Spiritual Growth

How Would Someone Describe You?

If someone were to come across a description of you a few hundred years from now, what would it say? How do people see you?

Last night I read this description of someone who lived hundreds of years ago. I am sure you never heard of her but this is what the Bishop of London wrote about this lady named Margaret Middleton–

Beilby Porteus, Bishop of London, wrote of Margaret Middleton that ‘the great and distinguishing feature of her character was an active and indefatigable spirit of benevolence, which extended even to the brute creation, and which kept her mind so constantly on the stretch in seeking out opportunities of promoting in every possible way the ease, the comfort, the prosperity, the happiness temporal and eternal, of all within her reach that she seemed to have no time left for anything else and scarce ever appeared to bestow a single thought upon herself …’*

As I read and then re-read that, I was struck with conviction. Particularly by that last line “never appeared to bestow a single thought upon herself”.

How opposite of the culture today, where self has become the only thing that matters to most people. Even we Christians have been sucked into this cult of self. Viewing their happiness as premium, some lack commitment to family, church, and job as they constantly seek to fulfill their own selfish whims and dreams. Others of us have it play out much more subtly. We sulk or yell if we don’t get our way. We might give the silent treatment or walk away. Some of us may manipulate and scheme as we try to make ourselves happy. We fill our minds with ungodly entertainment that our flesh desires–even though we know it goes directly against scripture. We may indulge ourselves by buying stuff, oftentimes even going into debt to do so. Our time is often spent on selfish pursuits that have no eternal value.

Think of the utter contrast this lifestyle is to the description of Margaret Middleton.

So what would someone say about me? Am I more concerned with pleasing God than I am in pleasing myself? Am I concerned with the eternal and not just the temporal? Am I constantly looking for opportunities in which to help and encourage others?

Perhaps these are good questions for us all.

True Christianity is thinking less and less of self as we grow in Christ. How important that we don’t get it confused with that false “Christianity” where self is king and God a mere genie who is to do our bidding.

This is a difficult culture to thrive in for us people who are naturally selfish (like me). We are told that our natural, fleshly inclinations of self-indulgence and pursuits of our own desires are healthy and deserving of our attention. But this is not what the Bible says at all. Shall we take a look? (I’ve underlined the clear teaching that shows us what Christ thinks of selfish living)–

Matthew 16:24Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

Galatians 5:16-21I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 

These scripture passages certainly go against the flow of not only the secular culture but also against what’s being taught in most churches. I believe selfishness has become a very accepted sin and that we Christians easily explain it away without giving it much thought at all.

And yet…this is not what scripture teaches. In fact, it teaches the very opposite.

And so we must strive every single day–even every hour–to crucify our flesh and to turn away from our selfish desires and to stop worrying so much about our happiness. In fact, to not intentionally do so means that, by default, we join the throng of humanity as described in the last days–

2 Timothy 3:1-5But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, [b]unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

Instead of turning away from them, we are them.

Oh, may it not be said of us. May we turn away from our selfish desires and pursuit of happiness, knowing that it isn’t in this life that we will receive our reward. May we remember that the eternity that awaits us is far better than anything we could ever dream or imagine. And may we never forget that chasing after our own pursuits and pleasure never leads to true and lasting happiness anyway.

But, most importantly, may we fall more and more in love with the Savior, so that we become less enamored with worldly pursuits and pleasures and more dedicated and determined to do the Father’s will.

So what would someone write about us? How are we viewed? No matter the answer, today is the first day of the rest of our lives.

It is a great day to continue steadfastly, begin again, or to get started for the very first time to live a life of pleasing God with the time He has so graciously given us to live on this earth. It’s a great day to pick up our cross, start denying ourselves, and intentionally turning our attention to how we can help and support those around us.

It’s never too late to live our lives for Jesus and the time to change is now.

 

 

*Pollock, John. A Fistful of Heroes . Christian Focus Publications. Kindle Edition.

**You can find out more about Margaret Middleton here.

 

How Studying the Bible Changes You

I was so perplexed and started to grow angry. Was she kidding? No, there was an unpleasant glint in her eye that gave credence to her words.

My daughter had been given permission from the guy at the top of the bridge to have her baby’s car seat in the plane. When we arrived in the plane, the stewardess informed us in no uncertain terms that this would not be possible. She condescendingly told us it was a full flight and she highly doubted there would be room for his seat. But the plane was far from full. So not only was she rude but she lied. We did question why permission was given at the top, which seemed to set her against us. She continued her churlishness with us throughout the flight. This same stewardess was quite rude to the rest of family behind us as they made legitimate requests. It’s hard to believe that someone like that has a job working with people.

A few moments before the flight started, a man came and very kindly explained that, due to Covid, car seats were no longer allowed on the smaller planes. While this didn’t make any sense to us at all, his calm and kind manner as he explained was comforting after the stinging meanness of the stewardess. (They all seemed to be rather confused as to protocol regarding car seats and the rules about them. It was very disorganized. It does seem like we now live in a world where anything and everything can be blamed on Covid. It’s actually very strange.)

As we taxied on the runway and then took off, I could feel myself growing angrier and angrier at this woman. I wanted nothing more than to be rude back to her. But about fifteen or twenty minutes in, as I started to settle down, it dawned on me that she was very likely unsaved and that I had a Christian testimony to keep. While I (to my shame) did not go out of my way to “kill her with kindness”, I did manage to hold my tongue and to mumble a “thank you” a time or two as she brought things by.

I do long for the day that I can overcome my flesh in these situations and actually be extra kind when someone is so incredibly rude to me (or my child.) But Sunday was not that day.

The next morning, I was reading in Matthew and I came across these verses in chapter six–

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

I thought about this lady from the day before and remembered the danger of holding grudges. I thought of how anger and bitterness shatter all relationships–whether it be with a stranger, a customer, a person at church, a friend, or a family member.

