Faith

Considering Our Legacy

The other day I was paging through an old photo album. I got to the page which held the sepia-toned likenesses of my great grandparents. I took a moment and stared at those eight faces. All but two of them were gone before I was born. The two that were alive died when I was a young child. Those eight people are strangers to me. I have little recollection of them nor did they have any input in my life.

Or did they?

They must have. For they shaped the grandparents that would shape the parents that would shape me.

But two generations later they are simply photos to those who come after them. There aren’t even memories to warm my heart as I look at their photos.

I think of this as I consider the children of my grandchildren. I will most likely not have any great impact in their lives. If God would so bless me then, for sure, that blessing would end by the time the great-great grandchildren came along. You see, we are always just a couple generations from being forgotten.

I was struck by this same brevity and insignificance as I have been reading Daniel. As God gives Daniel prophecies of the things to come, it brings to mind just how small I really am. It is both humbling and important to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around me. Most of us will die less than a hundred years after we are born and the majority of us will go unremembered in the annals of history.

But there is much we can do to bless future generations. We are given this precious opportunity to shape our children who will then shape their children who will then shape their children and on and on it goes.

So often, godly heritage is lost as the following generations go on a downward spiral. Whatever you choose to do, your kids will go just a step further, and on and on, until the future generations are lost to worldliness and immorality.

While we surely can’t stop this from happening, we can do our best to keep it from happening.

And I am reminded once more of the critical nature of following hard after God. We get lazy and we think our choices to not study the Bible or to remain prayerless for weeks on end affect only us. We somehow believe our choices to sin or to compromise are personal choices. But these choices echo into the halls of eternity through those that come after us.

Our daily choices are, by God’s very design, affecting future generations.

In light of this, we are led to a very important question–

Am I living life in a way I want my children and grandchildren to emulate?

So many people are just living for themselves these days. It’s the way of the world. As believers, we need to set a much higher standard. We need to not only live for Christ, we need to strive to be like Him. We must be intentional and single-minded in our submission and obedience to God.

Of course, we are reminded of God’s marvelous grace when we remember that some of you have been plucked right out of your worldly, ungodly families to be saved for God’s glory and His purposes. How awesome is that? You actually get to be the beginning of godly heritage for those future generations that come after you. What a privilege!

And, while setting a great example is of utmost importance, let’s also remember the critical nature of passing on the baton of godly heritage through communication. Let’s talk about the things that are of eternal significance with our kids and grandkids. Let’s point them to the Word, explaining why it is our only true anchor in this life.

We also can’t underestimate the power of prayer as we consider the future generations. Many years ago now, I started praying that the generations after me would grow stronger rather than weaker. It has been an awe-inspiring thing to watch God begin to answer that prayer as my kids grow–and that despite the many weaknesses and sin struggles of their parents. I didn’t realize until recently that my mother has been praying the same thing for her kids and grand-kids for many years. Prayer is an invaluable blessing, given to us by God.

So what if you don’t have kids? Does that give you a free pass in this legacy stuff? We know it doesn’t. There are young people around you that need a godly example. You can support godly parents of children you know by confirming what they are trying to teach their children. You can come alongside a child or teen that sadly lacks a godly example in their lives. How many people have been affected by godly men and women who are unrelated to them because that person reached out and gave them the gift of time and wisdom?

God will give all of us ample opportunity to build our legacies, if we will just look for the opportunities.

I don’t know how long we will be on this old earth but, for however long it is, may it be our deepest hope and ongoing prayer that the generations coming after us desire nothing more than to know Christ and to make Him known. May they stand firmly on the Solid Rock, be full of faith, and be bolder, stronger, and wiser than we are.

Because, as we watch the crumbling world around us, it’s pretty clear they will need to be.

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Praise the Lord!

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
Who delights greatly in His commandments.

His descendants will be mighty on earth;
The generation of the upright will be blessed.

Psalm 112:1-2

 

 

Twin Truths

A few years ago, a discernment ministry I had trusted to speak truth promoted an erroneous book. Recently, I was surprised and extremely disappointed to see another ministry I trust promote this book. Needless to say, I don’t quite trust them anymore. I wanted to take today and write about this because the book’s topic is so very important.

Well, I actually don’t want to write about this because, not only is it an important topic, but it’s also an incredibly inflammatory one. But the topic keeps coming to mind since I saw that post and I believe the Lord wants me to write about this. I ask you to read this thoughtfully. I am in no way claiming to be an expert on this topic nor do I have any interest in debating with anyone about it. I simply want to share what I have learned in hopes that it may be helpful to others who are struggling through this particular thing.

