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The Apostate Church

Sometimes it is only when we take some time to reflect on the past that we can see the vastness of the change that has occurred. Take our own kids, for example. We live with them day by day, hour by hour, but we never specifically notice their legs growing longer or their brain maturing. It’s not until they’ve grown up that we think through all the various changes and stages and recognize the enormity of the change. Or take a struggling marriage. Little by little, couples grow apart and possibly turn to others for comfort rather than to each other. It is not until it becomes painfully obvious that the couple stops and wonders how they got to where they are.

All change is like that and enormous change is no exception.

A few years ago, I was talking with my oldest daughter about the many changes that are taking place in the church. She told me that Uncle Dean’s (Pastor Dean Good) series on Jude was so helpful in regards to this subject. Preached in 2009, it gives a great picture of what the church of the last days will look like and gave her much insight.

So I listened. And then I listened another time. And this past week, I’ve listened one more time.

(If you’d like to listen, you will find the series here. Scroll down to the bottom for the first sermon of the series, titled Living in the Midst of the Worldly Church, and then work your way up.)

You see, God doesn’t just leave us wondering what the last days will look like. He actually gives us a picture. And He tells us that as we approach the end of this age, the church will become, by and large, apostate.

So you may be wondering: What does apostate mean, anyway?

Apostate, in this context, means to abandon true, biblical faith.

So, think with me if you will of how this has happened (this is not from the sermon series but from my own reflection of history.). This change has occurred –not over the last five years, not over the last twenty years, but over the last century or more. The change has been so gradual that most of us never took much notice. At first, it was just certain denominations that abandoned biblical faith. Others would soon follow suit. But there was still a core hanging on. For most of the 1900s, there was this core of evangelical, fundamental churches that hung on to sound biblical doctrine.

I was born in the 1960s. By the time I reached high school that core was starting to be carefully and intentionally corroded. But I, along with millions of other believers, had no idea. Now, I can look back and see. The worship battles that took place in churches all over the country were part of that change. As was the “purpose-driven” (or can you say BUSINESS) model for operating a church. The push to move the church’s focus from the Bible to personal experience was not an accident. Neither was the insistence that we must be “relevant” if we were going to reach the lost (a lie from the pit of hell.)

We can probably all look back and see signs of change. Now. We couldn’t see it then. Because we didn’t know.

I remember my youth pastor showing us worldly movies as a “youth activity” in the 80s. And I remember a pastor bringing in the Purpose-Driven church book to the board my husband was serving on. I can see now that many of the “Christian” books I read and the “Christian” music I listened to were filled with mysticism and all other kinds of false (but oh, so subtle) doctrine.

But, as with any change, I couldn’t see it then. It is only in looking back that I can see these signs (and so many others) of a church that was falling into apostasy.

And this is where Pastor Dean’s sermon series was so helpful. Because God gives us a description of this church of the last days. And it matches perfectly to what we have been seeing take place, not only in America but across the world. This simply serves as one more reminder that the time is short. Eschatologically, the mainstream “church” is just where we are told she will be at the end of the age. Remember, this is not the true Church, which is the bride of Christ that contains the remnant of those following the true, biblical faith. This is, rather, an apostate version that uses all the right terms and phrases but is godless.

Titus describes these types of people in chapter 1, verse 16–

They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being [d]abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.

Lots of “professions” of salvation but no turning from sin or from the world. This is an indication that a true life transformation has not occurred. When these “professors” gather together in groups and call themselves a church, they make each other comfortable in their worldliness and acceptance of sin. They gladly grab on to the pleasant promises of God’s Word (if they pay attention to the Word at all) but ignore or rationalize away any of the unpleasant parts.

The church of today (almost without exception) is a church focused on self instead of God. It is a church focused on experiences instead of the Bible. It is a church that views discernment and negative words as evil and instead warmly accepts any and all new fodder that has a the label of “Christian”. And it is a church focused on embracing the world instead of separating from the world.

There are few churches left –even the ones we have counted on to be solid– that have stood firm against the tsunami of change that has washed over evangelicalism.

I was struck when I was studying Titus last week. Chapter 1 gives this qualification for church elders:  holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.

If church elders would have obeyed this scripture, many churches would have been saved. Instead, they were caught up in other trivial matters as the serpent stole his way into the hearts of the churches.

Because of the lateness of the hour, there is no saving the church as a whole. But, with God’s help, you pastors and elders can save your own churches and you moms and dads can save your own families.

So what to do? Jude helps us! Let’s take a look at verses 20-23–

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

22 And on some have compassion, [j]making a distinction; 23 but others save [k]with fear, pulling them out of the [l]fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

First, we must build ourselves up in the faith through prayer. We cannot withstand this Tsunami of apostasy without Bible study and prayer. It is truly our only anchor in this unprecedented and giant wave of change. And we must persevere, keeping ourselves in the love of God through our submission and obedience, as we look for Christ’s return that will take us to our eternal home.

And then we act. We take whatever opportunities God gives us to help. Sometimes that will mean showing compassion on doubters as we take them to the Word and other times it will mean snatching individuals from the serious danger of apostasy. The wisdom of what is needed for each opportunity will only come through walking closely with God through prayer and Bible Study.

So this is what God has told us to do as we navigate these last days. But Jude doesn’t end there. He goes on to give these marvelous words to conclude (verses 24-25)–

24 Now to Him who is able to keep [m]you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
25 To [n]God our Savior,
[o]Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and [p]power,
Both now and forever.
Amen.

