Encouragement

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.

 

 

It’s All in How You Look at It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later on in Philippians we read the following–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Change Isn’t Always Welcome

Our little puppy needed a haircut. I was unable to get her into a groomer for far longer than it should have been. She was an unkempt and matted little fluff ball when I dropped her off and a too skinny and yes, plain ugly dog when I picked her up. My heart sank as the groomer apologized profusely explaining how badly matted she was and that she wouldn’t normally cut a dog that short. Yes, I understand. I had such a difficult time finding a groomer to take her and then when I found one, of course, I had to wait for an appointment so here we were. No one’s fault.

As we pulled into the campground last Friday, our oldest grandson looked at her when she hopped out of the truck and wondered whose dog she was (yes, she looks THAT different). We all had a good laugh over that. A day later, he was in the camper petting her and exclaiming that her fur is already starting to grow and she’s looking cuter already. Also had a good laugh over that.

But despite his hopeful words, we all know that she’s just not very cute without her fur. I wish it wasn’t true but it is. Currently, she’s a dog only a mother (and perhaps those with soft spots in their hearts for ugly dogs) could love.

Now…she’s the same dog. She hasn’t really changed who she is. She just looks different. Not as appealing.

One could say that a similar thing happens when we turn to Christ or even when we grow in Christ. We recognize sin for what it is. We start turning away from sin. We begin our journey in living life to please God instead of pleasing self.

And this looks ugly to our friends. They don’t like this change. Stripped of our partying, our sinful entertainment, our drinking, and our obscene language, well, we just don’t look all that appealing to our old friends.

But this isn’t just true with unbelieving friends. This often happens with Christians friends, too. When we really start studying the Word and recognizing the acceptable sins and the worldliness within the church and try to begin turning away from them, it usually means turning away from our friends, as well.

If we are going to get serious about our faith and follow the Lord whole-heartedly we will lose friends. People are going to treat us like my ugly dog. They will keep their distance and murmur cool hellos but they won’t want to get within more than a few feet of us because we look unappealing to them. Not only do we no longer live up to their definition of “fun to be around” but, if they are saved, we may make them feel uncomfortably convicted.

And so, as serious believers, we need to be prepared to give up everything for Christ. And for many of us, that will probably mean a few (or many) friends.

But God is faithful. He will most likely provide new like-minded friends who love Him as much (or more) than we do. And if He doesn’t do that, He will be our friend. For He alone is all we need. He will give us the strength to walk alone if that is what He asks of us.

When we read this verse in Luke–

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

we often think of denying ourselves material wealth or some other tangible thing. But I’d submit to you that this means we deny ourselves in every way–including our much longed-for relationships with friends and even family. Our desire to follow Christ should be greater than our desire for anything else.

The true Gospel is so simple but it could potentially cost us everything.

When we begin to change, many won’t like it. They will start distancing themselves. They may even get angry at us. They will ridicule, call us names, gossip and lie about us. I’ve been on the receiving end of all of these things at some time or another. It is not fun. But I can tell you without a doubt that it is worth it.

Growing more like Christ is always worth it in every way. In this life and the next. Oh, we may not think so during a painful time that would be made so much less painful if we’d just follow the crowd and be like everyone else. But God will help us survive that temporal, painful time (and it is temporal no matter how long it lasts).

And don’t forget– eternity is just around the corner and it will be awesome.

 

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)

 

 

 

Life and Legos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________________________

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

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

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

But to a child? Wow.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Sometimes a Look Back Is Invaluable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read what the merchant “nobly said” once more.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

What Does the Bible Say About… (Patriotism)?

Today I want to ask the question: What Does the Bible Say About Patriotism? And then turn to the scriptures to see if we can find the answer. In the recent years, Patriotism has seemed to be rising in a great wave across some lands. So what does the Bible have to say about this? Or does it say anything at all?

We certainly tend to feel patriotic when our country is at war or our nation is threatened. It is understandable to feel a bond with our fellow countrymen during difficult or troubling times. It is even understandable to want to unify with our fellow man to make our country a better place to live.

I have been watching many Christians join with people of all faiths to “make America great again”. I, like you, are watching the waves of “Great Awakening” Tours crisscross this land. We are being told that we will make the world wonderful if we just come together to make certain changes and perform specified social actions. And if we do not want to help, then we are guilty of not loving our country or our fellow man.

For some of you, I’d imagine there is some pressure to join this trend, for many churches have joined this growing movement.

So how should we feel about patriotism? Shouldn’t we love our country? What place should patriotism actually have in a Christian’s life?

