Ants and Donuts

A few weeks ago I came downstairs to find ants. Normal-sized ones and teeny-tiny ones* were making themselves right at home on my kitchen counter. I had been fighting a battle with them since it got cooler. I thought we had beat them, although I would still find an occasional one making its lone way across the countertop. Until that morning.

I grabbed some thick sheets of wet paper towel and just started wiping it across the counter, gathering all I could see in my broad swipes, muttering to myself all the while. I. Hate. Ants. Especially in my house.

Nearby sat a container of apple cider donuts leftover from a gathering the night before. I carefully lifted them up in the dim light, twisting and turning the clear container all around. I didn’t have my glasses on but from what I could tell, they looked okay. I breathed a sigh of relief and moved them to the kitchen island where, at least so far, no ants had been spotted.

A little while later, my husband mentioned that the donuts had ants all through them. Rather shocked, I put on my glasses and sure enough! They were all over those donuts. What looked like hundreds of them crawling over, under, and through the holes in the middle.

How could I have not seen them?

I threw the donuts away and went on with my day.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about this incident. There are a few lessons to be learned.

The first lesson that came to mind is that worry and anxiety are like those ants. They crawl in and around and through everything good in our lives and destroy it. While worry and anxiety do nothing to help change the future, they do destroy the present. I think this is why Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34–

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The fact that Jesus mentions this would tell us that worry has always been around. What is the antidote for worry? How do we get to “Do Not Worry”? I am actually still working on that. However, I think there are two things that can really help.

First, and most importantly, we need to fill our minds with God’s Word. His Word fills us with comfort and peace and gives us an eternal perspective. We should memorize a few verses about who God is. And Matthew 6:34 (or even back up a few verses and catch the rest of what Jesus has to say about worry). Saturating our minds with God’s Word will serve us well when the anxieties loom over us and steal our joy.

Second, we need to turn our attention from inward to outward. It is hard to see the needs of others when we are focused on ourselves. We render ourselves fairly ineffective for God’s Kingdom when we are overtaken and haunted by worry and anxiety about the future. But when we can think outside ourselves and serve others, we will find that the thoughts of anxiety and worry will melt away as other thoughts fill our minds.

I believe that our battle with worry and anxiety is a sin because it shows that we are not trusting God or submitting to His will for our lives. I also believe that this sin is one that almost all of us fight at one time or another. The first key is to recognize it as a sin (and not just blame it on our personality or circumstances) and then we need to actively work to eradicate that sin from our lives.

The second lesson from those ants is this: We need our glasses on in order to see the ants. The Bible functions as our glasses. It gives us understanding and shows us who God is, who we are, what sin is, how we can be saved, and how we can grow in Christ. Everything we need for life and godliness is within its pages.

But, too often, we try to navigate life without it. And so we have ants on our donuts but we don’t even realize it! We think all is fine when it’s not fine at all. The Bible not only helps us get rid of the ants, it shows us that the ants exist.

You may think you’d just rather know the ants don’t exist. And I feel that way, too, sometimes. But God’s way is always perfect and finding those ants (and sins!) sooner rather than later is always going to be best for us!

So we need to put on our Bible glasses in order to see ourselves as we really are (instead of our “friend” glasses that have us comparing ourselves to those around us).

And then we need to do something about it. Remember what James says–

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25


I don’t like ants, but they did give me something to write about this morning, so as it’s the first day of November I can say, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, there’s even a reason to be thankful for ants on my counter! Have a great day!



*The exterminator told me the really tiny ants were baby ants! Who knew??


And Then There Was Only a Trickle

I stood under the shower trying to rinse out my short hair in the pathetic stream of water that trickled from the shower head. What in the world? The water stream had been weakening as the weeks passed by. And I kept forgetting to ask my husband about it.

Finally, after weeks of these miserable showers, I asked him what was going on. He informed me that the shower head needed replaced, as years of gunk and buildup had impeded the water flow. He had already bought a new one but hadn’t gotten around to installing it yet.

A day or two later, he switched out the shower head and–Wow! What an incredible difference! The change in pressure was like night and day. Taking a shower was once again easy and even enjoyable. I had not realized just how weak the water flow actually had been because the change had been so gradual.

This incident reminded me of I Thessalonians 5:19–

Do not quench the Spirit.

I found this paragraph on this verse at StudyLight.org, written by Adam Clarke–

“The Holy Spirit is represented as a fire, because it is his province to enlighten and quicken the soul; and to purge, purify, and refine it. This Spirit is represented as being quenched when any act is done, word spoken, or temper indulged, contrary to its dictates. It is the Spirit of love, and therefore anger, malice, revenge, or any unkind or unholy temper, will quench it so that it will withdraw its influences; and then the heart is left in a state of hardness and darkness. It has been observed that fire may be quenched as well by heaping earth on it as by throwing water on it; and so the love of the world will as effectually grieve and quench the Spirit as any ordinary act of transgression.”

Just like our shower head became filled with debris that stopped its flow, so, too, can our lives so gradually become filled with habitual sins, unholy attitudes, or a love for the world, that we quench the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. We can quench it by following after false teaching, by our lack of submission and obedience to God, by holding grudges, by keeping immoral company, and by a lifestyle of idleness or selfishness.

A lack of prayer and a disregard for our time spent in the Word keeps the gunk and buildup firmly in place, hardening there and diminishing the flow of the outworking of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

And then one day–just like that day in the shower when I realized just how bad the pressure really was–we suddenly realize that we are living a powerless Christian life that feels dead. We do not feel close to God and we do not understand why.

An honest inventory of our lives will often reveal the real reason. Some sin we love. Some worldly entertainment that we aren’t willing to give up. Some person we aren’t willing to forgive. A lack of trust in or anger over God’s sovereign will in our lives. The list goes on. Something is there that is quenching the work of the Spirit in our lives.

I Corinthians 13:5 puts it this way–

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

But most of us do not enjoy self-examination. It is painful and change can feel daunting. Or we love our sin and aren’t willing to give it up. And so we content ourselves with a weak and ineffective Christian life, never feeling like we live in victory.

And this is when so many fill in the gaping gaps left with the things that make one feel close to God–supernatural experiences, personal messages from God, being led by dreams and visions. I am convinced that an unwillingness to examine our lives for sin and unholy attitudes has left us with a gaping hole that is being filled in a desperate attempt to feel close to God without sacrificing our own personal and fleshly desires.

You see, scripture makes it clear that a holy life is necessary if we are going to truly be close to God. But that takes a lot of work and sacrifice and so we must decide: Is it worth it?

Are we going to stand in a shower that trickles, looking for counterfeit ways to convince ourselves that we are in a shower that is full pressure? Or are we going to go to the work of cleaning, fixing, and repairing so that we actually return to full pressure?

Are we going to pretend that we are close to God (something that Satan is more than happy to help us with) or are we going to follow the scriptural principles of self-denial, confession of sin, and sacrifice that is required for a healthy relationship with God?

And let’s not forget: Confessing sin and denying self leads us into the most fulfilling and wonderfully victorious Christian life we could live. It seems a contradiction, but it is true. What looks so unappealing to our flesh actually leads us to the full working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Which is truly a miracle.


A Real Rarity

The other day I was listening to a podcast where two men were discussing the rarity of people who are really willing to listen to an opposing viewpoint anymore. The context was in discussing discernment and how–even with solid biblical evidence–few people will really listen to someone who simply wants to share with them their concerns. Instead, they regularly encounter a defensive, arrogant spirit and often endure personal attacks. Simply from speaking up against a false teacher.

They went on to say how this is very different than in years gone by, where two people could have an intelligent and thoughtful conversation about Bible teachers, authors, pastors, (and I will add: Anything else).

Why is this? Why this crazily defensive and hostile attitude towards someone who disagrees with us? What has been fomenting this strange relationship phenomenon over the last few decades?

But why isn’t really the question I want to deal with today. I am more interested in what this change in how we accept and give confrontation has cost us as Christians–and what we can do about it personally.

You see, when we aren’t willing to listen to and to think on a viewpoint or opinion that is in opposition to ours we set ourselves up for failure. How in the world can we grow in holiness and keep ourselves pure and separated from the world if we think we know everything? Do we honestly believe we know all there is to know about God and His Word? We don’t have to agree with someone but we can always listen and consider what they are saying in light of God’s Word. Instead it is most common–even for Christians– to get angry, to attack and malign, and to hold grudges.

This plays itself out in a myriad of ways–

–When someone comes to us with a concern about a favorite teacher or author. How do we respond?

–When our spouse confronts us about a sin in our lives. How do we respond?

–When our child seems confused about something we said or did and asks us about it. How do we respond?

–When someone at church doesn’t like our decision about a ministry we lead. How do we respond?

–When a parent, sibling, or friend lovingly questions our entertainment choice, our child-rearing, or some other aspect of our lives. How do we respond?

At the heart of this all is arrogance. Plain and simple. “Who are you to tell me…anything?”

So this leads us to two important points that we need to consider today.

First, what kind of “hearer” are we? Are we willing to reflect on the words someone speaks to us? Or do we immediately go on the defensive? Do we allow our relationships to change or be destroyed because we don’t like what someone has said to us? Do we lash out in attack? Do we hold grudges?

This is of the devil, my friends. Even if what someone is saying to us has zero biblical merit, we should choose to listen and consider. And then, if necessary, we must forgive. Satan would like nothing more than to break down the friendships and families of Christians. And this is a very effective way.

We can cut him off at the pass by responding to unpleasant words with humility and love.

Proverbs is full of counsel about the fool. And one of the main things about a fool is that he does not listen to wise counsel–

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise. (Proverbs 12:15)

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words. (Proverbs 23:9)

And then Proverbs 26:12 shows us that there is more hope for a fool than for someone who is wise in their own eyes!–

Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Do we think we know all the answers? Then there is more hope for a fool than for us!

And, second, this new dynamic should make us consider very carefully what is worth a confrontation. How many people do you know that, with a critical spirit, sarcastically attack people about the most inane and insignificant things? If this is us, then we will not be listened to when it really matters. It is extremely important that we confront lovingly on biblical matters and then let the other stuff roll. After all, does it really matter if they chose to go here instead of there? Does it really matter if they did their preferred “this” instead of our preferred “that”? Is it a biblical matter? Does their choice have eternal ramifications? Asking these questions can help us determine if it is worth a confrontation. Instead, we sometimes get this all mixed up and we confront (or make sarcastic remarks) on the trivial and never touch the stuff that has eternal ramifications. This is another subtle trick of Satan’s.

And, third, we should consider our own attitude about confrontation. It takes courage and a lot of love to confront someone in a biblical way. It is so much easier to just sit by and let it go. True love speaks the truth. Self-interest often leads to either ignoring it or saying sarcastic, back-handed remarks that hurt instead of heal.

Just recently, I was part of something like this and that experience has given me a real-life example of how all of this should work –in the right way. I will be purposely vague. I felt compelled to talk with someone about something. I hesitated for a very long time because of the possible ramifications. I have lost friends over things like this. I knew the risk and I basically told God I didn’t want to take it. But I knew that I was not doing the right thing. So I prayed and told God that if He would open up an opportunity, I would take it. Otherwise, I would stay quiet. Of course, the perfect opportunity presented itself a few days later. And, so, I, faltering and lovingly, shared my concern. And, wonderfully, the other person heard me without getting upset. They took what I told them and they acted upon it. This is how this should work between Christians (Proverbs 27:17). I was beyond thankful. And I wondered: Am I as mature and wise as this person when someone confronts me?

This is a question we should all ask: Do I hear? Or am I like the fool?

And the second question: Do I confront lovingly and only on the things that really matter?

Let’s be one of those real rarities: A Christian who is willing to thoughtfully consider what someone has to say to us and to also be one that has enough love and courage to confront when it’s biblically necessary.



The Tactless Art of Making People Feel Small

There is a way to instantly get on someone’s bad side. This builds walls between parents and children and creates barriers between friends. It can ruin ministries and destroy relationships.

I have seen it take place between adult children and their elderly parents. And between teenagers and their bewildered parents. I have seen it take place between teacher and student, pastor and congregation member, husband and wife, and clerk and customer.

It isn’t talked about a whole lot as a sin, but it is a very real (and accepted) sin for which we need to be on guard at all times.

So what is it, you may ask?

It is the art of making people feel small. The great art of condescension, which is defined as an attitude of patronizing superiority; disdain.

Have you ever been around someone who has done this to you?

How did this make you feel?

I can tell you how it makes me feel. It makes me feel unimportant and ridiculous. It makes me feel that I have no more value than a bug to be squashed on the sidewalk.

I know I have done this to others myself and I mourn over this. Do you feel the same way? Some of us are more prone to this than others.

I am especially heart-broken when I see this happen between adult children and their elderly parents. The rolling eyes, the patronizing attitude as I watch an adult child treat their parent with such disdain just fills me with sadness. Shouldn’t someone who raised us be worthy of our respect?

Now, first let me state that I have not been in the place of taking care of elderly parents yet. All four of our parents are still very independent so please know that I am not casting a pointing finger of judgement at any of you. I know there are real challenges in being a caregiver for someone who resists your care.

Rather, what I hope to do with this post is to gently encourage you to consider your communication with and attitude towards your elderly parents. And your children. Your co-workers and fellow believers and family members and friends. And clerks and bank tellers and landscapers and the people who pick up your trash.

Because there is little more to crush the spirit of another than to act like you know everything and they know nothing. Anger and frustration quickly build when someone gives the impression that they are way more important than the other person. There are few things that will as quickly create barriers between people than for one person to make another one feel stupid.

I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum on this. I used to be condescending on a regular basis with my husband. It shames me to say it, but it’s true. I am thankful that he brought this to my attention and that God has worked in my heart but I am still so imperfect in this area (as well as so many others!) And, as lowly landscapers, we often feel condescension from those who would never choose a laborious job such as working with their hands and digging in the dirt. Quite thankfully, we have so many wonderful customers that make up for those that would treat us like dirt–no pun intended!! ;)

And, as is the case with all sin, the ugly root of this sin is pride. And, once again, we see clear evidence that–

Pride destroys and humility repairs

Pride builds walls and humility tears them down

Pride leads to dissension and humility leads to harmony


Another thing we need to keep in mind in regards to condescension is that it can be done with a big smile and sweet words. Have you ever run into one of those people that appear so sweet and kind but underneath it is hardened pride that keeps you from having any productive conversations with them? They are condescending but it is in the nicest way. In some ways this is the art of making people feel small at its finest. It can be done while still maintaining a godly and wholesome reputation.

So how do we keep ourselves from falling prey to this sin? What can we do to make sure we don’t patronize others? These are two things that I have found helpful, so I am passing them along–

1. Remember how Jesus treated others.

Jesus was never patronizing with people. We read of so many accounts he had with others–Zaccheus, the Samaritan Woman, Nicodemus, and others and condescension is never conveyed by even the slightest word or deed. Even when Jesus was angry with the Pharisees for their false teaching, He demonstrated that anger in clearly communicated words and not through snide and sarcastic condescension. Jesus’s sinless example is the one we want to follow as we reflect on how we should treat others.

2. Treat others as you would want to be treated.

Mark 12:31 says this: And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Love your neighbor as yourself. How would you want someone to tell you a hard truth? How would you want your adult child to treat you if you were the elderly parent losing your ability to do things independently and your dignity right along with it? Imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes and really take to heart how you would want to be treated if you were them.


Remembering these two things will bring a big change in this area of condescension. Keeping these in mind will fill us with a special grace and thoughtfulness that will naturally yield an attitude of loving-kindness and gentleness towards others rather than an air of superiority and disdain.

So let’s discard the tactless art of making people feel small and develop the art of making people feel special! Let’s eliminate the destructive root of pride that yields a superior, patronizing disdain for others and, instead, develop godly humility that tears down barriers and builds relationships.

This is God’s will for all of us, so we know His Holy Spirit will guide and direct us as we seek to make changes. We know that this is a prayer that God will answer if we are seriously seeking to do what’s right. God will be with us all as we seek to build rather than to tear down and as we strive to make others feel important and loved rather than stupid and worthless.




No Excuses

Have you ever heard a fellow Christian say something like this: “Well, I just don’t have that gift.” Maybe you’ve even said it. Many of us have. Whether the discussion is on the topic of evangelism, giving, hospitality, or discernment, we often give ourselves passes on these commands in scripture with the phrase, “I don’t have that gift.”

But does that response hold up to biblical scrutiny?

This morning I want to take a look at this fairly common answer that is given whenever topics like these come up and make us uncomfortable.

God has made it very clear in Romans 12:3-8 that every redeemed person has a spiritual gift. Some of us know what ours is, some of us are still wondering, and some of us have never bothered to think about this at all. But every believer has one. The purpose of this post isn’t to delve into the spiritual gifts and how to know which one you have, but, rather, to determine if not having a particular gift is a pass at not practicing it.

It’s almost as if we believe that if we just say we aren’t good at it, then we can ignore it and go on our merry way.

So let’s unpack this just a bit. I feel like I may have bitten off a bit more than I can chew this morning, but let’s see what God’s Word says and see if I can then pull it all together. Let’s first turn to the book of John. This is one place that Jesus makes it very clear that we show we are His by doing what He commands–

John 14:21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.

We show we love Christ by keeping His commandments.

John 15:10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

The only way we can abide in Christ’s love is by keeping His commandments.

John 15:14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

We have to assume the opposite is true, don’t we? If we don’t keep Jesus’s commands then we are not the friends of Jesus.

Lets hop on over to I John 2 where we read this–

I John 2:3-5  Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

So this takes it even one step further and says we are lying if we say we are a Christian but are not following God’s commands. We can’t say we know Him and then ignore the Word and the commands therein. John makes it all too clear that true believers just won’t do this.

But we can be deceived into thinking that a certain commandment doesn’t apply to us. Let’s take a look at some of these commands that we tend to ignore, using the excuse that it isn’t our gift–


I Peter 4:9  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.

Romans 12:13 {Be} distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.


Mark 16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at[a] His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.


Philippians 1:9-10 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

I John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.


2 Corinthians 9:7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

Proverbs 3:9-10 Honor the Lord with your possessions,
And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
10 So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.

I’ve picked these specific four things, because they seem to be the ones that are most excused because of not having the “gift”. Did I miss anything else?

Yes, God has given people special gifts and they help make the church run smoothly. But if they are only practiced by people who have these “gifts” then the Church would be sorely lacking, wouldn’t it? And that is where we find ourselves. Fewer people sharing the Gospel with others, fewer people giving of their first fruits, fewer people discerning, and fewer people practicing hospitality. And, perhaps, saddest of all, there are fewer and fewer even caring about these important things commanded by God in His Word as they are distracted and deceived by worldly worship, supernatural experiences, and mystical practices. The focus has turned inward to our own personal experience, rather than outward to how we can minister to others both by setting a godly example and by serving, according to God’s commands.

Not having a certain “gift” is not an excuse for not following God’s commands. Sure, it may come harder for us but that just means we need to work harder at doing it.

I will close with an example from my own life. I would not consider myself naturally gifted at hospitality. I have some friends who are really awesome at this. Their homes are lovely and impeccably clean, their food is delicious and served beautifully, and they make people who enter their homes feel comfortable and loved. My house is just a house and I am not all that into cooking. I don’t mind it, but it’s just not really my “thing”. And so I gave myself a pass on hospitality. But, more and more, the Lord convicted me about this. And I started to recognize a couple of things. First, I had to give up my pride. If my house isn’t cleaned or decorated just right, it’s okay. I am using it for His glory and I need to only please Him. I can’t worry about the critical eye of the “perfect homemaker”.  And, second, I don’t have to cook a fancy meal to be hospitable. I can just do coffee and dessert or buy pizza. We can do hot dogs at the fire outside or make ice cream sundaes. When I started thinking a little more outside the box it became so much easier.

I don’t have this nailed down and I certainly don’t practice it as often as I should, but I do feel like I’ve made progress and it came when I released what I felt it “should be” and started practicing what it “could be”. Perhaps this is true for all of the gifts. We don’t need to practice a gift perfectly. We just need to practice it to the best of our ability. That is all God asks of us. He will take it from there.

So let’s release our impossible expectations, our reluctance, and, most of all, our excuses and start following God’s commands in these areas. God will bless our obedience and the rewards will be great–here or in heaven and, often, in both places!


Filtering the Gray

Life can be challenging. And one of the greatest challenges for many of us who are sincere believers can be filtering the gray issues. As we weigh out what is the best course of action, we can get a little muddled sorting through the things in the Bible that don’t fall under the categories of “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not”.

Yesterday, my pastor presented seven World View Filters that will help us make these decisions. (I will include a link to the sermon below). I found them incredibly helpful and I think you will, too.

But before I give the list, I want to share a few thoughts. First, in this sermon, my pastor clarified the difference between justification and sanctification. If you don’t know, I will give you a brief description here but listen to the sermon for further elaboration. Justification means that we are right with God based on Christ and Christ alone. What Christ did on the cross covered our sins and put us in right standing before God. Jesus covers us with His righteousness because we can never be righteous enough on our own. But it doesn’t end there. And that’s what so many people think. Scripture clearly teaches that we are to also be sanctified. Sanctification is the process whereby we follow the commands found in scripture and grow more like Jesus. We give our efforts to be as righteous as possible–not to be saved or to gain favor with God. No, most certainly not! We do this because we are saved and want to please God. It is the natural response of a soul saved by grace (2 Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 1:9-10; and so many more).

I share this because there is a lie that so many who claim Christ believe, which is that they can have “fire insurance” from hell and live no differently because God will just continue to forgive them as they purposefully continue on in sin. The Bible teaches not only that this can’t be– but that it won’t be. A man or woman that is truly saved doesn’t want to continue on in their sinful life. In fact, they abhor it! While we believers all continue to struggle with sin after our new birth, it grieves us because we recognize that it grieves God.

Now, changing the subject a bit, I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that we often will use filters like these listed below in regards to the areas we perceive to be gray–such as entertainment and worldly activities. However, I would like to suggest we also use them in regards to the areas we don’t consider gray but, instead, have accepted as just part of our human existence (rather than viewing them as the sins they really are). So I would like to challenge you to view your fear and anxiety; your anger and pride; how you talk about others; how you respond when someone confronts you; your selfishness and your self-absorption through these filters, as well. If any of you are like me, you will be stunned to find out just how much you do that has ungodly roots.

Okay! On to the filters. These are directly from my sermon notes yesterday–

1. The Biblical Filter(James 1:22; Matthew 7:24)

What are the biblical instructions, standards, and principles that apply to this decision or activity?

2. The Kingdom Filter(Matthew 6:33)

Does my decision clearly reflect that Jesus Christ is on the throne of my life?

3. The Faith Filter(Romans 14:23)

Is the choice you are about to make a clear reflection and result of your faith in Jesus Christ?

4. The Approval Filter(Galatians 1:10)

Is the decision you are making a result of pressure from others or is it rooted in seeking the approval of God?

5. The Influence Filter(Romans 14:21; Mark 9:42)

Can you in good conscience say to all who might be watching: “Do what I am doing and it will lead you closer to Christ.”

6. The Impact Filter(I Corinthians 10:23-33; 2 Timothy 2:15-26)

How will your choice reflect on the reputation of the Christian faith?

7. The Ultimate Filter(I Corinthians 10:31)

Does your decision and behavior bring glory to God?

As pastor Chan worked his way through these filters, I recognized that there is so little gray, after all. When we run our choices, thoughts, and words through these filters it becomes so much more obvious, doesn’t it? We like to say there is gray because it lets us keep one foot in the world, while still claiming Christ. It lets us live in our flesh, while enjoying all the benefits of heaven. But if we cast aside our fleshly, selfish, and worldly desires and honestly run all we do through these filters, much of the gray falls away and we are left looking at a picture that is black and white. It’s not what the worldly church wants to hear, but it is the truth.

I hope these will help you filter the gray in your life as it has helped me. Thankfully, we are not alone in this process. If we are a believer, then God has given us His Word for just this purpose and He has also given us the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us as we look to His Word for living the Christian life victoriously.

(By the way, sometimes we can get so mired in the mud of worldliness or anxiety or busyness or any number of things and, suddenly, we find that we have let the gray seep into our lives. And so that’s when we must get out of the mud, take a shower, and begin again. That’s where I find myself this morning and I hope that a few of you will join me. I am so grateful for a God that keeps forgiving. Aren’t you? Today is the perfect day for a new start!)

Please note: You can listen to Pastor Chan’s sermon here.

A Lop-Sided Faith


The other day someone shared an article with me. They were disturbed by the post’s point and wondered what my opinion was. The blog post was a call to share in brokenness and dysfunction together. To look for the little bright spots in the state the writer found herself in, rather than sharing that there is a possibility and great potential to fix the situation, by applying the Word of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

If that seems vague, it is because it is intentionally so. I have no interest in throwing this blogger under the bus, so to speak. I just see this as another post that is encouraging Christians in a lop-sided faith.

Have you, too, noticed the propensity of this? The “Christians” of today want a faith that makes them feel less guilty about their sin. They want an encouraging, build-me-up kind of faith. They don’t really want to deals with their sins (or the sinful self-wills of their children). They have no interest in the hard work it takes to grow in holiness and purity. Since it is much easier–at least in the short-term–to stay in that bad place, it is quite comforting to have someone tell you that it is okay to be there.

Of course, there is a fine line we walk here, though. Since we are all sinful and we all do struggle, an encouraging word is such a blessing! It is so comforting to know we aren’t alone in our struggles. So I am not suggesting that we don’t post and share these things. No, that is not it at all.

What I am concerned about is that we share only these things.

The Christian faith is one of building up but it is also one of holiness. It is one of encouragement but it is also one of self-examination. It is one of growing–through words that build up and words that confront sin.

If you find yourself only drawn to posts that comfort and build you up, may I encourage you to also read and look for posts that challenge you to grow and take you out of your comfort zone and into the scriptures?

While there are an abundance of verses that comfort and build us up, there are just as many verses that challenge and confront our sin. We must be so careful to keep a balanced view of the Bible and of our faith.

Balanced writers will share their struggles but they will also offer challenging words from the Bible to confront their own sin, as well as yours. Bible-centered writing will view all of life through the lens of scripture, rather than through the broken and dirty lens of our culture. It is my hope that this is what you will find here at Growing 4 Life and–if it is not–that you will let me know. I want to encourage and to challenge you. I hope to do both. Because this is what the Bible does for us.

The Bible is the perfect Word of God–offering us both God’s love and forgiveness in our sinful, broken state and yet challenging us to grow holier and purer with each passing moment. It calls us to love but it also calls us to truth. It calls us to be kind but it also calls us to discern. It speaks of God’s amazing grace while still calling us to moral purity. It gives us hope for eternity, while challenging us to run the race of life well in the here and now of a fallen world.

It is my hope that you will find all of this here, as well. Not in perfection, of course, since I am not perfect, but in a way that shows that I love the Word of God so much that I build by life –and this blog–upon it.

And it is my hope that I will encourage you to do the same–to build your life upon the whole Word of God and not just the passages and verses that make you feel better. It is in this way that we have a whole and sound faith to see us through all of the storms of life. It is in this way that we grow more holy and pure. And it is in this way that we have eyes opened to the false doctrine that is all around us, even within our own churches.

Let’s keep the whole counsel of God’s Word as we move forth in our Christian life, instead of falling prey to the lop-sided faith that is so prevalent today.



Beautifully and Naturally Changed


We were about halfway to church when I realized it. I sighed and looked in my car mirror, just to be sure. Yep. It was true: I had totally forgotten to put on my make-up. Distracted during my morning routine, I remembered that I had never gone back to the bathroom mirror to finish getting ready.

I don’t actually wear that much make-up but it still felt strange going to church without it. I looked at my husband.

“I forgot to put on my makeup. Can you tell?”

“Nahhh. It’s summer. You are tan. It’s not a big deal.”

Not that it mattered. We weren’t turning around for such an insignificant reason, anyway. We drove on to church and worshiped, as usual.

In the winter, our skin is lighter but in the summer it tans to a nice golden brown if we spend time in the sun. Since there wasn’t any sunscreen for thousands of years, we can only imagine that God designed our skin this way. And when we are tan we look healthier for some reason. (Even though the latest craze from the medical world is to encourage us to wear sunscreen 24/7 and not let a bit of sun stain our skin.)

So what does this have to do with anything?

Well, I was thinking about how not wearing my makeup was so much less noticeable in the summer than it would have been in the winter and I realized that this is very similar to a dynamic that goes on in many churches, in that–

Good works is the “make-up” that those claiming to know Christ will use when they haven’t actually been transformed by Christ.

Let me explain–

We have all heard of the “good Christian man” who is caught with a prostitute or declares bankruptcy due to a gambling addiction. We have heard of the woman that up and leaves her family out of the blue or gives evidence that she is an alcoholic after hiding it for many years. Et cetera, et cetera. So many of these cases, so many different details, but all the same thing: Someone whom we thought was godly was actually not godly at all, as evidenced by their following after sin and never turning back from it with a repentant heart.

These types of people have worn the make-up of good works–some for many, many years. But what was missing was the golden tan of a heart transformed by the love of the Savior. You see, we can look pretty good to the church if we will simply step up and do the right thing–serve in the kitchen or on the coffee committee, serve as a church leader, teach Sunday School, work in the sound booth, greet people on a Sunday, or minister to children (to name just a few). These things make us look holy–even though we might not be. They give us the “make-up” we need to look presentable at church.

Many people put on a good show, while in the privacy of their own homes or offices, they are not really all that sold out for God as they live a life that is consumed with selfish desires. Some are living a life that is in complete opposition to the one they are portraying at church.

This is a great reminder that we should always be sure to confirm that our own good works are originating from a changed heart and not from some outward putting on of “righteous works” in order to make us look good to others.

Jesus points out a clear example of this in the lives of the Pharisees, who on the outside looked holy and pure but on the inside were wicked and unchanged by God. He puts it like this in Luke 11:39-40–

Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. 40 Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?

So let’s be sure that our outward behavior is a reflection of a changed heart and never the means we use to look “holy” to our church family on Sundays while living to please ourselves the rest of the week.

A beautifully changed heart will always yield a life that is also beautifully–and naturally–changed on the outside.


Learn to Discern: Knowing When to Speak Up

Learn to Discern (with blog name)

I was mindlessly moving a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer. My mind was on other things and I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing. Without thinking, I grabbed a dime that was laying near the dryer’s lint trap and tossed it in the trash.


I looked at the trash and I pondered the worth of the dime. And then I turned back to my task. I simply did not find the dime to be valuable enough to warrant digging through the trashcan. This made me wonder about what amount of money I would consider worth digging in the trash? A quarter? A dollar? At what point would I deem the amount valuable enough that it would propel me to work to get it back?

I think we need to consider this same principle when we are looking at discernment. Recently, there was a huge “to-do” in the discernment world (if you aren’t familiar with what’s going on, I am not going to fill you in. I have no desire to give it any more attention than it has already received). But what I saw happening there was someone who was making a huge deal over a “dime”. While I did agree with this person’s point of view on the subject matter at hand, I did not see that it was worth a fight. A few other Christian leaders had the same opinion as me and ended up being maligned by this other man who thought everyone else should be making as big a deal over this “dime” as he was!

One of the hardest things we must learn to do as we grow in discernment is know when something is worth a confrontation. Romans 12:18 teaches us that we are to be at peace with all men, as much as it is up to us. This is an important verse, giving us a framework in which we are to live all of life. Unfortunately, this is not going to always be possible. We know from scripture that we are going to be hated by the world and that there will be many false teachers. This naturally means that we will have some run-ins, as we try to stand for the truth.

So, how exactly do we know if something is important enough to speak up about in our families, churches, or anywhere else?

Here are a few guidelines to follow–

1. The situation at hand is about God, His Word, and His reputation. This is by far the most important key to discerning when something is important enough to stand up for. It should never be about our pride, our reputation, our importance, our need to prove ourselves. Something that is worth standing up for will always be about God’s glory and about protecting the truth of God’s Word.

It is never about ME. 

But this is oh, so tempting, isn’t it? Sometimes it is hard to discern if we are standing for God or for our own pride. We have this need to prove ourselves or to be “right” and we can get all entangled in our own selfish agenda–sometimes even when are standing up for the true and right thing! We must have humble hearts that are on the constant look-out for sins like pride, selfishness, and anger. And let’s regularly ask the Lord for a right heart and attitude and that He will fill us with His love and grace as we fight the good fight.

2. It is morally wrong. There are an abundance of verses expounding on the things that are an offense to our Holy God. We know that sexual sins, lying, sorcery, anger, pride etc. are always wrong and therefore should be something that those who claim to be Christians should avoid. (Check out these passages for more clarity and detail on the sins that God hates: Exodus 20:1-17; Colossians 3:5-6; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:1-7.)

If we know God hates these things, then this should be our guideline of things we want to avoid in all aspects of our lives. This would include our entertainment, which is something that believers mostly ignore now and, for some reason, practice a strange “disconnect”–as if somehow this is irrelevant from the rest of their spiritual health.

We should–we must–stand for pure and holy living. God’s Word clearly teaches that, as regenerated souls, we are to live pure and holy lives that are clearly different and separated from the world (I Peter 1:15-16; Jude 1:20; Philippians 1:9-10; 2 Timothy 2:22; Romans 12:1-2; I Peter 2:9; Romans 13:13-14; Colossians 3:10).

This is not a wildly popular thing to stand for. In fact, it is not even marginally popular. But we need to speak up because God’s glory and reputation are damaged by those who live worldly, sinful lives while claiming to belong to Him.

3. Scripture is misinterpreted and twisted. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 tells us this: So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Since scripture was written there has been an accepted interpretation. Oh, there have been councils and meetings to discuss things, but God has miraculously protected the integrity of scripture throughout the years. However, Satan is always trying to mess with it just enough that he will mislead people. He has done this through the ages, but I highly doubt it has ever been so much as right now.

When someone gives some wild, out-of-context interpretation of scripture it is time to stand up! When someone tries to rationalize worldliness, homosexuality, evolution, or any other ungodly sin or philosophy, it is time to stand for the truth of God’s Word. We cannot let our enemy win this battle –for this is the battle’s core. Is scripture 100% true, inerrant, and inspired, or isn’t it? Because we know it is, we must speak up when it’s maligned.

Of course, the problem with this is that most of us do not have enough biblical knowledge to really provide a biblical defense. This is really why I write. I want to encourage you to know the Word so that you can live godly lives and contend for the faith.

Josh Buice writes this: The absolute best method of testing a theology or a popular catch phrase is by Scripture. If any teaching will stand the intense scrutiny of Scripture, it proves itself to be a trustworthy doctrine. This is true on all matters of theology—from bumper stickers to historic creeds and confessions. The question that we must be asking ourselves as we build our positions is, “What does the Bible say?”

Yes, yes, yes! This is exactly right. You see, the Bible isn’t all that hard to understand. If we accept the Bible as it is written, literally, it all makes so much sense. And, even more amazing, the facts presented in science (I am talking about facts and not theories) and the historical record supports it all! You will find it incredible and even miraculous when you give yourself to serious study of this amazing book. But we don’t know because we don’t study. And– if I may be so bold–we don’t study because we don’t care. Oh, if this blog accomplishes one things –I hope it is that you would start to care about growing in your knowledge of the Word of God!

4. Christ’s role is diminished. Oh, how many false teachers diminish the role of Christ. If you are deciding whether something is worth the fight, ask yourself this: How do they treat Christ? Do they turn His sacrifice on the cross into a mere event? Do they teach that Christ is one of many ways to be reconciled to God? Do they teach that man is basically good and that Jesus is just a good example to follow? Do they teach that Christ is there to do one’s bidding? Do they teach that Christ is simply a good teacher? You will be surprised how even the most mainstream teachers and authors are teaching error in regards to Christ. And this is worth the fight! While Jesus Christ is the theme of the whole Bible (yes, even the Old Testament!), you can start by reading the Gospels. This is a great place to get started in knowing your Savior and will help you to defend Him!

5. Primary Christian Doctrines are compromised. As believers, we do need to know doctrine (contrary to what you have probably been told). Being unfamiliar with words like justification, sanctification, and glorification leaves you vulnerable to false teachers. Having at least a basic understanding of what the Bible teaches about (to name a few) the Trinity, God’s Sovereignty, salvation, God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and about the Church strengthen and prepare you for the vicious and unrelenting attacks that Satan wages against these doctrines. (Understanding what the Bible teaches us about the the last days and about Israel are secondary issues but are still beneficial–and interesting!– to study.) Find a good resource, such as Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue and start increasing your knowledge. If you’d rather have something a little less intimidating and not quite as deep, try Fundamentals of the Faith by MacArthur, which is a 13-week guided study of basic Christian doctrines.

6. Be socially wise. Now, with the final two items on this list, we are moving from biblical compromise to having social discernment. If someone you barely knows starts sharing about how much they love The Shack or Jesus Calling, don’t start off on a long monologue on why they are not doctrinally sound books. Go ahead and say something casually and if they express interest, then, by all means, have a conversation. But don’t confront acquaintances and strangers. They have absolutely no reason to listen to you. Gauge their interest and be wise. And, most importantly, pray for them.

7. Consider the spirit of the person you are confronting.  We must evaluate the person we are speaking to and ask ourselves: Is this person humble or proud? You see, if you are dealing with someone who thinks they know everything, who won’t bend, who doesn’t listen, then feel free to bring up your concern, but don’t argue or debate with them. Only the Holy Spirit can remove that blind pride. You could talk for forever and not move them an inch. So allow the Lord to use you to plant His seeds and to challenge them with some thoughts but do not become a thorn in their side that pricks at every opportunity. This is not how we practice discernment.


This is not an exhaustive list. Practicing biblical discernment is no picnic and I can honestly tell you that there is little personal reward for speaking up. I have mentioned this before and I will mention it again–most people do not want to hear. And because they do not want to hear, they will view you as (and call you) all kinds of negative things. But don’t let this stop you because we know that the truth of the Bible has the power to save! We know that the souls of those who are deceived and lost are going to hell! We know how this all ends! We know what is coming in the future! Let’s keep our eyes focused on what is important and not get embroiled in our hurt feelings and relational skirmishes here on earth. Study the Word and don’t be afraid to speak up when you must!


Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12

The Only Time It Is Okay to Be a Hypocrite


Hypocrisy is such an ugly word, isn’t it? It is defined as: Behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel. (from Merriam-Webster.com)

All of us, at one time or another, have probably played the part of a hypocrite. We have claimed to believe one thing when we are with one group of friends but our actions contradict our claims when we are with another group of friends. Some are worse at this than others.

And the basic consensus of all human beings since the beginning of time is that hypocrisy is bad. And it is! It is never good to pretend you are something you are not. Or to say you believe something with your mouth but then deny that belief with your actions.

But there is one time that being a hypocrite is not only good but also very helpful.

Curious, yet?

I have struggled my whole life with being a slave to my feelings. If I didn’t feel like reading the Bible, I didn’t. If I felt like eating a sugary snack, I ate it. Thankfully, I have grown and continue to grow in this area, but it continues to be a struggle, particularly when change happens in my life. This is always the time that my feelings rise up and scream to be heard–and when I am most tempted to listen.

But the other day, I heard someone say this: Be a hypocrite to your feelings.


A million times yes!!

So often we hear people say things like this–

I can’t act like I love my husband if I don’t feel like I love him. That would be hypocritical.

I don’t want to read the Bible if I don’t feel like reading the Bible. That would seem hypocritical.

But feelings are the one thing we can and should play the hypocrite to. In fact, we must act differently than our feelings on most occasions. While feelings can help us process and determine certain things about ourselves, they should most certainly never dictate our behavior.

As I have watched our world go from objective, absolute truth to subjective, you-decide-what’s-true-for-you truth, I have seen the dictatorship of feelings take over the souls of many people–even Christians. It is often the reason for sporadic church attendance. It is the reason for family quarrels and fights. It is the reason for the dearth of Christians who pray and study their Bibles. Feelings are dictating behavior.

The interesting and wonderful thing about feelings is that they are very…convertible. Strange word to use, I know, but I couldn’t think of a better one. When we do the right thing– in spite of our feelings– our feelings pretty quickly get with the program and usually convert into the proper ones we should be having.

For example, when I feel irritated with my husband but I choose to treat him in a kind and loving way, I will start feeling like I love him again.

Or when I feel lazy and I don’t want to read my Bible and pray but I do it, anyway, I will often feel motivated afterwards.

Of course, this is not some magic solution and sometimes our feelings are sluggish to follow. And perhaps for some they never change. It doesn’t matter. We do what is right because it is right. We should never let feelings be our guide.

And this leads us to one other thing closely related to this: The frequent statements Christians often make regarding God’s input in their feelings. How often have you heard someone say something like this–“I feel like God…” or “God impressed upon me…”? I even catch myself sometimes saying things like “Well, I feel like God is wanting me to do this or that”. But if our feelings are so unreliable, how could we know if it is God or just some whim of our own? Oh, how much better off we are with a rational faith based solely on the Word of God than on our own ambiguous and fluctuating feelings!

So be a hypocrite to your feelings! Tell yourself that no matter what you feel, you are going to ignore it and do what is right anyway. And be thankful for the times your feelings do match your actions. They are marvelous times of blessing that motivate us to continue on the path of godliness.



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