Let me back up a few years to when the “book” first came out. I received an email promoting this book and I was curious. The book’s premise was that Calvinism is heretical. Why would this author (and then this ministry in its promotion of it) put a line in the sand and say such a thing? That would have to mean that they believe that anyone who believes in Calvinism is a heretic, which means they are not saved. That is a very strong (and absolutely FALSE) statement and that, alone, turned me off greatly to the book and, if I am honest, to the entire ministry.

It is one thing to say I disagree with a certain secondary doctrine. It is quite another to say that the person who doesn’t agree with me is going to hell.

As I read the intro to the book in the email, I spotted something troublesome that caused further concern. Here was how the sentence started out: “We cannot believe in a God who…”

Do you see the serious problem with that sentence?

Who are we to decide who God is? God’s Word tells us who He is. We don’t get to decide which doctrines we do or do not like and what we will or will not believe. This was a huge red flag and discounted anything further that was written regarding the book.

But let’s back up a few years before this book to when I had no idea what I believed about free will and election. I had some wrong notions about how it all worked and was okay with that. Eventually, as I started to study the Word more, I began to understand that my conclusions were flawed. And then God led me to a sermon by John MacArthur called Twin Truths: God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility. It was by far the most clarifying and scriptural resource I have ever had the pleasure of listening to regarding this divisive topic. I recommend it highly.

Here is what I learned (in a nutshell): Both are true and run like parallel tracks into eternity. We can’t figure out how they work together and that’s okay.

You see, it’s man’s pride that makes him insist on choosing one or the other. It’s man’s pride that causes these arguments and divisions. It can’t be his dedication to God’s Word because no man dedicated to God’s Word could possibly deny election. And no man dedicated to God’s Word could deny free will. They are both clearly in the Bible.

So what does that mean? It means that our finite brains can’t understand.

We think we have to understand everything and we can’t understand this. And so men come up with (unbiblical) arguments that deny clear passages of scripture. It’s so tragic, really.

The funny thing is that Satan will seem to get you one way or another. Those who believe in God’s sovereign election rarely believe in God’s prophecy regarding the future of Israel. And those who believe in a future for Israel rarely believe in God’s sovereign election. I am here to tell you that both are clearly true. If you cast your preconceived notions aside and just read scripture, both are so very obvious.

But we get caught up in man’s systems and our denominations and intellectualism and following men and we get so confused. We don’t want to be viewed as stupid or unintelligent or unintellectual and so we follow the crowd. Ridiculous and destructive pride often keeps us from backing away from our wrong argument after we have made it.

The one other thing I believe it is important to mention is that, if you believe John Calvin was an evil man set on spreading an evil doctrine, I rather doubt you really know who he was. Spend some time getting to know this man. He was not perfect (as none are) but he did some tremendous things for the Kingdom and has been so wrongly maligned. I learned this upon my own study of him many years ago now.

So what do I want to communicate today specifically regarding this topic? Why am I writing about it?

I think the answer to that is simply that we cannot understand how these things work together and we must humble ourselves and be at peace with this.

The Bible clearly teaches election (Ephesians 1 is the passage that brought this home for me when studying it so many years ago but there are many others). To deny this is to deny scripture. Yes, it’s a hard and unpleasant doctrine to wrap our brains around but we do not have the option to say “we can’t believe in a God who…”! That is just plain sinful.

But the Bible also clearly teaches free will (that man is responsible for his choices).

So the only conclusion we can draw–if we believe God is absolutely fair- is that these two things work together in a way we can’t possibly understand.

As students of the Bible, may we be willing to believe what God says about Himself within its pages. Even when we don’t like it. Even when we can’t understand it. Even if it brings the ridicule of man.

This brings to mind an old song by the Heritage Singers. Here’s the chorus–

God said it and I believe it
and that settles it for me
Though some may doubt that His word is true
I’ve chosen to believe it, now how about you?

 

 

The Doomsdayer, The Ostrich, and the Faithful One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are called to obey.

 

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

We are called to be faithful.

 

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

We are called to trust God.

 

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

We are called to sacrifice.

 

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

We are called to surrender.

 

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

We are called to remember what really matters.

 

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

We are called to speak the truth.

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Must We Defend the Bible?

A few weeks ago, my youngest daughter, Marissa, casually mentioned that she had had to write a blog post for a school assignment. While this young woman is artistic, she tends to use a paintbrush rather than a pen to express herself (She recently opened an Etsy store, which you can find here). But I have to confess that, after reading what she wrote, I can’t help but wonder if she may end up as a writer, as well.

