The Bible

Resisting the Roaring Lion

We have been studying I Peter this past month in the Growing4Life Bible Challenge. It is really hard to cover this book of the Bible in just four weeks but we are taking in as much as we can! There is so much there! We are now on the final chapter, chapter 5, and verses 6-11 contain much that is profoundly helpful for us believers in 2022–

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called [g]us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The first verses gives us a framework for the rest of the passage: Humble ourselves and cast our cares on God. These are two very basic things for the redeemed to remember:

First, we must be humble. We must stop thinking more “highly of ourselves than we ought”, as Paul puts it in Romans 12:3. Later on in that same chapter, Paul puts it like this: “Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (vs 16). This is a key aspect in a healthy Christian walk for a number of reasons but the two that come to mind: To be in right relationship both with God and with others necessitates humility.

Second, we must stop fretting and worrying. Instead, God tells us to cast our cares on Him and choose to trust Him to care for us. He has promised to do this not only here in this passage, but throughout scripture. He loves and cares for His own. He will never forsake us! (Hebrews 13:5)

Now with those two exhortations, Peter goes on to talk about our adversary. In our modern day Christianity, many believers shy away from talking about the devil. Of course, there is the other extreme, where one blames everything on the devil or thinks he can be ordered around, as if that is their job to do so (It’s not!!). So what should be our right response to the truth that we Christians do have an enemy and it is the devil?

Peter gives us some instruction in verse 8: Be sober and be vigilant.

Dictionary.com gives these partial definitions–

Sober–not intoxicated or drunk.

Let’s think back to what it says in Ephesians 5: And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit. From this, I believe we can deduct that Christian sobriety comes from being filled with the Spirit. And let’s remember: It is not just wine that makes us intoxicated! We can be intoxicated by any number of things: ungodly novels, worldly entertainment, temporal goals, money, hobbies; so much can intoxicate us into a state of caring little about spiritual things. This intoxication (or idolatry!) is what leaves us open to the attacks of our enemy. 

Vigilant–sleeplessly watchful

We are a spiritually lazy culture. Many people claiming Christ don’t even open their Bibles between Sundays. They are asleep spiritually. Caught up in their distractions and worldly living, they are uninterested in what really matters. Instead of being sleeplessly watchful, they are sound asleep and can’t see a thing. Vigilance is not a popular concept these days, but here in I Peter we are told it is necessary in order to protect ourselves from our enemy.

Why is it so important that we are sober and vigilant? What is the big deal? Peter goes on to tell us why it’s a very big deal:

Our adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour!

This is not just some fable or allegory told for our entertainment. This is 100% true.

We have an enemy who seeks to destroy us. Of course, if we are saved, there is nothing he can do about our eternal destinies. But he can, and often does, render the believer ineffective for the Kingdom of God by distracting us with the frivolous and the meaningless, by getting us caught up in unbiblical philosophies and practices, and, often, by tempting us to sin or to feel discouraged and without hope. And, since he often cloaks himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), he will be hard to spot–unless we are sober and vigilant and expect his attacks, both the obvious and the deceptive.

Peter goes on to say that we must resist the devil and remain steadfast in the faith.

We resist the devil and remain steadfast in our faith by submitting to God’s Will and obeying His Word. There is no other way. And, in fact, this is one of the biggest areas of life that Satan attacks us, for he does not want us in the Word of God, understanding God’s care for us, feeling conviction of sin, and recognizing the need to surrender our dreams and passions to God.

Of course, for all of us, resisting the devil and remaining steadfast in our faith is not an easy task. As Peter says, it often brings suffering. If you have read the biographies of men and women from the past, you will know that they suffered greatly as they battled Satan and stood for the truth. Whether on the African plains, in the Chinese village, or in the cathedrals and monasteries of Europe, wherever there have been people who share the Gospel and stand for truth, there is suffering.

Peter tells us to expect this suffering and to know that these same sufferings have been experienced by other believers all across the world.

But Peter doesn’t end there! (Aren’t you so glad he doesn’t??)

He goes on to remind us that God won’t just let us drown in suffering but, after suffering for just a while, God will perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle us. I wonder if God doesn’t use the suffering for these very purposes? For it is in suffering that we often experience these things. True believers aren’t weakened by suffering. They are strengthened. True believers aren’t shaken by suffering, they are settled. God, in His goodness and in His ultimate perfect plan works all things out for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28).

And then there is the final verse that reminds us of just how big this One, True God is that we belong to, as Peter reminds us that all glory and dominion belong to Him! We know glory means great praise, honor, adoration. But what does dominion mean? Well, in a nutshell, it means the “absolute right to rule”. God is the King of all.

While it may look like Satan is winning, he isn’t! Some battles may be lost, but the war will soon be over now and we are on the winning side! May this truth help us stay sober and vigilant. May it remind us that we are not resisting the devil alone, for we have the God of the Universe fighting with us and for us. And may we remember this truth as we suffer for our Savior, whom we are given the privilege to serve during our short time here on earth.

God has been so kind to give us His Word in this crazy, upside down world. I pray it is an encouragement to you as you go out into the world to soldier on for the Lord this day!

