Church History

(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!

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Revival: What It Is and What It Isn’t

The word “revival” has always been tossed about freely by Christians. It is our hope for this temporal world, it would solve what ails the culture, it would fix so many problems.

I hear this word more than ever now, as the culture grows darker and darker. “There could still be revival,” is heard often by those whose fervent hope is to get back to some type of normalcy. Whose hope is to start the culture in a more positive direction.

But what exactly is revival? And is it something we can and should expect? These are the questions I’d like to take a look at today as our world grows increasingly darker and our hope for this world teeters on the brink of extinction.

Merriam-Webster gives this definition of Revival as it relates to religion–

(1) : a period of renewed religious interest

 
Dictionary.com gives this definition–

an awakening, in a church or community, of interest in and care for matters relating to personal religion.
 
So we can see that Revival, as it relates to religion, means an awakening in matters of personal religion. In fact, one of the most famous revivals of all was called “The Great Awakening”. It happened in the mid-1700s and the two most famous men connected to it are Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, although there were many lesser-known men (and women) used by God during that great time.

What brought about such revival? Many years ago I read Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards (which I highly recommend, by the way). As I recall, there were three very important keys to that famous Revival: 1) Prayer and 2) Repentance of sin and 3) Separation from the world.

Fervent, frequent prayer was the fuel of the revival and the people’s repentance of sin and separation from the world was the result of that prayer.

The church in that day was much like the church of this day, in that many people went to church to ease their consciences but there was little true religion.

I remember thinking as I was reading: This sounds so much like today.

We always think we are so much worse, but there really is nothing new under the sun.

So, given the definition of revival and the three important components of revival, should we expect revival?

I think it is important to say, first, that none of us knows what is ahead. We never have known but, now more than ever, the future is unsettled and uncertain. As you read anything I say below, please keep this in mind. We can only guess where we are at on God’s timeline by reading the signs. None of us can know definitively or specifically.

What I do know from reading scripture is that in the last days (which I strongly believe we are in because of the signs given to us in the Bible), times will wax worse and worse (Read 2 Timothy 3 and Jude). People will not truly turn to the Lord but they will pretend to be godly while loving their sin and this world.

From these passages, I don’t believe we should expect revival on any large scale, although there may be scattered pockets throughout the world.

But, of course, I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know:

Much of the talk of Revival these days is not true revival.

How do I know this?

It is because, while there may be talk of a vague repentance, there is rarely talk of repenting of specific, personal sins and never talk of turning from the world.

Most Christians who declare revival as this world’s solution rarely, if ever, encourage people to turn from not only their sin, but also from their fascination with and love for this world.

And, yet, can there be true revival without it? I think not.

James makes this extremely clear in chapter 4, verse 7–

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

We cannot be in right relationship with God if we are in love with the world. And when we hear calls for revival, we never hear anything about this.

Christians are quite comfortable in this world. They live their married lives like the world (Dad is not the head of the home, moms leave their children to go to work); They parent like the world (they don’t discipline, they ignore what the Bible teaches); They watch, listen to, and read the same things as the world. They wear the same things as the world, letting even their precious teen girls dress in such a way to draw sexual attention to themselves so that they are accepted by their friends (I am shocked and dismayed at the many Christian parents who allow this. I cannot even believe it. And I see no conviction about this. From any direction. I’ll climb down off my soap box now. This has been puzzling me for years now.)

Christians look like the world. It is hard to see any difference, really.

And I am convinced more than ever that Revival cannot come while we Christians are steeped in this world.

If we want to bring true revival, we must wean ourselves from this world.

So how much do we actually want revival? How concerned are we for souls? Or are we more concerned about getting back to our comfortable, convenient lives and the world we believed we lived in? These are questions worth our consideration.

If true revival means fervent prayer (by true believers) and turning from sin and from this world, what is all this talk about revival among false teachers (and those who we thought were true teachers that are joining with false teachers)?

I think that is a great question.

You see, there is such a thing as fake revival. And it will be characterized by many people coming together with worldly music and raised hands, powerfully moved by emotion. The truth of God’s Word in these meetings means nothing. Personal repentance of sin and commitment to separate from the world are never a part of these kinds of meetings. It is an ecumenical unity based on feelings.

I believe there will be many fake revivals. In fact, there will be a last, great fake revival when people take the mark of the beast as an act of worship. People will bow at the feet of the Antichrist, believing he IS the Christ (Revelation 13).

It is so important that we carefully examine any rumors of revival by these standards. What is driving it? Is it fueled by prayer? Is there a focus on repentance? On turning from this world?