I believe what she wrote for her school assignment is an important message that believers need to hear. We can get so mixed up by the noise and cacophony that comes at us from all directions and sometimes we lose our perspective. This short post reminds us of some very important truths. I hope it serves as a wonderful reminder and an encouragement, too.

Here is what she wrote–

Do science and the Bible go hand in hand? Must we have science to believe in Scripture? Must we use science to give proof for the Scriptures? These are all questions that have come into discussion in recent times. There has been a scientific push in this day and age. Everything must be be “fact based.”

I contend that the answer to the questions above is an absolute no. This is an unpopular stance to take. However, let me give my reasoning before you discount my claim.

#1) God never needs man to achieve His purposes. While God can use His people and circumstances to reach a soul, He is never dependent on them. The Holy Spirit can change a heart and give faith as He wills and pleases. To say that an individual needs to know the proof of the Scriptures before they can place their faith in the Bible, is giving absolute discredit to God’s power.

#2) Humans are fallen. This intrinsically means that science is fallen. There have been numerous scientific claims that were proven false years down the road. Pharmaceutical companies give false information for the sake of money. Governments make false claims for the sake of their own agendas. News companies spin stories to receive the reaction they want. As long as sin remains on this earth, science will inherently fail. Why should we rely on misinformation from secular sources to prove the Bible given from a holy and perfect God?

#3) The element of faith. Salvation has never been about knowledge. A person coming to faith doesn’t need to know how the creation is backed up by science before they make their decision. They choose to follow Christ based on faith. They choose to follow Christ because they understand the Gospel and its message. To say that science is needed cheapens the Gospel.

#4) The danger of pride. When we say that science is needed to prove Scripture, there is a larger emphasis on man’s knowledge than on God’s Word. Suddenly, humans have the responsibility to prove the Bible based on human knowledge and findings. It’s important to recognize who God is versus who we are. We are His creation. It’s as if the potter’s clay works to prove that their creator exists. How incredibly foolish. We know the Creator exists because we see His workmanship so clearly and evidently. We believe that He exists because He has given us all that is necessary to do so.

Now listen, I’m not saying there isn’t any purpose for understanding how science and the Bible work together. There are times when scientific proof serves as a great confirmation for a doubting believer or the cynical atheist. God can use science for His purposes. However, even if science and the Bible contradict, I will choose to believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and remember that earthly knowledge is fallen and a result of a depraved society. His ways are always higher than ours.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SO WHO IS REALLY A HERO?

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

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

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

 

 

 

Every Bubble Pops

I was babysitting this past Saturday and the boys decided they wanted to blow bubbles while their baby brother napped. And so we went out into the backyard and found a shady spot where I blew bubbles and they chased them. It was great fun. What a joy watching a three and five year old happily chase bubbles, completely unaware of all that is happening in the world.

As I sat there waving the bubble wand back and forth, all sizes of bubbles were formed. There were tiny ones, medium-sized ones, and great big ones. Of course, the great big ones were the favorite and the boys would often set their sights on the same bubble, even though several others wafted around their heads.

At one point, a huge bubble was lifted by the air out of their reach. Up, up, it went. The oldest followed it, knowing it would eventually come down again. But, alas, it floated over the fence and into the neighbor’s yard, where it hung for a bit and then finally drifted to the ground and popped.

But it did pop. Every bubble that formed popped. Some popped immediately. Some floated awhile and then popped. But not one bubble was left when they grew bored with blowing bubbles and moved on to something else.

Sooner or later, every bubble pops.

Let’s think about about those bubbles in the context of lives. The other day I ran into someone and he mentioned to me how many people are dying recently. My family and I have discussed the same thing. There seems to be much more death than even last year when the pandemic was at its height. At least in my circle of friends and associations. It might be different for you.

But this got me thinking about how we always think we will have tomorrow with people. We will apologize later. We will do that promised thing next week. We will take that anticipated family vacation in a few years. We will work on our marriage or spend time with our kids after this busy season or that project is completed. We will share the Gospel some other time.

We will…we will…

But we never do.

And then one day, that person isn’t there. And it’s too late.

All bubbles pop. And all people die. Two laws of the universe that cannot be changed. What do we need to do today? Right now? How do we need to fix, improve, or change a relationship today? How can we encourage or support someone today? Who needs to hear the Gospel? What would the Lord have us do today–before it’s too late?