Unforgiveness and bitterness destroy everything in their path. It can never be allowed to set up residence in our soul. Even over the small matter of an extra-ordinarily rude stewardess. At that moment, I chose to forgive her. I wished I had been able to do that on the plane so that I could have been a better testimony. I will probably never see her again and that chance is gone.

So, honestly, I am not a big one for flying. Flying with masks is far worse. But the thing that had me the most worried was that all of the women, save one, in our family were on the same plane for four different flights. About two weeks before we had left this hit me and I grew incredibly worried about something happening to all of us at the same time. Enter Matthew, chapter six again. It was from the end of that chapter that I drew much comfort and chose to trust the Lord.

You see, in the Growing4Life Bible Reading Challenge we have been reading Matthew 5-8, which contains the Sermon on the Mount. There have been so many times that what I have been reading and studying over this past month have been practically applied to my daily life. I gave just two examples above but there are so many more. The scriptures have exhorted, reminded, encouraged, and rebuked me. They truly are life-changing.

Any good in me, any right response, is the Holy Spirit working through the Word to transform me and make me look more like Christ. It has nothing whatsoever to do with me or my efforts to be a “better person”.

I wish I could get every single person who claims to love Jesus to actually study the Word. It would change the world because it changes the individual.

If you’d like to study the Bible but aren’t sure where to begin, I’d like to invite you to join this year’s Bible Reading Challenge. It’s a great time to join because we will begin the book of Ruth on April 1st. You can find the details here. I would love to have you join me in studying God’s Word.

But any study of God’s Word is life-changing. The key is to get started. Paul tells us in I Timothy 3:16-17–

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

If we want to be transformed by the Word, it will require study and meditation. Cursorily reading it isn’t a bad thing but it could be compared to a lollipop in its sustenance regarding our spiritual health.

Life happens. Every day we face various trials and challenges. Big ones and small ones. We face rude stewardesses, customer service reps, and clerks. We find out a company scammed us or cheated us or didn’t receive our payment. We learn that our child or spouse or family member did something very disappointing. We find out that someone passed away, is getting divorced, or has been diagnosed with illness.

God has told us how to respond to these things and so much more in His Word. But if we don’t know it, we are missing out on the greatest strength and guidance God has offered us. Let us not ignore this wonderful gift God has given us for this life.

 

 

Finding the “Whys” to our “Whats”

In reading the first four chapters of Matthew yesterday, I came across something that I had never really considered before. In those first four chapters alone, there were seven fulfilled prophecies from the Old Testament. Seven very specific prophecies. I encourage you to go look at them for yourself.

So you may be thinking “what’s the big deal”?

Well, as I was reading these I realized that if God fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament very specifically in the first coming of Jesus, why wouldn’t He do so again in the second coming? And if He filled the prophecies of the Old Testament so specifically, why wouldn’t He do the same for the New Testament prophecies?

I think it is always good to really consider why we believe what we believe. If we believe Revelation will be fulfilled literally, then why do we believe that? If we don’t believe that, then why don’t we believe that?

If we are honest, most of us our beliefs go back to what we were taught at home, what we were taught in our church denominations, or what we were taught by a favorite celebrity pastor or teacher.

It’s so important that we know not only what we believe but why we believe it. Without the “why”, the “what” will be flimsy, weak, and vulnerable to change and to false doctrine.

(And, actually, I do believe this is one of the major reasons you see much of the younger generation leaving the biblical churches. They were never given a “why” and the “what” without the “why” is like a personal invitation to deception. It’s up to us parents to make sure our children know why we believe what we do. And, actually, many children don’t even know the what. How important that we be discussing the stuff that matters with our kids, grandkids, and anyone else that we come into contact with. It might feel strange at first, but if we intentionally work at this, there will be much fruit. But I digress…!)

As we intentionally start working to find out our “whys” to the “whats” of our biblical beliefs, there are a few very important steps we must take before we get started.

First, we must humble ourselves. Psalm 25:29 explains why:

He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

As does Proverbs 11:2:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

Pride is the opposite of humility and it is the one great sin of all mankind. We all struggle with it, whether we would admit it or not. In fact, often in our public shows of “humility”, we are most prideful!

Pride is what keeps people from God, plain and simple. They pridefully think they are a “good enough” person that God will accept them. It is only with humility that we can first see ourselves as we really are–a sinner in need of a Savior. But, Christians, we need to keep growing in this area of humility even after we are saved. We need to be examining ourselves and our actions to see if we truly have a humble heart or if we have just fooled ourselves.

God has convicted me over and over again regarding this area of my life. Even a simple argument with my husband shows me just how prideful I really am. Our responses to criticism and praise, our “teachability”, our willingness to admit flaws and failures–these all can show us just how humble we truly are.

Second, we must be willing to embrace what we don’t like or care for. A few years back, a ministry came out with a book that claimed that Calvinism was a heretical doctrine and that people who believed in it weren’t saved. I was quite taken aback by such a claim and re-evaluated why I believe what I believe, in relation to this whole Calvinism/Arminianism debate (and just for the record, I landed exactly where I had been before that book came out, which is staunchly in the area of biblical truth where we learn that we are chosen by God but that it runs parallel with free will in a way we could never possibly understand. I highly recommend the sermon titled Twin Truths: God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility by John MacArthur if you, too, are struggling with this debate that never seems to go away.)But to get to my point: Something that this ministry wrote in their email introducing this book with its unbiblical conclusion really spoke volumes as to why their premise was all wrong. As they explained why they wrote the book, there was a sentence that began like this: “We cannot believe in a God who…”

Whoah. Wait just a minute. We don’t have that right! We don’t get to say what we can or cannot believe about God. We must read and study the Bible with a heart willing to accept even the doctrines we don’t like.

This is not a popular concept these days, is it? Election (Ephesians 1:4-6), eternal hell (Matthew 10:29), salvation without evidence of a changed life isn’t salvation at all (Matthew 7:20) and many other “unpleasant” doctrines are being eliminated because people just don’t like them (I might add that I offer only one verse of many that prove these unpopular doctrines are true.)

And, let’s be honest, no one really likes these doctrines. They are difficult to understand and come with ramifications that make us so very heavy-hearted.

And so, as a result of this, we see so many people doing literary back flips and cartwheels in their efforts to change what the Word really says. In contrast, we need to approach God’s Word with a heart willing to believe and obey even when what we read is abhorrent to us.

Third, we must be outfitted in the complete Christian Armor. The truth has never really been popular, but perhaps that has never been so true than right now. If we choose to humbly and willingly trust, obey, and proclaim all of God’s Word (and not just the parts that are pleasant), we must be ready for the darts and arrows of the enemy. These will come not only from antagonistic, angry people, but they will come from the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). We cannot fight or even continue to stand on our own strength. No human courage can withstand these deadly attacks. We must put on our full armor so that we are able to stand strong and firm. Find the complete armor we have been given to wear in Ephesians 6:10-20.

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It’s funny, this post ended up being nothing like I planned. At all. But I do hope it was an encouragement and challenge to all of us as we strive to live whole-heartedly for Jesus. May we give great efforts to grow in humility, yield wholly to God, and to be protected by the armor God has given us, all while recognizing that it is the Holy Spirit that works in us for God’s glory and our good.

 

Loving a Lie

Lies are told all the time and everywhere. Children to their parents. Employees to their bosses. Citizens to their tax collectors. Reporters to their readers. Politicians to their hearers.

Lying seems to be very normal and rather frequent in this world. And we should expect this, given that Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).

But I never really thought too much before about how our lives may be affected if we choose to love the lie we are being told. And then I read this verse yesterday in Revelation 22 (v 15) about who won’t be in heaven–

But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

Now, we know that these people aren’t in heaven because they have never repented of their sin. Jesus’s blood covers all of the sins listed above, so that there will be former murderers, sexually immoral, and all other kinds of wicked sinners walking those streets of gold with us. And, in fact, may we remember that we, too, were part of that group listed above.

But that last phrase caught my eye: Whoever loves a lie.

I am amazed at how Satan inspires vain and humanistic philosophies as well as twists and perverts scripture to confuse and lead people astray when it comes to their eternal destiny. For this is the lie that really matters, is it not? The Gospel, if not presented as the Bible teaches, can be twisted beyond recognition. And it often is.

Think with me, if you will, about some of the more common lies the world believes about salvation and how to get to heaven–

I believe I just need to be a good person and/or follow a certain set of rules. (Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and just about anyone you meet anywhere in the world.)

I believe that Jesus and my good works/following a certain set of rules will save me. (Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Legalism)

I believe that a prayer I said at camp when I was a kid is enough to guarantee my salvation and I can then go on to live my life however I want, fulfilling my own dreams and pursuing what I want. I’m not convicted of sin, because I know God will forgive me for my sleeping with my girlfriend or cheating on my taxes. (Mainstream Christianity).

I believe that God exists to please and bless me. (Prosperity Gospel).

I believe Jesus died for everyone and all people are going to heaven. (Universalism)

These are lies that most of the world believes in one form or another. Satan is extremely deceptive and so he offers a smorgasbord of options–some that are far off from the real Gospel and some that are just a teeny tiny bit off from it. He doesn’t care which lie people believe, as long as they believe, love, and practice the lie.

The very sobering fact is that loving a lie about how we get to heaven is damning.

But let’s take it a step further, shall we? Loving a lie is always harmful, even if that lie is about our child or spouse or anyone else. When we refuse to face the truth, that lie has the potential of doing great damage.

God hates lies. I wonder if this is because He knows how much damage it causes in the lives of us humans.

This is why it is incredibly important that, instead of loving lies (at worst) or being careless and apathetic (at best), we passionately search for truth. There is no more important way to do this than through knowing and studying God’s Word. This must be our grid through which we run every single story, personal experience, philosophy, or religious demand we are ever told. We run every blog post, book, sermon, news article, TV show, and every single conversation we have with family, friends, co-workers, and even mentors and church leaders, through this grid.

You see, because the Bible is the inerrant (meaning without error), absolute true Word of God, this is the only protection we have from any lie but, most importantly, it’s the only protection we have from the eternally damning lie of a false Gospel.

So don’t love a lie! Know the Word so that you can compare anything you hear to it. Know the Word so that the lies show themselves to be what they really are. And then pray. Pray that God will reveal the truth to you through his Holy Spirit.

As believers, we desire to LOVE the TRUTH. We desire to love the truth of God’s Word more than we love our families, our friends, our churches, our jobs, our homes. As we grow in our understanding and comprehension of the awesomeness of God and His Word, we will grow in this love for truth.

If you don’t have it yet, don’t despair. Dig into the Word without preconceived notions and, as you do this, you will love it more and more deeply. You will find yourself recognizing the lies and being less and less willing to compromise on biblical issues. You will find the lies less and less appealing and your love for truth deepening as you grow in your knowledge of the Word.

So let’s not be like the rest of the world or even the mainstream church.

Instead, may we love the truth and hate the lies!

 

Who Me? I’d Never Hold a Grudge…

Recently, I saw someone say something rather unkind to someone. The person being spoken to had every opportunity to get offended or defensive, but they just laughed and let it roll right off their back. The humility in that response was also played out in the next hours and days, never affecting the relationship.

Lord, I want to be like that.