While I haven’t (thus far) found anything in scripture declaring it is inherently wrong with loving one’s country or even fighting for it, I do believe it is so important to keep it all in perspective by seeing what scripture has to say about who we are in Christ. (This is not an exhaustive look at this subject. If you have something to add that I have missed, please comment below). But, from my own personal study of this subject, I have come to this conclusion–

 

We are pilgrims and sojourners. This world is not my home.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13)

 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, (I Peter 2:11)

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Philippians 3:20)

 

From these verses, we learn that, as believers, we are to consider ourselves sojourners on this earth. We are just passing through on our journey to get home–our real home which is heaven. Jesus is preparing a place for us that will be glorious beyond anything we can think or imagine–

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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:1-4)

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)

 

Now, you may be thinking– are these two things mutually exclusive? Can’t I be passionately patriotic while still understanding that this world is not my home? Perhaps.

But what I have noticed is that, oftentimes, patriotism edges out passion for Christ. When we get caught up in the temporal happenings of this world we get distracted from our true purpose and calling as followers of Christ.

Patriotism, at least in this current age, is also being used to unify people in order to make this world a better place. On the surface, this sounds amazing. Who wouldn’t agree with this?

But, again, as we search the scriptures and evaluate the world around us, we know that man will never have their utopia here on earth. Since the beginning of time, this has been the goal. And ungodly men who have no thought for God believe they can attain it. In fact, they think they are so close now that they can almost taste it.

But will the world get better and better?

Scripture tells us, oh so plainly, that it will not.

But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:37)

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, [b]unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

I have only given two of many scripture passages that refer to the “end of the age”, “the last days”, or the second coming of Christ. It is abundantly clear that the world will worsen and worsen until God’s wrath pours down upon it in those horrible tribulation years.

Except for one brief moment. For one fraction of a moment, it will seem that all is peaceful and perfectly unified. (see Revelation 6:1-2)

So is it wrong for me to be patriotic?

No, there is nothing in scripture that would lead us to believe it is wrong to love our country. In fact, we are told to obey our leaders and submit to them (Romans 13:1). But, just as a visitor to another country loves that country and respects its leaders, so we, too, as pilgrims, love and respect the countries that aren’t our true homes.

I think the passage that has had the most influence over me over the past few years is Colossians 3:1-4. I had memorized it for no reason (at least not any reason I knew) except that it seemed like a good core chapter to know. And, while I have a good bit of the whole chapter memorized, it’s those first four verses that have weaved their way through my brain and heart, constantly reminding me that this world is not my home. As I have meditated on these verses I have come to realize that my passion and efforts should be spent mostly on the things that are above and not on things of the earth–such as fixing this temporal world, being popular, making our country “great again”.

Of course, we must give great attention to this life. We must work in order to have money to live, we need to care for our families, and, yes, we are called to be good citizens. But all of this should be done always with an eternal perspective in mind and a heart that is willing to submit to God’s sovereignty and to obey His Word.

As believers, we must first and foremost submit our dreams and desires to God’s will. His will may not be to take any of our nations (I know many of you do not live in America) back to the “good old days” or on to a “brighter and better future”. But, rather, I suspect, it is the coming end of the age, where the nations are now being prepared for that final evil kingdom before Christ returns to reign which is foretold in Revelation.

And, so while we can and should love our countries and do what we can to make them a better place to live, the fervor given to this should pale in comparison to our passion for Christ. Our hearts and minds should be focused on Christ and living for Him rather than on fixing what is wrong in this temporal and dying world. Our efforts, time, energy, and gifts should be used for increasing God’s Kingdom rather than any earthly kingdom. For we are His alone! We belong to God’s Kingdom now and we are just “a-passing through” this old world.

 

This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through,
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

This World is Not My Home, first verse (anonymous)

 

 

 

 

The Titus 2 Woman

You can’t even read Titus 2:4-5 straight from the Bible without offending someone. Here’s what it says—

“…that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”

As an older woman, my calling from God (see verse 3) is to teach these things to younger women. But this is not a popular thing to teach, is it?

“WHAT? Work at home instead of out in the work force? What a waste of my talent and God-given abilities!”

“WHAT? Submit to my husband? I know as much as him. That is absolutely archaic and unfair!”

But God has good reasons for His design for the family and we can see that when a society doesn’t follow them, there is much destruction.

He knows that children need their mothers. He knows that the home quickly falls into chaos if it isn’t the priority for Mom. He knows that women are more gullible and less rational then men (yes, there are exceptions but you know that, for the most part, this is true) and that men often protect us from bad choices. Of course, this works best when the husband is a loving leader who cares about His wife and her opinion, as she also brings much to the table in decision-making. But the husband, as the leader, is accountable before God for his family. I have always been glad I don’t have that role. I don’t envy my husband for it.