What an amazing reminder that it is God who works in and through us for His glory. And we cannot stumble if He is our guide. And, while our path may be difficult during earth’s final days, the day will come when we will be presented faultless before the throne–only because of Christ’s sacrifice. And then there is this wonderful reminder that the God we serve has all wisdom, glory, majesty, dominion, and power. We are loved and protected by the one and only God of the Universe. It’s an awesome thought.

And so we are not left without counsel and wisdom for where we find ourselves in these days–even if we feel lost and lonely in our own church. As Pastor Dean has said–expect to be persecuted by those who call themselves Christians. True, biblical faith is not and will never be popular (John 15:18-19). True biblical faith stands clearly separated from the world (James 4:4). True, biblical faith grows in holiness (I Peter 1:15-16). And true biblical faith avoids false doctrine (Romans 16:17).

As we compare these things above to the church of today, we can see the tragic departure from true biblical faith. May we unapologetically and courageously follow God’s Word as we strive to walk with God in this unique time of history. Only by God’s grace and mercy will we survive what is ahead. But God is able to keep us from stumbling! He will not forsake us.

 

 

On Racism

Do any of you remember when the Poconos in Pennsylvania used to be a hotspot for honeymooners? Back in the old days, international travel was only for the very wealthy or businessmen. Many of us only dreamed of leaving America and traveling the world. So when our fifth wedding anniversary arrived, we naturally thought about the Poconos. Only a few hours from here, it seemed a good place to spend the weekend and celebrate our five years. We left the kids with Grandpa and Grandma and headed out. When we arrived, we could see that even then already, their better days were behind them. It was already starting to look a bit run down. But we knew we’d have fun, anyway.

At dinnertime, we entered a room with tables for four. Much to our dismay, we were placed with another couple whom we didn’t know at all. This was not part of our plan and it was frustrating to sit with strangers on our anniversary trip. But, unbeknownst to us, God had a very special treat in store for us that would live on in our memories for the rest of our lives.

The couple that sat down to eat with us was a Nigerian couple from New York City. He was a police officer there and kept us entertained with many stories of both New York and Nigeria (it was there that we learned how different and luxurious American prisons are compared to the rest of the world.) But the most special thing of all was that this couple were vibrant believers. The bond we shared around that table was the bond of family. We were related in Christ and it was such an amazing time. It didn’t matter that they were black and we were white. It didn’t matter that they were from the city and we were from the country. We were family through Jesus Christ.

I have often thought of this dinner since this whole conversation about racism has cropped up in the “church” recently. (I use quotes because I don’t believe many God-fearing, Bible-believing churches have fallen for the lies that are being propagated by this movement.)

You see, when racism is truly non-existent in the Body of Christ, all people are treated with respect and love. No matter the color or race, all are welcomed in the bond of unity that we have in Christ. There is no special treatment or “reparations” for past hurts. We accept one another and think of others more than we think of ourselves.

This is not what you are seeing in this modern day movement. Not at all.

And this leads me to the conclusion that this movement is not of God, for they have not reached biblical conclusions.

I love Colossians 3:11–

where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

In a truly non-racist, unified church there is no thought to race or color. It isn’t an issue. Because we are all one in Christ.

Compare that to the shouts for fairness and the cries for reparations. Compare that to the discrimination that is now taking place against white males. Is this of God? Most certainly not. In fact, this is racism at its finest– sanctioned under the guise of evangelical religion.

Oh, how did we get here? How has this happened?

I want to close with this quote from James T. Draper, Jr., which is based on Titus 1:4. In this verse, Paul asserts that Titus and he have a common faith. I love what he has to say and I think that, although this is an old book, what Draper has to say is quite relevant for us all today–

“Titus was a Greek, Paul a Jew. But Paul was saying, ‘We have a common faith. (Titus 1:4) God loves us both. God has a purpose for both of us, God has a common desire for our lives and hearts.” God’s community is for everyone. His is a universal message, one that all can understand, one that all desperately need. It is good for rich and poor, young and old, black and white, educated and unlearned, men of all races, creeds, and nationalities.

That is the message of the Word of God. None of us are left outside by it. None of us are too insignificant to be touched by it. None of us are too untalented to be used in the community of the faith. That is the good news of the Gospel.”

So may I encourage you to look to the Bible for the answers to your questions about racism and not to the world? And particularly not to the mainstream church, who truly have it ALL wrong.

 

 

Saved From What?

This is a guest post by Jess*. She posted this yesterday on her social media sites but I wanted to post here, both for easy reference and for ease of sharing. I believe this is worth consideration for all of us but particularly for us Americans as we watch two opposite sides wage war with each other here in our country.

As a bit of background: The other day, Jess and I were sitting by a playground watching her three busy boys and grabbing a few moments of conversation when we could. During this time, she mentioned how both sides are really after the same goal: To fix this world. A light bulb went off in my head. Yes, of course. How did I not see this before?

“Are you going to write about that? Because if you don’t, I probably will,” I said. She said she thought she’d find some time to write. I am glad she did. I think you will be, too.

It is my hope and prayer that this will help you clarify what’s happening around us in the culture today and to refocus your eyes on Christ, who is not only our only hope for salvation from sin, but is truly our only anchor and hope for the future in these days of confusion and chaos.