 

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Colossians 3:12-13

 

And now let’s think about the bubbles in the context of the world. It feels like there are some pretty big bubbles around us that have to eventually pop. Particularly a financial one that is, quite impossibly, still floating. How can an economy go on when its government simply creates money with nothing to back it? When it kills small businesses by paying their employees more to stay home? Watching this happen should lead us all to a be wary of a government that claims to care about its citizens. I think the whole world is just in a waiting mode this summer. What is next? But let’s take a moment to look at a few bubbles in this world that have already been popped.

The bubble of stability. We Americans blithely thought our country was pretty stable. Sure, we’d hear the arguments from opposing political parties and we knew, eventually, down the road sometime, things would probably change, but the uncertainty we all live with now has brought that time to now–to this very specific time in history. The stability we all enjoyed (which I have discovered was just an illusion to begin with) is no longer. And while most of us are still living pretty comfortably, we now understand that any earthly foundation beneath us could shake and move and change at any time.

The bubble of abundance. I can never remember a time when the shelves of the stores in my country were not abundantly full of goods. We American Christians (and perhaps all of us in westernized countries) have had little opportunity to experience needing something that we cannot get. And, suddenly, last year, shelves in stores were empty. The bubble of abundance had been popped and we now realize that we may have to go without. That those full shelves are not guaranteed in this life.

And then there is the bubble of freedom. We thought we were free. But we are finding out that we clearly aren’t. We are being censored, we are being mandated to, we are treated as sheep to be controlled. We are not free. Many are losing jobs because of not wanting to take a va[[ine that is untested and unapproved. Think about that for a moment. In what world? But, you see, this is because, we aren’t really free. We thought we were, but we now know we really aren’t. And, while most of us are still living life as normal and haven’t experienced the fall-out of this tyranny, we can see it coming on the horizon, barring God’s sovereign intervention.

All of these bubbles popping around us should be turning the eyes of believers from this crazy, unpredictable, changing world to our rock-solid, unchangeable, awesome God. This is where our hope and faith should have always been. But, if you are like me, it wasn’t.

And God has been teaching me so plainly: Every bubble in this world will pop. There is not one thing in this world that will last. Kings and Kingdoms come and go. Humans may shine brightly for a time and then they grow old and weak and die. Stuff tarnishes, rusts, and fades.

This world is passing away. Which is why we need to be focused on the next one. Paul tells us so clearly that we are to be focused on the eternal world to come. Our souls will last. The souls of our children will last. The souls of our parents, siblings, extended family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends will all last. The souls of the clerks and the parents on the soccer field sidelines and the childrens’ teachers and the doctors we go to–they will all last.

Oh, to live with this in mind. Oh, to put our own selfish agendas, desires, and fears aside and to go about our Father’s business with zeal and passion as we perceive that this world is just passing.

 

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.

Colossians 3:1-2

 

Life is so short and it changes constantly. Nothing stays the same. If we think on one thing today from this post, I hope it is this: Focus on the eternal, recognizing that we may not have another day with someone. We may not get the opportunity to apologize, show love, or share the Gospel if we don’t do it today.

 

 

 

How We Shouldn’t Be (and Should Be) Changed in 2020 (PART 1)

I woke up feeling a bit chilly this morning. When I went to check the thermometer, I realized that it went down into the 40’s last night which is a sure indication that summer is on its way out and fall is coming. This is just another reminder that life doesn’t stay the same. Seasons come and go. We change jobs. Illness changes our way of life. Our kids grow up. We move to a new neighborhood. Life is so full of changes. But few years have brought as many changes (and threats of changes to come) to our lives than this one.

When we celebrated New Year’s Day in 2020 none of us had any idea all of the major (and quite surreal) events that lay ahead. We had no idea the ways in which our world would be altered in just a few short months. All of us, no matter where we live on the globe have experienced this upheaval. And, as for my fellow Americans reading this, I think you will agree with me that we had no idea how morality, constitutional freedoms, and “age old” beliefs about life would be challenged and finally turned completely upside down.

As believers, we have been given a time to shine. It is so important that we respond differently than the world, which is full of anger, malice, fear, and anxiety. Those in the world long to escape and so they turn to alcohol and drugs. Or they may over-consume food and entertainment. We may long for an “acceptable” escape, as well, but we are believers and shouldn’t need one because we have a hope the world doesn’t have. Oh, we might struggle with these things for a little while but we can’t stay there. True faith shines brightly in trials.

We have all been handed a bit of a strange and unexpected trial. It could get worse (and it might not) but do you agree with me that this is a perfect time to put into practice all we have said we believe for so many years? No matter if this comes easy or hard for us, the important thing is that we continue to work at it. We want to show the world that Jesus Christ truly does make a difference!