 

 

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

A few months ago I happened upon a historical documentary of the west. I had never really been all that interested in the west and how it was “won” but, for whatever reason, I turned on Part 1 and watched. The whole thing was very fascinating and I just kept watching until I had watched all of the parts.

One of the things that was disappointing was that they highlighted some missionaries but spoke very negatively about them. In fact, in listening to the series, one would have come away with the idea that they did more harm than good. At first, I was disgusted that this couple would harm the name of Christ. And then I began to wonder: Was this true? A little niggling doubt started to grow in my mind. Was this documentary actually telling the truth?

The series quoted a woman by the name of Catherine Sager quite a bit in the one part of the series, as she described her experience going west as a child in a Conestoga Wagon. She wrote a journal that has been published and I found it on Amazon. I decided to read it.

What I found in her journal was not only a vivid account of her experience going west but also a wonderful account of her time as an adopted daughter of the missionaries that were so maligned by the producers in this documentary.

In doing more research, I realized that, while the missionaries certainly didn’t do everything right, they did do much of which was to be commended, including taking in seven orphans who needed a home and loving and caring for them like they were their own.

A few years after these orphans were settled in their new home, a greedy man looking for trouble showed up at their mission station and started spreading lies about them.

Within a few weeks, the couple, along with three of the orphans, were dead. One of the worst massacres in history was started by lies. Just sheer lies.

They didn’t mention this on the series. I found this out through reading Catherine Sager’s diary and a letter to her uncle that she wrote as an adult. Isn’t it interesting how they failed to mention this but, rather, laid the blame on the methods of the missionaries?

As I considered the current agenda regarding Native Americans, I realized that this series was promoting said agenda. Making the Indians look purely like victims and the white man as evil promoted the agenda. And, while many white men were not pure in motives and were quite wicked, so, too, were the Indians, with their satanic religion and disregard for human life.

All men are depraved. Sinners from conception. What happened in the west is what we should expect from the unregenerate.

But there were true believers who went west with the right motives. We can’t call all men of a certain color (whether white or red, black or brown) evil just because of their skin color. What an incredibly evil and manipulative thing to do.

So what is my point? (You know I have one!)

I have been convinced more and more that we cannot believe what we hear. There are so many agendas out there that we must always read, listen, and watch everything with our guards up– no matter which side it is coming from.

While I learned a lot of interesting facts from that series on the west, I recognized fairly early on that they were only sharing the facts that they wanted me to hear. They made the choice to share only the bad (and no good) about missionaries who went west to share the Gospel. They chose to make certain groups victims and certain groups perpetrators, without giving the dynamics, nuances, and facts surrounding the happenings.

This is no different than the news we watch at night or the best seller books we read or the TV show or movie that slithers its way into our homes by calling itself “entertainment”. It is also no different for the many things that are labeled “Christian” and “right”. Few of these things are just stand alone offerings to provide us with something to do with our time. Most have a specific agenda in what they are teaching. There is a very specific way they are trying to change the culture.

Don’t believe me?

I guess you don’t have to. But this is backed up by facts, quotes, and reality so you really can’t say you don’t believe me honestly until you do a little research on your own.

There are many, many lies and agendas that are demanding our attention and getting “our danders” up. (And so they should!) But don’t be manipulated by what you hear. Don’t let it steal your peace. And make sure you have all of the facts before you make a decision about where you stand on any given situation or issue.

And, more than ever, we need to understand the true treasure that the Word of God is. As we begin to understand the plethora of lies and agendas that surround us and come at us from every avenue, including both secular and sacred, we begin to understand the value of a book that holds within its pages absolute truth; a true and loving gift from our Heavenly Father.

Only there can we trust everything written. Only there will we find an explanation for what is happening in the world around us. Only there do we find the puzzle pieces that help us start putting the puzzle of the future together in a way that makes sense. Only there do we come face to face with our sin and find the way to a glorious reconciliation with God. And only there do we find the promises of peace, joy, and love that God offers to those that are His, no matter what circumstances we face.

We are sinners. Jesus died for sinners. He rose again and lives today, caring for and protecting those who love Him and have believed on Him for salvation. And, in that, there is hope, no matter how many lies and agendas swirl about us.

 

 

As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is [a]proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

Psalm 18:30

 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

 

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

 

 

Fiat Religion and Its Utter Worthlessness

In 1933, President Roosevelt began fiddling with gold reserve requirements in relation to United States currency. This set the trend in motion for separating the dollar from gold. In 1971, President Nixon canceled the convertibility of the dollar to gold, making money totally and officially, “fiat”. This means that the government has determined its value but there is literally nothing backing it except for the government that has determined its value.

Fiat money is a rather scary concept since its value is determined not by anything of value but rather by our trust in the “issuer”–which is the government.

Fiat means: An arbitrary order or decree.

And it’s important we know what arbitrary means…

Arbitrary means: Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle.

_________

The other morning at Bible Study, one of the ladies mentioned how so many have a view of religion that’s not backed up by anything. And, this is, in fact, especially true of so many that call themselves a “Christian” and yet make decisions based on nothing more than a favorite author, a preacher with charisma, a TV series, or, quite simply, on how they feel.

This conversation reminded me of this principle of “Fiat”. In this world where we can decide our own truth, we have many who are following fiat religions.