As we ponder these things, I think we must also realize that true revival starts with individuals. You and me. While we may not expect a wave of revival to overtake this nation or the world, we can perhaps start mini-revivals in our own homes and churches and communities. This can happen through much prayer and our own personal turning away from sin and this world. It is a painful process and we can expect much marginalization and ridicule, but it will yield fruit. Perhaps not as much as we’d hope for, but God will always use a life dedicated to Him for His purposes and His glory.

So pray for Revival. But make sure you are praying for the right kind of Revival and for the right reasons.

I want to leave you with these words by David Cloud on this topic of Revival–

The heart of the tree is being eaten away even as the watchers are pleased at keeping a few leaves alive. Some type of revival could happen if individual Christians and individual churches would repent of an adulterous love for this God-hating world, repent of setting the affections more on things below than things above, and earnestly beseech God’s help. Who knows how far the forces of evil could be driven back? God has never needed a majority. Gideon’s vigilant few are enough. But so many churches are like Sardis; they have a name that they live, but they are dead. They are comfortable in the world, not pilgrims but dwellers, mighty for pot luck but weak for spiritual warfare, zealous for video games and sports and consuming fleeting hours on social media vanity, but not zealous students of God’s Word, passionate for parties but not for prayer. (From Friday News, Nov 13, 2020)

 

Encouragement for the Fainthearted

A few weeks ago, we realized that we were going to have to say good-bye to our dog. She was growing thinner by the day and it was obvious something was really wrong with her. When I called the vet they asked me if we would stay with her during her final hour or just give her to them.

Oh, how my whole being wanted to just leave her, so I wouldn’t have to face the “hard”. So much easier to drop her off and walk away.

But it wasn’t that simple…

I have had two dogs in my life that have meant more to me than any others, and she was one of them. I just couldn’t leave her to die all alone.

The next few days dragged by as we spent our final moments with the treasured pet that had been with our family for fifteen years.

And then came the day when my 21 year old daughter and I got into the car with Belle for one last time. We drove to the vet, hearts heavy, and were taken to a little room. There, we said our final goodbye and Belle breathed her last. I still tear up, even as I am writing this.

Several times over the course of the week before, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Surely, it would be okay to just leave her? After all, she was just a dog. But as I left that room, even as I was dealing with the grief of losing this beloved pet, I was very much at peace that I had chosen the harder path.

She is just a dog. A dog without soul and without eternal significance. This is minor in light of many choices we face.

And yet, this incident reminded me of how, so often, the harder choice is the better choice.

We love easy roads. We all do. How much easier to traverse a smooth, wide road than a rocky, narrow path. And so often I make the choice that is easier. At least at the time.

I feel like I’ve come awake these past few months to how often I’ve chosen the easy path. I’ve been spoiled. I always knew this, but it has taken on even more significance recently. Most of us have been tremendously blessed materially and have rarely had to make choices that would bring negative consequences on ourselves or our families.

And I wonder: Do I even have what it takes to face the hard? Do I have the courage and strength and boldness I am going to need for whatever lies ahead?

This can make me feel downright fainthearted.

That’s when I am reminded of three very, very important principles from God’s Word (Don’t skip over the verses! They are amazingly relevant and oh, so comforting!)–

1. My strength comes from the Lord.

Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

Philippians 4:13  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

2. God will supply all of my needs.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

Philippians 4:19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

3. God’s grace will be sufficient.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

When we have doubts we must remember these three things! Whatever lies ahead, we have the Lord on our side. These words from scripture are not empty promises. They have been proven over and over again by those who have gone on before us. They are being proven every day by those who are already walking the difficult path of persecution in other lands.

We will not be left alone, as those without a Shepherd. We will not be left hopeless, as those without a Savior. We will not be left weak and powerless, as those without Almighty God on their side.

No matter what lies ahead, we must choose the righteous and holy path. No matter how arduous the trail ahead, we must take that first step. And when we do this, we can be assured that God will provide all we need to travel this hard road. He is walking with us. We are not alone!

 

 

Some Options for Those with Extra Time

Okay, so by now we are a week or two into our isolation/social distancing. Some of you are still working crazy hours and serving the public (we thank you!!) but there are others who have a little extra time. Our churches do not have services, Bible Studies and meetings and get-togethers have been canceled. Restaurants, stores, gardens, zoos, and most other public places are closed. Many of us have little to do and fewer places to go. And so we are doing all of the things we never get around to doing such as cleaning and organizing and cooking.

But, let’s face it–you can only do so much cleaning.

So I got to thinking…

What are some other ways we can spend this gift of time that many of us have been given?

Lots of things come to mind. Now may be the perfect time to learn to knit or to find a YouTube tutorial on painting with watercolors. It’s a great time to start gardening or baking again. Perhaps it’s time to lift the covers off of old instruments packed away or rediscover our love of photography.