Here’s what Jess wrote—

I’m reading an Easter devotional with my boys and every day tells a part of the story, starting with the triumphal entry and leading up to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The story explained how the crowd who was shouting “Hosanna!” or “Save us!” were hoping that Jesus was going to save them from their oppressors. They thought He had come to set up His kingdom right then and there. They wanted temporal, worldly saving rather than the eternal, spiritual saving He really came to accomplish. (Luke 19:11) I was struck by a thought as I read that. Aren’t Christians doing the same thing today as the Jews who were waving palm branches and shouting “save us!” hundreds of years ago?

Dominion theology is becoming more and more popular in the Christian world. It’s the idea that the church is bringing the kingdom of God to Earth. They think that the church will take control over the seven major spheres of influence in society, claiming it’s their duty to create a worldwide kingdom for the glory of Christ. This theology works hand in hand with Christian nationalism. They claim “America will come back!” as they fight against cultural evils and attempt to return to morality and conservative values.

On the other side of the fence, liberal Christianity claims social justice as an essential mandate of our faith. They encourage joining up with groups like BLM to bring equality and justice for everyone. We must pursue social justice for the oppressed, poor, and marginalized by tearing down the current systems and building new ones.

Both groups are doing the exact the same thing but on opposite sides. Both are seeking to make this world a better place and to create God’s kingdom here on earth. The conservative, dominionist side does it by fighting against evil and promoting morality. The liberal, social-justice-loving side does it by fighting against all forms of injustice and enforcing equity for all people. The goal for both for them? A better world here and now.

Both groups miss the point. Both miss the Gospel. Both are shouting “save us!” without realizing that Jesus came to save His people from sin and death and not from the evil and oppression of this world. They’re just like the ignorant crowd of Jews cheering as Jesus paraded through on a donkey.

The kingdom of God is spiritual. It’s not of this world. Jesus came to die in our place and for our sins so that we might enter His heavenly kingdom. He came to save us, not from the temporary suffering of this world, but from the eternal suffering of hell. He will bring His kingdom to Earth when He returns and reigns. (Revelation 11:15) It is our job to share the Gospel and build God’s spiritual kingdom, not an earthly one.

The Gospel is the only thing that changes hearts and transforms lives. Fighting against evil, seeking social justice, advancing so-called morality. It’s all worthless apart from the Gospel. What does it matter if we made the world a little better for people who are still headed straight for hell? Jesus did nothing to change the very corrupt world He was living in. He came to save those who are His and bring them into His kingdom through the power of His death and resurrection. We are called to be lights in this world so that others can see the transforming power of the Gospel and seek Salvation for themselves.

We should never expect to “transform the world” because we know that true Christianity is a narrow way that will always remain unpopular. We’re promised that sin will always reign on this earth. It will only get worse and worse as the last days approach. (2 Timothy 3:1, 13, 2 Peter 3:3)

It’s tempting, even as followers of Christ, to want God to fix things for us here and now. To heal us, mend our relationships, restore our country, remove our hardships and trials. But He never promised He’d save us from those things here on earth. Our hope is not in this world. It’s not in America and a comeback of conservative values, in obtaining social justice, or in having all our problems fixed. Our hope is the heavenly kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. A kingdom we could only enter because of His death on the cross for our sins. Let us not forget on this Good Friday why He came and what He died to save us from. And let us proclaim it from the rooftops!

John 18:36 – Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

John 3:3 – Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Colossians 1:13-15 – He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

 

*Jess is my oldest daughter and wife to Seth and busy mom to three adorable sons–who are also my three favorite grandsons! (Seth and Jess have provided us with our only grandsons!). You can find Jess at Anchor for the Soul on Facebook and on Instagram.

 

 

The Guiding Picture for the Puzzle of Today

Well, the wedding of our last child to be married was this past weekend. They had been calling for a showery, clouded day, but, unexpectedly, the day dawned bright and beautiful. It was a lovely day and we thank the Lord for answering our prayers, along with the prayers of our friends, family, and even some of you, my readers (thank you for praying!)

Today, I am physically and emotionally drained and I considered not writing, but I heard something yesterday and wanted to take just a few moments to write about it.

Yesterday, when I got back from the airport I watched TV. After a week of non-stop activity, I was so very tired. I have two favorite “zone-out” shows that are old and totally  NOT critically acclaimed and which most people think are totally lame. I still turn to these two shows whenever I need something wholesome to watch that doesn’t take a lot of thought: Sue Thomas, FBEye and Doc (yes, the one with Billy Ray Cyrus, who, twenty years after the show’s production, is now totally messed up).

Anyway… I chose a random episode of Sue Thomas yesterday and as I was watching, a scene came on where a suspected terrorist had shredded documents and they were trying to put these shreds of paper together to make sense of them. One of the characters made the statement, “I hate putting puzzles together without the picture on the box.”

It dawned on me that this is what most people have been doing these last couple of years. They are trying to put the puzzle pieces of what’s happening without any guiding photo.

But we Christians have the photo! A clear photo that helps us put together this end times puzzle that we are living. The way things are lining up is truly incredible.

The things prophesied in Daniel and Revelation seemed way out there when I was a kid. Like–how could they even happen? But we believers took them as true purely by faith.

But this isn’t the case, anymore. If we are paying attention, we are literally seeing things get set up so incredibly perfectly for the literal fulfillment of Daniel and Revelation. In fact, the current events match the picture of what the Bible says is coming in the last days so perfectly, that it is hard to believe everyone can’t see it!