And so what we find are people–including so many who would claim Christ –walking along the smorgasbord of beliefs out there and choosing what they will believe, much like they would choose mashed potatoes but pass by the carrots at a bar filled with food.

“No, thank you, I am not interested in that one”, when they pass by the belief of people going to hell.

Oh, that belief that says my ticket to heaven is based on a one-time prayer that can said without turning from sin or the world–“I’ll take that!”

The world is going to get worse? “Oh, I don’t like that one.”

I can get my dreams fulfilled and be both healthy and wealthy in the process? “Oh, yes! I want that!”

Oh, and here is a promise for stress reduction and peace… “Well, I need that, now don’t I?”

Isn’t this how so many approach religion? And, yet, it is simply fiat religion…an arbitrary decision based on what they want to be true. There is literally nothing to back it up!

This is where true, biblical Christianity sets itself apart from all other religions and beliefs. It is not based on the whims of a fickle person or the dreams of a dead man. It is based on a Book. A Book that has proven itself over and over. A Book that has a 100% accuracy rate when it comes to its prophecies. A Book that is marvelously consistent and cohesive from beginning to end. This Book is all of these things because it was written by God.

In it we find the answers to all of life’s questions. But here’s the rub: Some of the answers are unpleasant. We don’t really like them.

And, so, in this postmodern world, instead of accepting the hard truths, people just “choose” not to believe what they don’t like. It’s a precarious worldview, always upending itself and rocking this way and that, based on the whims of the believer. There is no rock of Truth beneath them, but rather waves of opinions and trends and desires.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that a dollar backed by gold would be a much better dollar than one where a government arbitrarily determines its value.

Religion is no different. Religion backed by nothing is worth…nothing. Oh, it may buy you a bit of peace or it might reduce your stress for awhile. It may get you through some trials or temporarily provide comfort. But, at the end of your life, it will be worth nothing.

We are such rebellious creatures. We want what we want. And so many follow that course of destruction to the end. And, in the process, there is the belief that they are determining their eternal destination simply by “believing”.

But we all know deep down inside us that belief doesn’t change the truth. Is the sky red just because someone believes it is red? Does two plus two equal five upon belief? If we are all honest with ourselves, we know the answers to these questions are the same, no matter what someone believes. Spiritual realities are no different than physical realities. There is one Truth.

So what IS that Truth?

The truth is that God’s Word says that He doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). He has set up a very specific way for us to be saved, both to experience glorious freedom in this life and as the only way to heaven. But we must do things His way. He is God, after all. Who are we to question?

For us believers, this means we must turn to scripture not only for salvation but for all of life. The new life we experience in Christ puts within us a love for His Word and, with a submissive heart, we should be regularly opening up the Word, prepared to obey it, no matter how we feel about what it says.

And for those of you who recognize you are basing your beliefs on your own preferences and the trends of the day and beginning to feel uncomfortable with this, this is a great time to seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and you will find Him! (Deut. 4:29) Call upon His name and He will answer. (Romans 10:13) Open up to the book of John and find out what the Savior has done for you. Yes, you! God wants you to be in right relationship with Him. He has given us the Bible to show us how. Submit your doubts and rebellion to God and allow Him to do a marvelous work in your life.

Last night, we had a couple in our home who has served for over fifty years as missionaries. Their accounts of God’s faithfulness left no doubt to the fact that we serve a loving and faithful God who cares about us personally. But what struck me most was the man’s testimony. It was a trail of amazing and unbelievable “coincidences” and happenings that leads us to the only conclusion possible: God was at work in a mighty way.

He may be at work in your heart today. Don’t ignore Him. Let the seeds of the Gospel that have been planted along the pathway of your life take root and come to life! Today is the day. Now is the time. God is so patient but life is so fragile. Today could be your last day on earth. Don’t base your eternity on whims and feelings but, instead, base it on the Holy Word of God!

 

Find out more about God’s way of salvation here.

 

Our Best and Highest Endeavor

There are lots and lots of people saying the wrong thing these days. They are promoting the unbiblical. They are promoting lies. And so many are swallowing them.

I’ve written often about how you can know if something is unbiblical. But I am not sure many people care about that all that much anymore. Yesterday, I ran into an old acquaintance. Her church is studying Revelation. As she expounded a bit, it soon became clear that it was a totally unbiblical rendering of what is actually taught in that book. By ripping a verse or two out of context, they are teaching that we are to bring God’s Kingdom to earth before the return of Christ. She trusts her church and when I gently and awkwardly mentioned that this might not be what the Bible teaches, the conversation ended. I knew that was a possibility, but I was willing to take that chance in the hopes that it would plant a seed of doubt in her mind regarding what she is being taught at church.

The thing is: Of course, I don’t know everything either. I am still learning. Don’t blindly follow me. Don’t blindly follow anyone. Don’t follow any human without checking their words by the Word. We often get ourselves in a lot of trouble when we follow a person or a group or a church without discernment.

This is why our highest and best endeavor is to study the Word of God in its literal, historical, grammatical framework in context.

If you have learned anything from reading this blog–anything at all– I hope that it will be this.

That’s all I have for today. It’s short but it’s profound. And it is what is missing from so many homes, churches, and “Christian” organizations. Instead of keeping the focus on the Word, it has moved to experiences and feelings. It has moved to keeping the peace or bending to society. It has moved to what is “truth for you” and “what works” so that what actually is true hardly matters anymore.

If we don’t have the Word, we have nothing. It is our anchor. It is where we learn about God and about Jesus and the cross. It is where we find out why we can have hope and peace and joy. It is where we learn how to live our lives in a way that pleases God. And it is where we can find out what is ahead for this world’s future and for our own eternal future.

When the Word is ignored in families, when it is disregarded and pushed to the side in churches, when it becomes twisted and warped and traditional interpretations are changed after 2000 years–well, this really does explain what is going on in our Christian culture, doesn’t it?

But, while we can’t change the world or even the church, we can change our own lives and our own homes. There, we can make a difference. If only a small one, we can be different and, in so doing, plant Gospel seeds of faith and encouragement.

So let’s be different today. Let’s live a Christ-centered life that is based on God’s Holy Word, no matter how unpopular it is.

 

What Makes You Really Angry?

I think we’ve all been angry at some point or other. There are probably some universal causes of anger–such as inept or rude customer service representatives; arguing children; or being betrayed by someone you trusted.

And then there are some causes of anger that seem to be more related to our personalities. Some people get angry at laziness or lack of common sense in those around them. Others get angry at circumstances beyond their control. Some people get plain mad at God when things don’t go their way.

We know that anger is not a righteous emotion. Most of the time.

There is that little caveat in Ephesians 4:26 where it says, “Be angry and do not sin.” This means there is sometimes a righteous cause for anger.

What is something that should make us very angry?

As I was studying in preparation for my upcoming study of Galatians, I realized that the main thing that should make us angry is any attack on the Gospel. Read these verses to see just how serious this is–

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert[a] the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be [b]accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-10)

These are not simply Paul’s words but these are God’s words. We can see from these verses that God takes an attack on the Gospel very seriously. Let anyone who warps and twists the true Gospel be accursed (which means devoted to destruction; imprecate evil or misery upon.)

Has the deluge of false gospels being pandered today made us immune? What other reason can there be that Christians aren’t up in arms regarding the countless attacks on the true Gospel? Why aren’t we defending it and refusing to allow the lies to creep in? Even in to our own “Bible-believing” churches?

What must God think?

I am not sure I ever really gave this much thought until reflecting on these verses yesterday (and listening to some sermons regarding these verses.)

There are two specific ways the Gospel gets perverted. Every perversion falls under one of these two.

First, there is grace plus works (legalism) perversion. ANY presentation or teaching regarding the Gospel that adds any works is not the true Gospel. This means that if you “need to get baptized” to be saved, it’s a false gospel. If you need to take communion or pray to saints in order to be assured of your salvation, it’s a false gospel. If you need to eat certain things, wear certain things, do anything to be saved, it is a false gospel.

Second, there is the hyper-grace (licentiousness) perversion. This perversion denies the many passages that call us to live a life pleasing to Christ. It denies that we become a new creation in Christ and, instead, says that, since we are no longer under law, anything goes. Here the Gospel is given without the message of sin and repentance. It is more focused on fire insurance rather than a lost and hopeless sinner’s reconciliation with God. Say a prayer and be saved–no fruit necessary, according to this false gospel.

These false gospels are dealt with all throughout scripture but in Galatians, Paul speaks specifically to both of them. Think with me for a moment what you know about many who lump themselves in with the modern day religion of “Christianity”. What do they teach about the Gospel?

If they are not preaching the true Gospel as is clearly presented in scripture they are not actually our brother and sisters in Christ. And this should upset us! This should make us mourn for the thousands–millions–who believe a lie about their eternal destiny. Not only do they believe a lie –but they believe a lie under the guise of Christianity and true Christians are not doing anything about it. Instead, they are encouraging them in their false faith and joining with them, declaring that “we are siblings in Christ”.

This is simply appalling! When you really think about it–could there be anything more unloving than allowing someone to believe they are truly saved– when they aren’t??

But we tend to get more upset about a spilled drink or an unexpected bill than we do about this tragedy taking place across the globe. Oh, how self-centered we are. How self-centered I am.

If we believe the true Gospel, then we need to not only live by it but pay attention when there is a departure from it. We need to stop making excuses and rationalizing away the damning differences. Like Paul, we should be up in arms and ready to defend the Gospel boldly and courageously!

 

*I have a page on the blog called “What is the Gospel?”, where we take a look at what scripture has to teach us about this subject. You can find it here.

*In 2016, I wrote about in some detail regarding some common false gospels. You can find that post here.

*I am looking very forward to my study of this book. If you are in the 2022 Growing4Life Bible Reading Challenge, I hope you are looking forward to it, as well. And if you aren’t in the challenge, it’s not too late to join for the rest of the year. Find out more information here.

 

The Power of Social Media

I was following a woman on Instagram who filled her stories with interesting information. Most of it I already knew. Some of it was new. And I was skeptical of quite a bit of it, as well. But she talked about Jesus and the Bible and the return of Christ and, so it seemed, even if a bit misguided, that she was fairly solid.

Until the day she had her followers ask her questions.

Oh, my, what a mess! She was encouraging mysticism while warning against mysticism. It would have been comical if it wasn’t so sad. She was speaking of Christ and His coming, while turning the attention of her followers to the books that “didn’t make it into the Bible” along with scripture. Oh, the danger of this! She is clearly so confused and I can’t help but think of the many women she is leading into confusion right along with her by answering those questions with authority and as if she knows.

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

(I Corinthians 14:33)

And then, recently, we have been watching many in the reformed crowd, who have been historical amillennialists (believe we are in the millennium right now) turn post-millennial (believe we need to prepare the earth for Christ’s return before the millennium can start). What does this mean? Well, simply put, it means that these powerful presences on social media are encouraging their followers to change the culture and fix the world in preparation for Christ’s return.

For example, Dale Partridge, well-known and trusted by many believers, recently said this (emphasis mine):

“Sadly, the “Left Behind” series has shaped America’s eschatology more than scripture has. As a result, the church has become chronically pessimistic, disengaged, and now embraces a culture where we wait for decay rather than work toward dominion. Do not retreat, revive!”

Wait…what?? There are Christians who actually believe this? Yes, many. Maybe most of them now.

He is accusing the eschatology (the doctrine of last, or final, matters) of Left Behind as being unbiblical. While I don’t necessarily condone the movies; the ideas of the rapture, tribulation, and thousand-year reign are clearly in scripture.

If Partridge doesn’t believe this, then what does he believe IS scriptural? From that quote, we must assume it is the false doctrine of Dominionism. This is the false teaching that we must prepare the earth and build God’s Kingdom before Christ can return. (I probably should write about this false teaching of Post-Millennialism/Dominionism so you can see that this is clearly not in scripture, no matter how many people say it is.)

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:

(2 Timothy 3:1)

 

But here’s my point of this post: Christians are being swayed and confused by those they follow on social media. I gave two examples but there are thousands more like them. Christians have followed these people and have found them to be biblical. They have grown to trust them for truth. They view their opinions as authoritative without ever going to the Bible to check if what they say is true. And I understand. It is a lot easier to scroll through social media than it is to get out your Bible and study it. It just is.

But if we have little knowledge of the Bible, then we will be unable to judge if what we are hearing is actually true. Most of us have also never been taught church history so it is easy to imbibe the lies that we read on social media or hear from our favorite authors and speakers.

One such example is the lie that the pre-trib rapture/pre-millennial eschatology is a “new” theory. It’s actually not. There are examples of many from the early church who believed in both the rapture and a literal millennium (It was called Chiliasm back then). It wasn’t until Augustine spiritualized the Old Testament that the eschatology of the church went impossibly askew. But most people don’t know this. I didn’t know this myself until only recently when I finally took the time to delve into the subject because the confusion around it is growing exponentially.

So, my caution for today is that we take great care in who we follow. If someone is talking about fixing the culture or building God’s Kingdom, be wary. If someone is talking about kooky, extra-biblical stuff and taking the focus off of scripture, be wary. If someone says something “new” from scripture that you’ve never heard before, don’t only be wary but research it.

This phenomenon of social media is scary. People can become “famous” overnight. They can go viral just because they put up a cute or compelling video. Just because someone can make a reel or gives interesting information does not mean that they can be trusted. Just because someone has an immense following on social media does not mean they can be trusted.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that where there is popularity there is truth. But I have personally found the opposite to be true: Run the opposite direction of the crowd if you want to find the truth.

So be careful. Be oh, so careful, who you follow. And do your own Bible Study. Do your own study of Christian history. I know, for many of you, your immediate response is probably “but that’s not my ‘thing’ “. I know it is not everyone’s “thing”. But, quite honestly, I am not sure, in this current age, that we can afford to say that anymore. The deception is growing exponentially and the bottom line is this: LIES can only be overcome with TRUTH.

Many of us have viewed eschatology as a “secondary issue” and thought it didn’t matter all that much. But we are finding out that it matters a great deal. For Satan is using wrong eschatology to prepare the world for the antichrist system.

May we be diligent and persevere in our study of God’s Word. May we be dedicated to interpreting it literally, grammatically, historically. May we be willing to do the work to test EVERYTHING by the Bible. May we be willing to research historical statements when necessary. May we be willing to stand strong, no matter the ridicule we get.

And may we gladly join the unpopular remnant in believing what the Bible clearly teaches: The rapture is close and the Tribulation is just around the corner.

It may be a negative message for the world, but for those who are redeemed, it’s the most positive message we could ask for at this juncture!

 

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,  looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

(Titus 2:11-14)

 

Life and Legos

Have you ever had assumptions made about you? People are really great at assuming. They assume they know your motives, your reasons, your “whys”. They make assumptions about choices and decisions. These assumptions are often fueled by rumors. Rumors that we are all too quick to listen to and pass along.

These rumors and assumptions can really get us down for we are rarely given an opportunity to defend ourselves.

Have you ever been faced with a terrifying bit of news? Of course you have. Whether it’s an unwelcome diagnosis from a doctor or a piece of news that comes to our ears through a news anchor, we have all had those moments.

These terrifying moments can bring on major fear and anxiety for they make us realize that we have zero control over what happens.

Have you ever been accused wrongly or unfairly treated? Whether it is through favoritism, a misunderstanding, or because of standing for what is right, these moments come to us all.

These unfair accusations can make us really angry, because, well…it’s just not fair!