How often do we allow harsh words, trivial disagreements, or gossip to destroy our relationships? How often do we let really big disagreements destroy them?

If we are a Christian, this just should not be.

We all know the scriptures, don’t we? We are to forgive others (Matthew 6:12-15; Luke 17:3; Colossians 3:13, etc) What we sometimes forget is that this isn’t just the big, ghastly things that are obvious.

This is about the sarcastic remark spoken to you by a family member.

This is about the harsh words lashed out after you made a mistake.

This is about the time that friend embarrassed you in front of everyone.

I believe grudge-holding is one of the worst and most accepted sins in the church today. For some reason, Christians seem to brush this sin aside.

Oh, many pretend they are okay but they start distancing themselves. Suddenly, they aren’t calling or texting that friend anymore. They are avoiding a family member. The relationship has changed, no matter what they say about forgiving that person with their mouth.

I think the current events have me thinking about this a bit more. There’s so much division. The opinions held by people are at extreme odds. Disagreements and ugly arguments are a regular part of social media these days. They may even be part of your own family or circle of friends.

And then there is the uncertainty. I mean we always knew way down deep inside that life can change in a second. If you’ve lost someone you love, you know this. But somehow, with everything up in the air and the future a deep, unsettled fog around us, it reminds us of what’s really important.

And our relationships rank pretty high up on the list of what’s important.

So what destroys them? Why do we let a thoughtless word or sarcastic comment get to us? Why do we struggle so to forgive?

I believe it can be summed up in one word: PRIDE.

Pride is deadly. The longer I live, the more deadly I realize it is. It makes us prickly and quick to defend ourselves. It is the root of all grudge-holding and of an unforgiving spirit.

The other evening, my family brought up something rather embarrassing about me in front of someone I didn’t know very well.

My normal reaction would be to defend myself and get a bit blustery about it. But at that moment, God gave me the strength to respond in the right way. I laughed with them and admitted my fault in what they were discussing.

A bit later, my husband commented on how well I had handled that moment.

You see, I don’t usually respond so well. It felt unnatural to do so. But, afterwards, I knew in my heart I had done the right thing.

Not only had I cast my pride aside, but I had set a good example for my family.

I don’t hold myself up as any icon of humility. This is abnormal for me. I am not saying “look at me”. I’m saying this is what happened one time and it was good. Why don’t I do it more often?? Why can’t I get over myself?

Look, we all have our good moments and bad moments, right? Our hope is that our good moments grow and our bad moments diminish. But sometimes we just need to examine our lives. Where are we at? How are we changing for the better? Are we looking more like Christ?

And one area that we often skip in our examinations is this area of relationships. Am I easily offended? Do I hold grudges? Do I get defensive? Can I laugh at myself?

So how do we build stronger relationships?

If being easily offended and pride and holding grudges and not forgiving destroys them then we can assume that the opposite builds them.

1. Let things roll. When someone says something hurtful, we must choose to just let it roll. Right off our backs and far away. We should ask the Lord to help us forget it and move on.

2. Be humble. A big part of humility is thinking of others. It is taking the focus off of ourselves (and our wounded pride) and thinking of others. We should offer lots of grace and cast that ugly pride aside. This is often much easier said than done!

3. Listen carefully to words spoken and then respond with love. Instead of letting ourselves get so defensive and offended, why not actually listen to see if there is a nugget of truth in the words being spoken? Perhaps God is using that person to show us an area in which we need to grow? We should listen instead of lash out. Listen and then respond with love.

4. Learn to laugh at ourselves. Life is just too short to get all uptight and offended about the small stuff. If someone tells an embarrassing story, we may as well just laugh along with them. After all, it was funny! I have so many of these. So does my mom. I’ve learned from her well. She just laughs along and sets the greatest example of not taking herself too seriously. I thank her for teaching me that.

5. Agree to disagree. We aren’t going to agree with everyone. We don’t have to prove we are right. Our job is to point people to the Word and let the Holy Spirit do the convicting and convincing. When we remember this, it makes it so much easier to step back after we’ve made our argument and just walk away.

6. Pray for a humble and forgiving spirit. Ask the Lord to fill you with humility. Ask Him to help you forgive not only big things but the little things, too, that may eat at you. He is so faithful and He will help you!

If you are like me, you are still working on these. And may we be very intentional in our efforts. May this be something at the forefront of our minds so that we don’t allow grudges or a defensive spirit to worm their way into our lives.

Because I think we can all agree: Life is just too short and relationships are far too precious for this.

 

How We Shouldn’t Be (and Should Be) Changed in 2020 (PART 2)

A couple of weeks ago, I took some time to consider some ways we shouldn’t let the unprecedented, overwhelming, and strange events of 2020 change us. Although that post didn’t garner a lot of interest, I believe it is a very important post. Sometimes we are changed in the wrong ways before we even realize it. But all that is going on should be changing us–just in the right way!

If any of us attended a biblical church in the 70s and 80s, when biblical prophecy was both promoted and studied with enthusiasm, then we recognize the enormity of what is going on here. I am making no predictions and I have no timeline, but anyone who is familiar with Revelation has to understand that this isn’t just like any other past world event. It’s bigger. It’s broader. It’s taking us right into the Revelation 13 scenario that always seemed so far away. And yet, here it is: Right here and right now.

As we reflect on all of this, it should be changing us in several ways. Some of these changes have probably happened naturally to us as we have processed all of this, but some of these take a little more intention. As with any year, we never want to get to the end of it without seeing strong growth in our walk with the Lord. 2020 has probably caused this growth a bit more naturally for us as we’ve had to contemplate some really hard things. And some of you have also endured some really hard things. Life was definitely different this year.

So how should this strange year be changing us?

1. We should gain a new perspective. As I sat on the porch with my sister-in-law a few weeks ago, our conversation went to these current events. Both of us agreed that our priorities had changed with this whole thing. Suddenly, certain things that had seemed so important had gone down several notches on the list. Many things have claimed our attention in this world, haven’t they? Fashion, an obsession with a spotless house, useless hobbies, extra-curricular activities for ourselves and for our children and so many more shallow things have demanded our attention and taken so much of our time. While these things aren’t wrong in and of themselves, they may have had the wrong priority in our lives and in the lives of our families. But this year has demanded we take another look at these things and should be giving us a new perspective on our time and energy and how we are expending them.

2. This should change our expectations. Most of us Christians have gotten used to being treated fairly well by others. But we can feel this changing, can’t we? It’s been changing slowly for many years but this year it has taken on warp speed. We know the Bible says that the world will hate us (John 15:18-19) but up until now we haven’t felt too much hatred. The part that makes this extra hard is that so many “Christians” are actually part of the world. And so we feel ostracized and ridiculed by those who would call themselves our brothers and sisters in Christ. However, upon a little further investigation, we can see that they are serving a different Christ. The remnant that is remaining true to God’s Word is shrinking dramatically during this time and that’s just how the Bible said it would be. As we endure and come to expect the hatred that is growing quickly now for those who hold to the literal understanding of God’s Word, may we remember we are in good company. Jesus and His disciples were also hated by many.

3. Gratitude should be increasing. Do you, like me, now have a deeper appreciation for the many simple blessings in life that before were taken for granted? Going to church, getting together with family and friends, store shelves filled with goods, going to a restaurant or store freely and without a face mask, and so many more things. When we realize that something we took for granted can be taken from us by the declaration of a pandemic or at the whim of a tyrannical leader, oh, how our gratitude for those things should increase. But not only those things. Don’t you find yourself appreciating your child’s (or grandchild’s) happy laughter so much more? Even a walk in the woods or a sunset seems to hold more glory than ever before. And God’s Word has become even more precious. If I can thank 2020 for anything, it is for the renewed appreciation of the things that really matter.

4. We should have a new courage, boldness, and urgency in sharing the Gospel. Have you felt it, too? An urgency to cast aside what people think about you in your passion to share the Good News? Suddenly, it doesn’t seem as if we have forever to share with that neighbor or friend. That family member who has intimidated us for years may be lost but we haven’t had the courage to have a hard conversation with them. But with the rapture feeling more imminent than ever, we recognize that now is the time. We can’t wait. 2020 should be filling us with a renewed and bold desire to share the Gospel and to have hard conversations with those who claim Christ but live without any fruit. We’ve always known that Jesus could come at any time and that people we love could be left behind, but now it feels more real than ever before, doesn’t it??

5. This should increase our desire to study the Bible, especially Bible prophecy. If we haven’t invested time in the study of scripture before now, this should start happening now. Especially if we are believers. Not only is the Bible our only anchor in this crazy time, but it is also rapidly coming true right before our eyes! If these two things don’t increase our desire for knowing the Word, then I don’t know what will.

6. This should build our faith. While many of us have faced many different trials–losing loved ones, economic hardships, illnesses, etc.–the world at large was a constant. Life always pretty much continued as normal outside our trial. But that isn’t the case this year and that fact has caused many of us to examine our hearts and see what we really were relying on for our safety and security. We have said the Lord is our Rock and that we trust Him many times before, but this year, like no other, demands we prove it. Recognizing that at any time and within a few short days, all of life can change should be changing our perspective from the temporal to the eternal. Oh, how easy it was to keep our eyes on this world when all was “normal”. But when normal was stripped away, our eyes were opened to just how much we were relying on that “normal” for our safety and security, instead of on God. This is a great opportunity to change our perspective and place our trust in God instead of in our circumstances (or country).

As we face the uncertain and the unknown, our faith and trust in what we “cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1) should be increasing. This should be a great faith-building year for all of us. We have faith that God is working out all things for His glory. We have faith that He will return for us. We have faith that He is preparing a place for us. While we could never “see the future” before, we made many assumptions, did we not? We assumed life would continue on as normal. We assumed we could continue our normal activities. We assumed that a Revelation 13 scenario was way down the road on the timeline. All of a sudden, our assumptions have come crashing down around our heads and we can’t “see” a thing. While this is certainly no fun, it really is amazing how God is using this in our lives to build our faith and to move our hope from this world to place it in Him alone.

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And there are some ways in which 2020 should be changing us. I don’t know what is ahead. Perhaps there could be another fifty years of this end time scenario unfolding before we are raptured. Or perhaps five years. Perhaps three months. None of us can know the future.

What we do know is that 2020 is a year like no other, showing a convergence of end time signs like no year ever before. May we consider this seriously and soberly as we continue to step forward into the future.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Christian, Why Are You Joining the World?

Since I was a teenager I have marveled at the love that so many who call themselves Christians have for the world. They enjoy its entertainment, they wear its immodest clothing, and they follow hard after its philosophies. And, in fact, I have struggled with my own love for the world as I have traversed through this life.

Worldliness seeps into so many areas of our lives. Not only do we love our worldly entertainment that espouses such things as sexual immorality, profane language, and sorcery but we also find it tempting to trust in human wisdom and philosophies for solving our problems. We are quick to join causes that have anti-biblical core values. (Currently, the Black Lives Matters movement is the perfect example of this. People who call themselves believers are standing in solidarity with a movement that goes against all that the Bible teaches.)

We also see such a great passion to be in line with the fashions of this world that women who call themselves Christians bare their almost naked bodies on social media, thinking nothing of it. They present themselves as sexual objects, putting men at great risk for sin as they navigate these almost pornographic photos. How tragic this is!

Worldliness has made its way into our conversations, which are often about nothing that really matters, and also into our homes, where we focus on grades and sports and self-esteem instead of Christlikeness, self-sacrifice, and serving Jesus.

It’s literally everywhere and most of us probably aren’t even aware or have given it that much thought. The need for separating ourselves from the world is rarely taught in churches anymore–even solid, biblical ones.

Today I’d like to take a look at some of the costs of turning away from the world, and then look at some of the rewards of this life-changing decision.

If we purposely choose to not love the world, it will bring some unpleasant consequences, such as–

You sacrifice being cool. People think you are old-fashioned and fuddy duddy at best and extremely strange at worst.

You sacrifice friends. Most friends, even “Christian” ones, do not want to be around someone who is sold out for the Lord and turning their back on the world. In their eyes, this eliminates all the fun and brings wayyyy too much guilt. They don’t want anyone making them feel guilty about their own worldliness.

You sacrifice worldly gain. There are often times when the Christian is passed over for promotions because of their biblical stand. They are ignored, antagonized, and mocked because of their stances against certain things that just aren’t popular.

You sacrifice popularity. And this may be the hardest one for most. Everyone wants to be popular. It is a powerful thing to be liked by others. Swimming against the flow is not for the faint of heart.

But not loving the world brings many wonderful consequences, too–

You deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ. For example, I am amazed at the growth that took place when I was willing to surrender my entertainment to the Lord. Because I have experienced this, I continue to carefully examine any entertainment in light of the Word. I would much prefer to be close to the Lord than to experience an hour or two of pleasure.

You develop far more meaningful friendships. Friendships that are based on a mutual desire to please the Lord, no matter what the cost, are far more deeper and much sweeter than those based on common interests or anything else. The fellowship I have with like-minded friends is far, far more richer than anything I have ever experienced.

You learn to enjoy life in a fuller way. When I was filled with worldly entertainment, I scoffed at those who enjoyed simple things or certain types of music. But as I have eliminated much that was worldly in life, I have found a whole new world of wholesome things to enjoy. What once would have seemed simple or mundane has blossomed into interesting and far more entertaining and enjoyable than any blockbuster movie or top ten song.

You learn how to think again. I believe that intellect and critical thinking has been greatly stifled by modern entertainment. When you start to examine things in light of scripture, you start your brain on the path to critically thinking. This is important in light of all aspects of our lives and it’s a great exercise for your brain in order to live the best life you can that is pleasing to the Lord.

You look different than the world, which gives opportunities to explain why. When someone says they are a Christian but they do everything an unbeliever does, including dressing immodestly, watching the same ungodly movies, listening to the same vulgar radio station, and joining the same anti-biblical causes, there are certainly no questions asked. But looking different affords us many opportunities to share the Gospel. If we have been transformed, then we should look transformed. 

 

Worldliness is something that is not discussed much these days in the evangelical world. And yet it yields such a deadly blow to any spiritual growth. Filling our minds with the things of this world, looking like this world, being like this world renders us spiritually stunted and utterly ineffective for use in God’s Kingdom.

We often talk in our family about how, even in our quest to eliminate worldliness, we are probably far more worldly than we even realize. It is amazing how that world sneaks in in the most unexpected places.

But the first step for us all is recognizing this and making efforts to eradicate it small step by small step.

I know, from my own experience, that, if you are genuine believer, you will not be sorry! The rewards of turning away from the world far, far outweigh the costs. Giving up the world as we choose to follow Christ is such a small price to pay for the wonderful rewards that are ours when we do so!

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Here are some verses that explain how worldliness should have no part of a Christian’s life. I hope that you will find them convicting and confirming of what I have said above–

John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

I Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”;

Ephesians 1:1-5 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the [a]course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

Philippians 2:15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

James 4:4 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.

I John 2:15 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.

Swimming Up a Waterfall

The other morning I was sitting out on my second-story porch for my quiet time. It is one of my favorite spots in the whole world. Below the porch is our little fish pond where both fish and frogs make their home. This provides much entertainment for our grandchildren.

That particular morning, as I sat on the porch alone, I took a moment to watch the fish, as they were doing something very curious. You can see from the photo below (which is a snapshot I took that morning), that the fish has its head into the waterfall. It looked like it was trying to go up the waterfall and then, discouraged, he would swim away. Only to come back again a few seconds later. This went on for quite some time.

I found out later from my knowledgeable husband that there is something about the oxygen at the bottom of the waterfall that the fish like and so they will congregate there. But, from my vantage point on the porch it really did look like the fish was trying to swim up the waterfall and failing every time.

It reminded me of my life as a Christian. We are all called to “swim up a waterfall” –or, in other words–do the impossible. We are to die to self and crucify the flesh and live only for Christ. This is as impossible–perhaps even more impossible–than swimming up a waterfall. And, yet, this is our calling as believers.

Mark 8:34 — And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Romans 6:6 — We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

Ephesians 5:8 — or at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

Galatians 5:16-17– But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

I Peter 2:11 —  Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

So, we know that we are to leave our flesh and swim up the waterfall to holiness. This goes against our innately selfish nature which demands to be pleased and coddled. Our hearts demand we listen to our feelings and our minds work in creative ways to make excuses and to develop logical reasons why we can do what our flesh is demanding to do and still be guilt-free and “godly”.

But the Bible is very clear that we cannot do both. We cannot please self and God. We cannot love God and love the world. We cannot be obsessed with fulfilling our personal dreams of glory and fame while furthering God’s Kingdom. These things are mutually exclusive. They cannot be done at the same time.

There are only two kingdoms.

There is the Kingdom of Light. God is the light (I John 1:5) Jesus Christ is the light of the world (John 8:12) We have been rescued from darkness to light! (Colossians 1:13) Being rescued, we are now children of light (I Thessalonians 5:5). We are to walk as children of the light (Ephesians 5:8).

AND…

There is the Kingdom of Darkness. Satan is the head of this kingdom and the whole world lies in his power (I John 5:19). Natural man loves this kingdom (I John 3:19-21). Natural man is blind to the the light (Acts 26:18). As children of the light, we are to turn away from the darkness (Ephesians 5:11) and to never partner or commune with darkness and its children (2 Corinthians 6:14). This kingdom of darkness is represented by both the flesh and the world, which Satan uses to war against our souls and to keep mankind in darkness.

Every choice we make, every action we take, every thought we think, and every word we say furthers one of these kingdoms.

Now, with this in mind, let’s go back to our adventure of swimming up the waterfall. As children of light, swimming up the waterfall becomes possible. It is possible to live a righteous and holy life that is pleasing to God. Notice I didn’t say easy. It’s not easy.

But here are a few things to keep in mind as we strive to swim up the waterfall to holiness–

1. We must first make our way to the bottom of the waterfall.

We can’t be righteous without salvation. We can’t even get to the bottom of the waterfall without it. If we are not saved, we are unaware that the waterfall even exists. It is only when our eyes our opened, that we recognize which direction we are to go. And this direction is in complete opposition to the direction of the rest of the world. We will be mocked, viewed as odd, and may lose our reputation by going this direction. Remember, we can’t have the world and Jesus, too.

The old hymn puts it like this: Take the world but give me Jesus.

Too often, modern-day Christians would prefer to sing: Give the world and give me Jesus.

But it is simply not possible according to James 4:4. Swimming to the bottom of the waterfall means turning our backs on the world.

2. Not making efforts to swim up the waterfall indicates a serious problem.

Many are those who’ve said a prayer for salvation as fire insurance and they aren’t even making their way to the bottom of the waterfall. They are still swimming in the opposite direction with their worldly friends. They haven’t given up the things of this world and they are still focused on furthering their own kingdom. They are people who are living solely for themselves but think they are saved because they said a prayer. This person may very well be–and probably is– a false convert! (Matthew 7:21-23) I hate even saying this, because I know that describes so many that we all know and love. But we can’t mince words because their eternity is literally at stake. If you know someone who thinks they are a Christian but who is still swimming out in the pond, pray for them. Really pray for them.

3. We can’t do it alone.

As I watched the fish turn away again and again, I assumed he was just discouraged and tired. I found out later that he wasn’t, of course, but it was a great analogy for our own efforts to get up that waterfall. We try and try, using our methods and our self-discipline but we just don’t make it. That’s because we are trying to attempt it without the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to live a godly life without the Holy Spirit. We are to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This is the only way to make possible a holy life that is pleasing to God.

4. We must discard distractions and secret sins.

So often, we get so frustrated that we aren’t making progress up that waterfall. But if we really examine our lives, we may understand just why that is…

We have either crowded our lives so full that we have no time at all to give any effort or intention to this calling of living a pure and holy life.

Or we are holding on to secret sins that we just aren’t willing to turn away from. It may be an unwillingness to give up a grudge against someone or a love for the world’s entertainment or style that causes us to compromise our purity. It may be laziness or gossip. But, oftentimes, if we are really struggling to make progress in our Christian life, there is some sin that we are nurturing and feeding and unwilling to give up.

Or, perhaps, we haven’t yielded to God’s sovereignty in the happenings of our lives. We try to live a godly life, but, inside, we are angry and discontent and upset about how things are going. This makes it almost impossible to get up that waterfall because we don’t trust God. Instead, we are wary and disbelieving. This lack of faith stymies our Christian growth severely.

5. We will never reach perfection on this side of Heaven.

One of the things that makes this such a hard thing is that we will never reach perfection. We, like that fish, are always trying, always trying, but we will never arrive at the top. This can be discouraging and sometimes we may think: Why even try? So let’s unpack that a bit. Why is it important to keep trying to get up that waterfall?

First, we keep trying because we are told to do this (I Peter 1:15). To live a life of obedience to our wonderful Savior, we strive to live holy and pure lives.

Second, we keep trying because we do grow and change and bear much fruit, through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Psalm 92:12-14). If we have been a Christian for more than a year, we can look back and see how we have grown and changed. This is very encouraging as we face new challenges and sins that discourage us. God is growing us to be more like Christ, be it ever so slowly.

Third, we keep trying because God uses our efforts to build His Heavenly Kingdom (Colossians 1:24-29). Our efforts to live a holy and pure life shine as a bright light in this dark world. We should look different in every way when compared with those around us. Remember, there are only two kingdoms: Light and Darkness. Children of light should never resemble children of darkness. This includes being loving and kind, but it also includes what we watch, how we dress, what we talk about, and every other little and big choice we make in our lives.

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So, my dear readers, keep swimming up that waterfall. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t try to do it alone because we are not alone! We have the Holy Spirit to strengthen, comfort, and guide us. May we cast off the things that distract and tempt us. May we intentionally live as children of the light, because that’s exactly what we are if we have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ alone!

 

The Nature of the Promises of God

When we consider the promises of God, we often go to the book of Psalms or consider the words of Jesus, Paul, and other biblical authors that provide strength and comfort to us. These are a balm to our soul during trials and uncertain days.

These days, so many false teachers rip verses out of context when it comes to God’s promises. I thought it might be helpful to take a brief look at what we know is true and what is not true as we consider God’s promises, no matter how big or small.

1. God’s promises are not physical in nature.

God’s promises do not have anything to do with our physical pleasure or ease of life.

When it says in Matthew 21:22–

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.

or in John 14:13–

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

we must realize that this cannot be implying that we will receive perfect health, material wealth, or a trouble-free life. While this is a popular false teaching, how can we know that this is not what these passages mean? Without digging too deep into theological waters, I’d say two things easily stand out–

First, we know this because of context. When these words are spoken by Jesus in Matthew they are referring to the spiritual realm. It has nothing to do with physical blessing. In John, Jesus is talking about having the strength and power to continue on as His witnesses after He leaves the earth. Context is always crucial but perhaps especially so when claiming a promise of God.

Second, we can know this because of what we read about godly men and women throughout scripture. Joseph was betrayed by family, Noah stood utterly alone, Jeremiah was mocked and persecuted, Stephen and John the Baptist were martyred, Paul was imprisoned, and John was exiled. We can move on into history where we see terrible persecution of Christians under Nero and the Catholic Church. And we can talk about the here and now, where we see people dedicated to serving Christ and building His spiritual Kingdom suffer innumerable physical hardships. We can and must conclude from this that God’s promises are not about our physical well-being.

In contract, God’s promises are spiritual in nature.

They are about our spiritual health, our wealth in heaven, and being effective witnesses for God here on earth.

2. God’s promises are not temporal in nature.

Temporal means relating to life in the world, as opposed to eternal life. While many of God’s promises do give us hope and peace right now, we can see that much of this hope and peace comes from us setting our eyes on the right thing. Colossians 3:1-2 says–

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

So when we read the promises of God, we must do so with an eternal perspective. We must view them through the filter of a mind set on things above. When we do this, so much of the concerns and worries of this life fall away. Richard Baxter, a Puritan author, talks about this better than I ever could. I’d like to share a portion of his writing here–

Unbelievers seek their happiness in the things of the world. Believers find their happiness in God. It is contrary to the nature of faith for a believer to seek peace in his earthly enjoyments. Our present pilgrimage is a prison, yet alas, we too commonly do this. By this we kill our comforts and then complain they are missing. It is folly to expect any stable peace or solid joy that does not come from Christ as the fountain. O that Christians would learn to live with one eye on Christ crucified and the other on His coming in glory! If everlasting joys were more in your thoughts, spiritual joys would abound more in your hearts. No wonder you are comfortless when heaven is forgotten. When Christians let fall their heavenly expectations but heighten their earthly desires, they are preparing themselves for fear and trouble. Who has met with a distressed, complaining soul, where either a low expectation of heavenly blessings, or too high a hope for joy on earth is not present? What keeps us under trouble is either we do not expect what God has promised, or we expect what He did not promise. We are grieved at crosses, losses, wrongs of our enemies, unkind dealings of our friends, sickness, or for contempt and scorn in the world. But who encouraged you to expect any better? Was it prosperity, riches, credit, and friends that God called for you to believe? Do you have any promises for these things in His Word? If you make a promise for yourself, and then your own promise deceives you, whom should you blame for that? We have less comfort in earthly things because we have too high an expectation from them. Alas, when will we learn from Scripture and providence to seek far more from God, and far less from the earth?

God’s promises are not rooted in earthly hope but in eternal hope. If we have our eyes set on temporal things, then we will be most disappointed and believe that God has let us down. But if we recognize that God’s promises are not of this world, we will see miraculous answers to prayer and experience the peace and comfort we are promised.

3. God’s promises are not generally instant in nature.

In this current world where we want everything instantly, God’s promises take some hard work to mine from the scriptures. They are like special treasures that we find throughout the Word as we give our time to study it. Understanding and greater comfort come the more we dedicate ourselves to this study. It is only through personal prayer and Bible study that we are able to more fully understand.

The thing that is most tempting when we are faced with a trial or uncertainty is to turn to other, much less satisfying, ways to deal with all of the emotion and feelings that well up within us. We watch more TV, we shop, we eat more, or we immerse ourselves in a book or hobby. Anything to dull the pain and discomfort of our current circumstances.

And, while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with doing any of these things, it is important that we don’t do them in place of mining God’s Word for the rich promises He has given us in His Word.

It is easy to cast prayer and Bible study aside during trying times because we feel distracted and unfocused and it’s extra hard. But we must persevere. God is waiting patiently for us to turn to Him and will reward us mightily if we but just turn our eyes upon Him.

Another way God’s promises are not instant is in the timeline of how we experience them. When something happens that is terrible, most of us respond in shock. We question God, we question our faith. We are filled with doubts of God’s goodness and we wonder if we really believe all we said we believe.

It often takes time to sort through these feelings. We often fall into a ditch beside the proverbial narrow road and it takes some work (study of the Word) and time to pull ourselves up and out of that ditch. The more we practice, the quicker this will happen but we must give ourselves time to process and work through things. God will not let us down but our journey from fear and doubt back to the solid, narrow path rarely happens instantly. Trials give us precious insight into where our affections lie and what sins still beset us. We can’t be comforted until we have a true understanding of why we need comforted.

I also want to add that sometimes God provides instant comfort that is an incredible balm to our souls. Small mercies and unexpected tiny miracles dot our lives in such a way that we, His children, know without a doubt, He is real.

But, generally, God’s promises, rather than being instant, are uncovered as we give effort and time to study the Word, humbly and willingly examine our lives for sin and worldly affections, and then wait calmly on God to work in and through us.

Isaiah 40:31 says it so beautifully–

but they who wait for 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.

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And, so, as you look for God’s promises throughout the Word, I hope that you will remember these three things. They may not be what our flesh desires, but they are all we need to live a holy life that pleases God.

Perhaps this can all be summed up in this verse from Philippians 1:21–

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

May we filter all of God’s promises through this point of view that Paul expressed while writing this letter to the Philippians from his prison cell in Rome.

My dear friends, God’s promises are real. But we must view them as scripture teaches us to view them, rather than how a worldly, false church teaches us to view them.

God’s promises are far deeper and wider than simply life on this earth. They encompass all of eternity. He is with us, He will never forsake us, and He will protect us. And that you can count on!

 

 

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