I believe, with all of my heart, by looking at the puzzle pieces and fitting them into the picture we are given in scripture, that the Lord is going to rapture us at any moment. Almost everything is set up for what is to come. To go much further past this current time would be to exceed the technology that we currently have lined up so perfectly with what we find in Revelation 13. And years out we would find the conversation about government structure totally changed (we would be far past the globalism conversation in fifty years). We also know that God won’t allow the proponents of trans humanism (who are trying to turn people in to cyborgs that do their will–look it up, it’s real and very much under way) to achieve their goal.

Not to mention that all of the signs we find predicted in the Bible for the end times are now on the world stage. They are not simply likely to happen but they have become probable: One world government, cashless society, tracking every human on the face of the earth, chipping humans in the wrist or the forehead, Israel and the dynamics surrounding her, the chaos necessary to bring in the antichrist, etc. etc. etc.

I know I’ve written about this before, so why do I keep writing about it?

It is for a couple of reasons but the main one is this:

The time is SO VERY SHORT and there are so many who are lost.

As we sat around talking about a friend of ours the other night who says they are saved but doesn’t really show the fruit of salvation, it dawned on me: What are we doing??

Is there even one of us who is brave enough to have a conversation about this with him? Do we love him enough to talk with him?

If the Bible is so precisely right about what is to come, then we know, without a doubt, that it is also right about heaven and hell. That eternity in hell is a certainty for so many in this world.

There are those who are clearly unsaved. Are we talking about God and the salvation He offers to sinners? Or do we just continue on talking about nothing that matters for eternity? Do we care enough to talk about the truth of God’s Word? What are we so worried about? That they will hate us? Do we love them enough to take that risk??

And then there are those who think they are saved and aren’t. What are we doing about this?

While we can never (and should never) judge someone’s salvation, we can pray for God to open their eyes. We can have the conversation with them about the things that matter.

Are we praying?

Are we pointing them to the Word?

I fear that most of us are not. But with time so clearly short, there should be an urgency within us to reach all we can with the Gospel. Both the clearly unsaved and those who think they are saved but have zero fruit. We don’t have to go to a foreign country to be a missionary. We are all missionaries. Are we acting like it?

So many are trying to fit the pieces of current events into some picture that makes sense but have no answers. They are missing the picture found in scripture. We can help!

So let’s pray and ask God for opportunities today to reach whoever He wants us to reach with the Good News of the Gospel. Let’s ask Him for wisdom and guidance as we seek to be the light in an ever-darkening world.

And let’s keep looking up! Our redemption most surely draweth nigh!!

 

 

What Really Matters When Life Falls Apart?

This world is full of so much suffering. The latest we’ve been hearing about (or experiencing, depending where we find ourselves in the world at this time) is the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. There are many different stories, accounts, and reports making their rounds and, as has become the norm for us, we wonder who we should believe. There are so many lies. So much false information.

This is why hearing from reliable, first-hand sources becomes important in these situations. What is really going on? While there is much we can’t know, there is also so much we do know.

We know, with certainty, that the lives of millions of people have been thrown into utter turmoil in just a few hours. Sleep, food, water, gas have all become so much more precious as the Ukrainians strive to survive in the midst of an invasion by a neighboring country. They are sleeping in bomb shelters or corridors in order to protect their lives. Can’t imagine any of them are getting much sleep in that situation, can you? The shelves at the stores are becoming empty and they are starting to wonder how they will get food. If they want to escape the city, they find they can hardly move as they fight their way through all of the chaos and confusion. If you can even get gas, which has become scarce. Overnight, apartment buildings of peaceful citizens have been bombed in several cities, leaving innocent victims without homes in the middle of the winter. If they even survived the bombing…

Some of these struggling people are our Christian brothers and sisters. There is a thriving church in that country. Years ago, I was in Ukraine for a couple of weeks and one of my fondest memories is worshiping with the Christians there. I can remember singing in English while they were singing Ukrainian and feeling our bond in Christ. If we are believers, then we have family in Ukraine. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. And they are really struggling right now.

Last week, my daughter, Jess, sent a couple text messages that are the heart of today’s post. She said something that really made me reflect on what really matters when your life falls apart. Such as what is happening to our Ukrainian siblings right now. At this moment.

Basically, her thought was if your Christianity can’t sustain you through these times, then it probably isn’t genuine. If it doesn’t work for Ukrainians in bomb shelters, Chinese imprisoned for their faith, or Nigerians and Indians under death threats from extremists, is it even real? Or is it, rather, some made-up ridiculousness that has absolutely no value when life grows ugly?

Do you think our Ukrainian Christian brothers and sisters are talking about their dreams or self-fulfillment? Are they sitting around and discussing the feminist agenda or social justice? Do you think getting wealthy is even on their list of priorities?

When life falls apart, none of these things matter. Not even a bit.

What matters are God’s promises to sustain us. To be our shield. To protect and shelter us. To give us peace and joy and comfort. The kind of peace and joy that goes far beyond “happily ever after” because, let’s face it: We all know life doesn’t work like that. It is not happily ever after (at least not in this world) and Christians do die in explosions. They get cancer and heart attacks at the most inopportune times. They lose their businesses and their savings. They get viciously killed by those who oppose them.

Christians are not guaranteed a happy life without problems. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest we are. Christians are not to fight for social justice (a Marxist term, never a Christian one) or to fix the world. We aren’t to be focused on our own selfish agendas or to use God like a genie in the sky to get what we want.

If anything can show us that these types of “Christianity” are false, it is what is happening right now.