I am not here to tell you the “rules” for women working. I know that sometimes it is necessary. And I am no judge. It is a topic for much prayer.

I was tempted to not even bring this controversial topic up. There are strong feelings about this and pretty much no one touches it anymore. But we must take an honest look at what the Bible teaches. We can’t ignore it just because culture—both world and Christian cultures—despise this teaching.

And so I want to encourage you young women to take a look today at your priorities. God never designed a woman to be career-centered instead of family-centered. God never designed for our precious children to be cared for in daycare centers and public school systems, where God is mocked and denigrated. He never designed for the woman to lead the man. It is clearly true, both from scripture and historically, that families will not be the best they can be if they don’t follow the guidelines laid out for us here in Titus 2.

I also want to encourage us older women. Are we teaching the younger women these things in Titus 2:4-5, both by example and by our instruction as we are given opportunity? How much time do we spend talking about the things that matter with those younger women in our lives? Maybe it is time to lovingly and kindly encourage these struggling younger women. It’s a hard time to choose family over career. It is difficult to keep your children home with you and be criticized for it. May they receive much loving support and godly instruction from us as they choose to follow the Lord in this area!

It is FAR PAST time that we look to the world or even the church for the description of a successful woman. Don’t look to me or to anyone else. For the only thing that matters is: What does the BIBLE teach us about this? If we ask this question with a surrendered and sincere heart, God will hear and He will answer. This is true for all questions we have regarding this life. And He will transform our worldly desires into godly desires. It will be a small miracle right within our own heart. God loves us and is so faithful. We must but submit ourselves to His will and His plan and choose to obey His commands as written in His Holy Word to experience the peace and joy that He has promised. And that is the only “success” that truly matters!

 

Eating and Exercising God’s Way

From the moment my daughter announced her wedding date, my mind started turning. Surely, this would be just the incentive I needed to spur on my weight loss. I grew excited by the prospect of having a really great reason to lose weight.

But week after week after week passed by and I could never go more than two or three days of “eating right” before I’d just cave. I’ve never been skinny but these past few years have really been a struggle, as my age, the craziness of the past two years, and my thorough enjoyment of food are a really really bad combination.

A month or so before the wedding, my goal of being a thin and attractive mother-of-the-bride started to fade from the realm of possible and became the impossible. I told myself all kinds of things, such as: “The day isn’t about me, anyway,” and “so many women my age have this problem” but it didn’t really help with the deep disappointment that reverberated in my soul every time I looked in a mirror that day. And when the photos came–well, as is often the case–they looked even worse than the mirror.

This was just not how I had hoped to look on my daughter’s wedding day.

But, you know, I’ve been thinking about this whole subject for a long, long time. As I’ve traveled along in this world beside both slender and heavy people; athletic-looking and comfy-plump looking; overweight, just-right, and too-skinny people, I’ve come to understand something important in this discussion on eating and exercising–

You cannot tell a person’s relationship with food and exercise by their weight.

We’ve all run into those people who can eat junk food all they want and never gain a pound. Are they more godly because of this? We’ve also run into those people who seem to gain two pounds for each fry they splurge on (you may even feel like that’s you!). Do those few extra pounds indicate disobedience to scripture? What about the people that put fitness ahead of God and their families? Is this good or right? I hope the answers to these questions is obvious.

So this brings us to the fact that we must understand that this question of eating and exercising goes so much deeper than how someone looks. SO. MUCH. DEEPER.

Perhaps some reflection on the questions below would be helpful for all of us–no matter what our weight. There are some things we should all think about when it comes to food and fitness.

I’ve been working through this for what seems like my whole adult life. I have struggled so to find peace. And this has led me to ask myself some really important questions:

What is my motive to lose weight/be healthy?

How does it look to please God with eating and exercising?

 

I don’t actually have the answers to this yet but I have learned a few things (or, at least, am in the process of learning these things)–

In regards to the first question: What is my motive?

• If I want to be thin for my own pride’s sake (to impress, to draw attention, to look better than others), that’s not the right reason.

• If I want to be healthy, that could be the right reason–if I want to be healthy for the right reason.

• If I want to be healthy in order to please and serve the Lord and those He has put in my life–then this is the right reason.

 

I’ve also learned some answers regarding the second question: How do I please God in this area of my life?

• There aren’t good foods and bad foods.

• It’s more about moderation and wisdom than it is about avoidance of certain foods or entire food groups or spending hours on a treadmill or at the gym.

• Consistent self-control and intentionality regarding eating and exercising–day by day, step by step– is so key. The latest fad diet or running a marathon might work…but these extremes rarely yield lasting results that keep us focused on the real reason we want to be as healthy as we are able to be.

 

God doesn’t say a whole about weight in His Word but we can gather a few things about this area of our lives from the following verses (this list is by no means exhaustive)–

Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, Lest you be filled with it and vomit. (Proverbs 25:16)

We learn from this verse that there is nothing wrong with eating sweets– just don’t overdo it!

Do not mix with winebibbers,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags(Proverbs 23:20-21)

So we learn here that we must avoid gluttony (excessive eating or drinking). Some self-examination is probably helpful in determining what excess eating looks like for us personally.

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (I Corinthians 10:14)

This verse reminds us not to give eating and exercising a wrong priority in our lives. (Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 9:24-27 that a physical runner receives a perishable crown, but the race we run as believers yields an imperishable crown. How important to remember that we must keep our spiritual race the priority!)

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

It is important that we discern truth from error as health and fitness movements sweep over our cultures. Is this practice, routine, fitness philosophy, song I’m exercising to–are these things compatible with being a Christian? It’s too much to get into here, but it is safe to say that much occultism has swept into the homes of Christians through this area of fitness and even in how we eat (see here for an example of how it’s influenced fitness and here for a way it is seeping into how we eat.)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

We know that instead of eating when we are anxious we should, instead, turn to prayer. The answer for anxiety isn’t in food, it’s in keeping our mind stayed on God (Isaiah 26:3). How funny that some of us (me, for example) turn to food when we are anxious–as if that will help at all. Emotional eating is a result of not trusting God fully for the present life we live and the days that lie ahead. It’s a lifelong journey putting this into practice for those of us that struggle with this–but we must keep working at it for it is a command: Do not be anxious about anything. That’s what it says. And so we must learn to trust and pray instead of eat.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (I Corinthians 3:16-17)

Here we see that we are the temple of God. We should treat our bodies as such, eating in moderation and with self-control and keeping ourselves as healthy as is possible. Of course, ultimately, this is in the Lord’s hands so we never want to believe that we can avoid disease and death by doing certain things. While this may certainly help we mustn’t count on this. We all know the healthy runner who has a heart attack or the health nut who gets cancer. These things are in God’s sovereignty and, ultimately, we must surrender our health to the Lord.

 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

and this one, too–

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)

From these verses we women (in particular) learn perhaps the most important lesson of all when it comes to this topic of weight: We don’t want to be consumed with what we look like. If we are known for anything, may it be that we fear the Lord. May it be for our service to Him. Our top priority should always be seeking the Lord.

The world tells us what we should look like. But the Lord obviously doesn’t agree or there would be a verse like this in the Bible about it–such as “Thou shalt be thin all the days of your life” or “May there not be found an overweight brother or sister among you.”

Please don’t hear me saying it’s okay to be an unhealthy weight. The Bible teaches us to take care of our bodies. But, in doing so, it is so important that we have a biblical perspective on this: It’s about balance and pleasing the Lord. It’s not about what others think of us or our obsession with being the best-looking 30, 50, or 70 year old around.

So, yeah…

I obviously struggle in this area of my life. I am still such a work “in progress” and most times I don’t feel like there is much progress. Honestly, this is probably one of the most challenging areas of my life.

I hesitated to share this here…

I know assumptions are made when I share something so personal. Sometimes condescension or ridicule are in the thoughts of those reading, even if they are never spoken. This is a risk I take with this kind of post.

I have chosen to take this risk because I wonder if there is someone else out there like me? Someone who is working through the eating and exercising question. Perhaps today you just need to know that you are not alone. I am right there with you–looking to please the Lord in this area of food and fitness and trying to discern just what that looks like from God’s Holy Word.

 

 

We All Need a Little Help Sometimes

This past Saturday night we were rudely awakened by Macy’s deep bark. She is our Labrador Retriever and even as a rather old dog, her hearing remains fairly sharp. I squinted at the clock and tried to discern if the doorbell I heard ringing was real or part of a dream. It was 2:46am (3:46am on our phones because they had already switched for Daylight Savings). What had caused Macy to bark?

Eric ran downstairs to make sure no one was at the door. When he was assured that the doorbell had indeed been in my dreams he came back upstairs. But instead of getting back in bed, he stood at the bedroom window.

“What are you looking at?” I asked.

“There are car lights. They aren’t moving. I wonder if someone is stuck?”

The temperature was frigid and the wind was brutal. It was causing the snow that had fallen earlier that day to drift in great waves of white across the road, making it impassable.

