Discernment

Resisting the Roaring Lion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dictionary.com gives these partial definitions–

Sober–not intoxicated or drunk.

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

Vigilant–sleeplessly watchful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t believe me?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Psalm 18:30

 

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

John 3:16

 

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

Hebrews 4:12

 

 

Bears don’t live in the jungle…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, he gave me a few BIG hints.

And you know what? It was a bear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What Chickens Can Teach Us

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

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

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

More googling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

My Hope Is Found in Nothing Less

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

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

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

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

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

But why weren’t we angry before?

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

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

Do you know why we are all so angry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Comparing Two Religions (that go by the same name)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

A Lesson from the Candy Store

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

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

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

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

Ohhh…yuck! Just yuck!

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

“Really?” Asked my husband.

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

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

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

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

I had been deceived.

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

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

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

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

Unless…

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Power of Social Media

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

Until the day she had her followers ask her questions.

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

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

(I Corinthians 14:33)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(2 Timothy 3:1)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

(Titus 2:11-14)

 

Some Thoughts About the Roe vs. Wade Reversal

The Christian world is full of joy and gladness at the reversal of Roe vs. Wade. And, understandably so. This will hopefully mean lives will be saved. But…

And, yes, I will use the word “but” because there is a huge “but” to consider.

Before I get into that, I want to give a bit of the big picture to what’s going on in America currently. There are two sides– the black and the white; the left and the right; the liberal and the conservative. There is a fight– what most would believe is a fight between the “good” and the “evil”.

But I would submit to you that those two sides are actually two wings of the same bird. They are not separate and opposite but actually working together to aid in bringing in the reign of the Antichrist. (Keep reading to understand what I mean…)

So what does the Bible say about the “culture war”?

It makes it pretty clear that believers are not here to change the culture. We are here to share the Gospel. Our purpose is not to make the world moral (for how would that even be possible without Christ??) but to win the lost. We are not here to change the politics of our nation but to make an impact for Christ. We are not here to build God’s physical Kingdom (do we really think He needs our help for this??) but we are given the privilege to help build God’s spiritual Kingdom (because we know He doesn’t really need us for this either but clearly desires to use us in this way).

Since Matthew 7:13-14 make it abundantly clear that the way is narrow and few are they that find it, we know that the typical response to our sharing of the Gospel will be rejection. We know that relatively few will repent of their sins and turn to Christ. While there have been occasional pockets of revival, it is clear from scripture that we should not expect this.

Now, with this in mind, let’s consider what is currently happening in our culture. You may have heard of the terms “Post-millenialism”, “Kingdom Now”, “Dominionism”, “Optimistic Amillenialism” and “Seven Mountains Mandate”. Basically (in a simplified nutshell), all of these teach that Christians are mandated to build God’s physical Kingdom on this earth right now. That we are to work together to make the world a better place, in order to prepare it for Christ’s return. Some of these say the Gospel will be what changes and prepares this world for Christ (which flies in the face of Matthew 7) and others don’t care a bit about the Gospel. But they all have the same focus: Preparing the World for Christ’s Second Coming.

This goes against all that is in scripture regarding the end of the age and the last days (Matthew 24; 2 Timothy 3). But, beyond that, we can see how it will play into the hands of the coming Antichrist. Why? you may ask. Simply because he will give the impression–at least at the beginning–that he is the Messiah, come to bring in His Kingdom in response to their efforts.

There will be a short-lived hope in the “peace” that he will bring at first (See Revelation 6). But that will last for only a short time before the real truth of the situation sets in for those who are entering the Tribulation.

With this in mind, I want to share something a friend of mine wrote about the Roe vs. Wade decision and its part in this battle between “good and evil” that is really just a theatrical play designed to prepare the world for the Antichrist.

Here is what she wrote–

It is leading more people to follow the post-millenial narrative which is completely unbiblical and dangerous. Even the so called pre-tribbers are joining the “cause.” Instead of looking to God’s Word, everyone is now fighting the “culture,” fighting the government. As if we are going to turn the tide of apostasy back towards God.

This decision has not changed hearts. Yes, praise God for saving babies!

But I even saw a post that said God is gaining ground in America!!? God has always been able to do as He pleases. And, yes, God hates abortion, but people are completely missing the point: A “moral” society does not equal a saved society. We are not to be transforming the culture, but instead sharing the Gospel!

Certainly getting rid of abortion is wonderful, but it is not our focus. In the end the majority of people are still headed to hell.

And the worst part is that the so-called church is in a frenzy to rebel and to fight the culture, but they are not concerned with hearts. Post-millenialists think they need to fix the world so Jesus can return. They actually believe that they literally need to transform society so Jesus can come back! And this will all lead to the Antichrist because as they see society getting better….

Obviously the true Church will be taken in the rapture (on God’s timeline, of course). But as society improves and the Antichrist rises up touting peace and likely morals, he will show them great signs and wonders. They will believe he is Jesus, and they will worship the beast.

This is just another step towards the end, and it has actually led more people into deception. It is all part of the false light agenda. Satan is very clever, and he has shown people the evil in the world on purpose. The tyrannical government has pushed people to rebel. People are completely focused on the world, and they are fighting to fix it. And now the abortion law is overturned, and they think they are making progress. They have completely forgotten the great commission.

This is all part of the set up to pull more people into deception. God has brought judgment on our nation for our wickedness certainly. God sets up rulers to judge wicked nations, but the true wickedness is in the Church which is quickly moving into apostasy. And God has promised to send a strong delusion, and we can already see such blindness in the Church.

Let us stay humble and look to Him and stay in the Word. Let us share the gospel! God will keep His remnant!

I think she has summed up what is happening perfectly. We need to pray that God would show us the truth. That He would keep us from deception and give us wisdom and keep our eyes focused on Him rather than on the culture. To trust only Him rather than those humans who would mislead us into error.

I have been stunned and disappointed at the amount of “prophecy watchers” who are preaching rebellion and “culture-changing”. Something is not right. I have been stunned and disappointed at the amount of “Discernment bloggers” who will call out the obvious but still hob-knob with and promote those in their circles who have clearly fallen away.

Don’t. Trust. Anyone. Don’t trust you favorite author, preacher, speaker. Don’t trust your favorite discernment blogger or prophecy updater. Don’t even trust me.

Trust no one but God and His Word.

Yes, I know this sounds like a very negative way to live. I know many of you will be put off by such a message. But I believe with my whole heart that we are in an age of unprecedented deception that is leading to the Tribulation that we read about in Revelation. We don’t have the luxury to let down our guards. And so we must all put on our armor (Ephesians 6:10f) and view all with a healthy skepticism, just as the Bereans did in Acts 17:11. It is truly our only hope to understand what’s really going on and keep us from getting swept away into apostasy.

 

 

The Ingredient That Is in Everything…

A friend of a friend was diagnosed with cancer. The doctor he was seeing suggested that he stay away from a certain preservative that appears to either cause or exacerbate cancer. That friend told me what this doctor said.

I had never noticed this preservative before. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of it.

Before I go on, I must warn you. You may not want to know this. For if you believe what the doctor said (and I am still doing some research on this, although so far my findings would say, yes, it is true), it will eliminate many “good things” from your life. You will see it crop up in literally everything.

It’s in salad dressing. And lemon juice. It’s in every shampoo on a retail store shelf. It’s in fruit drinks and Turkey Hill unsweet tea (that one really surprised me!) It’s in kool-pops and popsicles. And a million other things. I’ve listed only a fraction of the places I’ve found this ingredient. It’s in economical store brand items as well as in expensive organic items.

So, I am just being honest, if you want your life to be easier and you’d rather just not know, just stop reading right now.

But I will continue for those of you who want to know the truth.

It is an ingredient called sodium benzoate. It is just plain old salt, according to one organic shampoo bottle. But is that what it is? Is that bottle being honest?

This preservative is not naturally occurring in any whole food. It is a lab-created ingredient created to extend the shelf life of certain items.

This should be of concern, given no one really knows its long-term affects. From what I can tell, it was only created in 2005 (I might be wrong on that, as it was hard to find the details of its history.)

So should humans be consuming so much sodium benzoate? Even if just a bit is added to a product, doesn’t our consumption of this additive add up quickly if we consume so many of those products?