What exactly does the Bible teach us about the Christian life? What does it say we can expect?

Yes, we can expect trials and troubles. Rather than avoiding them, the Bible says God will use them to grow us (Romans 8:28-29; James 1:2-4).

Yes, we can expect to be hated by the world, because our own Lord was hated. But we know that this is proof that we are Christ’s own and that the Holy Spirit will help us endure…even unto death (John 15).

So, contrary to much that is taught from “Christian” pulpits today, we cannot avoid these things. There is no magic prayer or sum of money we can give to a {fake} apostle that is going to miraculously make our life wonderful.

But, while we know these things will come (and may already be upon us), we also have the rich and abundant promises of our Heavenly Father to carry us through–

He will never, ever forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

The peace He gives is not like the world; it surpasses understanding (John 14:27; Philippians 4:6-7).

He will walk with us through the “valley of the shadow of death” so that we need not fear evil (Psalm 23).

When we fall, we shall not be utterly cast down for the Father upholds us with His hand (Psalm 37:23-24)

Of course, as we read of God’s promises, we also find in scripture that there is an attitude we must have in order to experience these promises of God to the fullest–

We must keep our mind stayed on God (Isaiah 26:3)

We must trust in the Lord (Psalm 112:7)

We must choose not to worry or to be anxious (Matthew 6:34; Philippians 4:6-7)

We must cast our burden on the Lord (Psalm 55:22)

We must draw near to Him in truth (Psalm 145:18)

We must forsake the world and purify our lives (James 4:1-10)

And, then, after all of this, there is one important thing to remember that helps us to keep all of this in biblical perspective: The true believer knows that their best life isn’t now. It is the one to come!

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)

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:1-4)

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. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

 

The verses I’ve shared above are just a small sampling of the promises, the hope, and even the instruction that we find in God’s Word for those who have repented and trusted in Christ alone for their salvation. We can experience peace in the midst of the greatest storm. It has been a great joy reading of Ukrainian Christians testifying to this very thing!

I don’t think there are any Ukrainians turning to God’s Word to find out how they can be rich this morning. They are trusting in God to see them through the next day, the next hour…perhaps just the next few minutes.

What kind of Christianity are you hearing about on Sunday mornings? What is your preacher preaching? Is he pointing you to God’s Word as the final authority for the Christian life? Is he interpreting the Bible historically, grammatically, and literally, rather than allegorizing great chunks of it and casting doubts on its authenticity?

These are important questions we need to ask ourselves as the world grows darker. If we aren’t being fed true, biblical Christianity we are at much risk for having shallow roots that will not hold in life’s storms, much less in the chaos and confusion that threatens to consume us in the days ahead. We must be in the Word, both personally and in our churches. If our church is not preaching biblical Christianity, then we should not stay.

I don’t know how I ended up on challenging you all on your churches, but I believe that it is probably a challenge that we all need to hear. So many sit under and are influenced by ungodly preaching these days. May we not be numbered among them.

 

 

The Road is Wide and Has More Than One Lane

Can we agree that life is just strange right now? And one of the strangest things of all lies in the “Christian” culture where we have these two sides in complete opposition to one another. On both sides, we find proponents of theories and theologies that are utterly outside or totally against what scripture teaches.

While one side may look better than the other to you, I want to explain why I believe that both sides are clearly not of God.

It always gets tricky to discern when the names of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are used. When words like prayer and church and other Christian terms are flung around with comfort and ease. We’ve come to assume that this means the person is on God’s side.

But that is not the case. Let me say that once more: That is not the case.

Consider these words by Robert Culver in his commentary on Daniel–

Idolatry in Israel as noted above had been always mainly a perversion of the true worship of the one true God rather than a denial or abandonment of it. The gods of their neighbors were worshiped occasionally, to be sure. But the idolatry of Israel was usually an attempt to worship Jehovah-God through some “aid to worship” such as a graven or molten image. p. 50, The Histories and Prophecies of Daniel

Reflect on this carefully. Man has not changed so much since the days of Israel. Oh, we may have replaced bowing at a golden image with bowing to science. Our burnt offerings are replaced with preaching self-help and psychology from the pulpit. And wild dancing in front of a golden calf has been replaced with swaying to apostate and worldly music. But it ends up as the same thing– perverted worship of God.

This always comes when the church tries to marry its idolization and fascination with the world to their worship of God. Always.

So while there is this “black” side that stands for all that God hates (think tyranny, abortion, homosexuality, CRT), there is also this confusing “white” side that seemingly looks pretty good. It seems to cling to biblical principles and to use the right language.

But is this true or is it simply perverted worship? Is it simply the “right” side of the broad road?

A few days ago, I watched a very fascinating video*. In it was undeniable proof of the apostasy of so many. Men and women that you knew weren’t on the same team as us, but you weren’t quite sure why. Along with this apostasy came the approval of men and women that we have trusted. People hanging out with them that just shouldn’t be, given their beliefs.

I sent the link to a few people, one of them being my dad. He called me the morning after he watched it and said something like this: It’s almost like people are fighting over which side of the broad road to travel on. There’s two sides but they are both headed the same place.

Bingo.

The more I’ve thought about what he said, the more I realize that he is exactly right.

We are seeing the black, tyrannical side traveling side by side with the perverted worship white side. But they are traveling the same direction even though they look to be in complete opposition.

