.

None of us are going to be perfect in this area of modesty, of course. (Won’t that be a wonderful day? When we are sinless and never have to worry about these things again?) The important thing is that we realize that modesty matters to the Lord.

I want to encourage you parents to be courageous and to lovingly talk about these things with your daughters. I want to encourage you moms to dress in such a way that doesn’t draw sexual attention to yourselves. It is so very important that we protect ourselves and our daughters from this sex-obsessed world instead of joining it.

For it is the Lord (and not our peer group or our friends or our children) whom we desire to please most of all. And this changes everything.

 

PLEASE NOTE: A reader of this post has accused me of laying the blame for sexual sin on the shoulders of the girls with this post by not addressing the boys, as well. To be honest, I am not sure how one could come away with that, as I certainly didn’t say it. But I wanted to take a moment to respond to this accusation.

I know of no Christian who would encourage their boys to sexually lust after girls. This is pretty universally viewed as a sin within the church and, therefore, Christians tend to teach their boys the importance of a pure mind. On the other hand, there are many Christians who disdain the idea of modesty and, in fact, think it is old-fashioned and unnecessary. And that is specifically why I chose to write about it.

 

Why I Believe the Book of Revelation Will Be Fulfilled Literally

If you are over the age of 50, you can remember a time when the church was very focused on the rapture and the tribulation and what that would look like. Movies like Thief in the Night and A Distant Thunder brought fear and trembling as we considered our standing before God and what the world might look like after the rapture. The interest died down in the 80’s a bit and then was renewed a few years later with the Left Behind book series put out by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye.

And then something drastically changed. Suddenly, most churches became silent on the topic. I remember talking to someone who told me that they didn’t even know what their church teaches on eschatology. They never talk about it.

But many in the intellectual circles started teaching an eschatology that was different than what I had always believed in. Replacement Theology, Amillennialism, Post-millennialism, and Dominionism (or Kingdom Now theology) all grew in the wake of the church’s silence as people searched for answers. Many landed with the intellectuals who were declaring that their eschatology was coming from the early church fathers, such as Augustine (I’d like to add here that it is better to get our eschatology from the Bible as one only has to look back before Augustine to recognize that the early church actually taught pre-millennialism.)

I am not sure if you are aware of this, but probably over half (or more) of believers would not believe in a literal Revelation. To believe in this is to subject yourself to much scorn, particularly in the intellectual circles of Christendom.

And, so, today I want to explain to you my own personal journey and how I landed quite solidly in believing that Revelation will be fulfilled literally. While this was what I was taught as a child, I did not automatically assume this as an adult. God has, step by step, been showing me this truth through a variety of avenues. I have much more to learn and God keeps teaching me, for which I am extremely grateful.

Before I go on, I want to make sure you understand that I firmly believe that those who don’t agree with me on eschatology are still my brothers and sisters in Christ if they believe in faith alone through Christ alone for salvation.

So, on to my own journey of how I ended up where I did.

1. The Miracle of Israel  I believe the first step in this journey was a book I just “happened” upon. It was a secular work of fiction called Exodus by an author named Leon Uri. To be honest, I have no idea how I came across it or what made me pick it up but this book changed forever how I viewed the nation of Israel. As the author told a fictional story that was filled with many facts of the birth of modern day Israel I was astounded and even shocked at the miraculous and supernatural nature of it. It gave me much pause for thought that even a secular author could see this. More research into the actual event confirmed what the author had written.

The modern-day nation of Israel should not exist. But God. His supernatural protection of her has continued to this day. To me, this eliminated Replacement Theology. There was no way God didn’t have a future for Israel. Why, we were seeing it come to fruition right in front of our eyes!

I could expound a bit more but I don’t want this to get too long. So may I encourage you to do your own research to confirm what I am saying here? I truly believe, you, too, will be surprised at what you find.