It’s also the perfect time to think outside the box regarding how we can serve others. What are some ways we can encourage others during this strange time in our world? Writing cards, making phone calls, sending texts and emails, and running errands for those who are high risk are just a few ways we can do this during this time.

But one of the best ways we can make use of this time would be to dig into the Word in a more meaningful way. So often we skim or quickly read. Perhaps now is the time to grab a notebook and a commentary or two and really dig in a bit.

In the upcoming month of April we will be reading John 15-21 in the Growing4Life Bible Challenge. When I planned the schedule I had no idea we would be reading the story of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection in the same month we celebrate it! (Only God, right?? I love how He does things like this!) If you do not have another study going at this time, I want to invite you to join me in reading the last third of John and focus on Christ and what He has done for you during this coming month. You can find more details here.

Here are some other way to grow your knowledge of the Bible and its influence on the world around you–

This is the perfect time to dedicate yourself to Scripture Memorization. I use the Bible Memory App to help me with this and it’s been so incredibly helpful. But you can also memorize many other ways. Find the best way for you and dedicate yourself to hiding God’s Word in your heart and mind.

I have been amazed at how, during this time of uncertainty and change, my memorized verses have come to my mind and comforted me. A few weeks ago, I woke up early one morning–long before it was time to get up–and, in thinking of the current events, felt myself grow panicky. And then Isaiah 26:3 came to my mind: You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. It was just the balm I needed. God’s Word is truly a treasure.

We can learn doctrine through A Crash Course in Systematic Theology. You will find it here. Taught by Pastor Dean Good to his Men’s Bible Study at Grace Church of North Olmsted, it is a review of the main doctrines in the Bible. It is easy to understand and wonderfully comprehensive.

The Institute for Church Leadership is offering a course on Hermeneutics for free during this unprecedented time. It will be offered through April of 2020. You can check it out here.

I have signed up to take this course which is taught by Dr. Abner Chou. I have appreciated his teaching and am looking very forward to this opportunity to learn more about correctly interpreting God’s Word from him.

Way of Life Literature publishes some very interesting courses. The three listed here each come with powerpoints that are full of visual proofs and photos that make the course come alive. They are currently not shipping hard copies, but you can still purchase the ebooks. If you enjoy history, you will enjoy these (descriptions are from their website) —

Bible Time Ancient KingdomsBible Times and Ancient Kingdoms is a training course on Bible geography, Bible culture, Bible history, and Bible archaeology, which has a two-fold objective: to present apologetic evidence for the Bible and to give background material to help the student better understand the setting of Bible history.

Jews in Fighter JetsJews in Fighter Jews covers the past 2,500 years of the history of the most important and amazing nation on earth, the only nation directly created by God and called by God “my people,” the nation to whom “were committed the oracles of God” and “of whom, as concerning the flesh Christ came” (Romans 3:2; 9:5).

History of the Churches — This enlightening course on church history begins with the apostolic churches and ends with the early 1800s. We show that sound churches have existed side-by-side with apostate ones through the centuries.

I am currently on chapter three of Bible Time Ancient Kingdoms and I am finding it fascinating. It is well written and so informative. You will find lots of other ebooks and Bible studies there. There is even a nice selection of free ebooks for download. While I don’t agree 100% with the author on every topic, I do find that the majority of his work to be sound and edifying. (And, after all, who do we agree with 100% of the time…? That will be one of the most wonderful things about heaven! We will all know the truth about every single doctrine big or small and, therefore, we will all agree!)

The Fuel Project over at YouTube has a FANTASTIC series called Know Your Enemy. It is a thorough overview of Satan’s influence on history. You will never view the world the same again after watching it. It is well-documented and very eye-opening. It gives you the knowledge to understand who our enemy really is and clearly shows how he often presents himself as light and good, all while being the mastermind of deception. I really can’t recommend this highly enough.

_______________________________________________

However we choose to use any bit of extra time we’ve been gifted, may we use it wisely. May we not waste hours and hours glued to the news or scrolling through social media. These things aren’t bad, in and of themselves, but let’s keep them from stealing an over abundance of the precious hours we’ve been gifted with.

 

 

At All Costs

We have a chocolate Lab named Macy. If you’ve been a reader for awhile, you will probably remember other posts about her. She is passionately–even desperately–attached to me. She goes into a bit of a panic if I am not around. If I run over to the office or take some trash out, I can be sure she will be right behind me because she has even learned how to let herself out of the house. If I am working outside, I can be sure she will be laying somewhere nearby. If I hop on the Gator she runs along side it, trying to keep up. I usually slow down a bit so that she can.

The other morning I awoke really early. I couldn’t get back to sleep so, finally, around 5am, I stole quietly from the room leaving my husband and Macy sleeping peacefully. I glanced to make sure she wasn’t ready to get up yet and then closed the bedroom door and headed downstairs to sit outside and watch the sun rise. The sky was already brightening as I took my cup of coffee outside.

I sat there for an hour or so, when suddenly I heard a scratch at the door. My husband was not far behind and opened the door, letting me know that she had discovered I wasn’t in the room and had been crying. I felt kind of bad. He doesn’t get to sleep in very often. I had been so sure she was sound asleep. How did she even figure out I wasn’t in my bed…?

But that’s how she is. If I’m around she’s at peace. If I’m not around she’s not. Macy doesn’t like to disappoint me and so she is a very obedient dog. If I tell her to come, she comes. If I tell her to lay down, she listens to me. Well, unless there is food involved. She struggles to be obedient when there is food involved.

But, overall, she does everything in her power to please me and to be close to me. She follows me everywhere. It can actually be annoying sometimes–like when she follows me into the bathroom or she stops right in front of me and almost trips me in her efforts to make sure I am following closely behind her and am not taking some surprise detour. But it is also a bit endearing. How can you not love a dog that loves you soooo much?

As I reflected on Macy’s passion and zeal for me the other day, it gave me pause for thought.

I mean, I know she’s a dog and all, but bear with me.

As I pondered her passion and zeal for me, I had to ask myself: Where is my passion and zeal directed? Am I even passionate and zealous about anything?

Do I feel like all is wrong in my world if I am doing my own thing apart from God? Do I hate to disappoint my Master? Do I do everything in my power to remain close to my Master’s side?

I finished a book yesterday called Hunted and Harried. It is about the persecution of the Scottish Covenanters during the 1600’s. (I recommend it. It was very thought-provoking and easy to read.) As I read of these men and women who chose to be martyred rather than to turn from true faith, I wondered if I would do the same thing? Could do the same thing?

Is my passion and my zeal for the Lord more important than my reputation? Than my family? Than my possessions? Than my very life?

If it’s not, then something is dreadfully wrong. Jesus challenges us with this very thought in Matthew 10:37-39–

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

And Paul reiterates this in Colossians 3:3–

For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

And Galatians 2:20–

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

True Christianity means dying to self.

Dying to self in order to follow Christ may lead us into great suffering and persecution. It will probably lead to unpopularity in the Church and to antagonism from the world. Obeying and pleasing Him will most certainly make us appear odd to a world bent on pleasing self.

But none of that should matter to us. Like Macy, we should have one goal in mind and that is to stay close to our Master. And what is the best way to do this?

We read, study, and memorize the Word. We submit and obey what we find there. We yield our wills, desires, and dreams to the will and purposes of the Father.

It’s so incredibly opposite of what we hear these days coming from the pulpits across America, isn’t it?

And, yet, we can’t study scripture and understand it any other way.

The wonderful thing is that while we are dying to self and serving God with passion and zeal, He is faithfully caring and protecting and loving and growing us. He is a the perfect Master and yielding our lives to Him brings true peace and joy that the world can never experience.

I am human and sometimes I can get frustrated with Macy. But God never does this. He wants us close by His side. He never grows weary of us or rejects us for even a second. His love is completely and utterly unconditional. He is wholly deserving of our most fervent devotion and dedication.

We can get caught up in this world and become oh, so distracted. We can forget, as we go about our everyday lives full of busyness, that we are not are own.

So perhaps we should regularly ask ourselves this question: Just how much passion and zeal do I have for God?

Am I willing to follow Him anywhere? Am I willing to lose popularity, reputation, family, or even my life for Him?

Come what may, I hope the answer to these questions for all of us is YES. May we be willing to follow Christ at all costs.

 

A Life Above Reproach

Tomorrow is voting day here in the United States. Someone told me the other day of a conversation they had with the staff member of a local representative. This person was sharing her horror and disgust at the lies and slander that were being told about this man by his opponent. She listed a few things that the commercials had “asserted” and declared their impossibility given this man’s upstanding character.

We already know that we can’t believe everything we hear–especially during voting time.

But there is something else to consider:

This man’s closest friends and co-workers knew with certainty that the things being told about him were false. This should lead us to ask ourselves a question: Are we living life in the same way? Are we living above reproach in such a way, that if someone slandered us, we’d have those who know us best declaring there is no way it could be true?

Do you know that this is how it is supposed to be for us as believers? Peter puts it like this–

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. I Peter 3:15-16

How do we have a good conscience? We do this by living a life of integrity. While we can’t do this perfectly (we all continue to sin, unfortunately) we can and should choose to live righteous and holy lives.

