Evangelism

What Makes You Really Angry?

I think we’ve all been angry at some point or other. There are probably some universal causes of anger–such as inept or rude customer service representatives; arguing children; or being betrayed by someone you trusted.

And then there are some causes of anger that seem to be more related to our personalities. Some people get angry at laziness or lack of common sense in those around them. Others get angry at circumstances beyond their control. Some people get plain mad at God when things don’t go their way.

We know that anger is not a righteous emotion. Most of the time.

There is that little caveat in Ephesians 4:26 where it says, “Be angry and do not sin.” This means there is sometimes a righteous cause for anger.

What is something that should make us very angry?

As I was studying in preparation for my upcoming study of Galatians, I realized that the main thing that should make us angry is any attack on the Gospel. Read these verses to see just how serious this is–

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert[a] the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be [b]accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-10)

These are not simply Paul’s words but these are God’s words. We can see from these verses that God takes an attack on the Gospel very seriously. Let anyone who warps and twists the true Gospel be accursed (which means devoted to destruction; imprecate evil or misery upon.)

Has the deluge of false gospels being pandered today made us immune? What other reason can there be that Christians aren’t up in arms regarding the countless attacks on the true Gospel? Why aren’t we defending it and refusing to allow the lies to creep in? Even in to our own “Bible-believing” churches?

What must God think?

I am not sure I ever really gave this much thought until reflecting on these verses yesterday (and listening to some sermons regarding these verses.)

There are two specific ways the Gospel gets perverted. Every perversion falls under one of these two.

First, there is grace plus works (legalism) perversion. ANY presentation or teaching regarding the Gospel that adds any works is not the true Gospel. This means that if you “need to get baptized” to be saved, it’s a false gospel. If you need to take communion or pray to saints in order to be assured of your salvation, it’s a false gospel. If you need to eat certain things, wear certain things, do anything to be saved, it is a false gospel.

Second, there is the hyper-grace (licentiousness) perversion. This perversion denies the many passages that call us to live a life pleasing to Christ. It denies that we become a new creation in Christ and, instead, says that, since we are no longer under law, anything goes. Here the Gospel is given without the message of sin and repentance. It is more focused on fire insurance rather than a lost and hopeless sinner’s reconciliation with God. Say a prayer and be saved–no fruit necessary, according to this false gospel.

These false gospels are dealt with all throughout scripture but in Galatians, Paul speaks specifically to both of them. Think with me for a moment what you know about many who lump themselves in with the modern day religion of “Christianity”. What do they teach about the Gospel?

If they are not preaching the true Gospel as is clearly presented in scripture they are not actually our brother and sisters in Christ. And this should upset us! This should make us mourn for the thousands–millions–who believe a lie about their eternal destiny. Not only do they believe a lie –but they believe a lie under the guise of Christianity and true Christians are not doing anything about it. Instead, they are encouraging them in their false faith and joining with them, declaring that “we are siblings in Christ”.

This is simply appalling! When you really think about it–could there be anything more unloving than allowing someone to believe they are truly saved– when they aren’t??

But we tend to get more upset about a spilled drink or an unexpected bill than we do about this tragedy taking place across the globe. Oh, how self-centered we are. How self-centered I am.

If we believe the true Gospel, then we need to not only live by it but pay attention when there is a departure from it. We need to stop making excuses and rationalizing away the damning differences. Like Paul, we should be up in arms and ready to defend the Gospel boldly and courageously!

 

*I have a page on the blog called “What is the Gospel?”, where we take a look at what scripture has to teach us about this subject. You can find it here.

*In 2016, I wrote about in some detail regarding some common false gospels. You can find that post here.

*I am looking very forward to my study of this book. If you are in the 2022 Growing4Life Bible Reading Challenge, I hope you are looking forward to it, as well. And if you aren’t in the challenge, it’s not too late to join for the rest of the year. Find out more information here.

 

The Guiding Picture for the Puzzle of Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we praying?

Are we pointing them to the Word?

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

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

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

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

 

 

What Will Heaven Be Like?

How do you picture heaven? Do you imagine a place full of white, fluffy clouds, harps, and snow-white robes? Do you wonder if you will get bored floating around in this ethereal place for the rest of eternity? I know these were some of my thoughts before God, through His Word, started to slowly open my eyes to the reality of what’s ahead for all those who trust in Christ as their Savior.

It was “nutshelled” for me yesterday when I went to hear my brother, Pastor Dean Good, as a guest speaker at a Bible Study in my parents’ community. His topic was heaven and it was very insightful. He gave me permission to share here today. (The points will all be his but what is written will be my own expansion of those points, much of it drawn from what he shared but put into my own words.)

We have to come to grips with the fact that life is short. Dean shared his own story about losing his wife after twenty short years. Many of you will remember that happening, as I shared about it here on the blog. But he also reminded us that death will happen to everyone. We always act so surprised and, yet, everybody dies. And the minute you die nothing we fretted or stewed over or strove for on this old earth matters a bit. Only one thing matters: Do you know Jesus Christ?

If we can say yes, we definitely do know Christ, then death should not be something we fear because we know with certainty where we are going.

But many of us still feel uncertain and nervous because we can’t really know what it’s like. Well, that’s true. The Bible doesn’t tell us too much about heaven. My husband has often said over the past two years that we probably have no idea how awesome heaven is. In fact, if we realized what is ahead, we probably wouldn’t want to stay on earth. I love this verse that expands on this thought–

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

And so we know that heaven will be incredibly awesome! From this passage and others. Today, we will specifically look at Revelation 21:1-8 in our efforts to understand a bit more what heaven will be like and who will be there.

First, let’s see how heaven is described.

All things will be new. The old will have passed away and all things will be new (Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17f; 2 Peter 3:13)

It will be a physical place. We will walk around and eat. There will be economies, vineyards, governments. We won’t be hanging around bored somewhere in the clouds (see the end of Isaiah 65 for just one evidence of this).