2. My Personal Study of Romans 9-11 As I was reading through the Bible for the first time ever, I had finally reached the book of Romans. To my shame, I had never read the whole thing through. When I read Romans 9-11, I was shocked at the clarity with which Paul himself talks so clearly about God and His Love for Israel. Here we find that, clearly, God has a future planned for Israel. To come away with any different interpretation is to do interpretive somersaults and back flips. Oh, it may sound intellectual but I wasn’t looking for what sounded intellectual. I was looking for what is right.

3. A Consistent Approach to Hermeneutics (which is: the study of the general principles of biblical interpretation)  I remember having a conversation with a pastor many years ago now and his comment to me was that he just can’t understand how [the Reformed crowd] simply change their hermeneutics when they reach Revelation. This led me to find out exactly what he meant. What exactly were Hermeneutics and why do they matter? I read a whole book on interpreting the Bible correctly and then took an online course on Hermeneutics, in my efforts to understand why it matters how we interpret scripture. What I came away with was exactly what the pastor said. If we apply a literal-grammatical-historical approach consistently to scripture, we always end up with a literal Revelation.

I remember hearing Abner Chou once say something like this: “If the plain sense makes sense, there is no need to look for any other sense.”

There is no need to look for allegories unless what we read makes no sense. And Revelation makes perfect sense. Especially in light of what we are seeing today, which leads me to my next point.

(There is so much more to say here but, again, I encourage you to dig on your own. A great place to start is this essay written by Abner Chou. It is long and hard to read but it is helpful for someone who is truly searching.)

4. Current Events What is happening around us has always been a pretty convincing argument that Revelation was going to be fulfilled literally. It just made sense. But, as I have watched the events of 2020 and now 2021 unfold, I have stood back and watched with awe. If anyone has had any doubts about a literal Revelation, I can’t see how they continue to do so after the past eleven months! We are watching the world get set up for a Revelation 13 scenario in ways we never dreamed we’d see in our lifetimes. It’s honestly incredible. And, yet, still so many just can’t see. I have found the past year to be incredibly confirming of scripture. What was prophesied 2000 years ago is getting set up to take place right before our eyes!

I was going to write a whole post on how the signs of the times are converging so perfectly with what we are told will happen in the book of Revelation but if you can see it, you can see it. If you can’t (or you say you can’t even though you can), then you may be holding too tightly to a wrong eschatology or you might be gripping on to life here on earth and unwilling to see reality.

5. Understanding How Incorrect Eschatology Plays Into Satan’s Plan. If we are willing to take a step back and look back over history, we can see the role that replacement theology (the Church has replaced Israel) has played in anti-semitism. To be sure, I am not implying that most who hold this theology are anti-semitic but many of those who have believed in it have been anti-semitic, including Martin Luther.

As we turn our view to what is happening in our world currently, we can see how wrong eschatology changes how we view what’s happening. Let’s take a look specifically at Kingdom Now Theology (also called Dominionism). To put it very simply, this is the view that Christians will work to make the world better and better, as we prepare it for the Lord Jesus at His return. From the Bible, we see that the antichrist is going to bring a false sense of peace to this world. Think how vulnerable those who believe in Kingdom Now Theology will be to a man who claims to be working for God? Think for a moment, if you will, how they will actually help bring in this false system of light because they have been deceived. They are, in essence, working against God instead of for Him.

___________________________________

So these are a few ways that God has used to bring me to an understanding of the future as prophesied in the book of Revelation. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I am no Bible Scholar. I am not even asking you to believe as I do. I am more interested that you are willing to actually study the Bible to come to your own conclusion. You see, so often we rely on men to tell us what we should believe instead of studying the topic for ourselves.

Yesterday, I was having a conversation with someone and I pointed out the compromise of a certain (very popular) teacher, using scripture to back up what I was saying. The response was from a heart unwilling to see. When I asked her to back up what she was saying with scripture, she replied that it wasn’t necessary. Basically, she was going to believe what she wanted to believe.

What that person didn’t realize was that she had made herself the authority on what to believe, rather than holding the Bible as her authority.

While this is probably worth a post all on its own, my point is that the starting place to find out what we believe about the end times is a humble heart with an open Bible. No matter what you believe about eschatology, it’s important that we know why we believe it from the Bible.