In next week’s post I want to specifically think through some of the ways this strange and life-altering year should be changing us if we are believers. Ways we may not have even considered.

But, first, in today’s post, let’s look at some ways this year’s strange events should not be changing us–

1. It should not be causing division and strife between genuine believers with differing opinions. There are a million opinions out there right now about every aspect of what’s going on. As believers, we have to determine what is clearly biblical and what isn’t. And then we  must stand on the biblical and let the rest roll. Romans 12:18 puts it like this– As much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. We can only control ourselves and it is important we do so. We must not become bitter and angry at our brothers and sisters in Christ as we navigate this strange time. Disagreement in trivial matters is never worth broken fellowship. Satan would like nothing more than to divide the true Church.

2. This should not be causing us to hate people. As we watch incomprehensible things happen around us, we must continue to remember that these people are lost. They have no Savior, no changed heart, no reason to live a godly, pure life. That governor casting down ridiculous mandates; that kid in the streets rioting and looting; the lady at the store who screamed at you for not wearing your mask properly; the person posting on social media using bad language and going against God’s Word–these people do not know Christ. They are slaves of sin. This should fill our hearts with grace (albeit, it may take us awhile to reach that point–especially when it affects us directly.) But we cannot let hatred and bitterness towards those that don’t know Christ worm its way into our soul. These people are not our enemy–they are our mission field!

3. We should not be consumed by the news of this world. It is easy to become obsessed with all that is going on because there is SO much going on! And there is nothing wrong with keeping an eye out on what is happening. But when we are watching the news more than we are in the Word, there is a priority issue. When we can’t think or talk about anything else or when it starts affecting our moods or demeanor, then we are consuming too much.

4. It should not turn our focus to the politics of this world. We are not of this world and we are to set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). This does not mean we don’t vote or participate in politics as the Lord leads, but simply that our focus is not on this world. Our goal isn’t to save our country or to make things better on the earth. I see so many Christians looking towards a man to make things better. And, yet, God’s timeline may not be ours. It may never get better. We must remember that our citizenship is in heaven and not here on earth. We should be much more passionate about heaven and those who need to hear the Gospel so they can spend eternity there, than we are about making this old, broken earth a better place to live.

5. It should not be causing us to set specific dates for the rapture or the coming tribulation. While we can see puzzle pieces falling into place so quickly now, we certainly can’t know the specific day or hour. It can be a temptation for us, as believers, to start surmising about this. Especially as so many things converge into making the Lord’s soon return not only possible, but very likely! However, we must continue to live our lives, even while we look up expectantly. The doctrine of the rapture includes imminence–which means it could happen anytime. In the “twinkling of an eye” (I Corinthians 15:52). It could happen anytime, but we will never know exactly when until we meet each other in the air! And so we don’t spend time concerned with the “when”, but, instead, busy ourselves with the Lord’s work while there is still time.

6. It should not be making us fearful and anxious. Whether it is because of current trials we are in– losing a livelihood or lifelong business; worrying about unsaved children; experiencing illness in a hospital that doesn’t allow visitors; caring for aging parents that we aren’t allowed to see as they languish in a nursing home; and so so many others… OR…whether it is because of the uncertain and unknown future that doesn’t look as bright as it once did, these things can cause us to be very, very anxious. But God tells us in His Word that we are not to be anxious (Phil. 4:6-7). He tells us not to fear evil tidings (Psalm 112:7). He tells us not to worry about the future (Matt. 6:34). We are familiar with these verses and have even had to practice them as we have faced various trials. But has there ever been a better time than now–while the whole world seems to be spinning out of control–to really consider these promises and commands?

7. It should not be weakening our family relationships. When tensions rise high and we are struggling –whether financially or emotionally or in any other way–we can become very edgy and irritable. Living under a cloud of uncertainty is enough to make any of us feel on edge. Throw in a variety of perspectives and opinions about all that is going on and we can have the makings of much discord. And if there isn’t discord, there may simply be a lack of focus that keeps you from being really present in the moment. We can’t let this get the best of us and steal valuable moments from our families. We must intentionally value each member of our family and work at strengthening our relationships in the midst of this time. This includes spouses, kids, parents, and even that sibling that has views that are in direct opposition to ours. And once again we must remember that we can only control ourselves and our own responses.

 

So there are seven ways we should not be changing as we face these uncertain days. Have you found yourself falling prey to one or two of these? I know I have. I really have to check my heart and mind as I navigate this really strange time. Next time we will look at some ways this year should be changing us.

 

What Does the Bible Tell Us About God? (and why we need to know)

Who is God? What is He like? And why is it important for us to know? This morning, I’d like to dig a little into what the Bible says about God and why this should greatly encourage and comfort us in these times.