If we always tell the truth; if we honor our marriage vows; if we never cheat, steal, or rob; if we respect authority; if we are kind and loving to others; if we are content with our lot in life; if we are humble; if we are careful not to put ourselves purposefully in the path of sin (such as bars, casinos, and wherever else we know temptation takes us to places we shouldn’t go) then we are living a life of integrity.

If we never take advantage of people in business deals; if we don’t manipulate and use people; if we don’t hold grudges and aren’t easily offended; if we conduct any company, church committee, or PTA business with fairness and honesty, then we are giving our enemies very little to grasp onto.

They are then forced to lie.

And we all know that this is what happens. If there is a man or woman of integrity that has an enemy, be sure they will be lied about.

But that person that’s being lied about? He has a clean conscience. He knows the truth and those that really know him know the truth. While it is a battle to be fought and there is much heartache that comes from false accusations, there is still an accompanying peace that comes from knowing that the accusations are false.

As I think about the recent Kavanaugh hearings, this comes to mind. You see, we as the public, are at a loss. And people like his enemies know this. They know that once a lie is told it puts a seed of distrust in the hearer’s mind. I have my guesses on what happened with that hearing but unless I’d get to know both parties personally, there is really no way for me to know the truth. False accusations are extremely powerful.

Opponents in political races know this. As do irritated agenda-driven church members, frustrated co-workers, and others who strive to knock someone down and out of place. Lies bring destruction.

While we can’t stop people from lying about us, we are able to choose to live a life above reproach. We can choose to live in righteousness so that when they do choose to say something about us, there is no foundation of truth to even be found upon which they can build their lie.

No, this doesn’t bring back the trust of others. No, this doesn’t take away the dreadful pain or even the consequences of the slander and false accusations. Elections are lost, godly men are forced out of ministry, and good workers leave companies because of lies. Christians even lose their lives because of lies. False accusations have often been what Satan has used throughout history to martyr many of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can’t change this.

But we can live with a clean conscience so that, as Peter says: that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

It is a discouraging world where lies will win. But Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and the world is currently under his influence (I John 5:19). We also know that Satan is a Christian’s greatest enemy (Ephesians 6:11-12;I Peter 5:8). Therefore we should’t be surprised when we are the target of lies and slander.

So let’s not give Satan any handles to grab on to. Let’s live a life so above reproach that there is not even a hint of truth found in any accusations against us. It is in this way that we can honor the Lord Jesus as well as preserve our peace of mind and heart.

And while we are struggling (and hopefully growing in our faith) through those false accusations, we dare not forget this:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (Matthew 5:43-44)

Nothing is outside of God’s care, including false accusations. Even this is under His sovereignty and can be used to teach us and grow us in holiness and righteousness.

 

I’m Not the One Who Moved

This is for my Christian critics. The ones who label me narrow-minded and arrogant because of what I believe. I hope that this post will also encourage and aid my readers who are also labeled in this way.

There is a really important thing that our critics have forgotten–

We aren’t the ones who moved.

Seriously.

While there was always a remnant of believers who lived according to the Word even during the Dark Ages, we saw that, with the Reformation, there came a return to the important five solas–key doctrines of scripture.

These five solas returned a wayward mainstream Christianity back to its core and we owe much gratitude to men like Hus, Tyndale, Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin (and so many others) who were persecuted and even died because they stood firmly on the Bible and its precepts.

I am watching the first three of these five solas slowly being eroded away by mainstream evangelical Christianity but I still believe them. Many of us have always believed them–even without a history lesson on the Reformation– because they are what the Bible teaches.

The first point, Sola Scriptura (Scripture is sufficient and authoritative) is being ripped to shreds all around us. Belief that God is still speaking flies in the face of Sola Scriptura. Scripture cannot be sufficient if we are still receiving revelation from God. So is scripture sufficient or isn’t it?

I believe it is both authoritative and sufficient. I do not make that statement lightly and I have given the issue both research and prayer. Here are four key reasons why I absolutely believe it is sufficient. I have attached a link after this section that goes into this a bit more–

1) If scripture is not sufficient then we have a veritable Pandora’s Box of chaos. Anyone can say anything and claim it’s from God. And yet there is no way to prove any message is from God. Some will say that if it agrees with scripture then we can know it’s from God. Well, if that’s the case, then why do we need to be told this same thing in a supernatural way? Why not just read the Bible? And here’s another thing we know: Satan masquerades as an angel of light. He can–and does–use these things to pretend to be our godly advisor, only to eventually draw us off the narrow path. My rule: Don’t trust the voice inside my head. There is absolutely no way to know if it is God or isn’t. None.