The New Jerusalem will be a holy city. It is hard to think of a city that is perfectly holy. Since the beginning of time, cities have seemed to be where sin and wickedness congregate. Corruption, tyranny, prostitution, gambling, human trafficking, the selling of illegal substances, and crime often begin and flourish in cities.

But this will be a city without evil. It will be perfect with no sin or corruption of any kind. Isn’t that so hard to imagine? It will not only be beautiful but it will be perfectly safe.

The New Heaven will also be perfect. No presence of sin, no more curse, no death, no sorrow or tears or pain. We will have no fear because there won’t be anything to fear. Can you even imagine??

Here on earth we sometimes expect perfection but why? Why do we expect things to go according to our plans when we live on a fallen, sinful earth? But in heaven, we will be able to expect (and we will receive!) perfection. That’s actually hard to comprehend, isn’t it?

Second, let’s look at the certainty of Heaven.

Revelation 21:5-7 says this–

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said [b]to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And He said to me, “It[c] is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes [d]shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

Notice the words “for these words are true and faithful.”

Last night, my husband and I watched another couple of episodes of the series Against All Odds (link below). It is the story of the birth and life of modern day Israel. Watching that makes it clear that Israel is only there for one reason: God has ordained it. In fact, God had promised it in His Word long ago. This reminded me how true and everlasting God’s promises are. Which reminded me of how true God’s Word is.

God will fulfill His promises and His words are true and faithful.

Which leads to the final and third point: Who will be in heaven?

If God’s Word is true regarding Israel; If His prophecies have come true at the rate of 100% throughout history; If He is truly faithful–well, then we know that what He says about who will be in heaven is absolutely true, as well.

Verse 7 says that those who thirst for living water will be given the fountain of life. Those who have repented and trusted Christ as their Savior are the only ones who may enter. The evidence of their salvation are their good works but that is not the means for their ticket to enter. Only those who realize that they are utterly destitute but for the atoning work of Christ will enter heaven.

Verse 8 of Revelation 21 tells us who won’t be there. But that is only if they continue in these sins. Christ’s sacrifice has wholly covered these sins by His blood if we but repent and turn to Him! It is not too late to submit our rebellious heart to the One, True God who longs that no man perish but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

I know that this is a tough truth for so many of you who have loved ones who just don’t seem to get salvation. It is so tempting to “save” those who are living in sin who may have made a “decision for Christ” as a kid. But, as Dean has said–there will be many who made a “decision for Christ” who won’t be in heaven. The Bible is so very clear that true salvation yields fruit. This is throughout scripture: Those who are saved desire to serve and obey Christ. It is a hard truth to face and it costs much. But that doesn’t change that it is true.

This truth should compel us to share the Gospel and challenge our status-quo self-absorbed loved ones who think they are going to heaven. While we can’t know if any soul is truly saved (only God knows this), we can and should earnestly pray and have the hard discussions.

_______________________________________

As we move into these last days, it is hard to imagine that anyone can’t see that what is happening is of biblical significance. But, as I told my husband last night, if someone can ignore the true miracle of Israel’s rebirth, then I guess they can ignore anything. When Israel became a nation, the final hour of this age began. While we should never set specific dates, it seems foolish to live as if everything will return to normal. We are so obviously in the last days. Heaven is closer than ever for those who love God!

And with this recognition should come a deep burden to share the Gospel. Heaven is a wonderful place. And those who are saved will go there. But Revelation 21 says that those who aren’t saved–those who insist on rebelling against God and living in sin–will go to hell–

 But the cowardly, [e]unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

I don’t especially like this doctrine and I can see why people try to reason it away. But it’s there. Not only in Revelation 21 but all throughout scripture. May we remember this as we seek to reach the lost and, particularly, those who think they are saved but may not be.

Heaven will be a wonderful place for believers. Of that we can be sure. While we may not know a lot, we know enough. May we passionately share the Gospel so that more people can experience this amazing wonderful place. But, more importantly, that they may avoid an eternity in hell.

 

 

*Against All Odds is currently free (with ads) on Tubi. Find it here. I highly recommend!

 

 

(A Lot of) Lessons I Learned This Past Month (Part 1)

A few weeks ago, I made a rather spontaneous decision. My mom and I were talking about how June has been hi-jacked and she casually mentioned that we should make it Missionary Month. Without any background research or preparation in advance, I decided to do just that.  And so, on the Growing4Life Facebook page and also on my personal Facebook page, I’ve been featuring a different missionary each day. The well-known and the not so well-known. Martyrs and those who lived into their nineties. At home and on the foreign field. So many different missionaries but all with the same purpose: Proclaim the Gospel!

I have to admit when I made the last-minute decision to do this, I had no expectation of it changing me. I just wanted to bring some attention to these amazing men and women who sacrificed all for Christ. And that was that. Or so I thought.

And so I spent about hours this past month pouring over articles and watching videos to learn more about this special group of people. I had already read some of the biographies. Others I knew only by name. It was a profoundly rewarding exercise. (I am considering creating a PDF that includes each featured missionary along with the links I used. If this is something that would interest you, just let me know by replying to this email.)

As I researched and studied from my very comfortable home with my coffee cup in hand, I started to recognize how weak and spoiled I am. Honestly, I did already knew this but this study really drove home the point. Oh, to be more like these people who truly followed Jesus by denying themselves and taking up their cross (Matthew 16:24). They had it easy and chose hard. And I complain when the smallest thing doesn’t go my way. It’s a contrast that is striking and disgusting and I truly came up wanting. This month really challenged me personally both in living my daily Christian life, as well as in what should be done to prepare for whatever lies ahead.

Here are a few of the lessons that had the most impact in my life–

1. God is faithful. (Lamentations 3:22-23) Over and over again, through all circumstances, God proved Himself faithful. Many–I would even say most–of these missionaries lost multiple children and their spouse throughout the course of their ministry. Some endured terrible hardships under the Japanese and communist regimes. Many were hungry, out of money, mocked, scorned, persecuted, in need of clothing and other necessities, in the filthiest of conditions, surrounded by disease and yet God remained faithful. This doesn’t mean that only good things happened to them. It means that God was faithful through the good and the bad. I always cringe when I hear people imply that God intends for us to only experience good things. So many in the western, materialistic word believe that God is the great genie in the sky just desiring to make our own personal, selfish dreams come true. Nothing could be further from the truth.

2. The missionaries had one purpose and one purpose only. (I Peter 2:9-10) They did not set out to change the world and make it a better place in a temporal sense. They did not go to a third world country to provide the impoverished people there with clean water, food, and other necessities. While this may have been part of their plan, their main goal was always to proclaim the Gospel. Nothing could deter them from pointing people to Jesus and saving them from hell. Oh, what a contrast this is to modern day missions where the focus has moved to fixing temporal, earthly problems. Caring for their bodies while ignoring their souls. I am thankful there are still some very godly missionaries out there but that group is shrinking fast.

3. The Word was foundational. (2 Timothy 3:16) In the lives of these missionaries, the Bible was key. They recognized that the power for the Christian life was there and it was the center of their ministry, as well as their source for strength. It’s no wonder so many Christians are leading powerless lives encumbered by sin, depression, addictions, worldliness, and idols. The Bible has taken a backseat in homes and churches across the world and this is where that leads. God has given us His Word as the tool by which we are transformed day by day. And yet so often it just sits on a shelf.

4. Christians who give up everything are happier. (Philippians 4:11) Yesterday, a friend of mine put a photo on Facebook with the covers of two books. One book had missionary stories and the other contained short biographies of movie stars from bygone days. She mentioned that the contrast between the two groups of people was striking. I have noticed the same thing. The biographies of most famous people are incredibly disappointing. They are generally full of broken marriages and families, addictions, materialism, bitterness, resentment, and deep and abiding sadness. They have wasted their whole lives chasing after something that they just can’t find.

Contrast that to the missionaries and other sold-out Christians. God has filled them with a purpose that is far outside themselves. I know it doesn’t make any sense to our finite minds, but somehow God has designed us that when we live for Him, we are happier. When we turn away from our selfish desires and submit to and obey God, it brings a peace and joy that can’t be explained. We can grasp after that next house or car, we can try to fill our hearts with earthly relationships, we can attain the greatest success in our jobs or we can gain fame and fortune–but none of that leads to the peace that passes understanding. This only comes through God. And when you have that, then nothing else matters. It truly is the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46). These missionary stories gave real life evidence to this over and over and over again.

5. Missionaries aren’t perfect. (I John 1:8) Many of these missionaries made errors in judgment or chose to do something that ended up costing them dearly. They had tempers, they lacked management skills, they had to work through bitterness–just as we do. Some came to wrong conclusions about some secondary biblical issues. Some sacrificed their children for their missionary call. In summary, they were sinners. They were regular people just like you and like me. And yet God used them mightily. For it isn’t from our own stores and talents that we do great things for God, but it is His working through us.

6. They wouldn’t change a thing. (Romans 8:28) I remember listening to the testimony of one missionary as she described her experience as a POW of Japan during the second world war. It was absolutely horrifying and far beyond anything you and I could comprehend. And yet, she said she wouldn’t change a thing. She not only submitted to God’s sovereignty in her life but she recognized that He had used these unspeakable trials to bear fruit that could not have otherwise grown.

 

Well, this may be a good place to stop for today, as this is getting far longer than I expected. I think I will divide this into two posts and try to get Part 2 out later this week. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Random Thoughts on a Winter Morning

It is a cold winter morning. The ground is covered with snow and spring seems far away. Over the weekend I had the privilege of visiting Florida, where I drank in the warm sun and beautiful flowers that are still nonexistent where I live. I was grateful for those few days, as the winter here in Pennsylvania has been very long. We’ve had snow on the ground for many days and it’s been very cold. But spring is coming. It always does.

I spent the weekend in Florida with my two best friends from college. We have been dear friends for many years and can always pick up where we left off. They are both great examples of how to be a “pleasant traveling companion”. Their selflessness, kindness, and generosity made the weekend so pleasant. Not to mention our like-minded faith that has grown stronger through the years. True friends like this are rare and I am so thankful for them. Do we agree on every little thing? Of course not. But that is where grace comes in. Grace is most important in lasting friendships, is it not?

Grace is also critical to healthy family relationships, work relationships, and church family relationships. Without it we are petty, critical, and argumentative.

While in Florida, I had something really interesting happen to me that I wanted to share with you. On Saturday morning, I was laying in bed praying for a few moments before getting up. One of the things that I prayed was that God would give me an opportunity to talk to someone about Him. Now, honestly, I have to say I didn’t really expect Him to answer. I have to be up front about that. After all, I was in a place where I knew no one and, well…it just seemed pretty unlikely that this prayer would be answered.

But God…

That morning, we attended a baking class in the area. It was great fun and the teacher was an engaging older lady who made it both funny and interesting. In the midst of her demo she told us she was recently divorced after many years. She kind of said it off-hand but I could tell she was devastated. At the end of the class, she came up to me (Why me? Of all the people in the class, why me? I believe it is because of my prayer. There is no other reason. There is nothing special about me) and started talking about her broken marriage and her religion and gave me the perfect opportunity to plant seeds for the Gospel. I did what I could in a room full of people without a lot of time, but it didn’t feel like enough. Should I have said something different? I always come away feeling so inadequate in those situations. But I pray God will grow those seeds. Would you join me in praying for this woman? We will call her R. Pray that she will read the Bible and that her eyes would be opened to the Truth. She is disenamored with her current religion and seems to be really searching.

I don’t really know why I prayed that on Saturday. I don’t pray it often (even though I should!) but isn’t it amazing how God answered that prayer? When I am tempted to think God doesn’t care or that I can’t trust Him, I think about these faith-building moments. He surely does hear us. He hears us and He cares about us. It is a marvelous thing to comprehend!

It was nice to take a few days’ break away from reality. But I had to come back. And, honestly, I was glad to return. I missed my family and wouldn’t want to be gone from them much longer than a few days.

As I left the airport the cold air quickly reminded me that I was back in the land of winter. But spring will come again. Soon now, the snow will melt and the air will turn warmer. The trees will start to fill out with plump buds of green and the first flowers will slowly emerge from the soil. Winter never lasts forever.

I think that’s a good thing to remember, right now, in the midst of current events. It’s dark and it feels like the wind is getting brutally colder. But spring will come again. Most likely, it will come in the form of our eternal home. As we watch things take shape, we know that the end has to be near. But this, too, is in God’s Sovereignty. It’s funny to think most of us believed it would come but never contemplated that the last days plan would come to full fruition in our lifetime. But now I think most of us realize it very well could.

As we wait and watch for our Lord, may we be actively serving the Lord and sharing the Gospel. Now is not the time to sit twiddling our thumbs. I am convinced that there is little time left to us to go about the work of the Lord and there are so so many who still need to hear! There are so so many who need encouragement or who need “snatched from the fire.” Now is not the time to grow sluggish and lazy.

As we give our best, only God will keep us from stumbling. On our own, we are so weak and helpless. We will be presented blameless only because of our Lord Jesus Christ and certainly not due to any works of our own. This is the heart of the Gospel. Praise God for His amazing grace! But for Christ, we would be lost.

Now let’s unashamedly tell this to the world! They may hate us. They may marginalize us. They may grow frustrated. But we aren’t doing this for our own glory. We are doing it for God’s glory and because we love people. If we keep these things in mind, it will help make us stronger.

Let’s keep our focus on the Lord as we navigate this alternate universe. I will conclude with these important verses from Jude 17-25–

But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time[h] and now and forever. Amen.

 

The Only Solution

When I was a little girl, we moved south for a short time. There, in my first grade class, I was one of only three white kids in the entire class. It didn’t bother me a bit and I quickly became best friends with a little black girl named Lisa. We were so young and neither of us had been taught that being a different color was a big deal, much less a bad thing.

I credit that experience with forming my young mind on this explosive thing called “racism”. It came at a critical time in my life and I am thankful for it. Unfortunately, many people did not have such an experience and there are many issues, not just between blacks and whites, but between all races, including Asians, Arabs, Indians, and many others. Wherever there are differences, there seems to be people who will mock and bully and harass.

And then there are those who would take advantage of the disunity that is a result of this tension and try to manipulate it to their own ends. I believe that we are definitely seeing that with the current protests that are resulting from the George Floyd case. There is much to be suspicious about when one really studies the details surrounding that case.

But that’s neither here nor there. What I want to take a look at today is how a Christian should respond biblically to something like this. I have been more than a little dismayed to see and hear about many who would call themselves Christians posting scripture verses out of context or promoting interviews with false teachers. Many have jumped on the wagon of the current movement without ever doing any research at all into what the movement actually stands for or taking a look at it through the lens of scripture.

Before we think through how we should respond to this issue of racism, let’s first take a look at what we know about this issue from scripture. I will give one scripture reference for each point, but if you do your research, you will find there are many more that support them. The Bible is a cohesive book that is unified throughout. It is truly amazing! Okay, so here we go–

1. We know this world is wicked and broken and will be until such a time as God destroys it and creates the new earth (Revelation 21).

While so many Christians believe falsely that we can make the world a perfect place and build God’s Kingdom here, the Bible teaches that this will not happen.

2. Every person is born dead in their sin. No race or color is an exception to this curse. (Romans 3:23)

Original sin is the rub in this culture. Even many Christians want to deny this. But without this admission–that I am a hopeless sinner–there is no salvation. We are not broken in need of a fixer. We are sinners in need of a Savior.

3. The Gospel is our only hope. (Romans 1:16)

The good news that Jesus took on our sin and nailed it to the cross, so that we could be made alive together with God and be forgiven (Colossians 2:13-14) is our only hope for true and lasting change. Psychology and other behavioral methods may make a little headway, but they are man-based and cannot yield the same permanent results as a heart that is truly changed by the Gospel. This is the culture’s only solution. But more about that later.

4. The Gospel is for everyone. (Colossians 3:11)

God makes no exception to who is accepted into His Kingdom. He cares not what race, what color, or what class anyone is. All are welcome. We only need confess our sin and believe (Romans 10:9).

5. In the last days, man will do almost anything to get his way. (2 Timothy 3:2)

We should not be surprised at what we see going on. Violence towards another person, theft, looting, and rioting are all part of a culture that has become obsessed with self. Self, along with its dreams and opinions, has become king and nothing else matters. There is no love for fellow man in a person who would kill another human being. But there is also no love in the heart of a person who would burn down small businesses that people worked hard to build or beloved historical buildings. Both are wrong. But both should not be unexpected. It would appear we are living in the last days, according to scripture. Whether they last another year or another hundred years, we can safely conclude that, if we take a consistent approach to interpreting scripture, we are moving quickly toward the end. The passage in 2 Timothy shows us what we can expect from mankind at this time and it is consistent with what we are seeing.

6. Sin is always sin. (Galatians 5:19-21)

The end never justifies the means. There is no place in scripture whatsoever that would promote sinning as a way to reach a desired goal–even if the goal is a good one. Looting and rioting to bring change is always wrong.

 

So these are some facts from scripture that we know. Now let’s take a look at how we should be responding.

First, we are personally accountable for how we treat all people. (I Corinthians 13) We have a responsibility to treat our elderly neighbor, the Asian nail salon worker, our frustrating relative, and our African-American co-worker the same way. Our treatment stems from God’s love that abides in a saved and charged heart.

Second, we are personally called to share the Gospel with all men, regardless of skin color or class. I don’t have a specific passage but we can see throughout Acts that Paul and his companions faithfully share the Gospel, no matter what culture they are in.

Third, we are to love our fellow man, no matter what skin color or class. I Corinthians 13 gives no exception clause.

Fourth–and listen to this carefully because it goes against what the evangelical world is telling you–we are not responsible for the sins of those who have gone on before us. We can do one thing and that is to work for change now. We cannot and will never be able to make up for past hurts and sins. Why this idea has taken on so much steam in the past years, especially in certain circles, I cannot tell. But nowhere in scripture are we called to make reparations for the sins of others.

And, finally, Fifth, we must keep turning to God’s Word to understand what’s going on in this world. It is making more and more sense, in light of these past few months. This is our only anchor and the more we study, the more we really get it. The more we know it, the less we are tempted to pull things out of context as we see so many other Christians do.

There is only one solution for any culture and that is the Gospel. We know from scripture that man will reject God. He will remain rebellious and unrepentant and grow increasingly wicked (Romans 1:19f) We cannot force people to accept the Gospel. We can only share it.

Let’s not get caught up in the wave of worldly thinking or the swiftly-flowing river of the masses. Our focus in a situation like this must remain on the Word. We must share the light of the Gospel in the midst of this darkness. For it is the only real hope any of us have at all.

 

There Are Only Two Roads

Let’s say you live in Arkansas and you are headed to California for a nice long beach vacation. You load your suitcase in the car trunk, you grab a travel mug full of hot coffee and get behind the wheel. You turn on your car and take a moment to plug your destination’s address in your vehicle or phone GPS. Soon you are on your way.

You are ten or twelve hours into your trip when you get a phone call. Your mom is deathly ill in Florida and needs you right away. There is a rest stop a few more miles up the road and you pull in to reset your GPS. Instead of going west, you are now going to go east. You have a total change of direction.

Unfortunately, all of the major highways going east are closed. You turn on to a dirt back road that is hard to travel. But you have to go home. That is your destination and you have to get there. Nothing will deter you.

Now think about this in light of our spiritual journey.

There are so many people who say with their mouths that they are headed home to heaven. And yet they appear, by all accounts, to be on the major highway that is headed in the opposite direction.

So here’s the thing: We can’t be on both roads.

It’s comforting and easier to think we can be on both roads. After all, there are many who have died that made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as a child and yet lived very unholy impure lives. If they can travel on both roads at the same time it will mean they are safely in heaven–a very comforting thought to a grieving spouse, parent, or friend. And, too, if we can be on both roads at the same time, then how we live matters not at all. We can live to please self, doing whatever want, and still end up in heaven. How easy is that? Heaven becomes like a fire insurance policy that we have tucked away in a safe somewhere.

Of course, we know, both from experience and from scripture, that this can’t be. Just as we can’t set our gps for California and expect to end up in Florida, so we can’t travel on the broad road and expect to end up in heaven. Just as we can tell someone we are headed west when we are headed east, so we can say with our mouths that we are headed to heaven when our gps is actually set for hell.

When we are genuinely saved, the Holy Spirit stamps a new address on the gps of our heart. We immediately turn off that broad road and onto a rocky, difficult road that is going the other way.

There really are no exceptions for this.

We know this because of what God has said in His Word–

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and [d]difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

There are two different roads. And if we are a true Christian we are on the narrow one.

I say “true Christian” because, quite honestly, I tremble to think how many have been fooled into thinking that they have guaranteed a place in heaven because of a prayer they said in fifth grade (or at camp or at VBS). Genuine conversion is always evidenced by a changed life. The saved person always changes their direction (read I John and James to get a better understanding of this).

So if we realize there are two roads and we can only be on one of them, let’s think for a moment about what these roads look like, practically-speaking:

The broad road is quite full of people. It’s an easy path and it’s very comfortable. Many church members are on this path, as it encompasses not only the blatant sinners but the moral, self-righteous ones, as well. Anyone who has not repented of their sins and trusted Christ alone for their salvation is on this road, whether they be atheists or the very religious. There are generally few, if any, battles with self or with the enemy because both are very happy with the direction that is being taken. Oh, there is the occasional battle due to a sense of duty or perhaps the external rules of man, but no major battles with self or the enemy occur on this road.

The narrow road, on the other hand, is rugged and difficult. On this road we can expect the antagonism and jeers from those on the broad road. There are many skirmishes with our flesh and battles with the enemy because they are trying, often desperately, to turn us back to that broad road. We get so exhausted but God is so faithful and gives us strength for another day. It is on this road that we find such sweet fellowship and support. Because it is not a road well-traveled, we truly treasure the others we find traveling on this same road and often quickly count them as true friends. Not that there aren’t issues because the travelers are, after all, sinners. But love is the rule of this road. Even though the road can be extremely hard to travel, we travel with confidence. We have an incomparable Guide and we know our destination.

 

So which road are you on? Which road are those you love on?

Of course we can’t know about anyone else and it is important that we don’t make any judgments about this. We can’t know, for sure, if someone is on the broad road or the narrow road. But thinking through this honestly and according to scripture will lead us to pray differently and also change how we converse and discuss when given the opportunity.

This is scary stuff. Most of us have grown up in a world of easy-believism (where a prayer guarantees salvation and needs not be evidenced by a changed life). The ramifications of this insidious lie of Satan’s are horrible and so far-reaching.

For, after all, truth is truth, no matter what someone “believes”. As Christians, we must make sure that our beliefs line up with the truth of God’s Word! We must always ask: What does the Bible teach?

Even if it makes us uncomfortable and we don’t like it, we have to face the truth. And one truth that is not popular today but is still true nonetheless is this:

There are only two roads. And they are going opposite directions. 

 

 

Changed Lives: Cathy

Two or three years ago, I received an email from a reader named Cathy. She introduced herself as the pastor’s wife of a small church and wondered if I would consider speaking at their upcoming ladies’ retreat. While I was among the ladies at her church, I felt like I was among family (and I guess I was, spiritually speaking!) When they asked me to come back again this past fall, I gladly accepted. As we sat around the table, Cathy starting sharing just a bit of her testimony with me. As I listened to her, I knew I had to ask her if she would share this with my readers.

It’s been just over a year since I shared the story of a fellow Christian as part of the Changed Lives series. This ongoing series is here to serve as a reminder that God is working! He is changing and transforming lives–even through the most tragic of circumstances. Cathy’s testimony is a shining example of God transforming a life.

It is my hope that, from this particular testimony, some of you may be encouraged to know that you can be healed from horrible abuse if you go to the true Healer. I hope that you will learn that someone’s antagonistic, hostile response when you share the Gospel is not always a reflection of what’s going on in their heart. The other thing I hope you will reflect upon as you read this is that just because a family looks perfect does not necessarily mean it is. The post-war era of the 50s was a happy time–but it wasn’t a happy time for everyone. Not even for the perfect-looking family living in the cookie-cutter house on the tree-lined street.

And, finally, I hope you will consider the Christian who caught Cathy’s eye and that you will take a moment to examine yourself in light of her witness in Cathy’s life. Are you standing out like she did? Do co-workers, store clerks, parents at your kids’ school, etc see a difference when they view you in light of their worldly counterparts? Would the way you live your life give someone pause to consider the Gospel? This really made me think and I hope it will you, too.

So without further comment from me, I present to you Cathy’s testimony–

I was born not long after the end of WWII. I was born into a prosperous America, a time of peace. My mother, father, older sister and I lived in a classic, Norman Rockwell suburban neighborhood. Tree lined streets, lots of “baby boomer” kids to play with, being able to stay outside until “the street lights” came on, a dog to “love on”, a stay at home mom, home cooked meals…it was a good time to be a child in America. My father was agnostic, and my mother was Catholic, although not very observant. God was never discussed in our home. The only time I heard His name was when it was being blasphemed.

From the outside looking in, it all looked like a “Leave It to Beaver” life. But behind closed doors, things were VERY different. My earliest memory is of being restrained by my mother while my sister was abused by my father. The abuse, emotional, physical and sexual continued until I left home at 18 to get married. God blessed me with two wonderful children, but I continued to be haunted by the events of the past.

I continued over the next decade or so to be a very angry young woman. I never felt at peace, or even remotely content. My anger would bubble over and my mood swings were extreme. I did everything to the extreme.

Sadly, that marriage ended in divorce. My children and I went on to live in a small apartment. One night a man broke in and attempted to rape me. Blessedly, he was unsuccessful and was arrested and found guilty of his crime. Still, I ran from God and my past.

I joined the early feminist movement. I left that because, even as a lost woman, I recognized that abortion was murder and they asked me to support abortion or leave. God moved me off that destructive path.

One day I realized people were coming into my life and sharing the Gospel. (At the time, I didn’t know it was the Gospel). I would laugh at them and off-handedly dismiss them and their message. I continued to be angry. I made a promise to myself that I would be the one to break the cycle of abuse with my children and because I was successful, I became very prideful over what I perceived as “being a strong woman”. I continued to define myself and excuse my sin because I was a “victim”. I held strongly onto that “victim” identity. Without it, and my anger, I didn’t know who I was.

I went to nursing school and began my career as an RN. People continued to witness to me. I still scoffed at them (now I praise God for them). One day a Christian nurse joined our team. I watched her at work because she was SO different than all the other employees, including me. She had unbelievable compassion for the patients and other workers, she had a peace and a calm that I had never seen before. She was not embarrassed or ashamed of her love for Christ. She NEVER complained, even when we had to work Christmas. I didn’t know what it was, but I wanted what she had.

One day we had to go on an errand together. When we got in her car, I asked her to put on music. Her reply took me aback. She told me that all she had was “Christian music” and she didn’t think I “would like it”. That was the day that I really started to look at myself compared to her. God was beginning to humble me.

Our Lord continued to send people into my life who boldly shared what Christ had done for sinners. I remember the day like it was yesterday, I realized that I was a sinner, that I was separated from God, that I was headed for hell. I fell on my knees and sobbing, I begged God to forgive me of my sins and received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior! I couldn’t wait to tell the Christian nurse. She responded in a way that God would use many times over the years…she stated, “I have been praying that God would send a Christian nurse to work with me, I never thought it would be you!” 

Time and time again this simple statement has reminded me to pray for those who seem “very lost” and not responsive to the Gospel. It has reminded me to be bold in my faith and it has reminded me that living my faith out in front of people is one of the most important things that God has commanded me to do.

My life since my real “birthday” has been a wonderful testimony to our Lord’s grace. Immediately, my desires changed. I couldn’t learn enough or be around God’s people enough. Our home changed dramatically; the world was no longer welcomed there. My children repented and received Christ when they were pre-teens. I was blessed to be able to attend Bible college (with my Christian nurse friend who was diligent in discipling me).

Then the most amazing thing occurred, God sent a godly man into my life. He was a pastor and I found myself a pastor’s wife with four more wonderful children to love. As I grew in the Lord, I understood that God in His wonderful sovereignty allowed things in my life to prepare me to minister to other women who have experienced similar things. Over the years, my life before I was saved, my sweet friend’s words at the time of my conversion and all of the faithful who shared the Gospel with an angry, seemingly hopeless young woman have been used by God to serve the brethren and reach out to the lost.

I no longer was angry; I was able to forgive my parents and was able to have a relationship with them. My sister remained angry all her life. Praise God that I was able to share the Gospel with them. Sadly, my father, mother and sister all died lost; but I know that that too is under God’s sovereign control. I am at peace.

I pray my testimony will encourage those who read it to never give up on loved ones, co-workers, or others that may seem “too lost”, or will “never be saved”.  Live your lives boldly and totally for our Lord and Savior. Live to give Him glory and honor. Live to magnify Christ. I want to be able to say, as the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” 2 Timothy 4:7 and to the Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21

Our wonderful Lord saves and uses the most broken vessels in magnificent ways for His glory. I am undeserving and blessed!

What I Learned from Jury Duty

A few months ago I got the letter. I was called to serve the county as a juror by showing up at the Courthouse at 8:15am on Monday, February 4, 2019.

I sighed. Jury duty is such an unknown. Will it be for one day or will it be for two weeks? It had been quite a few years since I had been called and my memory was not serving me well. I really didn’t know what to expect.

But whatever I did expect was nothing like what actually happened–to say the least. But we will get to that.

A month or so after that first letter, I received another letter. “You do not need to come for jury duty until Thursday, February 7, 2019.” I was so excited. I didn’t know why they changed it, but that meant I got half of my week back. I thanked the Lord and prepared to go on Thursday.

Going into a room of strangers and having to come to a consensus on a decision with them is not my idea of a fun time so I really wasn’t looking all that forward to this. But Thursday came and off I went to the County Courthouse to do my civic duty.

Here are a few things I learned that day–

1. I can live without my cell phone for a whole day. The first thing I saw when I arrived was a sign that said “Absolutely no cell phones on Floor___”. Ughhh. Now the day was going to be realllly long. I traipsed back to the car and said good-bye to my connection to the outside world.

After it was all over I realized that, not only did I survive a whole day without my cell phone, but I actually kind of enjoyed it. There is something extremely freeing about being without it. I do appreciate my phone and the communication it allows me with family and friends near and far, but to take a break for an hour or two or eight is definitely not a bad thing. It is truly amazing how your concentration level deepens without that thing calling your name all the time.

As I headed back to enter the building, I ended up behind two twenty-something girls yacking away. They lead me to my second lesson…

2. Give yourself plenty of time. I thought I had left in plenty of time (and I did) but I did not plan on a) having to park so far away, b) having to walk back to the car parked so far away to put my phone in it and then walk back to the building or c) having two girls ahead of me that took–literally–5-7 minutes (or more?) to get through the security at the Courthouse.

There were two rather elderly people manning the security and, although friendly enough, they moved about as fast as molasses in the winter. They pulled things out of purses, requested the girls remove their cigarettes from their jacket pockets and a few other various items; unhurriedly putting some of the unapproved items in plastic bags and tagging them for pick-up on their way out. It felt like an eternity. At this point, I am noticing that I am the only one in line behind them. All the other jurors must already be in place. I had no clock but I knew time was ticking away. When I finally rushed upstairs, I found my room and hesitantly entered, expecting to be greatly frowned upon for my tardiness. It was then that I learned another lesson…

3. Friendliness goes a very, very long way in setting people at ease. I walked in the door to receive a big smile from the lady there. “Hello, can I have your name?” She kindly joked and made conversation with all of us sitting there so stiffly and, in so doing, washed away a great deal of the nervousness most of us were experiencing. I knew the importance of friendliness before that day but it was a definite reminder that this goes a long way to make people feel at ease and cared about.

And, as believers, who should be more kind, thoughtful, and generous than we? It always greatly pains me to hear that so many in the world view Christians as unfriendly, stingy, and mean because of how some Christians act. How tragic! Today, let’s determine to be friendly to that mom in the store with the screaming toddler or to the grumpy store clerk. Let’s be extra-kind to the irritating co-worker or the mean neighbor. Let’s give a decent tip to that waitress who works hard for a low wage, depending on tips to make a decent living. And–perhaps the hardest thing of all–let’s treat our families with kindness and courtesy. Let’s not be one thing when we are out and another when we are at home. A real challenge, for sure, and one I am sure we all need to work on, but so very important. But I digress…

Anyway–

As we all sat there, the judge came in and told us that we would be serving as jury on a civil trial and it was a bit different than normal. Along with this information, he assured us that we would only be there for one day. I thanked the Lord right there and then (silently, of course!) I was just so relieved. And then the judge started asking a few questions. Does anyone know anyone related to the case? Did they ever hear of this case? A few raised their hands and were excused to leave. That left twenty of us. We walked into the courtroom to take some questions from the lawyers. After they had asked us questions, a few more were excused to leave. That left fourteen. At that point, the judge asked us if any of us would like to be excused due to personal convenience or schedule. (I mean..yeah…I wanted to go home, but I didn’t really have a pressing reason…) None of us raised our hands. “Okay, then we will just have fourteen on this jury. Let’s just pull up two more chairs.” Uhhhh….what..??

Which leads me to my next lesson…

4. When your mind raises a question it is probably for a reason. It was around this time that my mind started to turn. Either things had drastically changed since I was here the last time or there was something unusual about this case. It just didn’t seem quite right. I think this is often how God gets our attention about a false teacher or teaching. Our mind raises a question but we squish it down. Instead of researching and looking for the truth, we just ignore it and hope it will go away. Unfortunately, those questions often do go away, and in that process, our discernment muscle becomes weak and useless.

Okay, so back to the story…

Without giving too many details, the case was one where all fourteen of us had to come up with a single amount of money to award the plaintiff.

We spent the entire morning listening to both sides and then it was lunchtime. They brought us subs which we ate in the actual courtroom while we deliberated and tried to come to an agreement. We had about an hour and ten minutes to agree on an amount. Thankfully, in civil cases, you only need a majority. We needed 12 of us to agree. Doesn’t seem too terribly hard, right? Which leads me to my next lesson…

5. Every single person is remarkably different with greatly varying life experiences. Again–I knew this. Very well. But I was reminded of this as recommendations were hundreds of thousand dollars apart and consisted of everything in between. That was because everyone came at it from different perspectives. We finally were able to get nine of us to agree. But there were five more who wouldn’t budge. They felt very strongly and they refused to move even an inch. I started to realize that we would probably be there for most of the day and great frustration started to settle into my heart. It was just about that time I learned another lesson…

6. Just when you are ready to give up hope, there is light. Oh, this doesn’t always happen, of course, but, eventually, there is a little light or a silver lining or a bright spot that helps carry us on in a hard time. In this particular case, just when we were ready to throw our hands up in despair at ever agreeing, the judge came in and told us we don’t have all day (?? Another indication that this was not a normal trial!) and that we should all fill out these little pieces of paper with our juror number and the amount we thought should be given. I wrote down what I truly believed was the right thing to write down and I thought that was that…

However, I had one more important lesson to learn…

7. Be ready to defend your answer. Would I have written down the same answer if I knew I was going to have to give my reasons for writing it? I think I would have because I believed it to be the best answer, but I would have definitely thought twice.

But let me back up for a moment. We filled out our little papers and went back to our seats in the jury box. Those involved in the case gathered back into the courtroom. And then the judge proceeded to read each juror number and their answer.

It was around that time that the judge finally filled us in on what was going on. It was a new-ish thing to do–at least in our county–and had only been done a few times before. I am not sure of the real title of it, but it was like a “mediation trial.” They had gathered a jury to hear the case and to give their opinions, in order to give both sides a “reality check”, as the judge called it.

It is actually a fantastic idea. Instead of taking three to five days to listen to testimonies of doctors, police officers, and others involved (along with wasting hours of time and thousands of dollars) we listened to one testimony and saw two PowerPoint presentations. From this we made our decisions and these decisions were read by the judge. He was going to then take both parties, now that they had heard realistic settlement amounts, and try to come to some kind of settlement with them. It was a rather old case and I think all parties involved were ready to wrap it up.

After he had explained this to us, he did something else very unusual. He allowed the lawyers to ask the jurors questions. He even asked us one or two himself. It was completely unexpected but also very interesting. It was at this time that I was asked why I had written the specific amount that I had. I had to explain why I had written what I had written. I did feel like I gave a decent answer and I do hope they found it helpful.

But this made me think of how often we say or do things without being able or ready to give a defense. Especially as believers we should be able to take people to the Word and explain. It reminds me of I Peter 3:15–

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

Yes! I was caught off-guard and had to defend my answer. So, too, we may be caught off-guard as believers. It is so very important that we know why we believe what we believe, so that we are ready to give an answer at all times.

And, there you have it. An unusual day in the life of me. Thankfully, before we were excused the judge told us that this did count as official jury duty and we wouldn’t be called for another three years. Whew!

 

There’s More to Christianity Than Doing Good Works

“The reason Social Justice is attractive to the church is because it doesn’t invite criticism.” My brother (Pastor Dean) said these words as we talked on the phone yesterday. I immediately realized just how profound his words were.

Perhaps they are words each and every one of us should reflect upon.

There are many good things the church does that all people love. It matters not if they are Christian or not Christian. Nothing matters as we work hard with our fellow man to make the world a better place. This includes things like–

Feeding the hungry ♥ Adopting orphans ♥ Caring for the homeless ♥ Providing fresh water for third world villages ♥ Providing food, clothing, and shelter to needy families ♥ Giving money to charities

Who in their right mind is going to oppose such things?

And, just to be clear, I am not opposed to these things. And neither should any of us be. The Bible is clear: We are told to care for orphans (James 1:27); we are to help our fellow man– and particularly our Christians brothers and sisters– who are in need (Ephesians 4:28; Hebrews 6:10). These are good things to do.

But these aren’t the only things Christians are to be doing. Doing good for others is just a part of what it means to live a godly, righteous life.

There’s so much more. But the “more” doesn’t often draw the praise of man.

As soon as we go out into the world and preach the Gospel–the clear, unadulterated Gospel as the scripture teaches it–we immediately invite the antagonism, the scorn, and the hatred of the world.

And as soon as we try to teach and live out the Christian life that is clearly mandated in scripture among the murky and muddy waters that is the mainstream church we invite the antagonism, the scorn, and the hatred of that church.

When we bring a message the world doesn’t want to hear, such as you cannot be reconciled to God without believing in Jesus Christ (John 14:6), we will be criticized, mocked, and labeled. We may even be persecuted. By both the world and those claiming to belong to the church.

When we bring a message the mainstream church doesn’t want to hear, such as encouraging believers to practice discernment (Hebrews 5:14), be separate from the world (James 1:27), and strive for holiness (I Peter 1:15-16), criticism and animosity will often rain down upon our head from within the church doors.

This is why so many of us choose to do the Christian things that invite the praise and laud of people. And it’s also why we avoid doing the Christian things that invite criticism.

How much do you care what people think about you? Does this change what you stand for or stand against?

I have to be honest and let you know right up front that this has been–by far–my biggest battle in this ministry.

It is natural for people to want to be liked and I am no exception. I don’t want to be labeled divisive, negative, unloving, arrogant, and whatever other words I have been called.

And yet, over and over again, God continues to remind me that my job is to please Him, first and foremost. As believers, our priority is to do all to the glory and pleasure of our Lord, irrespective of the opinions of man.

The opinions of those around us are, in essence, irrelevant.

Now reflect on that truth for just a few seconds. Why do we do what we do? How do we feel if we do something good and it goes unnoticed? How do we respond when we are faced with a choice to speak out against something we know God hates or a false teacher that is leading someone we love astray? Do we have the courage to share the Gospel unapologetically with the lost all around us? Are we truly living like no one’s opinion matters but God’s?

Inside each of us, a battle rages between the flesh and our new man. And the flesh wants to be pleasing to our fellow man. It is just how we are. But when we are saved, we have a new purpose. We seek first God and His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33). We are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). Everything is changed.

In theory, that is.

In real life, it doesn’t just happen. It is a daily struggle.

However, as new creatures, we must fight this fight. For if we let the flesh win, it is not without deadly consequences. Think of how many children in Christian homes have grown up and gone out to live ungodly lives in the world because parents didn’t want to be unpopular? Think of how many inroads Satan has made into the lives of believers because they want to be cool to their friends? How many have followed false teachers because their Christian friends are afraid to speak up? Think of the light that has gone out in the church because of the desire to win the praise of the world?

If we aren’t willing to be different than the world and if we are driven by a passion to please the world (or the compromised, mainstream church), we will be rendered ineffective for the cause of Christ.

Sure, we can do all sorts of nice things for others and make this temporal world a better place to live in, but if we aren’t sharing the Gospel and pointing people to biblical Christian living, what eternal good are we even accomplishing?

Are we more likely to do the things that draw the praise of man? Do we shy away from the righteous and good things that draw criticism?

Pastor Dean’s words really made me think. And, once again, I was reminded: My priority is to please God.

Am I living to please God or are my daily life choices based on pleasing those around me? It is an important question that we should probably all give some thought to.

 

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