Have you ever been broken-hearted or hopeless? Perhaps through the loss of a loved one, the betrayal of a friend, or the realization that you will have chronic pain for the rest of your life?

These moments of despair can make us depressed and zap all the joy from our lives because we just don’t feel like going on.

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I just finished reading the *biography of John Bunyan. He dealt with all of these things and more. As a young man, assumptions were made about him because he had been quite the wicked young man. The Lord got a hold of him and radically changed him but people just couldn’t forget the old man. He faced more trouble when his young wife died and left him with four young children to care for. Later on, he received the news of a prison sentence for a crime that wasn’t even a crime by the law of the land. It was totally and utterly wrongful imprisonment. While imprisoned, his precious Mary, his oldest (and blind) daughter passed away. When he was finally released from prison, his rabid opponents tried to stop his ministry through rumors and wrong accusations.

John found himself in a prison cell for twelve years. The religious wars in England at the time were ferocious and the tides turned every which way at any time. But, no matter which way it turned, his young wife (his second wife) found herself up against a brick wall in any effort to get him released.

Now, he could have grown depressed or angry. He could have ended up languishing in bitter disillusionment and unabated fury. But he didn’t.

Instead, he picked up quill and paper and started writing. And kept writing. And then wrote some more. His best known work is called Pilgrim’s Progress and is still a best seller among Christians today!

What was his key? Why could he continue on, despite the ill treatment and the heartbreak in his life?

There’s a small quote of his that shows us how he managed to do this. I have been mulling it over and over in my mind since I have first read it. I believe it is the key for us all–

“If ever I would suffer rightly I must first pass a sentence of death upon everything that can properly be called a thing of this life, even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyments, and all as dead to me and myself as dead to them. The second was to live upon God that is invisible.”

You see, he was putting scripture into practice. Paul basically told us this same thing in Philippians 3:8–

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

And so we must realize that it’s only in releasing our grip on the things of this world that we can experience the peace and joy that God has promised. It’s only in surrendering our sense of fairness, our reputations, our family members, our health, our finances, our futures to God and His Sovereign will that we can conquer our fears, worries, anger, and despondency.

This brings to mind an example of this I saw just a few years ago lived out right in front of my eyes. How well I remember the calm acceptance of my brother and his wife as they faced the fact that her journey on this earth was winding down to an end. It is because they were learning to release the things of this life to grasp instead the bright shining eternal gift of Christ.

As believers, the more we die to self and gain Christ, the more we are victorious in our Christian lives.

This isn’t exactly what most want to hear. In our self-obsessed culture, we want God to fulfill our dreams and pour down blessings.

But the actual blessings we receive from God aren’t all that appealing to the carnal soul.

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The other week, my son came into the house and said, “We have lots of legos!” I was confused and followed him out the door. What I saw sitting in the bed of his truck were 5-6 boxes of varying sizes filled with legos! A customer’s children had grown tired of legos and she didn’t want to bother selling them, so she asked if we wanted them. My son loaded them up and brought them home. Thousands of dollars worth of legos.

When our grandchildren laid eyes on those boxes they grew wide with excitement. As we pulled one off the truck and they saw all of the pieces and parts and potential, they were thrilled. Particularly the oldest, who at six years old, could really appreciate them.

Now, to an adult or a small baby, eh… who cares. Legos are not really their thing, right? Not really considered that big of a blessing. And maybe even a nuisance.

But to a child? Wow.

I think God’s blessings are a bit like that. They don’t look all that attractive to the unbeliever. Forgiveness of sins and peace with the God of the Universe? Eh. Not all that important, as they yearn after the worthless “fool’s gold” of this world. Peace and joy in the midst of trial? But they want promises of NO trials.

It isn’t until we are saved that God’s blessings fill us with awe and appreciation. Because they are specifically for those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation and eternal life.

And so victory and blessing in the Christian life isn’t going to look all that appealing to the unbeliever or perhaps even to the immature believer.

It isn’t until we give up the temporal for the eternal that we begin to understand.

 

I wish I could say I am able to live out the truth of John Bunyan’s statement above. I wish I could say that God’s blessings are always enough for me. But, unfortunately, in my battle with my flesh and my {ever-loosening but still tight} grip on this world, I cannot. I can only write about it in hopes to encourage us all towards this ideal, knowing that God will faithfully continue His work in those of us who are His as we journey together towards the eternal city.

 

for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13

 

 

*A Pilgrim Path: John Bunyan’s Journey by Faith Cook. Highly recommend!

 

On Racism

Do any of you remember when the Poconos in Pennsylvania used to be a hotspot for honeymooners? Back in the old days, international travel was only for the very wealthy or businessmen. Many of us only dreamed of leaving America and traveling the world. So when our fifth wedding anniversary arrived, we naturally thought about the Poconos. Only a few hours from here, it seemed a good place to spend the weekend and celebrate our five years. We left the kids with Grandpa and Grandma and headed out. When we arrived, we could see that even then already, their better days were behind them. It was already starting to look a bit run down. But we knew we’d have fun, anyway.

At dinnertime, we entered a room with tables for four. Much to our dismay, we were placed with another couple whom we didn’t know at all. This was not part of our plan and it was frustrating to sit with strangers on our anniversary trip. But, unbeknownst to us, God had a very special treat in store for us that would live on in our memories for the rest of our lives.

The couple that sat down to eat with us was a Nigerian couple from New York City. He was a police officer there and kept us entertained with many stories of both New York and Nigeria (it was there that we learned how different and luxurious American prisons are compared to the rest of the world.) But the most special thing of all was that this couple were vibrant believers. The bond we shared around that table was the bond of family. We were related in Christ and it was such an amazing time. It didn’t matter that they were black and we were white. It didn’t matter that they were from the city and we were from the country. We were family through Jesus Christ.

I have often thought of this dinner since this whole conversation about racism has cropped up in the “church” recently. (I use quotes because I don’t believe many God-fearing, Bible-believing churches have fallen for the lies that are being propagated by this movement.)

You see, when racism is truly non-existent in the Body of Christ, all people are treated with respect and love. No matter the color or race, all are welcomed in the bond of unity that we have in Christ. There is no special treatment or “reparations” for past hurts. We accept one another and think of others more than we think of ourselves.

This is not what you are seeing in this modern day movement. Not at all.

And this leads me to the conclusion that this movement is not of God, for they have not reached biblical conclusions.

I love Colossians 3:11–

where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

In a truly non-racist, unified church there is no thought to race or color. It isn’t an issue. Because we are all one in Christ.

Compare that to the shouts for fairness and the cries for reparations. Compare that to the discrimination that is now taking place against white males. Is this of God? Most certainly not. In fact, this is racism at its finest– sanctioned under the guise of evangelical religion.

Oh, how did we get here? How has this happened?

I want to close with this quote from James T. Draper, Jr., which is based on Titus 1:4. In this verse, Paul asserts that Titus and he have a common faith. I love what he has to say and I think that, although this is an old book, what Draper has to say is quite relevant for us all today–

“Titus was a Greek, Paul a Jew. But Paul was saying, ‘We have a common faith. (Titus 1:4) God loves us both. God has a purpose for both of us, God has a common desire for our lives and hearts.” God’s community is for everyone. His is a universal message, one that all can understand, one that all desperately need. It is good for rich and poor, young and old, black and white, educated and unlearned, men of all races, creeds, and nationalities.

That is the message of the Word of God. None of us are left outside by it. None of us are too insignificant to be touched by it. None of us are too untalented to be used in the community of the faith. That is the good news of the Gospel.”

So may I encourage you to look to the Bible for the answers to your questions about racism and not to the world? And particularly not to the mainstream church, who truly have it ALL wrong.

 

 

That Elusive Contentment

I sat at my computer working on one of my least favorite jobs in our landscaping company. It’s not something I have to do often but it is something that needs to be done. I reminded myself how much I hate this job (inside my head) a few times before remembering a conversation I had had with my youngest daughter a few days before.

She was telling me how she thrives on trying new things and pursuing new hobbies but that sometimes there are seasons in life that there is no time for that because there are other priorities. And how important it is to find contentment even when there isn’t the next and new hobby or adventure or experience. She went on to say how sad it is that her generation is being taught to always look for the next “experience” to fulfill them.

And that is what has happened. While my generation was about getting stuff, her generation is about getting experiences. Many of them hop from one to the next. Their contentment is driven by these new experiences.

But it matters not whether we search after contentment in stuff or in experiences. Both are deceiving us into believing contentment can be found outside of God.  In fact, our search for contentment in anything outside of God is fruitless and disappointing.

As I sat there at my computer, I thought about the impatience I feel when I am doing a job I don’t like. Let’s just get this over with and move on. But this time–and maybe for the first time ever–I took a moment to think about why I am telling myself I hate this job. It really is not that bad. God has given me the tools to do it and it’s a small part of my life. And I suddenly recognized the need to be content even in doing this mundane, ordinary job that I don’t like.

This really made me reflect on this idea of contentment. So many of us spend our lives jumping from one stage, one experience, one remodel, or one big purchase to the next. We have been taught that contentment comes with change. And so we are constantly changing.

Our culture has molded us to want and desire change. How often do we find a favorite scent or flavor of something just to find it has left the store shelves never to return? Or we go into the bank and the person you’ve talked to forever has been moved to a different branch? Just because. (That actually happened to me many years ago– my bank at the time moved their employees every three months so you could never get to know any of them. That was when I left that bank.)

But somehow in the midst of the constant changing, we became convinced that change is what it will take to make us happy. If my kid will just reach this stage. Or if my husband would just do this. If we’d just make more money or be able to redo the kitchen. Or if we could just lose weight or get a college degree. You can fill in your own sentence here. We all have our own “next thing”.

But I am learning–ever so slowly–that when that thing arrives that you thought would make you content, it only lasts for a bit and then your heart feels empty again and that next change calls your name. It’s a vicious and never-ending cycle.

So how do we find real and lasting contentment? Where does it come from and how do we get it?

As always, the Bible has something to say about this! Let’s take a look–

 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Before we get to that beautiful promise that God will never leave us or forsake us, we have this seemingly irrelevant sentence: Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. Why would the Holy Spirit direct the author of Hebrews to write that? Perhaps it is because God knows full well that His being with us and never forsaking us is enough. Why do we covet and crave the temporal? We can be content with whatever God has given us at any give time, knowing full well we rest wholly in His sovereign and loving care.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (I Timothy 6:6-8)

These verses remind us that all of these things we hunger after are just temporary. We cannot take any of this with us when we die. It will all fade away back to dust. Does someone live a fuller, happier life because they have a million dollar house and can buy anything they want? Does someone live a fuller, happier life because they have traveled the world? Well, maybe…but maybe not. Because the Grandma over there who has submitted to the Lord’s will for her life and chosen to obey Him is going to have a much better life than the Grandma that hasn’t, even if they have everything money can buy. The young man who chooses to go into his trade job, joyfully living for Christ, is going to be far happier than the young man who has a prestigious career but follows his own selfish desires.

The choices we make in our lives that bring God glory always also bring us the greatest contentment. God’s plan and workings are both mysterious and quite amazing!

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

These are probably the most well-known verses regarding this subject of contentment. When we read Acts, we recognize that Paul isn’t just writing this out of thin air. He’s writing it out of his own personal experience. He has both abounded and has suffered need. He has learned this the hard way.

So what is Paul’s key to this contentment? First, we see from verse 13 that he recognizes that contentment comes from Christ alone. That it is Christ who strengthens us in all circumstances and that turning our eyes upon Jesus and taking them off of our circumstances is the key to this contentment.

But I think we can also gain a little insight into this contentment of Paul’s by turning back a few chapters in Philippians–

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. (Philippians 3:7)

It is here that we recognize that Paul was able to find contentment because he understood that earthly gain matters not a bit. Christ was his center. Christ was the source of his contentment. To live is to live for Christ alone. To die is to be with Christ for all eternity.

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And so scripture reminds us that true and lasting contentment isn’t found in changing our circumstances. Rather, it is found in changing ourselves through the power of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:12-13).

May we turn to the Word as we seek after contentment rather than turn to the world with all of its empty promises and fleeting feelings. The world might make fabulous promises but they are barren and hollow. The Bible, on the other hand, not only makes promises, but God keeps every promise He makes. True contentment only comes through trusting and obeying God.

 

 

 

What Do They See?

This past week, when I was at Target, I noticed a line of men about ten or fifteen deep snaking towards the back of the store. Without obviously staring, I assessed that they all seemed to be somewhere in their twenties and thirties.

I looked around to try to figure out what they were waiting for. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I asked a store clerk who stood nearby.

“Oh, some new Pokémon cards or something are coming out today.”

Wait. What? Grown men waiting for Pokémon cards? Are you kidding me?

The clerk at the check-out counter elaborated further. Pointing over to the lady who was restocking the shelves, she informed me that the men weren’t allowed to go to the shelves until they were fully restocked.

While I can’t know the story behind why any particular grown man was in that line (maybe it was for his kid?), the fact that there was a line of grown men waiting to purchase something that was designed for children was mind-boggling to me.

These full-grown men who are still interested in the toys of children stand in stark contrast to the three men of Daniel 3. Some commentators estimate that the incident in this chapter happened around 15 years after they were taken as exiles into Babylon. That would put Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego around thirty years of age.

They had left childish things behind many years before. While only teens, they had had to make the difficult decision not to eat the King’s food out of their loyalty to God. They were already thinking about what is most important and who gets their allegiance.

When, years later, they were faced with the choice to bow down to the golden image as Nebuchadnezzar demanded or to stay true to God, they were prepared.

You have to just absolutely stand in amazement of these men as they answered Nebuchadnezzar’s demand for worship and consequential threat of the fiery furnace—

 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up. Daniel 3:17-18

As I reflect on these three young men and the stand they took for the Lord, I can’t help but think of the men who stood in line for… cards.

The world is so obsessed with the things that do not matter.

And the world is teaching men specifically to never grow up. For a man captivated by a world of video games, sports, and children’s toys are men who are rendered ineffective in their families. If they are believers, they are rendered useless for Christ and stand unprepared to face the hard trials ahead.

Instead of digging deep roots of faith through prayer and Bible Study, they squander countless hours on their idols that matter not a bit in the scope of eternity.

Oh, what a sad, sad state this is. While we can expect this kind of thing from the young men of the world, how utterly devastating to see this in the life of Christian young men.

This leads us to consider our own role in creating godly character of the young men (and women, too) in our lives. Are we teaching them to love and serve the Lord above all else? As parents and grandparents, are we teaching them by our words and deeds to reflect and care about the eternal things of life?

Or are we ourselves obsessed with the stuff of life that just doesn’t matter? Education, entertainment, hobbies, popularity, careers, material possessions, recreation, health and fitness…all of these things (and so many more) can so easily become idols in our lives, replacing the eternal with the temporal; replacing what is everlasting with what is short-term; replacing our love for God with our love for ourselves.

Most of the things listed above are not wrong in and of themselves. It’s the obsession that brings the danger.

May we be like those three men in Daniel 3–turning away from those ungodly idols that would demand our time and attention and digging deep roots of faith so that we are fully prepared to take a stand for God and truth when necessary, no matter the cost.

Our kids are watching. Our grandchildren are watching. Your family and friends and co-workers–they are all watching. What will they see?

Will they see that you are sold out for Christ or will they see a person obsessed with something that just doesn’t matter?

What do they see?

 

 

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