There is much more depth to the defenses for and debates surrounding these different eschatologies than I am able to delve into here. I know that those who believe a different way have a multitude of reasons that they could proffer for their beliefs.

But I am here to encourage you to think for yourself.

Don’t let an intellectual sway your thinking. Don’t be moved by peer pressure or the scorn of a certain group of people. Be willing to ask God to give you insight and then study His Word. And then bravely stand on what you believe.

No one can make you believe a certain way. You get to choose. Do so wisely. Cast your own preconceived notions and favorite teachers aside. And then search out the truth in God’s Word with a willing heart, no matter what the cost.

 

A Believer’s Response

A few days ago, I experienced the viperous hatred of a woman who thought she knew best about the happenings of the past week and had no grace for an opposing view. She was very clearly brainwashed by media and the education system. It was actually a little scary. What made it even more scary is that this woman did, at least at one time, claim to be a believer.

We are running into these kinds of situations more and more. If you are a Christian who is committed to proclaiming and obeying what the Bible says, you are realizing that there is a type of Christian out there who hates you. They preach love and tolerance for everyone else, but they hate the true Christian.

This has probably been the greatest cause of sorrow for me. You expect to be hated and even persecuted by the lost. But I am beginning to understand that much of this will probably also come from “the church” (little “c” because it is obviously not the Bride of Christ.)

I had hoped to direct your attention away from the happenings of this world and on to scripture today. And so I will. But I wanted to do so in relation to what is happening in the world, because it has pretty much been all-consuming for most of us. As we watch the changes occurring, we are stunned. We see censorship happening that is scaring us. We are starting to realize that we cannot believe anything mainstream media says. (In case you are still watching mainstream media, do a little experiment as one of my daughters did. Switch back and forth between a mainstream news and a news station committed to bringing you the real news, such as news max. She and her husband couldn’t believe the spins and lies that came from the mainstream media. It’s gotten almost comical now–at least it would be comical if so many people weren’t still believing it.)

So, in the midst of all this mess, we are Believers. What does that mean? How does that look? I think there are some very specific things to consider as we navigate these terrifying and unstable days. These things are not conditional. Their application doesn’t suddenly just end when our circumstances change. Or when things go wrong in the world. They don’t change when we are persecuted or maligned or marginalized.

First, as Christians, we must remember our purpose.

It is very easy to get caught up in picking sides of a worldly system that has no good side. It is more important than ever that we remember why we are here on this earth. We are here to glorify God (Psalm 86:12) and to make Him known by sharing the Gospel and then discipling those that would embrace it (Matthew 28:19-20).

Second, we must remember the greatest commands, according to Jesus.

We can find this in Mark 12:30-31:  30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Notice that the greatest commands do not include fixing the world or changing the culture. They are not to bring God’s Kingdom to earth or to get caught up in a movement that is loyal to a human. The greatest commands are to love God and to love others. Let’s not get distracted.

Third, we are to love our enemies.

Luke 6:27-28 couldn’t be any clearer–

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Jesus doesn’t tell us to just love others but He makes it even more challenging by telling us to love those who hate us. As people who love the Lord, we strive to do everything we can to stay at peace with those around us (Romans 12:18) but, more and more, this is becoming impossible. Simply by believing and following the Bible, we have become objects of extreme hate and anger. It is so very, very important that we don’t hate back! It is tempting. It is natural. But Jesus tells us to love them. This is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fourth, stay in the Word.

Study, memorize, and then study and memorize some more. Scripture is our only anchor in this world gone mad. It is our only source for truth. As bad news and unbelievable, incomprehensible stories swirl around us, we have God’s Word. And we must cling to it.

Fifth, seek the things that are above.

I just love Colossians 3, particularly these verses–

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

So much of our stress and strife and worry and fears are because we aren’t seeking the things above. We are worried about here. We are worried about losing earthly treasures. We are worried about losing temporal freedoms. How important that we keep our eyes focused above.

Sixth, don’t live in fear.

We are expressly told in Philippians 4:6-7 to be anxious for nothing. If you turn to those verses, you will notice that it doesn’t say “Be anxious for nothing, unless…the world is falling apart.” No matter what is going on, we are to be anxious for nothing. We are to make our requests be known to God with thanksgiving and then to rest in His promises. If we do this, we are promised a peace that passes understanding.

And Seventh, and finally, remember God’s Sovereignty and personal care for you.

I’ve written this many times here on the blog throughout this past year of uncertainty and questions. But it’s worth repeating because it is one of our greatest encouragements.

God has a plan. And God loves those that are saved through faith in Christ alone. We are not left in the hands of a wrathful God who desires to make our lives miserable. Every minute of every day is foreknown by the God of the universe who has promised to work all things out for His glory and our good for those that love Him (Romans 8:28).

Think about that promise for a moment and then cling to it. No matter what is ahead for us, this promise remains true. His grace will be sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9) and to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). May we joyfully yield to God’s will for us as we face the unknown days ahead.

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Thank you for joining my search of scripture as I seek how to respond to these current events as Christ would have me to. I hope that this has been as much of an encouragement to you as it has been to me. Oh, friends, let’s pray for each other as we strive to respond as a true Christian should to these unprecedented events around us. I’d like to close with an encouraging passage of scripture that was sent to me as I wrote this post this morning–

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”

(Daniel 3:34-35)

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: At the end of last week, I sent a special email regarding the censorship that may be coming and how to keep in touch with me. If you’d like to continue hearing from me, should I be censored, I am asking you to give me your name and email address if you haven’t already done so. You can do this by simply replying to this email. I am trying to find a censorship-free platform to use for my subscribers and will only add those that really want to hear from me. You can find more details in an email I sent to you entitled “PLEASE READ”. I hope it doesn’t come to this, but I’d rather be prepared than sorry. :)

(I am sharing this here again because someone mentioned that the aforementioned email landed in their spam folder.)

 

Leaning Into God’s Will

The encouraging posts about God’s love and care for us are in abundance these days. You will find them on blogs, social media, and in many articles. We so desperately want to be reminded that He will see us through whatever lies ahead. And it is so important to be reminded of this. I share this message often myself here on the blog and over at the Growing4Life Facebook page.

But there is something else that we really need to remember.

Many years ago, I read a book called Green Leaf in Drought. I was so impacted by it that you will find it on my Favorite Books page here on the blog. I hadn’t read it for years, so I decided to pick it up again. It seemed like it might be even more relevant the second time around, given the concerns and fears we’ve experienced over the past year.

Yesterday, I finished it. It’s a short little book and I highly recommend it (I’ll add a link below for anyone interested). When communism started to fully infiltrate China, most of the missionaries left immediately. However, a few were unable to leave. This book is about a family that was held there for almost three years before they were released by the government to come home.

The lessons that they learned are important lessons for us all. I am not going to say a whole lot about their story so I don’t give too much away for those who want to read it. But I do want to share one important lesson they learned that is critical for us all. Perhaps especially right now.

When they were about a year and a half into their coerced stay in China, things were really bad. They were almost starving, fuel was hard to come by, and people were punished if they talked to the “Imperialists” (as they were known) which led to extreme loneliness. And then, on top of it all, imagine being a missionary and being told by the foreign government that you are not allowed to talk to anyone or to leave your house? Their whole purpose for being there could not be carried out and they were left in the nondescript corner of a foreign country with few resources and even fewer friends.

At one point the wife, in a state of fretting and restlessness, waited impatiently for the Lord to rescue them. She was frustrated with the Lord’s timing and, though she was submitted to His Will, she was none too happy about what that “will” was. One day, as she spent time with the Lord in His Word and in prayer, something dawned on her. What would happen if she would gladly and joyfully yield to God’s Will for her life instead of begrudgingly agreeing to it? What if she were to act more like a daughter carrying out a loving mission for her Father than a slave that was forced to do the master’s will? She resigned herself to lean into God’s Will and thus began a change of heart.

As she took this step of joyful submission, the peace and joy that had been missing from her Christian life came flooding in. She recognized that living a joyful life dedicated to the Lord in spite of their trials would be a light that the Chinese Christians could see, even if they never said a word. These conclusions were drawn in the midst of horrible circumstances that neither you or I could even imagine and will hopefully never have to endure. A few months later, God helped her husband understand the very same thing.

As they purposed in their hearts to have a good attitude, Satan did his best to discourage them and they were hit with even harder trials than before. But the peace never left them. The peace and joy they experienced was completely unrelated to their circumstances, just as we are promised in scripture.

I believe this is more than a little relevant for us today.

Or shall I say I find it relevant for me?

You see, I find my heart filled with sorrow and even anger when I think of the world we are living in currently. I feel like I am on the set of a movie that just won’t end. The masks, the social distancing, the vaccine, the economy, the dying small businesses, the election, the unbelievable compromise of Christians we trusted, and then there are the strong opinions about all of these things. The realization that whatever world my kids and grandkids grow up in (if the Lord tarries), it’s going to be quite a bit different than mine. The awful uncertainty of what lies ahead, always there like a dark shadow in the back of all of our minds, no matter where we live in this world. All of this makes my heart just ache and I can even grow angry if I am not careful. The world we lived in is no longer. And life as we have known it is over.

But this book convicted me. We—you, me, all of us—are here right now because God has ordained it. We are in His Will for our lives. We are going to be relatively ineffective as believers if we are focused on all that we don’t like about this new world instead of leaning into His will. We are going to be filled with dread, unhappiness, and fear if we are begrudgingly living in this new world. But if we joyfully submit to where God has us right now, we will show a lost world that God is true to His Word and we will be able to encourage and edify struggling fellow believers.

Do we want to be bright lights for Christ in this new world? If the answer is yes, than I am convinced we need to lean into God’s Will instead of resist it.

On a practical level, we will be faced with a variety of small tests and trials each day. How do we show this in the midst of family disagreements over the whimsical “laws” put in place by over-reaching governors? How do we show this in the midst of our disappointment in the way our churches, workplaces, or schools are handling things? How do we show this when someone asks us to wear a mask or move away from them? How do we show this when we hear more bad news? How do we show this when yet another discussion comes along regarding all that’s going on? How do we show this each and every hour of our lives?

I am not sure of the “how” but I am sure of the necessity of this. You see, if we are dragging our feet and have a bad attitude, then this will show in all of our words and actions. (I am talking to myself here as much as to you!) But if we joyfully yield our will to God’s, then this, too, will show in all of our words and actions.

Look, we are all here. Stuck on a ride we can’t get off. Watching the prophecy of scripture come to life in a way we never thought we’d see. But I can say with 100% confidence that this is where God has placed us.

For such a time as this.

No amount of railing, wailing, or flailing is going to change it.

While I am not saying that we don’t work actively to help change what we are given an opportunity to change, it’s pretty fair to say that most of this is completely outside of our control.

But it’s not outside of God’s control and, in His vast knowledge and incomprehensible Sovereignty, He knows exactly where He’s placed us in the history of this world.

So let’s not just resign ourselves to live in this new world but let’s choose to joyfully live in this new world. Let’s show the world that God’s peace and joy is not based on circumstances.

And, on a bright note, living in this time of history may actually mean we are the generation that is raptured! How awesome would that be? It seems more and more likely each day.

So may we all ask God to help us be joyfully submissive as we walk this path we don’t really want to be on. He is sufficient and He will supply our needs. And, eventually, this will all be behind us as we face the prospect of a marvelous eternity together with Him in heaven.

 

 

—If you are interested in being encouraged further by reading the story of Arthur and Wilda Mathews as Isobel Kuhn writes it in Green Leaf in Drought, you can find it here. (This is not an affiliate link and I receive no compensation for you clicking on it. I am merely pointing you to where you can find the book.)

 

 

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