I’m no chemist, so at this point I am just asking the questions. I think it’s a valid concern. I’ve started doing the work of reading ingredient labels and trying to avoid this preservative as much as I can. It seems nigh upon impossible to avoid it totally.

So are you seeing the comparisons of this ingredient to what we are seeing in Christianity these days?

The new Christianity (the mystic, self-centered, ecumenical version) is literally in everything. Once we are aware and start looking for it, we find it everywhere. While there are still a few pure churches, they are few and far between (as many of you can probably attest to). It’s an additive that comes in just bits and pieces at first. Although, unlike sodium benzoate, it is more like a terrible yeast that grows uncontrollably until it’s taken over the once-sound church or ministry.

But it begins as a bit. Just a tiny promotion of a false teacher here. A joining with a false church there. An almost invisible twist on the Gospel here. A book or movie recommendation there. Little things that look minuscule to the average church goer. But these little compromises spell disaster to the one who has taken the time to compare what is happening in this new Christianity to God’s Holy Word.

You see, you have to know what you are looking for and that it actually exists before you can understand what is taking place.

I had no idea what sodium benzoate was or even of its existence, before that one conversation. Unknowingly, I have been feeding and applying that to my body for years. And, of course, I must trust God’s protection.

But what is my duty now? Do I just ignore the truth and live life as normal? Or do I have a responsibility to share the truth and make some changes in my life? Changes that might mean giving up favorite products that I’ve used for years?

I am guessing you can see the clear parallel here. When we begin to see the truth of this new (i.e. false) Christianity, it requires something of us. And it isn’t a fun process. The truth rarely is. One by one, we start eliminating things that contain it. Books, music, movies, and other forms of compromised “Christian” entertainment. We start evaluating our churches and what they are preaching from the pulpits, teaching in their Sunday Schools, and using as books for their small groups and Bible Studies.

Whether we are discussing an unproven additive or a wave of unbiblical teachings, there will always be scores of people to tell you to relax. Trust the narrative. Stop witch-hunting. Stop being so negative. Stop doing your own research. Just. Stop.

But we can’t stop. Because it is the truth that sets us free. It truly is. It may be an easier road to not know it in the short term. But, in the long-term, knowing the truth is always best. Knowing the truth is what keeps you spiritually and physically healthy. It protects you from the harm and danger of the world. It keeps you from being deceived. Spiritual truth is what keeps Satan from devouring you.

So how in the world do we find this spiritually life-saving Truth?

It is in God’s Word. If we are in the Word and reading it and studying it with a humble heart and a readiness to obey, no matter the cost, God will show us the truth. We don’t need to study the ways of false teachers or make a long list of who has compromised. We can simply compare them to scripture and see, fairly quickly, if someone has compromised.

So what keeps people using sodium benzoate after they know the truth? What keeps people in the midst of false Christianity when they see the truth?

A few things probably.

Maybe laziness? It’s so much work to be diligent in keeping our lives healthy –both physically and spiritually.

Perhaps the cost? We often have to give up some of our very favorite things when God opens our eyes.

It could be the ridicule? The path of the truth is rarely popular and whether you are talking about a lab-created additive or a false teacher, you will deal with eye-rolling and disdain.

It is important we check our hearts for these reasons ourselves. When it comes to our physical bodies, we do have a certain responsibility to keep it healthy. But there is nothing more important than keeping ourselves spiritually pure and 100% committed to God and His Word. What keeps us from doing so? Is it one of the three reasons above? Or maybe something else?

This life is hard, isn’t it? I wish I could say I have this down, but I definitely struggle with the first reason, particularly. I can grow exhausted and in my exhaustion, I grow lazy. My flesh whispers “what does it matter, anyway?” and I give in. (That is one of the things I am looking most forward to in heaven– no whispering flesh!!)

But we must endure to the end. We may cave to laziness or an unwillingness to give something up or to the ridicule that is sure to come, but when God helps us to see it, we must acknowledge it, confess it, and then move on. Thankfully, we have a wonderfully forgiving God and He loves us dearly.

So let’s keep searching for the truth together in a world that hates it. And, I may add, even in a visible church that hates it. Because, whether or not we see it, it is always there and it changes everything.

 

 

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