We both stood at the window watching the headlights of the motionless car. Finally, after a few minutes, my husband turned to me, “Shall I go rescue them?”

Now, I have to say that I hesitated. I am sad to admit that. But what is someone doing out at 3am in the morning, anyway? They are probably drunk, at the very least. The thought of my husband going out on that freezing, blustery night to rescue a complete stranger did not thrill my soul.

But my husband is a born rescuer. If someone needs help, he’s there. He always has been like that, even as a young man. It’s is one of the things I love most about him.

And, so, he was soon dressed in warm coat and boots and headed outside to get his biggest skid-loader to see what he could do.

Forty-five minutes or so later, he was back inside. He had not only rescued the man and the young teen with him (presumably his daughter), who were coming home from a party but had also cleared the road for any others who might need to use it.

The weather made conversation difficult and so Eric doesn’t really know much about the man and the young girl that was with him. He couldn’t really tell if he had drunk too much before leaving the party or if the girl was truly his daughter. We don’t know why Macy even barked at that time. What we do know is that they needed help and Eric had the means to provide that help.

Can you imagine how they must have felt when they saw a skid-loader headed their way to rescue them? They probably felt pretty hopeless as they sat there in the dark, surrounded on all sides by wind and snow. But, for some reason, God had allowed us to be awakened so that Eric could help them, just when they needed it.

I think of how often something similar happens to us. How we are at the end of our rope and feeling so hopeless and then–just at the right time–we get the help or encouragement we need. Someone offers to bring a meal, or they let us know they are praying for us, or we receive a little note in the mail. They may take the kids for an evening or come sit quietly with us as we mourn.

There are millions of ways that God orchestrates to comfort, encourage, strengthen, and, yes, even rescue us. He does this most often through His people, who are His hands and feet, meeting the needs of fellow siblings in Christ, as well as the lost in this world who so desperately need Christ.

Sometimes we get to be the rescuer (as my husband did last night) and sometimes we need to be rescued.

 

It takes selflessness and love to be the rescuer.

It takes humility and grace to be rescued.

 

Oh, may we meet both of these situations in a way that honors God and points others to Him.

NOW… there are some common temptations for us in these two areas, aren’t there? Some common ways we respond that would not be from God–

 

Temptations for the would-be rescuer

“Someone else can help them.”

“It’s just so inconvenient.”

“I don’t have time.”

“It might be dangerous.”

“I just don’t feel like helping.”

“I have more important things to do.”

“It’s too hard.”

 

Temptations for those who need rescued

“What will people think of me?”

“I’m so embarrassed!”

“I don’t need help!”

“I can do this alone.”

“I should be able to handle this.”

 

But–here’s the thing– God has designed us to need each other. He has designed humans to fellowship with one another (I John 1:7); to encourage and edify one another (I Thess. 5:11); to love one another (John 13:34-35); to help gently restore each other when we are struggling with a sin (Galatians 6:1); to be kindly affectionate with brotherly love (we are family!) (Romans 12:10); to meet the needs of each other (Romans 12:13); to rejoice and weep with one another (Romans 12:15).

This gives us a beautiful picture of what being in God’s family should look like. I fear that in these days, it is more often like a bunch of disconnected people going to the same building for a few hours each week –like a big group who would attend a show or a concert but know nothing about one another. This is understandable as we live in a culture where so many of us do not even know our neighbors.

We aren’t going to change the culture or probably not even our churches, so what can we do? What should we do?

Since we don’t do what is right because we want to change something but, rather, because we want to obey the Lord we love, we simply choose to do what is right in whatever opportunities we are given.

This means putting aside our own selfish agenda and unwillingness to give of our time, money, and other resources (that aren’t ours, anyway) to reach out to help; to know the Word so we can encourage and point others to its treasure trove of help and promises.

It means casting aside our ugly pride and to stop worrying about what people think and, instead, graciously and gratefully accept help when we need it.

These things sound so easy, but, unfortunately, they often aren’t. Most of us are not naturally unselfish or humble. It is only by the Holy Spirit working in and through us that we grow in these areas. This is a lifelong journey as we seek to become more like Christ.

Only by casting selfishness and pride away can we be the family of God that He has designed us to be. Only by reaching out, helping, and accepting help when we need it can we be obedient to God’s Word.

May we give our efforts to building up the body of Christ, creating strong and loving bonds with our siblings in Christ. As the world continues on its downward spiral, I believe we are going to need each other more and more. Let’s be building the bonds of love now so that they are strong enough to withstand any storm that comes.

 

 

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.

 

 

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