2) If scripture is not sufficient or the authority of our lives, then we are going to be driven by things outside of the Bible like culture, felt needs, and other dangerous doctrines. Because if scripture is not sufficient then we naturally have to concede that scripture does not tell us everything we need to know. This kind of thinking leaves a very dangerous door open. And it’s the door that brings in most, if not all, false teaching. In fact, this door is the one that Joseph Smith walked through, deceiving millions. He claimed to have further revelation and started the Mormon church. I can’t think of one false religion that did not begin with “special revelation” or a vision from “God”. There may be one, but I can’t think of one.

3) If we are hungering for supernatural experiences directed to us personally, we naturally have to admit that this takes the focus off of God and puts it squarely on us. Our religion becomes about our purpose, our dreams, our needs, our wants. This is in complete and utter contradiction to what scripture teaches, where we read that we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross. (Matthew 16:24)

4) Special revelation breeds pride and division. When we think we should be hearing from God but aren’t we grow envious and jealous of those that are or we grow discouraged that somehow we aren’t spiritual enough. When we think we are hearing from God, we grow prideful and arrogant, thinking that we have some special connection with God that others do not have. The fruits of this movement are clearly disturbing, a fact we must face.

You can find a more in-depth article that I have written on this topic here.

We also see the second and third solas disappearing: Sola Fide (by faith alone) and Sola Gratia (through grace alone) (Ephesians 2:8) If we believe that salvation is by faith alone through grace alone then we must conclude that any religion that doesn’t teach this truth is a false one. And, yet, there is this powerful effort from well-known leaders that would encourage us to unify with Catholicism (faith plus works), Mormonism (works plus faith), and even Islam (works and a little faith). We are all to be one big happy group together serving God. Any refusal or even hesitation to follow after this movement brings accusations of divisiveness and intolerance.

But let’s be honest: Their God cannot be the same as the One, True God. And the real Jesus is obviously not the same as their “Jesus”. How do I know this? Because they require other things besides faith for salvation. Because what they are teaching is not what the Bible teaches. And because their religious rules and regulations are in direct opposition to what Jesus taught in the scriptures (John 14:6).

This is what Orthodox Christianity has believed for thousands of years because this is what the Bible teaches. But sometime in the not-too-distant past, things started to subtly change. Special revelation, hearing the voice of God, dreams and visions–a claim made by only the heretical fringes of Christianity throughout history–became the norm while pastors we loved and trusted started to push us to be joined together with false religions and false teachers.

What is going on??

And then there is the whole moral shift. Two big things come to mind, although I know there are more. First, since the inception of Christianity, the main goal of a Christian was to grow in holiness and godliness (I Peter 1:15-16; Titus 2:12). We were to separate from the world and to set ourselves apart for God’s service (James 1:27; I John 2:15-17). What has happened to these principles? Where is the separation from the world? Where is the encouragement to be holy and sanctified? It has all but disappeared in a “Christianity” that takes the focus off of the Gospel and puts it on fixing the culture. That tells us to follow our dreams and that we deserve our best life now. A warped “Christianity” that ignores true doctrine and bases its false doctrines on felt needs, feelings, and human wisdom and that encourages a sensual, earthly type of worship.

And then there is the latest thing I have to confess I didn’t really think I’d ever see. But here we are. Did you ever think you’d see a day where someone who claims to be “evangelical” would say it is normal to be gay? That God created them that way? Whatever happened to Romans 1 (Romans 1:24-27)? Where does that fit into their premises? And, yet, this is what we have. Respected leaders of the evangelical movement assuring us that it is okay to be a celibate gay person–that God made them like that. (If you need proof, check here and here.)

In light of all of these things we find that–

by default, the narrow road is becoming even more narrow.

Those of us who haven’t moved are not the ones making it narrow. We are standing where we have always stood. But with so many people walking away from biblical Christianity and heading for the broad road, the narrow road has naturally become more sparsely populated.

Those of us who hold to biblical Christianity find ourselves growing lonelier and lonelier. We find ourselves mocked, marginalized, ignored, and sometimes even persecuted. This narrow road is becoming more and more difficult to traverse. It is a rocky, difficult road and it is easy to see why so many leave it.

(Please keep in mind that I am making no judgments on why those who are moving away from biblical Christianity are doing so nor am I speculating anything about their eternal destinies. I am simply, like you, watching, broken-hearted, as so many turn away from all they’ve ever taught and believed. A sad thing indeed.)

As more and more people defect to the mystical, ecumenical, and communist/left evangelicalism, it naturally makes those of us who have chosen to stay where we have always been look narrow-minded and arrogant.

But, again, I want to remind you that we are not the ones who moved. We are not the ones re-defining Christianity. We are not the ones changing how we interpret scripture. We aren’t the ones going against what scripture teaches, teaching unbiblical things such as: Christianity is here to change culture, that Christians deserve to have their dreams fulfilled, that worldliness has nothing to do with godliness, and that the local church is to be designed around the needs of the lost. We are not the ones who are speaking at conferences with those who are clearly false teachers, giving validity to their ministries by speaking alongside them.