We can’t really know God unless we get to know Him through His Word. It is the way God has ordained for us to know Him. It is the only place we can find absolute truth regarding God.

This post will probably be a bit longer than my normal post, but I think understanding and getting to know the God we love and serve is critical. And, if possible, perhaps even more so as we navigate today’s current events. So today, let’s take a rudimentary look at this (since I am obviously limited in both time and space to thoroughly cover such a big subject here). Hopefully, this post will inspire you to do further study of this subject on your own.

Okay, so here we go–

God is AWESOME. 

I am not sure there are even any words to describe how awesome God is. However, let’s take a look at a couple of scripture passages that enlighten us and should fill us with awe–

Isaiah 40:12-14

Who has measured the [g]waters in the hollow of His hand,
Measured heaven with a [h]span
And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure?
Weighed the mountains in scales
And the hills in a balance?
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
Or as His counselor has taught Him?
14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him,
And taught Him in the path of justice?
Who taught Him knowledge,
And showed Him the way of understanding?

Psalm 65:5-8

By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us,
O God of our salvation,
You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth,
And of the far-off seas;
Who established the mountains by His strength,
Being clothed with power;
You who still the noise of the seas,
The noise of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples.
They also who dwell in the farthest parts are afraid of Your signs;
You make the outgoings of the morning and evening [b]rejoice.

These passages are should fill us with amazement as we read of God measuring the dust and holding the earth’s water in the hollow of His hand. He established the mountains and stills the noise of the seas and the tumult of the peoples. I’d really recommend you read both of these chapters in their entirety for even more insight into just how BIG God is. There’s so much more there and in many other chapters of scripture, as well.

God has done (and continues to do) AMAZING THINGS.

He created the whole world from nothing (Genesis 1).

He saved Noah and his family from his wrath on wicked mankind through a giant ark (Genesis 6-9).

He divided the people, scattered them across the world, and gave them unique languages as a response to them trying to exalt themselves and become like God (Genesis 11).

He raised Joseph to second in command in Egypt (Genesis 41:37-45).

He saved His people and took them to the Promised Land. During this time, He performed countless miracles–including parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14) and providing all they needed during their wandering in the wilderness (Exodus 16 & 17). Even their clothing did not wear out! (Deuteronomy 8:4).

He made Jericho’s wall crumble as a result of marching around it (Joshua 6).

He saved four men from sure death. Three were spared in a fiery furnace (Daniel 3) and one was spared in a Lion’s Den (Daniel 6).

He arranged for a prophet to be swallowed by a whale and actually live to tell about the experience (Jonah 1-2).

This is just a sampling of Old Testament stories that are true, actual things that have happened. These are not concocted, sensationalized stories but are, in fact, real examples of God’s awesome power used for His own glory and for the good of those who are His.

There are numerous examples from the New Testament, as well. When we read church history and missionary biographies, we realize that God is still doing awesome and amazing things. When we consider our own lives and God’s faithfulness to us through many mercies, both large and small, we can only conclude that, while it isn’t of the same magnitude as in the Bible, God is still working and showing His power in this current day.

The extent of God’s KNOWLEDGE.

Stop and consider for just a moment all that God knows. He knows when a sparrow falls (Matthew 10:29). He knows the exact amount of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30). He knew everything we would say and do before we were even formed in our mother’s womb! (Psalm 139:16) He knows the names of the stars–every single one of them (Isaiah 26:40).

Let’s consider that last point for a moment. According to an article on space.com

Kornreich used a very rough estimate of 10 trillion galaxies in the universe. Multiplying that by the Milky Way’s estimated 100 billion stars results in a large number indeed: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars, or a “1” with 24 zeros after it (1 septillion in the American numbering system; 1 quadrillion in the European system). Kornreich emphasized that number is likely a gross underestimation, as more detailed looks at the universe will show even more galaxies.

And God knows the name of EACH one of those 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 STARS! Try to wrap your brain around that for a moment.

God knows EVERYTHING. He knows the exact time a squirrel runs through your yard. And when a bird chirps from a tree in the forest. He knows when an ant dies. He knows the full name of every single person that is living now and that has ever lived. He knows our thoughts–every single one of them. He knows the reasons why we make choices. He knows every secret. Every hidden sin.

He knows EVERYTHING.

That’s hard to comprehend, isn’t it?

God is SOVEREIGN.

Everything that happens is part of God’s plan. Let’s take a look at some scripture that reminds us of this–

Psalm 115:3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

Psalm 135:6  Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

Proverbs 21:1  The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.

Daniel 4:35  All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

These is just a sampling of scriptures that remind us that God’s Sovereignty never rests. He is in complete control, working things out according to His plan and for His purposes– even when the world seems to be spiraling out of control.

 

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About this point, you may be realizing (as I did) that your concept of God has never been quite big enough.

The current trend to make God our “buddy” or to treat Him as a “genie” put here to grant our earthly wishes is to do Him great injustice. God is not our buddy or our wish-granter. He is GOD.

 

But there is one more thing we must realize about God. After finding out all of the awesome, mind-boggling, incredible things about God, there is one final one that may be the most amazing of all.

God cares about US.

When we realize how big God is and how small we are, this is really hard to comprehend. Not only did He send His Son to die for our sins so that we could be reconciled to Him and have eternal life, but it doesn’t end there. He cares about every detail of our lives. And we have His Word to prove it–

We are never alone or forsaken (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5)

We’ve been given the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us (John 14:16-17)

He cares about our burdens and trials and will help us to bear them (I Peter 5:7; Matthew 11:28-30)

He will give us what we need (Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:19)

He is our rock and our refuge in the storms of life (Psalm 46:1; Psalm 31:3; Psalm 61:2; Psalm 62:7-8; Psalm 91:2)

He promises to work all things out for the good of those that love Him (Romans 8:28).

He promises us His unfailing love! (Psalm 36:7; Romans 8:38-39; I John 4:10)

Again, this is just a small sampling of God’s promises that are for the redeemed. We find them throughout all of scripture. It is an encouraging and wonderful study–especially when done in light of all that we have learned about God and how great He is!

 

As we face uncertain days ahead, we will find much comfort and strength in understanding just who God is and how much He cares for us. As we study and reflect on this, we should be filled with a proper fear of and love for God that should lessen ungodly fear and anxiety.

Of course it’s a journey and nothing happens instantly. But this seems to be a step in the right direction.

If you would like to do a more in-depth on this particular topic, take some time to delve into scripture and find out more about God’s attributes and mighty works. Do a search for His many promises to His children. There is much treasure to find in God’s Word!

You will be so encouraged. That I can promise you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will I Come to God on His Terms or Mine?

People do many things in their efforts to be right with God. Mostly it boils down to being a “good person”, whether this be by good works or, even more specifically, is accomplished by a list of rules or rituals set up by someone long ago.

Then there are the thousands–perhaps millions– who declare that God doesn’t care if you are good or bad because He loves everyone and would never send anyone to hell.

Perhaps it is a bit presumptuous for us to tell God how things are?

And yet this has happened since the creation of man.

Cain thought he would tell God how things are (Genesis 4). We aren’t given many details, but we know that Abel brought an acceptable animal sacrifice while Cain brought an “offering of the fruit of the ground” (v. 3). Prideful Cain was, in essence, telling God what offering would be acceptable in His sight. When God didn’t agree with him, he grew so angry he went out to the field and killed his brother.

Instead of humbling himself before God and admitting that he was wrong, he murdered his own brother.

While few people let their pride go to such lengths, we are all born with it. It is pride that insists that we are innately good. It is pride that says I can determine on what terms I can be reconciled with God. It is pride that says I get to make the rules.

But guess what? God already made the rules. He had a plan of salvation for sinful man that he laid out long before we took a breath. That plan is in the Bible, which is God’s Word.

I have to just stop here for a brief moment and just remind you that there is much proof that the Bible is God’s Word. Both archeology and science show its reliability. The fulfilled prophecies (including Israel becoming a nation in 1948 against all odds) are truly miraculous. There are many reasons that we can know that God’s Word is true. I read Why Believe the Bible a few years ago which was so helpful. Answers in Genesis has a series of articles here. Men were even converted while trying to disprove the Bible (Part 1 of this series is here). And here is one more article on the Bible’s Proof. You can even find a whole sermon series by John MacArthur on this topic here.

But, may I remind you, when it comes right down to it, belief in the Bible and what it says is a matter of faith. We can have all of the proof in the world and still choose not to believe. Okay, back to our topic…

If the Bible is true (and it is!), then it is there that we will find out how we get right with God. He is God. He sets the terms and determines the way this is possible. He even determined if it was possible, because He could have chosen to let us die in our sins and go to hell without creating any way of salvation at all. We must understand that this is about marvelous grace and amazing love and abundant mercy.

Adam changed the future of the world with just a bite of fruit. Through him, we inherited our sinful nature (Romans 5:12). This is the first point of contention for so many. How dare you call me a sinner? I am a good person. Look at that guy over there and that woman over here. THEY are awful. I look amazing by comparison.

But the Bible says we are all sinners. We are born condemned sinners (See I John 1:8-10; Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:9-12). Until we can admit this, we are hopelessly lost. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6)

When God opens our eyes to this truth, then we will understand our need for a Savior. Until then, we think we can do things our way and on our own terms.

Thankfully, it doesn’t end there. The Bible goes on to tell us of how God sent His Son into the world to die for our sins.

I Corinthians 5:21 puts it like this: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I John 4:10 says this: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In other words, Christ died in our place. Think of that for a moment. Jesus died for our sins and we can stand righteous before God through His blood shed for us. And only because of this. On our own, we have no merit whatsoever.

As we go on to study God’s amazing plan in His Word, we come to understand that accepting this free gift is something we must do. We aren’t automatically given this reconciliation just because were born as a human being on the earth.

No, instead we see that God has set it up that we must call on Him (Romans 10:13). We must believe (Romans 10:9). It is a conscious choice.

These are God’s terms. There is no other way (John 14:6).

But, oh, how prideful man is.

Just as Cain demanded that God accept his sacrifice and grew angry when he didn’t, so man insists that he gets to determine his own way of salvation. Whether it be through a set of rules or a list of good works, he believes that he can do enough to reach God.

But the Bible tells us that we can never be good enough. That we can do nothing to be right with God. That we are in desperate need of His grace and mercy.

We must come to God on His terms.

But, oh, the peace that is ours when we do!

Trying to pridefully reach God on our own terms yields only doubt and turmoil and frustration.

But peace can be ours, if we will but turn to Christ alone for salvation.

I leave you with the lyrics of one of my favorite hymns–

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

 

 

 

(If you are not sure you understand salvation or you desire to know more, please don’t hesitate to email me at Leslie {at} growing4life {dot} net. I would love to talk more about this with you.)

 

 

Are You Ready for Death?

Kobe Bryant and his daughter died a few days ago. Along with thousands of other people. Those two weren’t the only ones who faced God on Sunday, January 26. Many passed from this life to the next. Some were expecting it and many, many, like Kobe, were not.

None of us knows what day we will leave this earth. That’s why it is so critical that we are ready to go at all times.

This isn’t going to be a long post. I just want to encourage you (and myself) to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that we are ready for the inevitable. 100% of us will die. The question is not “if”, it is when.

So here are just a few thoughts for us all today–

1. If you do not believe the Bible is 100% true, then what are you basing your belief about the afterlife on? Is it a man? A religious system? And on what is that person or system basing their beliefs on about the afterlife? This is one area of life we cannot afford to get wrong! This is the difference between heaven and hell. Between a life of eternity with God or an eternity without God. We owe it to ourselves to thoroughly research this. If you don’t believe the Bible, then I challenge you to actually put reasons to your belief. Make sure that you’ve done a thorough study. While true faith isn’t based on logic and rationalism, it is often the starting point of the search for many.

Don’t be an ostrich with your head in the sand when it comes to the subject of death.

(If you wonder what the Bible teaches about life after death, you can read more here.)

2. If we do know where we are headed, then shouldn’t that change how we live? Shouldn’t we be more interested in treasure in heaven than treasure on earth? Shouldn’t we be more interested in pleasing God than pleasing people? And shouldn’t we spend more time looking in the mirror of the Word than the mirror in our bathroom? Remembering how close death is for all of us should really remind us of (or even change) our priorities.

3. If we do believe the Bible is true and we are confident that we will spend eternity with God through our faith in Jesus Christ alone, then a good majority of us really need to ask ourselves these questions: Why aren’t we more passionate about our faith? Why are we so caught up in all of the stuff that is so temporal? Why don’t we care more that so many are not going to be in eternity with us, given their own declarations and wicked lifestyles?

Is this not a sobering thought? The co-worker next to you could get in his car tomorrow and crash. The unbelieving family member could face his Maker next week. That terminal diagnosis could be told to our lost spouse or parent in a month.

Are we praying fervently for them? Are we taking the opportunities we are given to share the Gospel? Be sure that I am not talking about smashing them over the head with it in a harsh way. But, rather, are we having heartfelt discussions with them? Are we pointing them to the anchor of the Word?

Dear friends, life is short. Our days are like grass. May we seek the things that are above. May we live each day with eternity in mind.

 

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 For the wind passes over it, and it is b]”>[b]”>bb]”>]gone,
And its place remembers it no more.

Psalm 103:15

 

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

 

 

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