In fact, I would not be surprised if the black tyrannical side is setting us up for the antichrist system to come in and save the day. The trusted men and women that are joining with all types of “Christians” and even others (specifically “new-agers”) are paving the way and preparing the people.

Now, keep in mind, in saying all of this, I am never judging motives of any given individual. While I believe some know full well what they are doing, I also believe that there are many who are completely deceived. I have no way of knowing which is which. This is not about individuals, per se, but rather about the overall picture that we see taking place.

I want to add here (and I know this is an extremely unpopular statement that may cost me some of my readers) that I can’t find anywhere in scripture where we are told to fight for our rights. Jesus lived during Rome’s reign and yet He never once talked about rights or fighting the government. Neither did Paul or Peter or anyone else I can think of (am I missing one?). When we think of Daniel and his friends (what I am currently studying), there was never any vision that encouraged them to join with their fellow Jews to stand up against the wicked government that they found themselves in. Rather, in scripture, there is a recognition that, as true believers, we stand apart from whatever is happening in the world. We are pilgrims and sojourners (I Peter 2:11). This world is not our home (Hebrews 13:14).

Now, let me add quickly, that I don’t believe this means we shouldn’t {very prudently} stand for freedom. But we must remember that this is not why we are here as believers. This is not our main priority. We never want patriotism and fighting for our rights to become more important than God and obeying His Word.

One of the benefits of being fascinated with history is the perspective it gives. All throughout history (and even across the world today), Christians have been and are treated badly. They have historically been hated in whatever government they have lived under. They have had to have worship services in the deep, dark woods; they have been sent to gulags and concentration camps for doing what is right; they have been imprisoned, shot, and beheaded. This is still happening today.

The leniency and freedom we Christians have had in the west is not normal. And it never has been.

So why am I saying this?

I think some well-meaning believers may be getting too caught up in preserving this wonderful situation we have found ourselves in. As Americans, particularly, we have lived in this unprecedented time with freedoms and material blessings that have been unheard of across the world or ever in history. But we have to recognize that, while God used America greatly for His purposes (specifically to spread the Gospel and to reestablish the nation of Israel), this great country cannot be great in the end. For you cannot have a strong, powerful America to bring in a one world government.

So, if we recognize that Revelation is true and will be fulfilled (and it will, we can certainly see that!), then we can see that America must be rendered useless on the world scene. There is no saving her–at least not for the long-term.

But this should not fill us with despair as believers. We are literally seeing the world get set up for Revelation right before our very eyes.

Of course, we all wonder what the ramifications of all of this will be for us personally. And how long will we need to endure?

No one knows the answer to this but God. What we do know is that we can trust Him (Proverbs 29:25). He is our shield (Psalm 18:30). And our refuge (Psalm 46:1). He will sustain us (Psalm 55:22). His grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 9:8; 12:9) and He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He offers us a peace that is not of this world (John 14:27) and we can never be snatched from His hand (John 10:28-29).

Our comfort and guidance can only come from the scriptures in this confusing and chaotic time. And there is so very much there to grab hold of. God has not left us destitute and without help to face these coming days.

But, as we face them, may we pray for wisdom and guidance on who to promote and support and join up with. May we use shrewd discernment as we navigate the upheaval all around us. And may we recognize that the two sides are headed the same direction and that the direction is not good.

So let’s make sure we aren’t anywhere near that broad road– on either side.

Yes, the narrow road is lonely and hard and there are few that find it (Matthew 7:13-14). But there are still a few and we are not alone.

May we stand boldly for God and His Word. May we gladly and readily share the Gospel. May we focus on what is of eternal significance.

For, in the end, this will be all that matters.

 

 

*Due to the unnecessary harsh and unkind remarks by the video commentator in his presentation, I am reluctant to share this video publicly. However, the information he presents is undeniable and reliable. If you are interested in watching this video, please email me or pm me and I will see that you get the link.

 

The Doomsdayer, The Ostrich, and the Faithful One

In the spring of 2020, right about the time it became obvious that what was going on was about more than a virus and would most certainly last more than a couple of weeks to “flatten the curve”, someone sent me an article. The article predicted such impending doom for that following fall that I lost a whole night’s sleep over it. It is generally best for me not to read those at night. Actually, it’s best not to read them at all.

The following morning, I was able to refocus myself on the Lord and to remember His promises, but I will never forget that long night of panic. Since that time, predictions of doom and gloom have only multiplied exponentially. It is easy to understand why, considering the strange and unprecedented times we are living in. But predictions are just that…predictions. The only predictions that come true 100% of the time are in the Bible. While we can reflect on others and consider them (if that is something you are wont to do), we dare not take them too seriously.

These times are challenging, no question about that. And I’ve noticed that most Christians respond one of three ways. Some people (like myself) have responded all three ways on different occasions. Let’s take a look briefly at two types of responders–

The Doomsdayer-– These are the ones that are all about what is going on in the world. Their conversations and communications are generally along the line of what is happening. Nothing else really exists for them and they are obsessed by the events, the news, and the future of this world. Some of these doomsdayers are working hard to “save” the world. Others are intently focused on how these events all fit into the Bible and what we know is coming.

The Ostrish– These are the ones who don’t want to hear anything. They surround themselves with only the positive and close their ears to anything that threatens their way of life. It’s actually been rather difficult to be an ostrich in this past couple of years with all that’s going on, but we all try to dig our heads in the sand at one time or other through various means of escape and endeavors of industry.

__________________________

Both of the above are incorrect ways to approach anything in this life. Although it may be tempting to handle anything difficult or vexing in one of these ways, as believers we are called to something higher.

This has been such a learning process for me and I’ve not arrived (to say the least) but the Lord has been very patiently teaching me over these past two years that all I need to be as we face these weird times is a faithful one. He may be teaching you the same thing.

In the Bible, we find many examples to follow during any trial–even a situation as strange and unusual and, yes, sometimes frightening as this one. Let’s consider just a few of them–

Noah was given the worst prediction in the world: The whole world would be destroyed and he and his family alone would be saved (Genesis 6:13-14). We don’t read much of Noah but what we do know is that he was faithful and obedient in the midst of the greatest world tragedy in existence up to this point (Hebrews 11:7).  So, too, we must be faithful and obedient in the midst of what appears to be the preparation for the “as in the days of Noah” time (Matthew 24:37).

We are called to obey.

 

Abraham faithfully followed after God, having no idea where he was headed (Hebrews 11:8-9). So, too, must we follow hard after God, even when we can’t see where we are going. Amidst the questions, the what-ifs, and the confusion, we remain faithful.

We are called to be faithful.

 

Joseph faced the unimaginable but God worked all things out in and through these unimaginable circumstances (Genesis 37-50). From being sold into slavery by his own brothers to being falsely accused, Joseph was probably very discouraged many times. And, yet, God was intricately involved in the timelines and minute details of Joseph’s life and used all of it to eventually save the nation of Israel during a dreadful famine. This account reminds us that God has every little detail of our lives under His sovereign control and we can trust His plan.

We are called to trust God.

 

Esther put her life on the line to do the right thing (Esther 4:16). It was a very different time and place and her audacity in approaching the king could mean her death. Can you imagine how she felt as she waited to see if the king would hold out his sceptre and welcome her? But, even knowing it could mean her life, she did what was right. How often we are unwilling to do or say what is right because of a little ridicule that might come our way. Oh, that we may be more like Esther and be willing to sacrifice whatever necessary in order to do the right thing.

We are called to sacrifice.

 

Job lost everything and still bowed to God and surrendered to God’s will (Job 1:21). As we read Job, we see this man struggle through great trial and finally come to understand that God is immeasurably great and man is called to surrender in the face of God’s greatness. So, too, must we understand that God’s plans and purposes are far higher than ours and only through surrendering our own will to God’s will can we find any peace at all in the midst of trials and tribulation.

We are called to surrender.

 

Stephen faced his death with valor, while calling upon the Lord to forgive those who stoned him (Acts 7:60) He remembered–even as he was dying–what was really important. So, too, must we face the truth of our circumstances with eternal souls in mind. May we never lose sight of what really matters amidst the craziness and chaos of all that’s going on.

We are called to remember what really matters.

 

Paul bravely faced much persecution for speaking the truth (Read the book of Acts to find out more). So, too, must we be willing to speak up with courage and boldness, pointing people to God and His Word. Amidst great unpopularity and ridicule and, yes, even coming persecution, we must speak the truth.

We are called to speak the truth.

 

Can you think of other examples in scripture that we can pull wisdom from for this current world we live in? There are so many others, including Jesus Himself. God has not left us to our own devices in this world but has filled His Word with examples of men and women for us to emulate. He has filled His Word to us with promises, encouragement, commands, and guidance. He has told us how to face anything that we may have to face.

I have been both doomsdayer and ostrich over the past couple of years. But what I want to be is a faithful one, being and doing all that God has shown me to be and to do– no matter what the circumstances.

None of us can know what lies ahead. None of us can know what God’s specific and detailed plan is or the timing of that plan. But we do know what we are called to do. And so we live one hour at a time in obedience to His call.

Rather than to be known as the prophet of bad news or the scaredy-cat unwilling to face bad news, may we be known as the faithful Christian who is willing to face the truth with courage and to live in such a way that always points people to Christ.

 

 

Trends (and when not to follow them)

For years now, my family has been giving me a hard time because I choose to put colored lights on my tree. It’s been an ongoing conversation since my husband and I were married. Early on, we settled on white lights outside and colored lights on the tree. But as time has gone on, colored lights have gone more and more out of fashion. Currently, the trend is definitely not colored lights. I really don’t feel that strongly anymore, although I do love colored lights. Something about those bright colors twinkling and glowing. I always did love colorful things. That love doesn’t just disappear when the trend changes, as out-of-style as it may be.

Trends can be demanding things. Even pushing us towards things that we don’t really care for or outright despise. But because we want to look or be like everyone else, we do them anyway. Trends change constantly, making most anything new we buy “out of style” within a few years. Trends can even function as prison bars when “keeping up with the Jones’ ” becomes an obsession.

There is nothing, in and of itself, wrong with following a trend. Many of you prefer white lights. They happen to be on trend. Perfect. Sometimes we like what’s “on trend” and that’s easy. The not-so-easy part comes when we choose not to follow the trend. This is particularly true for those who care a great deal about what people think.

Of course, then there are others who rebel against trends and do everything to not be like the rest of the world.

And then there are those who just don’t care.

However you view the trends of home style, fashion, and any other thing really doesn’t matter too much–unless it leads you into sinning before God. For example, choosing to dress immodestly because you want to follow the fashion trend or choosing to go in debt to buy new “stuff” because the trends are so important to you.

But there is one place trends really matter. There is one place that we have no luxury to follow or not follow any trend.

And that is in biblical interpretation. How we interpret the Bible can never be about a trend and must always be about what does it actually say?

I realize that most of you probably believe that you aren’t touched by the current trends in Christianity (although I believe you are touched by the people you choose to read and listen to much more than you know). You probably don’t realize the sacrifice one must make to actually stand up and say they believe in a future for Israel or a literal Revelation. You see, this belief is definitely not on trend.

What is currently on trend regarding the future of the world?

There are three really popular trends regarding the future of the world in the Christian realm. First, there is Amillennialism which teaches that we are currently in the millennium now and awaiting Christ’s final return. Second, there is Replacement Theology, which believes that the church has replaced Israel as the recipient of God’s promises. And, third, there is Postmillennialism, which teaches that there will be a time in the future where the entire world will be converted to Christianity and usher in the Kingdom of God.

Now, I am not going to take the time to explain why these views are clearly wrong if we examine them through the light of scripture. All I will say at this point is that I have done quite a bit of research–especially on Amillennialism and Replacement Theology, as this is what most of the reformed world believes. Many godly men and women believe this. This is what intellectual Christianity teaches. And if you choose not to believe this, you are viewed with condescension and even ridicule in those circles.

Postmillennialism is pretty much reserved for those in the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) camp. I do believe, however, that this belief of God’s Kingdom coming to earth will be critical in ushering in the antichrist’s kingdom, so it is definitely worth understanding what it teaches.

But, as Berean believers, who search the scriptures, we want to remove ourselves from the trends and find out what scripture actually teaches. After all, the above views aren’t innately wrong because they are on trend.

And so I want to take a few moments to point out just a few reasons why I believe there will be a future for Israel and why there will most definitely be a literal Revelation.

First, it is clearly what the Bible teaches. If we would come to the Bible as a simple peasant and simply read the Bible from cover to cover (something I highly recommend to come to truly understand God and His plan for all mankind), this will be the view that we come away with. It isn’t until we start reading outside sources that our thinking may be swayed. Let me add here that the early church believed in a literal one thousand year reign (called Chiliasm). It wasn’t until the third century that Augustine, in his fervor to remove the church as far away from Jewish beliefs as possible, came up with allegorical approach to the prophetical scriptures. Interestingly enough, one has to literally do hermeneutical somersaults and backflips to come to an amillenial belief. Oh, they will intimidate you with their intellectual arguments and complicated terms. But when we take scripture as it is written, it is clear: There is a future for Israel and there will be a literal Revelation.

Second, it is the only view that aligns perfectly with God’s character. It wasn’t until recently that this started to especially resonate with me. Many times throughout scripture we read of God’s everlasting love for Israel. We read of His promises of blessing and prosperity to this special people group. We find this throughout the Old Testament. We also find this in Romans 9-11, the passage God used to solidify my belief and understanding that there is most definitely a future for Israel.

Imagine a God who makes these promises and then churlishly decides that the Jewish people haven’t behaved in the way He wanted so He has decided to “transfer” these promises to a group of Gentiles called the “Church.” Is that the kind of God you want to serve? A God who doesn’t keep His promises? A God’s whose “everlasting love” isn’t actually everlasting? I don’t think Amillennialists truly understand what they are saying about God’s character.

Third, history proves this. I challenge you–if you have any doubt regarding a future of Israel–to do a study of their modern history. The fact that they are even still a cohesive people group after being removed from their land and scattered throughout the world is an absolute miracle. The fact that they make up like .2% of the world’s population and have produced 20% of the 900 Nobel prize winners and are responsible for so much innovation and technological advances in this world seems more than some strange coincidence. The fact that the Balfour Declaration issued in 1917, which promised of a Jewish Homeland, coincides, to the very day, the date set specifically by Daniel and Haggai is astounding. These are just three in a long list that show that the Jews are a very special people–God’s chosen ones whom He has certainly not forgotten and will never, ever stop loving with His everlasting love.

Fourth, current events confirm this. For many years, we wondered how a Revelation 13 scenario could possibly take place. Oh, we believed it would, but many things remained a mystery. But, suddenly, particularly over the past two years, many of those mysteries have been solved. As we continue to march into the world’s uncertain future, the one thing that is most certain is that there will be a literal Revelation.

______________________________________

I have made the choice to not follow the trends when it comes to the Bible and Bible prophecy. I have made this decision because I believe with all of my heart that the trends are definitely NOT what the Bible teaches. If you are in doubt, being swayed by so many these days who would move you with their intellectual arguments, I encourage you to just read the scripture, particularly the prophets and the book of Revelation with an open heart and mind. I encourage you to read of the incredible history of modern day Israel (I only touched on the many miracles and “coincidences” surrounding the birth and ongoing presence of this nation. There are so many more!) I encourage you to view what is happening in the world through the view that Revelation will be fulfilled literally.

I believe that these other wrong views of eschatology are distracting true believers from seeing what is happening right in front of their very eyes. It is disheartening to see how many can’t see that the end is near and the return of Christ is truly imminent.

Now I do realize that I can’t change your mind nor am I trying to. I am simply writing what God has revealed to me through the reading and studying of His Word and also through my study of history and current events. It all fits together so perfectly that is hard to believe people can’t see. The confirmation of the Bible throughout all of history and especially in this current day is truly astounding. And so I choose to believe in the literal interpretation of scripture–no matter what the current trend.

 

 

Preparing for What Lies Ahead

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

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Veneer is Dissipating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So now comes that opportunity to which I was referring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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