What is wrong with this picture? Why are those of us that refuse to move the “bad guys”?

Actually, I know why.

Peer pressure is a very powerful thing. And those that don’t fit in the mainstream have never been and will never be popular. Whether you are talking about church issues or work issues or school issues. The one who won’t fit in with “group think” is inevitably marginalized, maligned, ignored, or persecuted.

And, so, here we are.

If someone out there can give me a valid explanation based on scripture on why I should change my views, I am here to listen with an open mind. If someone wants to show me how my traditional Christian beliefs, backed by thousands of years of Christian history, are no longer correct with an argument that is based on the Bible, I am willing to listen. I am not closed-minded, nor am I hard-hearted or arrogant. I know full-well I don’t have all of the answers.

But here is what I do know: The Bible does have the answers. It has the answers for the here and now and it also has great insight into the future. And its predictions about the last days are becoming a shocking reality more each day in a way I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.The Bible is true and real-life events are most definitely confirming this.

So, forgive me, if I don’t hop on the mainstream evangelical bandwagon. I don’t belong there and I firmly believe that you don’t, either.

 

 

“Wordless” Christianity

Jesus told us the way would be narrow (Matthew 7:13-14), but this is starting to take on new meaning, isn’t it? If we don’t look past the surface then the Christian road looks pretty wide. There are still so many all over the world that go to a “Christian” church every Sunday and that claim to have a relationship with God. But when we start to scratch away at that bright exterior, what we find underneath is ugly.

While claiming to have a relationship with God, these “Christians” have divorced themselves from the Word of God.

What does this mean? It means that they are biblically illiterate, they do not live their lives according to the Word, and they do not hold the Word has their authority for their “Christian” life.

Their feelings, their desires, their dreams have that place and their “Christianity” is there to help them achieve their dreams and to escape pain.

Wordless Christianity is not Christianity. Let’s be clear on that, shall we? Christianity that is not based on the Bible is not Christianity. It’s just another false religion that has hi-jacked the name.

The Bible has been the anchor of Christianity since its inception. In other words, always. And, yet, more and more increasingly, we find ourselves defending the Bible in our conversations with…

…other Christians.

What is wrong with this picture?

And we find ourselves vastly discouraged and–if we are honest–left wondering if we have missed something. Maybe we are the ones who are wrong?

Until we go back to the Bible and recognize that not only does it re-confirm what we believe but that every thing taking place fits right into God’s timeline for the last days in an incredible and awe-inspiring kind of way.

Wordless Christianity is like a cancer. It is infiltrating and consuming even the most conservative of churches. And as it does so, we find that there is really no place for those who still hold to the Word. Churches that aren’t based on the Bible do not want pesky little congregants that keep reminding them that they have left the straight and narrow. And so, eventually, this person ends up doing one of two things. They shut up or they leave.

If you are in a good church where the Bible is still upheld as the authority and your pastor preaches the hard truths from scripture along with the pleasant ones, consider yourself blessed.

But many–maybe even many of you reading this–are struggling to find a solid church. It is such a sad situation.

As this wordless Christianity takes over we find it also affecting the Christian culture. When you unhook Christianity from the Bible then anything goes. And, suddenly, it is okay to do just about anything and still call yourself a Christian. The only verse that most seem to know is Matthew 7:1 “Judge not” and this is used completely out of context on a regular basis. If you mention anything as a sin–anything at all– you are judgmental. And this is the greatest and gravest sin of all (according to the Christian culture).

So what to do?

There is nothing really to do but to hang on for dear life to God’s Word. Is is our only anchor. Our churches, our favorite celebrity preachers, our favorite singers, our families, our friends may fail us. They may lead us away from the Word. We must stay in the Word, knowing it by studying it so that we can give a proper defense of biblical Christianity (I Peter 3:15) and so that we can discern truth from error (Acts 17:11; I Thessalonians 5:21).

Historical Christianity has always viewed the Bible as sufficient, as its authority, as its very lifeblood. Since the first book of the Bible was written, it has served as an authoritative source of comfort, strength, guidance, correction, rebuke, and growth. It has always been recognized as a special book unlike any others.

Satan recognizes the power that is in this Book and so this gives us a greater understanding of his monumental effort to detach Christians and Christianity from the Holy Bible. And he’s done a spectacular job, hasn’t he? It would seem fairly clear that this battle has been won–at least in America.

So how do we respond?

I believe we must encourage others to study and know the Bible. Nothing is more important. In a culture where most people simply watch video clips or mindless TV, this is a challenge. In a culture where books that are geared to the individual’s fixing specific problems and helping them achieve their dreams are the best sellers, this is a challenge.

But let us remember–the battle is the Lord’s and, one by one, He calls those who are His (John 6:44). May we be used by God to aid and encourage the few who seek to find the Truth and join us on the narrow way.

 

What Does the Bible Say About…(Being Relevant)?

I am not sure I can remember when the church wasn’t caught up in relevance. I guess when I was a child it was only beginning, but, even then, the “Jesus Music” had already been birthed and the direction had been set to bring in worldly entertainment. Looking even further back, there was a move to wed the church to the world in philosophy. I am sure Satan places some of his greatest effort into wooing the church with the world, since this renders the church ineffective.

And that is exactly what we have seen. A church caught up in being like the world becomes the world. The true Gospel disappears in the frenzy to stay relevant.

And what a futile task. It is impossible to stay relevant in a world that changes constantly. At first, it was only music. What is wrong with that? Throw out the stuffy hymns and bring in something new! But new grows old rather quickly and, since we have become a people fixated on “new”, we always need something different, something greater, something better. And so we have seen a steady increase in bringing in the latest, greatest thing. I have even heard of a church that brought in a strip tease act! Can you even imagine?

But how can this be?

Because the church’s people aren’t hungering for the right thing. Because the church’s people are most likely goats and not sheep.

Funny how the Bible never, ever mentions relevance. The passage that is most often used to defend relevance is in I Corinthians 9, so let’s unpack that a bit here today–

verses 19-23–For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

There are three differences to Paul’s style of evangelism and that of the modern day church’s style (that uses this passage to back up their warped view of evangelism)–

1. Paul was not interested in pleasing the world or making sure he was good friends with someone before sharing Christ. He had only the Gospel in mind. Nothing else. All he did was for the sake of the Gospel. This is far different from what we see today, where there seems to be a race to see how much we can be like the world and still be a Christian. And what we can see is that with this style of living, the Gospel becomes irrelevant and old-fashioned and eventually disappears altogether.

2. Paul was not willing to sin in order to share the Gospel. When Paul says that he will be like certain groups of people, he did not mean he would participate in their sinful activities. How do we know this? We know this because that would conflict with a hundred other passages Paul wrote to us about the Christian life. That means Paul wouldn’t have hung out at a bar drinking with his buddies and getting tipsy. He wouldn’t have sat down at a poker table and gambled away his day’s wages. He wouldn’t have joined his friends at the movie theater to watch a film filled with sex and violence. And he certainly wouldn’t have sanctioned bringing in worldly entertainment into God’s holy church. Paul would never advocate compromise with sin. Thinking that this is what that passage means is taking it completely out of the context of the rest of Paul’s writings.

3. Paul was a servant. Paul did what he did with a servant’s heart and not a selfish heart. He did so with a humble heart and not a prideful heart. This is very different than what we see today as people talk about what they can do or don’t have to do under the banner of the freedom that’s found in Christ. While there may be a pretense of service, when the veneer is stripped away, we find it’s really about feeding one’s appetite for the world and justifying it.

Darby sums up this passage very nicely in his commentary–

“It was the power of charity which denied itself in all things, in order to be the servant of all, and not the selfishness which indulged itself under the pretence of gaining others. He did so in every respect for the sake of the gospel, desiring, as he said, to be a partaker with it, for he personifies it as doing the work of God’s love in the world.”

So what did Paul mean with those verses? I think a comparable example in today’s society would be something like this–

If I am going to minister to the homeless on the street, I am not going to wear high heels and diamonds. If I am going to minister to the wealthy, I am not going to dress in rags. I will do all I can do–without sinning–to be like the group I am with, in order to gain an audience in which to share the Gospel.

This is a far cry from what we are hearing and seeing today. And, honestly, the church that brings in the world is so far gone as to have separated herself from the true church now. The true colors are finally showing. But there are still some walking the fence and it is to those that I address this post.

God never sanctions fence-walking. He demands we clearly pick a side. I John 2:15 makes it clear–

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

As does James 4:4–

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

We cannot be friends with God and be friends with the world. The two are mutually exclusive. And because of this, we know that the mainstream church has swallowed a lie that has led to her demise.

But what saddens me beyond measure are the many, many true churches that have swallowed this lie and have made or are making this final compromise that will lead to their death. It is tragic. And it is everywhere.

While there is probably little most of us can do to change the wrong direction of the churches, there is much we can do personally. Let’s keep ourselves from falling prey to the lie that we need to be “like the world in order to win the world”. In our personal Christian life and evangelism, may we be like Paul: Doing all out of a heart of charity, with a passion to live a holy life, and all for the sake of the Gospel.

 

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