Spiritual Growth

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.

_____________________________________

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!

_____________________________________________________

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.

_______________________________

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.

_______________________

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!

 

 

Where’s Your Home?

Many of us are spending a lot of time at home right now. Some of you probably live in tiny apartments, others live in mansions. Some live in picturesque villages, others in cities. Some live on a farm in the country, others live in a development in the suburbs. But wherever we are, that is home to us.

Is home a safe place for you? Is it a happy place? If so, then the stay-at-home order isn’t as bad as it could be. Of course, if it’s not happy and, worse yet, if it’s not safe*, then this time stuck in our homes has been a great, great trial for you.

No matter what our view of our earthly home, as believers, we have the fantastic promise of a future home in heaven–

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3)

Jesus is preparing a home for us. Isn’t that just amazing when you stop and think about it?

I do like my home and I am so blessed to have a wonderful place to live and, more importantly, to share that place with people I love dearly. However, the events of the last few weeks have really put all of the physical blessings on a bit of a shaky level that they have never been on for me in my lifetime.

I have this house now, but will I have it in a year?

I have plenty to eat now, but will I have enough in six months?

I can go to the local hospital now, but will it still be around when I need it?

I can worship God freely now, but is that going to change soon?

The “What-Ifs” can eat us up alive if we aren’t careful. Articles of doom abound on social media and the scary thing is that many of them raise very valid questions. The ramifications of this all are still unknown and with each day of lock-down those ramifications grow exponentially.

The foundation of our materials blessings and innate freedoms has always been a very solid one here in the United States for most of us. There was no lack of food on our store shelves, no fear of businesses collapsing en masse, no threat of churches not being able to meet, not even the hint of a thought about being unable to visit our families…or shop, golf, and travel.

And then came the “pandemic” and the ensuing fear that closed the world.

As we start to tentatively open countries and economies back up, may we not fall too quickly back into our status quo.

May we remember that our home is not here. Oh, God has blessed many of us with wonderful, comfortable homes and we love them dearly. But our eternal home is where we need to keep our focus. This is the hope that we have and this is what we are to “set our minds” upon. Paul puts it like this in Colossians 3–

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. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)

As believers, we are to seek the things that are above. In a life bustling with activities and material blessings and freedom, I all too soon forget that eternity is coming. But when all that came screeching to a halt and those things were taken away and threatened, it made me think. Really think.

Where does my hope lie? Do I really view myself as a pilgrim on this earth? What brings me joy? And peace?

And I had to come face to face with the fact that I was seeking earthly things, not heavenly ones. I wasn’t doing this purposely. I was reading God’s Word and studying it. But there is nothing like a pandemic to release our tight grip on this world just a bit more, is there?

Have you, too, felt your grip releasing on the things of this world? Have you, too, felt this bump out of status quo grow you in ways you didn’t even know you needed to grow?

I don’t want to go back to the “old me”. I want to remember the lessons in faith and trust that I have been learning these past eight or so weeks, whether we go back to normal or everything has changed forever.

Life is never easy. And we have all faced a myriad of different trials throughout our lives. I am not sure, however, that we can say that we have ever all faced the same trial together. But that is exactly what has happened these past few weeks. We are all dealing with empty store shelves, economic ramifications, being stuck at home, and all of the other dynamics that are part of this pandemic. It’s a strange time to be alive, but may we not waste it.

You may not need lessons in faith like me, but perhaps this has grown you as a spouse or parent. Perhaps your lessons were in areas of impatience or anger or time management.

In whatever we have grown these past few weeks, may we not slide back into the comfortable place we were before they occurred. Let’s keep taking the next step on that narrow path. God will never waste any experience in our life and that includes a world-wide pandemic!

 

 

*I have been deeply burdened specifically for women and children of abusive spouses during this time and cannot imagine how hard this forced home stay must be for you. If you are in this situation, I would like to pray for you specifically. Please email me at leslie {at} growing4life {dot} com or use the contact page here. No one else will see the email but me.

 

What Do We Know? And What Should We Do?

You may not realize that I am actually rather rebellious. I always laugh inside when someone calls me legalistic. This actually couldn’t be further from the truth. I hate stupid rules. If something isn’t firmly grounded in scripture, I am not going to be doing it anytime soon.

This is making it a bit difficult for me right now. Mandate after mandate is being thrown down by the government. These mandates are eroding or outright removing the rights of every law-abiding citizen that we were given by the constitution of the United States upon its inception.

I don’t want to obey. I am angry and I don’t want to obey. This is for a number of reasons, but the greatest is that the statistics do not match the mandates. The fear that has been instilled in people by the media doesn’t match the actual facts. The damage that is being done by the mandates is astronomical! The ramifications will be felt by some families for generations, as they lose businesses or loved ones commit suicide or die because they are afraid to go to the ER.

Something much deeper is going on here. There are a million theories out there and analyzing them isn’t the point of this post. However, I think that those of us who have studied eschatology to any degree quickly recognize that this is part of the end game. We can see how these events are moving the world in the direction it needs to go for the one world economy and government prophesied in Revelation. (Actually, in this way it is encouraging because it is so incredibly confirming of scripture! )

Okay, so it’s clear that I don’t really buy the story we’re being told. This makes it even harder to obey rules that don’t make any sense.

I’ve had lots of conversations about this part of the quarantine with my family. We are supposed to obey the law. But when does obeying the law become wrong? At what point should we obey and at what point do we protest and even fight?

I am sure many of you are hoping I have an answer to these questions. But I don’t. I am sorry to disappoint you but I haven’t done a thorough enough study on this yet to give any kind of biblical answer.

But these are big questions. And we have to find our footing and remember our foundation in the midst of them. Any search for answers must be done through the lens of scripture.

At first, the novelty of all of this kind of filled us with that adrenalin that takes you through times of shock. None of the people on earth had ever faced anything like this before and we were reeling. After four or five weeks, however, we started to chafe against the restrictions. We became aware of families that were hurting, companies going bankrupt, depression and people committing suicide, people dying without their loved ones close by and with no funerals. Postponed weddings, canceled trips-of-a-lifetime, and high school and college seniors losing their final precious months that they can never get back again.

Some of us trust what we are being told by the health officials. And some of us don’t. But, no matter, where we find ourselves on that scale, I think I can safely assume that almost all of us are deeply saddened by what is going around us and feel pretty hopeless to change anything.

And, no matter how this ends, we all have to face the reality that our freedom was only an illusion. Our freedom dissipated in the face of fear like the early morning fog dissipates when the sun rises. We thought we were free but now we know we aren’t. Not even a bit. And this is something we need to live with, no matter how this turns out.

At any moment in the future, this could happen again. We could be ordered to do things we don’t want to do and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

Doesn’t that make you feel so powerless? We thought we were so independent and find out we aren’t at all.

So how do we, as believers, reconcile all this with what we know from scripture? This is where we must turn, isn’t it? What do we know, for sure??

We know that God is still in control. No matter what goes on or how awful it gets, He is still on the throne. (Jeremiah 10:10)

God did not abdicate his throne during Nero’s persecution of Christians. He didn’t disappear during the Black Death of the Middle Ages, the French Revolution, the reign of Pol Pot, or during World War II. And He has not abdicated His throne during this time. God is still on the throne.

We know that God wants us to obey our government as long as it doesn’t require us to disobey Him. (Romans 13:1-2)

We are told in scripture to obey our governments. There is no caveat there for rules we don’t like. This can be hard for independent Americans to swallow particularly. But it is there. We can, of course, agree that when the government tells us to do something that is in opposition of scripture, we can and must disobey. Where that line is drawn is something all of us are probably increasingly thinking about.

We know that there is a plan spelled out in the books of Daniel and Revelation, that must come to pass at some point.

Could this be a part of that? I think it is very, very likely. If you’ve done any study of end time prophecy then this makes so much sense. Whether the rapture is tomorrow or in a hundred years, we can see how the events of the past few weeks will most certainly be used to further a one world economy and a one world government. We can also see how this will break America–something that must be done in order for globalism to succeed. We can make no predictions of when, but I do believe we can say with certainty that this event took us an exponential step forward towards the New World Order.

We know that, through all of this, God can and will grow us to look more like Christ. (Romans 8:28-29)

Romans 8:28 uses that tiny word “all” to remind us that everything that happens to us–whether small or large–is being used to make us look more like Christ. We are to glorify God in this process, drawing men to Him through our godly attitudes and actions. This can be a bit eye-opening if you’ve been deceived by the “name it and claim it” kind of faith or believe that Jesus exists to make your life easier and to fulfill your big dreams. But when we finally understand that our goal as a believer is to glorify God and to look more like Christ, then the trials and hardships make so much more sense.

We know that God loves us and will give us grace to endure whatever comes. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

One of the most horrifying things about all that’s going on is the fact that it is being used to further ungodly agendas. I have seen terrifying articles on the unfair treatment of churches and pastors, on the necessity of the state to raise children, and on the promotion of abortion. One can only wonder how this is all going to end up for us as Christians. It is almost like the pandemic gave a burst of speed to Satan’s evil agenda for the world.

I was feeling a bit discouraged and frustrated the other day and so I read a bit in the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs to remind myself how much worse life could be. It is truly hard to comprehend the torture and persecution sanctioned by the Catholic Church during the Reformation. Thousands died at the hands of wicked, wicked men who delighted in torturing their fellow human beings. And yet, to read of the believers’ fortitude and commitment to the truth was astounding. They stood strong in the face of the threat of horrible torture, refusing to be bullied into the Catholic faith. In fact, many of them sang hymns as they burned at the stake. We know that only God can give this kind of strength. If God gave that kind of strength hundreds of years ago, then He will surely do the same for us, if and when the time comes that we need it.

And, finally, we know that we are not the center of the Universe. (Philippians 2:9-11)

We can get a little confused about this one. Many pastors preach like we, personally, are the center of the universe. Kids are raised to believe they are the center of the universe. We hear it everywhere. We need to help others and be kind, but at the end of the day, it’s about you. Take care of you.

Well, that isn’t the message of the Bible. While we most certainly need to care for ourselves as any normal human being would, we must recognize that God is the center of the universe. That all is about Him and His sovereign plan.

This can be a hard place to get to, because we have such big dreams and hopes for our lives. This current situation leaves most of those up in the air at best and has dashed them at worst. Surrendering our dreams and hopes may be one of the hardest things we have to do as Christians. Recognizing that perhaps it is not God’s will for us to do that thing we most longed for is a hard pill to swallow. But we are just a speck. A flower that blooms for a short time and then fades away.

Of course, the other side is that we know how much God loves us! He cares and gives strength and peace and joy, as we trust in Him. It’s a beautiful thing when we can surrender our lives and trust in God. But, of course, this is not easy. Releasing our grip can be very painful.

_______________________________

So these are some things we know. And these are the things we must remember as we continue to inch forward into the unknown. Many of us were on autopilot in our lives. We may not have even realized it. And now we are dealing with big questions. Some are dealing with really big problems. I think it’s safe to say that autopilot is now turned off for all of us at this point.

The circumstances are different for all. The spiritual and emotional dynamics are different. This new world is bringing to light different sins and weaknesses in all of us. To some it is overwhelming and to others it is not.

So, I’d like to encourage one final thing before I close today.

Let’s be so kind to one another. Let us have so much grace for the responses and outbursts and frustrations of others. Let’s humbly point fellow believers to the Word and share the Gospel with the lost.

I think we can all agree that the world should be a better place because Christians are in it. There is no better time than now to make sure that is true!

 

 

Some Options for Those with Extra Time

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

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

So I got to thinking…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________________________________________

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

 

 

An Unmistakable Mirror

I think I’ve been over-using the word “unprecedented”. I’ve said it more times in the past two weeks than I’ve said it in my entire life. We are facing unprecedented times.

I find it extremely hard to function in my “normal” way currently. I find it hard to think about “normal” things. I find it hard to do “normal” activities.

That’s pretty much because it’s so not normal right now.

I generally try to write posts that are not closely connected to current events so that, no matter when they are read, they are applicable to one’s life.

However, it seems like a good time to break my own rule (I broke it last week, too) since we are all facing this virus and the government’s subsequent restrictions and mandates that have completely swept away our freedoms. Literally.

So there are all kinds of theories and opinions out there as to just what is going on, but no matter what is happening, there is one thing we do know: It IS happening and very few of us are unaffected by it all.

Whether we have had our lives grind to a halt or we have been overwhelmed with work duties because we work in an “essential life-sustaining” field, this has affected most all of us.

As I was reading John this morning, I was thinking about Peter and his promise to the Lord that he would never leave his side–

Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” (John 13:27)

In the very next verse, Jesus predicts that Peter would very surely deny that he even knew the Lord!

Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times. (John 13:28)

If we read on, we find out that, yes, Peter most certainly did deny he knew the Lord, even though he loved him dearly.

This account always has a way of both disturbing and comforting me. If Peter, who was one of the great apostles, could be so cowardly, what can I expect from myself?? But, it’s also comforting. If Peter could do that awful thing and yet still go on to live and die for Christ as a martyr in the early church, then perhaps there is hope for all of us to be of use in God’s Kingdom.

What’s going on in these days is not really a situation like Peter’s, so you may be wondering where I am headed.

And I guess it’s here: We have a choice, just like Peter. We can make the intentional choice to do the right thing or we can very easily slide into the wrong thing. The wrong choice is always the easier choice in the moment. (It’s NEVER the easier choice regarding long-term consequences.) It was easier for Peter to deny Christ than to take the heat for knowing Him. It is easier for us to sin than to not sin.

A pandemic like this (or any other trial, for that matter) shows us our true selves in ways we’d probably rather not see. What has come rearing up in the past few weeks in my own heart has not been good. Anxiety and fear; discontentment; self-centeredness; self-pity; laziness; even gluttony are real challenges for many of us in this situation. With close quarters, tempers flare, selfishness abounds, and we may be easily irritated as we are unable to leave our homes. With the incredible stress and long hours so many of you are facing at work, things come to the surface about yourself that you’d probably rather not know. With our favorite activities and the abundance in our stores taken away, we are faced with who we really are.

 

When our normal ordinary life is stripped away, we see ourselves as we really are.

 

A trial like this is a giant mirror into the state of our soul.

So what do we do about it?

As believers, it is important that we examine our hearts using the Word and then let this be an opportunity to grow.

So easy to write.

So hard to do.

As we look into the mirror and examine our hearts in the midst of an unprecedented time of uncertainty and craziness throughout the entire world, may we trust God to do a real work in our lives and grow us up spiritually in a way we couldn’t have otherwise.

May we come out of this strange, unprecedented time stronger, purer, and holier than when it started!

 

 

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: