Spiritual Growth

The BIG Lie

Big Lie

Modern-day Christianity has sold us on a huge lie.  It has changed the course of this nation. It has changed the landscape of our Christian culture. It has changed me. It is a sobering thing to think about. And one that we should truly be aware of and fight against with all that is within us. Here it is:

Salvation exists to give ME a purpose.

Ummm,  really? I thought salvation was for the purpose of saving sinners from eternal hell. That I realize that I, in and of myself, have nothing good in me to offer anyone, especially God. There is nothing I can do or say or be that makes me acceptable to Almighty God. (Ephesians 2:8,9)

You may say, “Well, I believe that.”.  Yes, so do I. But here are five ways this lie has crept into our lives (at least from my observation).

1)  I can do what I want because Jesus wants me to be happy.

That is just not true. There is nothing in scripture that says Jesus wants me to be happy.  In fact, I would say the opposite is true…Matthew 19: 16-26 is the account of the rich young ruler. Jesus tells him to sell all that he has…knowing that young man is extremely attached to his material possessions. If  our modern day definition of happiness includes material wealth (and it does for many of us) then what Jesus is asking this young man to do goes against the definition of happiness. And what about Matthew 16:24?  Jesus tells us that anyone who desires to come after Him must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Him.  That sounds like the complete opposite of our definition of happiness, doesn’t it? Deny myself? Deny myself worldly pleasures?  You know what your worldly pleasures are, just as I know what mine are. And we are kidding ourselves if we think we can have Jesus and the world, too. We can’t. We have to make a choice.

2) I can do what I want because Jesus forgives me.

Oh, really? Yes, Jesus forgives. But if we are truly saved, our hearts will be tremendously grieved at causing the Father grief when we sin. I see very little grief over sin. In fact, I see very little conviction about sin. Most of us are living our lives without even giving consideration to the things that grieve the Father in our lives. How incredibly sad He must be at the lack of care we give to the sins in our lives. I know that I, personally, do not take seriously enough the sin I commit every day.  I truly want to live my life so that I am not sinning with a carefree attitude that I will be forgiven, but that I am truly grieved at the sin in my life and am working towards sinning as little as possible.

3) I need to be relevant to reach the world.

Matthew 5:13 says that we are the salt of the earth. And how shall the world be seasoned if we lose our flavor? It is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. I would say that Christianity in America has completely lost its flavor and needs to be thrown out in its entirety. The relevance lie has brought about nothing but a bunch of “Christians” who need excuses to drink, gamble, wear immodest clothing, and watch movies/listen to music that goes against all that God stands for. If God needs us to be like the world to reach the world, He is a pretty small God. That is a pretty small box for Him. Do I really believe God needs me to be like the world to reach people for Him? It goes against God’s word completely.  And if I am like the world, what I am I truly offering to the world? James 1:27 tell us we need to be unspotted from the world. I see an awful lot of spots—in my life and in the lives of those around me. It is sobering to think on.

4) I need to love myself before I can love others.

This is one of the most insidious of all the lies. We hear it everywhere…from popular authors…to magazines…to pop music…to preachers…all are telling us that we cannot be fulfilled, happy, love others, or realize our dreams until we love ourselves. But Jesus tells us we already DO love ourselves, and that we are to love others the way we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). We are not to foster this love, we are to try to rid ourselves of it. Some of you may say “well, I don’t love myself, I hate myself.” Don’t you see that this is a form of love? It really comes down to MYSELF consuming my time, thoughts, ambitions, and goals.

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

The goal is to stop thinking about ourselves at all…to always put others ahead of ourselves. This is SO very hard. But coming to grips with the fact that self-love is not our goal is a start to a new way of living.

5) I need to fulfill my dreams because that is what God wants for me.

No, He doesn’t. This was one I came face to face with just recently. I am a person of great dreams. I have lots on my bucket list.  But I was convicted recently (by another of John MacArthur’s sermons!) that my duty is to do the things set before me…please my husband, care for my children, be a good steward of my time and money, etc.  If God allows me to live some of my dreams (and He has!) then that is an extra blessing. It isn’t that I deserve it. It is not my personal right to have my dreams fulfilled.

In conclusion, I would just say that this has been very difficult to write. It goes against so much of what we are being taught today. And  in writing this, I have been convicted all over again about how these lies have affected me and my family.  It is sobering to realize how far Christianity has strayed from the truth of the Gospel and has so watered it down that many who think they are believes will be at the pearly gates telling God they knew Him and he will say He never knew them!  (Matthew 7: 21-23)

Developing Self-Discipline

Here are some exercises for developing the fruit of self-discipline in your life.  This comes straight from John MacArthur’s “The Art of Self-Discipline” sermon series (which is extremely convicting, by the way).

1. Clean your environment.

2. Make a schedule.

3. Wean yourself off entertainment.

4. Be on time.

5. Keep your word.

6. Do the hardest task first.

7. Finish what you start.

8. Practice self-denial.

9. Volunteer for tasks outside your own personal agenda.

In the 2-part series he goes on to talk more deeply about the reason we need to be self-disciplined as believers and how to truly work on this in our lives with the Lord’s help.  However, this brief introduction of little things we can do to help us in this area of our lives is a great list!  I thought I would share it.  If you would like to take the time to listen yourself, which I HIGHLY recommend, you can find it here.

The Illusion of Control

We can fool ourselves, can’t we?  Into thinking that we have control of our lives?  We live our lives, making decisions and choices, believing we are forming our own destinies.  And to some extent, we are.  If we make wise choices, we often do live more peaceful lives and if we make stupid choices, we do pay consequences.  But, when it comes right down to it, we don’t have a whole lot of control over what life throws at us.  Of course, we all have lots of opportunities to have that fact established.  However, there is nothing as relentless in helping you understand this lack of control than having teenagers.

In the process of growing up, teens will do things that will disappoint, or maybe even completely mortify, you as a parent.  When my kids were little, I controlled when they went to bed, who they were with, what they ate, and how they dressed…just to name a few.  As they have gotten older, I have learned to release the control of these choices to them…which is absolutely necessary if they are going to grow up to be adults who contribute to society rather than suck the life out of it.  However, you have in your mind how you want your child to respond to these new freedoms.  You assume that they will make mature, godly choices that will please not only you, but more importantly God.  It doesn’t take long to realize that they are not always going to make wise choices.  They are in a growing up process and it is only by the grace of God that our kids follow Him or that they even survive.  Sometimes it isn’t even a choice between right and wrong, but just a choice that leads in a different direction than you hoped for them.  We can do our best to guide and direct as parents, but our teens need to make many of their own choices  and then live with them.

This was brought home to me recently with a couple of incidents with my children.  I was disappointed and my husband asked me if I was perfect when I was their age.  That made me stop and think.  No, I wasn’t.  I did a lot of stupid things.  And just as I watch my kids make some mistakes, my parents watched me make mistakes.   The journey of watching your children grow into adults is one filled with mountains, valleys, and deserts.  Sometimes there is discouragement and sometimes there is great joy.  I need to consciously turn each child over to the Lord and trust Him for their  futures, all the while doing the very best I can to be a good example and to put boundaries in place that are fair and balanced.

I cannot control my children.  I do not own my children.  From the moment they were born, I released them to Him and to His calling.  But I am continually learning that this is truly a process and not a one-time choice.  In the process of watching my teenagers mature and grow and make mistakes and choices that might not be the choices I would make, I realize that this is true in a wider circle.  We can’t control anyone…parents, employees, bosses, friends, or siblings.  We can only control ourselves and our decisions.  And there is never a choice made by anyone that is worth breaking a relationship over.  But that is a blog for another day…

Psalm 18:2;  Proverbs 3:5-6

Twisters. Hurricanes. Floods.

Psalm 119: 37   Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

Twisters.  Hurricanes.  Floods.  Just a few things that get our attention as humans.  These natural disasters come along and wreck our perfectly ordered worlds.  Sometimes taking with them all the possessions we own.  We were spared yesterday when a mini twister came roaring through our property.  While we had some damage, it could have been so much worse.  But it got me thinking…how attached am I to what I possess?  Or, to take it a step further, how attached am I to the things that are not eternal?  I find that a very tough question.

Could I live without my TV?  My computer?  My air-conditioning?  Movies?  Facebook?  My dog?  My Ipod?  Questions that come to mind when a twister of any size comes roaring through your backyard.   Of course,  I could live without these things.  But have they become more important to me than they should?  Would I remain calm and kind if faced with the loss of these things?

Do I count all as loss compared to Christ?  Sometimes we get so caught up in our lives that we forget what truly matters.  Living for Jesus.  Telling others about Him.  Holding discussions with our kids about the things that matter.  Praying for our families, friends, and pastors.

Instead we focus on the temporal things…sports, movies, the latest gadgets,  facebook, X-box, boats, pets…I am just naming a few that quickly come to my mind.   These things aren’t wrong in and of themselves.  It is when they take too much of our time.  It is when time spent on these things distracts us from our time with God or perhaps even hinders our relationship with God that they become problems.

We all know that life is about the mundane.  Let’s face it, we all need to do the laundry, feed our families, mow the lawn, and clean the house.  But keeping our priorities focused on the eternal will make a huge difference in our lives…even while working at the daily tasks we all need to do.

Philippians 3:8; Psalm 119: 36-37

Once Upon a Time

castle

Once upon a time there was a princess. She looked with longing from her room window. She was not allowed to leave the castle property. She had to play in her room or in the castle garden. If she did go past the castle gates, she went with her nanny or a servant. She was never allowed to run in the meadow. Or wade in the creek. Or play games with the village children. Her life was full of doing the proper things. She felt like she was in prison! As she watched the other children, she wished she could be like them instead of stuck inside the cold and dreary castle. Her parents, busy with state affairs paid little attention to her and she had no siblings. Her fancy clothes and filled tummy provided little comfort in the midst of her great loneliness.

Meanwhile, there was an ordinary girl in the village sitting under the shadow of the castle. She was the much-loved daughter of the town cobbler and his wife. She looked with longing every day at the castle. Oh, if only she could be a princess. She thought of the clothes she would wear, looking down at her own drab, torn dress. She thought of  the magnificent carriages she would ride in for she had never even been in a carriage. She thought of having servants at her beck and call. And the food! Oh, the meat and the pastries that would be on her table. What a wonderful life it must be to be a princess! If only.

Two different people, two very different lives. Which is better? Maybe neither is better. Perhaps they are just different. I think we all spend a good part of our lives looking at others and wishing we had their car or house or job. Perhaps it is their spouse or children or salary or vacation or talent that we envy. You get the idea. We forget that no matter how good someone else’s life looks to us, there are always problems and issues they are dealing with because, believe it or not, no one’s life is perfect. Instead of focusing on what someone else has, perhaps we should focus on our own blessings.

Most of us have so much for which to be thankful. Every life is different. God has given each of us varied blessings and varied struggles. Why some seem to struggle more than others we will never understand. But let us remember that everyone struggles. Everyone has problems–even if you can’t see them from the outside looking in. But everyone also has blessings in their lives. Finding them can sometimes be hard in the difficult moments and times of our lives. But if we will consciously focus on the blessings in our lives, we will be filled with joy and gratitude. If we focus on what others have and what we do not have, we become dissatisfied and unhappy. It is a constant struggle. By nature, we are not content.

Let’s remove our longing eyes from the lives of others and the words “if only” from our lips and instead be like Paul, who learned to be content in all circumstances.

I Timothy 6:6; Philippians 4:11-13

 

 

Playing in the Mud

muddy soccer

When my daughter has played soccer on a rainy day, she has ended up quite muddy herself. She slides in the mud. She runs in the mud. The mud flies as she passes the ball. It is impossible for her to keep clean. Now, let’s say I tell her to take a shower after the game to clean herself up and she tells me she already is clean. Would I believe her? Of course not. She has been playing in the mud and the mud is splattered on her arms, face, legs, back, not to mention covering her shoes. She is obviously in need of a shower.

So why is it that so many Christians want to play in the mud and yet call themselves clean? They make themselves dirty with the things of this world. Ungodly music. Violent movies. Bad Language. Pornography. Sitcoms that mock God and the family.  TV shows filled with adultery, hatred, and lies.  Tobacco, drug, and alcohol abuse. Immodest clothing.  I could go on and on. Somehow Christians have fooled themselves into thinking that they can be clean while playing in the mud.

But it is impossible to be clean while playing in the mud. It goes against all logic. You cannot be clean and pure before God, if your life is filled with the unholy and unclean. If you want to live in the world and do all that the world does and be like the world then that is your choice. But you may want to examine yourself to see if you are truly in the faith. Just because you say you are clean doesn’t mean you are. Only God knows. But if you are spending your life in the mud, it may be a sign that you need a shower.

II Corinthians 13:5; I John 2:15

 

Rules – Good or Bad?

Sometimes we get so tired of all the perceived rules that are in the Bible.   Many are the commands given to us as followers of Jesus Christ and Jesus says if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. (John 14:21).   Something happened to our family awhile ago that made me realize that perhaps many of the commands Jesus gives us are not only for His glory, but also for OUR protection.

We used to have pet rabbits.  One time, when we had just gotten our new baby bunnies, we decided to take them along on a camping trip.  We took along a crate to keep them in.  We had four bunnies along, but when we woke up the next morning, we only had three!  My son’s bunny, Twitches, had disappeared.  He must’ve been small enough to squeeze through the narrow bars.  Unfortunately, Twitches did not know that he was completely safe in his crate.  He didn’t know that he should have been perfectly happy and content.  Instead he longed for adventure (well, at least he longed to get out of the crate!) and so he left the crate only to be eaten or to starve or to drown.  We don’t know what happened to him.  But we were very sad.

This incident reminds me of God’s commandments.  Sometimes we want to leave God’s “crate”.  It’s not a crate you can see, but it is a safety zone, set up by the commandments and laws God has set up in the Bible.  Here are a few examples:  “Do not commit adultery” brings protection and well-being to the family.  “Do not bear false witness” brings peace and love to relationships.  “Honor your father and mother” keeps young people from making the stupid mistakes their parents made and learned from.  These are just a few examples.

We are safe in God’s safety zone, but often we aren’t content and we want to do things outside of this zone.  We don’t know what God knows – that He has set up most of these rules and laws for our own benefit.  He has set them up to protect us and to give us the most peaceful  life possible here on earth.

And yet so many of us are just like Twitches.  We long for release from the “safety zone”.  We want to experience the WORLD and its passions, not realizing that we are going to only end up hurting ourselves.  May we cast aside our rebellious spirits and submit ourselves to God…which is the only way we will ever experience peace on this earth.

Exodus 20: 1-7; John 14:21

The 5 Marks of the Authentic Christian

The 5 Marks of an Authentic Christian are–

1.  We love God and others deeply.  We love them more than we love ourselves.

2.  We obey faithfully.  We are concerned with what God wants rather than what I want.

3. We live authentically.  We are the same person Sunday morning as we are on Saturday night.

4. We want to know Him more and more.

5. We live with greater confidence because of our hope in Christ instead of in a spirit of fear.

These came from a sermon  by John MacArthur on John 15.

Life’s Weeds

thistle-201844_1280

So, if you garden, you know that weeds are just part of the picture. They come up always. And everywhere. Giving you no break. I have a strawberry patch that yields wonderful fruit. That is it yields luscious strawberries IF I weed it consistently. If I do not weed it, the thistles take over and the small amount of  fruit that may appear is small and sickly looking. Weeds are insidious, vigorous things. Thistles are especially annoying. I will rid that strawberry patch of all thistles, digging deep down into the soil to try and get the roots. Yet when I return a few days later, lo and behold, there are MORE baby thistles poking their heads up through the soil. It can be so frustrating. I can never stop weeding that strawberry patch during the growing season.

This constant battle with weeds is actually similar to our battle with sin. If we want to bear fruit we can never let down our guard against the sin that constantly encroaches on our lives. Just when we think we conquer one sin, we realize there is another one that needs to be conquered. Or perhaps  we realize we did not truly conquer the first sin. The Christian life is not easy. It is HARD.

We here in America have been led to believe that all you need to do is say a prayer for salvation and you have your golden ticket to heaven. But it doesn’t work like that. If we truly believe that Jesus Christ saved us, then we will work to be as much like Him as possible on this earth, because we love Him and are so incredibly grateful to Him for saving our souls.  And truly trying to please Him with our lives means doing a lot of WEEDING, which is so much WORK. But, just like my strawberry patch, we will not bear good fruit, unless we are consistently weeding the sin from our lives.

John 15:8; Luke 6:43; 2 Corinthians 13:5

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