Faith

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.

 

_________________________________________

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

 

 

Should I Expect to Understand Everything?

The other morning we were talking in Bible Study about how there are just some things we can’t understand. I mean can we really wrap our brains around how we are chosen by God (Ephesians 1; John 6:44) and yet we have a free will to choose Christ? (John 1:12-13). Or can we comprehend how God moved men to write the Holy Bible–using their own styles and personalities–and yet every word written by each of those fallible authors was and is the timeless, infallible, and inspired word of God (2 Peter 1:20-21)? And then there is prayer. I am supposed to pray (Philippians 4:6) and yet God has already ordained what will happen (Daniel 4:35; Acts 2:23)? How can this be?

I am here to tell you that I have no idea. I can’t fully understand quite a few things that I believe scripture teaches.

And, honestly, I am okay with that. Now, in writing that I am okay, it may lead you to believe that I am simple-minded and too easily satisfied. But, before you set your opinion, let me try to explain exactly why I am okay.

The other day my daughter told my three-year-old grandson that they were going to go vote. Here’s a bit of the conversation–

As she was explaining that mommy and daddy were choosing between two men who would help make decisions for our state, he asked a very wise question:

“Is one red and one blue?”

Amazed that he actually chose the right colors that signify the two political parties, she said “Well, yes, something like that.”

“Can we vote for the red man since that is my favorite color?”

She laughed and responded “yes, because the red man believes a lot of the same things we do.”

So far, so good.

However, she realized how little he really understood when he asked this question after they were done voting: “Now that we are done ‘boating’, can we bring the red man home with us?”

(Our family all had a good laugh over this story.)

Now we can see that he really didn’t understand. And, actually, there was really no possible way for him to understand. As my daughter said, he doesn’t even know what a state is yet. He is absolutely incapable of understanding the voting process.

Of course, we’d never expect a three year old to fully understand this process, would we?

SO why then do we expect to understand everything God understands? If there is such a large gap between the comprehension of a three-year-old and an adult, then how much bigger of a gap must exist between the comprehension of a created human and the God of the universe?

Consider Deuteronomy 29:29–

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

You see, there are secret things that we can’t understand. There are questions we can’t answer. And there are doctrines that are totally beyond our comprehension.

At some point, we need to accept this.

It is pride and arrogance that demands understanding. It is the idolatry of intellectualism that pushes man to insist he can make sense of it all.

This pride and idolatry has led to broken relationships, messed-up families, and split churches. Scripture gets twisted to mold God and His ways into something that makes sense to our human brain. How important that we take scripture literally and at face value–even if it doesn’t make sense or seem fair.

While the Bible does contain some puzzling things, oh, how much we can understand. God has revealed what He wants us to know. What we need to know, we know.

The world and even many in the church will call us foolish for not insisting on knowing every single detail. But who cares? Just like a three year old can’t understand voting, so a human brain can’t fully understand how God works. We must bow humbly before our King and realize that God is way bigger than us and His ways are much higher than ours.

 

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

 

 

How We Are Like the Moon

Isn’t a full moon so incredible? Of course, most of the month, the moon is not near so bright. And some nights it is simply an unimpressive sliver up in the sky.

Even though early astronomers didn’t realize it, we now understand that the moon is simply a reflection of the sun’s glory. The moon itself does not have light, but it reflects the light of the sun.

A reader recently brought to my attention how much we believers are like the moon–

Our light is not our own, but is merely a reflection of God’s glory.

Our reflective light is easily dimmed by the dark shadows of sin and worldliness, just as the moon’s is dimmed by the shadow of the earth.

Our light, if we are a true reflection of Jesus Christ, lights up the dark night just like a full moon does.

And we know that some love that light. And some hate it.

Some love the moonlight and the way it helps them see. And others, with things to hide, hate it. They want the cover of darkness to hide their evil deeds.

While I know that sin does serious damage to our reflective light, I want to write a bit about worldiness and the damage it does. I have been writing a series on worldliness (which you can find here) and so this seems to be very relevant to that series.

As my reader pointed out, just as the world comes between the sun and the moon and blots out the light, so, too, does this same thing happen with us. The world gets between us and the Father and we grow dim because of it.

You see, when we allow worldly thinking to enter our minds, whether it be through entertainment, education, or careers or through social media, our circle of friends, or family–and any other way it finds its way into our hearts and brains–our lights start to dim.

Think about it.

Let’s say you spent the last two hours watching a movie full of violence or immorality. Is that an accurate reflection of God? Are we doing what He would do? Are we making a choice that makes us look more like Him?

Or are we purposely taking a step away in order to satisfy our own selfish desires?

Or how about how we choose to raise our kids, live out our marriages, or treat the boss or co-workers at our jobs? We have a choice to be a reflection of God and His desires or to follow after the world and look like everyone else, causing us to melt into the blackness that surrounds us.

Christian marriages, parenting, and relationships with unbelievers should look very different than that of unbelievers. But, so often, because of our desire to follow so closely after the world, we end up simply looking like everyone else.

Our lives become unremarkable and we end up casting just a dim reflection of light in the inky blackness that surrounds us.

Now this is so devastating for a few reasons–

First, we cannot be used by God. He has chosen to use us but in order to do that we must be pure and holy vessels. When we choose to live in sin or to look and act like the world, we are not fit for service.

Second, we lose opportunities to share Christ. No Christian can honestly say that they would feel comfortable sharing Jesus with a friend after partying for the whole night alongside them. And if someone says they do, there is little to commend any religious message they may spout off. We are automatically discounted when we join in the sinful activities of the world around us. If we look just like the world, they have no need to have what we have. They don’t need it. If our children look like everyone else’s children, if our attitudes are like everyone else’s attitudes, if our friendships, our marriages, and our families mirror the world, what use do they have with us?

Anyone can travel the path of least resistance. In order to stand out we need to stand on the Word. In order to fully reflect God’s light we need to do things His way.

Third, we lose opportunities to testify to the difference God can make in our lives. When we continue to be the best reflection of God’s light that we can be, we show the world that not only is God almighty and able to change us but that His love and grace is all that we need. We show them that being transformed is not about rules but about our deep love for God.

Knowing God is the only eternal light. While earthly things may flicker up briefly, only God gives us a new life that gives us a permanent reflection of light.

_________________________

Perhaps this would be a good time to remember that pure and holy are not synonymous with perfect. We do not have to–in fact we cannot--live perfect lives. Never forget that our Christian lives are not about perfection but about direction.

All believers, whether young or old, are a reflection. The question is this: Are we a teeny sliver of light in the darkness or a full moon lighting up the night?

 

His Will, Not Mine

Shortly after three of our four kids left the house (which happened within a little over a year), I found myself fairly troubled. Perhaps I even experienced a case of slight depression. I was not where I wanted to be. And, in fact, what made it worse was that I didn’t even know where I wanted to be. Did I want to go back to being a mom of preschoolers or teen-agers? No, I certainly didn’t want to do that. But I also knew that I didn’t want to be at this place where I had no idea who I was or what I was supposed to be doing. I had left my comfort zone of full-time mommyhood behind me and had no idea what lay ahead. Compounding this were several other dynamics that, all combined, thrust me into a rather dark period of my life.

Many times, during my quiet time, I would complain and simply pity myself (ashamed to say it but true) because my life had gone by so quickly. I wasn’t ready for this new stage. I just wasn’t ready. I had been very content and comfortable in my mother role and I just wasn’t ready for it to be over. Tears would fall as I reflected on the past. The thought that kept repeating itself over and over in my mind was “This isn’t what I want. This isn’t where I want to be.”

Even as I had this thought, I recognized the utter selfishness of it. If I truly believed the Bible, then I knew that my life should never be centered on what I wanted. While in my head, I knew that I exist on this earth to know God and to make Him known, my emotions put up a giant struggle to be heard and obeyed. I knew there was a much bigger picture (and that what I wanted was fairly irrelevant in that picture)–and yet– even as a committed believer in Jesus Christ, I found myself in a tremendous battle with my emotions.

Thus I was thrust into God’s kiln to be tested and tried in a way I had not experienced before.

(Let me just say here that this is one of the things in my life that God has used to teach me submission to His will. I am aware that there are some women who long for the day when their kids leave the house–I just wasn’t one of them. I know this will seem utterly foolish to some of you and you won’t get it at all. God may be using or has already used something totally different in your life. Honestly, I never had any idea that my whole identity and a good chunk of my security was wrapped up in my role as a mom. But I also recognize that not all of you will relate to this. I do hope this post takes the reader beyond the details and focuses more on learning how to respond when something we want is refused or taken away.)

The last five years or so have been some of the most difficult of my life. I thought I knew who I was and then, suddenly, I realized I didn’t know who I was at all. God gave me the opportunity to live out all that I had talked and written about all through the years and I was failing. Miserably. I became slightly obsessed with figuring out who I was supposed to be now that my mother role was just about over. I faced a whole new wave of uncertainty when my baby left for college a few years later. (I still don’t really know exactly where God is taking me, by the way. Every time I think I am supposed to go one way, God shuts the door and pushes me another direction. What I am learning through all of this is that I need to simply submit and yield without fuss. He is teaching me to be content even when things don’t go at all as I had planned. It’s an excruciatingly slow process and I doubt I will ever be able to say that I have arrived in this area of my life.)

There were two especially bright spots during this time and I treasure them both greatly. First was the birth of my grandchildren. Kids just bring sunshine wherever they go. How can you not smile when they are around?

And, second, and much more importantly, was how aware I became of my need for Jesus. Up until this time, if I am being totally honest here, I thought I was a pretty good person. Yes, I needed a Savior but not as much as some people did. I am almost ashamed to write it and I never officially “thought” it, but as I look back, I can see this is what I believed.

But when I came face to face with my self-centeredness and spoiled-brat mentality, I recognized pretty quickly just how utterly sinful my heart is. My appreciation for Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has increased a hundred-fold in the past few years.

I am still on this journey of putting what I want on the back burner while focusing on what God wants. And He keeps giving me opportunities to yield to Him and His will. It’s not been easy but I do feel like I am moving the right direction.

Why am I sharing this now? I don’t really know except that it all came to mind when Eric and I had the opportunity to spend a few uninterrupted hours talking with my brother (Pastor Dean) a few weeks ago. As most of you know, he lost his wife in April after a year and a half battle with cancer. Even as I write this it still seems surreal. My sister-in-law of 20 years is now with the Lord. Still feels like it just can’t be. As we talked, he shared how he had given Grace to the Lord before he even met her. All he owns is God’s, and that included his much beloved wife. His commitment to Christ is truly a beacon of light in the ever-increasing self-focused, dream-following, mainstream church.

One of the things he said that sort of summed up what I have been struggling through is that he doesn’t ask what he wants but always tries to focus on what God wants. Of course, no one can do this perfectly but this should be our goal.

Sometimes our wants line up with God’s. And sometimes they don’t. This can happen in big things like the heart-breaking devastation of losing a wife and mother to cancer. God called Grace home, despite her family’s longing for her to stay here on this earth with them. Other times, it’s an unimportant, mundane thing where our will doesn’t line up with God’s–like a mom dealing with the empty nest. My time as full-time mom had passed far too quickly and was never going to return, despite my deep sadness and the disconcerting uncertainty that accompanied it. God uses both the big things and the little things to test and grow us.

Perhaps you are facing something totally different. A move you don’t want to make. A lost job. A child that has turned away from the faith. Financial burdens. Family strife. Elderly parents with health issues. There is no end to the problems and struggles that we face on a daily basis. And, often, in these situations our wills don’t line up with God. Many times God seems to says no and the burdens seem to last forever. Or He says wait and we find ourselves stalled in a place we just don’t want to be.

Many times our “wants” are centered on relief from hurt and pain. Our “wants” are often focused on experiencing a carefree, easy, comfortable, and happy life that is free of burdens and problems. But there are also many wants that we have for others, like the salvation of a loved one or relief from pain, disease, or addiction for a family member or a friend. These are wants not centered on us but still leave us wondering when they go unanswered.

And, yet, so often it is when God says no or wait that we experience our greatest growth. These are also the times that we get to shine with real biblical faith before the dark world and the false church. It is easy to smile when things are going well. Having hope, peace, and joy in the hard times–well, that’s when we really stand out as believers. It is actually when we don’t get what we want that we have the potential to be the most effective for Christ!

In this false religion that goes by the name of Christianity, we find people obsessed with self and purpose and following dreams. It is so easy to fall prey to this same mindset if we aren’t extremely careful.

There is a little verse in John 3:30 that flies directly against self-centered Christianity–

He must increase, but I must decrease.

Read that again.

He must increase but I must decrease.

What I want doesn’t really matter in the scope of life. The critical question in regards to our lives is “What does God want”?

Luke 9:23 clarifies this thought even more–

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

If we desire to come after Christ, we must deny ourselves. We must pick up our cross and follow Him. Does this sound like a self-centered faith to you?

One of the most effective tests to find out just how yielded we are is when God’s will doesn’t match ours.

Do we put up a fuss and complain (even if it just to God or to ourselves)? Do we desperately try to fix situations ourselves? Do we grow depressed or anxious? These are all signs that we are putting our own wants and desires ahead of God. They are showing us that we don’t really trust God and His sovereignty in all areas of life.

It is a hard lesson to learn. To say the least.

I remember talking with my sister-in-law a few months before her death. She told me that she was at peace. That she had fought her battle with God’s sovereignty ten years earlier when she had been diagnosed with cancer for the first time.

Oh, dear readers, until we can bow before God in all things, we will not experience His peace.

His will, not mine.

When we fully accept God’s will for our lives and trust that He knows best, we will find the peace and joy that is promised in the scriptures. No matter what disappointment and hurt and pains swirls around us. He will never leave us or forsake us. We will never, ever be alone.

Not getting what we want is not an indication that He doesn’t care. Instead, it’s a reminder of our sinful, demanding nature–like an ant shaking its fist at a human being is a little how we must look to the God of the universe when we demand and manipulate and sulk to get our own way.

His will, not mine.

May that be what carries us on through the difficult days and the unanswered prayers.

 

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: