Christian Living

Making the Most of Time Spent in God’s Word

Have you ever talked to someone and found them to be unreasonable? They won’t listen to your side of the argument but are ready with their opinion before you even finish speaking? (Maybe we are that unreasonable person. It’s such a temptation for most of us). This can be so very frustrating, but never so frustrating as when we are discussing biblical matters.

I remember several conversations with Christians throughout the course of my life where there were such strong opinions that even when biblical evidence to counter it was presented, they ignored or dismissed it. They were people who claimed to be in the Word on a daily basis so I was befuddled, to say the least. The topics were clear from scripture and not gray areas.

But they wanted to believe what they wanted to believe.

As Christians, perhaps we all may do this at times. We come to the Bible with everything that makes up who we are: The spiritual environment of our homes growing up; the opinions of the teachers, professors, and preachers of our lives; the doctrine and rules of all of our past churches and denominations; the voices of the authors we’ve read; the beliefs of our spouses, parents, siblings, friends, and other people we may love dearly. We also come to the Bible with our personalities–optimistic, pessimistic, realistic, etc.

This means that, without careful and deliberate intention, our Bible study will be tainted by our experiences and with worldly wisdom.

The Bible is the only certain truth we have in this world. It is our only anchor. Since the inception of Christianity and throughout the following centuries, this has been central to the faith. The Bible is God’s Inspired, Inerrant, and Authoritative Word. Any branch of Christianity that dismissed and negated the authority, inerrancy, and veracity of scripture was considered a false religion.

Oh, how things have changed.

God’s Word has been relegated to the backseat in favor of experience. Many people no longer even take a Bible with them to church. The worldly church hungers for entertainment and excitement, always craving bigger and better.

How did the church get here? How did we end up in a world where what is called “Christianity” is nothing like biblical Christianity?

I believe Biblical illiteracy has much to do with this. People stopped reading their Bibles and so they were easily distracted and deceived.

Hopefully, you are here because you want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. The main purpose of this blog is to point you towards God’s Word and to encourage you to know it and to study it.

But, even as I noted above, there are many who claim to read God’s Word who don’t seem to be transformed by it. How is that? They claim to read the Scriptures, and yet they cling to unscriptural principles and doctrines.

How can we make sure this does not happen to us? What can we do to make sure that we are not tainted by our past and our personalities when we come to God’s Word? How do we ready our hearts and minds, in order to be transformed?

There are five things that will maximize the work of God’s Word in our lives. Without them, the Bible will be just another book to read.

As we study God’s Word, let’s make sure that we are bringing these five things to our study–

1. FAITH. Faith, according to dictionary.com, is confidence or trust in a person or thing. Faith, in the biblical sense, is complete and utter trust in God. We trust in Him to save us from our sins and we also trust His Word. We have complete confidence that what He says is true.

There are many, many people who read the Bible. They read it for educational purposes. For its history. Out of a sense of duty. But this does not mean they are saved. Without true faith the Bible is just a book full of myths. Without the Holy Spirit to illuminate the scriptures, the Bible is just another religious book.

2. SUBMISSION. There can be no transformation without a willingness to yield to God’s Sovereignty. This can be hard and lies at the heart of every complaint and every heart-rending question of “why”. It lies at the heart of many physical illnesses and most cases of depression and anxiety. When we aren’t willing to submit to God’s Will for our lives, we rob ourselves of peace and joy. And, like a tiny ant shaking its fist, we demand our own way.

When we aren’t willing to submit, our will becomes the primary focus. Our desires and our dreams become the centerpiece of our religion and the heart of our Bible study is utterly self-centered.

This will completely render our study ineffective and useless. The Bible is not about us. It is about God. He is the Creator and we are the creature (Genesis 1-3). He is the potter and we are the clay (Isaiah 29:16). Oh, how important to understand this as we approach God’s Word.

3. HUMILITY. So often we have an agenda when we come to God’s Word. We want to believe certain things about God or mankind and so we focus in on the verses we like and skip over the ones we don’t like. But true humility takes God’s Word at face value. Instead of trying to pridefully turn and twist it to say what we want it to say, we humble ourselves before God and accept the Word literally and in its entirety.

Humility also recognizes that there are many things that can’t be understood. For example, we cannot understand how God draws and man chooses at the same time. These are parallel truths that our human minds can’t comprehend.

Deuteronomy 29:29 reminds us that we don’t know everything and that’s okay–

 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

We must release our pride, our selfish agendas, and our need to understand everything in order to make the most out of our time in God’s Word.

4. WILLINGNESS to OBEY. If we aren’t willing to obey what we read, then we will never be transformed. I will take it a step further–if we aren’t willing to obey what we read, we probably aren’t saved. I John 2:3-4 makes this abundantly clear–

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Obedience isn’t just something God would like us to do. Obedience is the sure evidence that we are Christ’s!

5. TIME and FOCUS. These two things are scarce, aren’t they? In a culture that demands busyness, we can quickly become over-committed.  In a world that is full of distractions, it is hard to focus. We must intentionally change this or we will greatly impair our Bible Study time. It must become a priority. When we recognize the importance of God’s Word in our Christian walk, we must then deliberately take steps to be in the Word and to protect that time.

How do we do this?

It won’t be easy. But there are some steps we can take. I am working on these in my own life, so I am right there with you on this!

First, we must set a specific time, that is rarely altered. If we work, it may be setting our alarm clock earlier (which usually means turning the TV off and going to bed earlier); if we have infants or toddlers, it may mean taking that first half hour of naptime and dedicating it to God’s Word. Carve out a time that becomes regular. Don’t let a few days derail you from your plan. Illness happens. Teething babies happen. Other things sometimes get in the way. But let’s make a commitment to get back to our regular time when it is possible.

Second, we must eliminate the distractions. Oh, this is hard! But we can make a few little changes that will be immensely helpful. First, get a real Bible. A Bible app on your iPad or phone can be helpful, but it’s best not to use it for your quiet time in God’s Word unless you put it in airplane mode. Second, put all tech temptations in a different room as you read and study God’s Word. Intentionally give your undivided attention to the Bible for an hour. A half hour. Whatever time you have designated. Any time is better than none!

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As we dedicate ourselves to the reading and study of God’s Word may we bring to it a right heart attitude. May we pray about these things. Let’s ask God to fill us with faith and humility. Ask Him to help us to yield to His will and to be obedient to His commands. And let’s pray that He would open up a way for us to spend undistracted time in prayer and in His Word. We know this is His will so we can pray with confidence!

 

 

Twelve Things I’d Change if I Could Live my Life Over

Oftentimes, we evaluate our lives as we approach the end of the year. We examine our life in regards to health, career, education. We consider our bank accounts and we reflect on our relationships. We ask: What could we do better next year?

The most important questions we can ever ask ourselves as we evaluate our past year are: Do I look more like Christ? and Did I learn any spiritual lessons? After all, these are the only things of lasting and eternal value.

Education, good jobs, making money, and beautiful homes are nice, but they aren’t the heart of a Christian’s life. Popularity, fame, and 100,000 Instagram or Facebook followers may be very gratifying but it’s not what really matters in life.

So now is a good time to ask: What are my top priorities for the new year?

As you consider this, I compiled a list of a few things that I’d love to go back and change if I could live my life over. Some are major and some are not-so-major. Other than the first two (which I consider, by far, the most important), they are not in any particular order. As I evaluate my life, these are the things I’d love to do differently. This list is not exhaustive and I know that there are some that are just not coming to mind right now.

If we have a priority to walk with God and to teach our families to walk with God in the upcoming year, then I hope this list encourages you and gives you some practical ideas of how to get started–

1. Be more faithful in reading and studying Bible; memorize passages. God’s Word is transforming. We need the Bible in order to know and love God. It is our guidebook, showing us how to live. It is our mirror, convicting us of sin. And yet, I hindered my walk for years by being satisfied with shallow devotionals instead of actually reading the Bible. And yes! Memorize! I just started this last year and I can’t even begin to tell you the difference this has made in my walk with the Lord. Oh, why didn’t I do this earlier….??

2. Be much more diligent to have my kids learn and study and memorize God’s Word. God’s Word was always the authority in our home, but, oh, how I wish I would have been so much more faithful in having my kids in the Word and memorizing it in a much more systematic way. This is the only thing that will carry them through the trials that come to us all and the only way they can stand under the persecution they can expect to receive as Christians.

3. Put my distractions aside and play more with my kids. The laundry, the dishes, the household work, the phone call, the tv show–they could have waited. Not that I never played with them. But, looking back now, I realize now just how fast the time goes and I wish I would have spent even more time with them.

I am so very glad I didn’t have the temptation of looking at my phone when I had kids. I feel rather bad for those of you who have smartphones and tablets at your fingertips, tempting you to check on them and then pulling you in at all moments of the day. I encourage you to put them in a room far away and focus on your kids! Trust me, you will regret it if you don’t.

4. Be more diligent to keep an eternal perspective in all things but especially when it pertained to raising my kids When we are in the midst of parenting, we are often concerned about two things–will my kid still like me if I do or don’t allow this? And will their friends still like them if we don’t allow this? But neither of those matter. It’s so much more important that our children love and serve the Lord than that they fit in with the in-crowd–this one fact changes so many decisions we make as parents! Sure, they may be mad at us or even scream at us, but standing firm pays off in the long run. For the most part we stood firm on God’s Word in our family and we were often ostracized because of it, but as I reflect on our parenting years, I do regret some of the decisions we made based on peer pressure. (Let me add here, that there is also the opposite–where we make far too many {unnecessary} rules that have nothing to do with scripture. Please don’t do that. It breeds rebellion. If you have a rule, make sure it has a scriptural principle behind it and that your kids know what that principle is.)

5. Be much more careful in what I set before my eyes and listen to with my ears; I was always fairly careful, but even things I would have considered “innocent” I can see now were promoting infidelity or bad language or lying. They were full of human wisdom or showing an ungodly model of a family (just how many sitcoms can make Dad look like a complete idiot?!?). I would work harder earlier in my life to eliminate all forms of entertainment that do not glorify God. I know some of you may think I am “over the top” but entertainment changes us. We are fooled into thinking it doesn’t matter but it most certainly does. I still have so far to go in this area, but I do feel like a different person since I have eliminated quite a bit of what is worldly entertainment from my life. But that’s a topic for another day…

6. Be kinder to my husband; I think I am especially cognizant of this because of losing my sister-in-law this past year. I’m sure my brother would only love to have her there, irritating him in whatever way she may have done so. It is always hardest to be kind and loving with the ones that we live with. I really want to be more intentional in nurturing my marriage this coming year.

7. Have far more grace for others; I didn’t have a lot of grace for others as a young person. I am so very thankful that God has brought situations and people into my life that have wrought a great change in this area. But I sure do wish I would have recognized way earlier in life that “but for the grace of God, go I”.

8. Let the minor offenses go; This is another change God has made in my life due to people and situations. I had to intentionally forgive and choose not to hold a grudge–many times without the other person even knowing that they hurt me. Eventually it became natural (at least much of the time), but it took me too long. Life is so much more enjoyable if we stop being so easily offended.

9. Speak the truth of God’s Word with lots of love and kindness. I never had too much trouble speaking the truth, but the love and kindness part would sometimes take a backseat. I hope that I have made progress in this, although I am sure I sometimes still fail. Those of us who passionately love and defend the truth can often struggle with the love side of things. Would I have done more for God’s Kingdom if I would have changed my tone or said things differently as a younger person? Only God knows. In this, I am so very thankful for God’s forgiveness and mercy.

10. Think of others more often. I was SO selfish as a young person. Looking back, I am dismayed and distraught seeing it. I still can tend to be that way and I have to literally fight against my flesh and do what is right. Sometimes I win that battle and sometimes I don’t. But I truly want to be a blessing by thoughtful words and kind deeds–rather than a burden through sarcasm, human opinions about things that are not scriptural, and selfish acts. This is certainly an area in progress and I sure do wish I was much further along in this one!

Along with this, I wish I would have shared the Gospel so much more freely, without worrying what people think! I am so self-centered that I am {still} often more concerned with what people think about me than I am with someone’s eternal destiny!

11. Recognize that my parents are people who have feelings and need support. I am so dismayed when I consider how selfish I was as a teen and twenty-something. When I was getting married, my grandma was in the hospital. And then she passed away two weeks before I had my first child. I was so wrapped up in my life that I was not there for my mom. Oh, how I regret this! If you are blessed to have parents, realize now that they are people, too. That their life is not solely comprised of you and your world. Oh, how I wish I would have understood this sooner.

12. Waste far less time worrying about what “could happen”. Worry and anxiety are a prison. They destroy the present and do nothing to change the future. And yet, how many of us find ourselves in that prison, held tightly by their chains? This is a battle in many of our lives but we must fight it instead of cave into it. We are, in essence, saying we do not trust in God. And therein lies the issue. Oh, how I wish I would have wasted far less time in this useless and faith-sapping activity.

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So there’s the list. Not that I have arrived. Some of these continue to be quite the challenge for me. One of them I thought I conquered and then, years later, it came back with a vengeance (#12, if you want to know!)

Most, if not all, of these things are changed by intentional choices with the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit. I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to this over the course of the past few months.

Some of the things above have changed over the course of my lifetime, simply from growing in Christ. It has sometimes been two steps forward and one step back, but, gradually, over time, they got so much better. Not perfect but better. But even these things came from changing a small habit or behavior. Making a conscientious choice to sit down with God’s Word in the morning or to mentally turn away from the negative thoughts when someone says something hurtful or to choose to offer grace when someone does something I just can’t understand. Although sometimes still a challenge, it is far more natural now to respond correctly. But it wasn’t always the case. I had to intentionally make a choice.

It is hard to improve anything without intentionally choosing to do so. Before you think I am all caught up in man’s wisdom and the “I can do anything I set my mind to”, I want to stop right here.

I am not saying that lasting change can be had without the Holy Spirit. What I am saying is that becoming more Christ-like isn’t just going to happen one day without any work from us at all.

Galatians 5:24-25 says this:

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

We have to crucify our flesh. It’s an action on our part. In this verse and earlier in that chapter we can also see that we are to walk in the Spirit (v. 16) Again, it’s intentional action on our part.

Life is like a quickly fading flower. Those of you who are young will blink and find yourselves where I am. You, too, will look back over your life and wonder how in the world you ever got here so incredibly fast. Live intentionally now so that your “things I’d change” list is shorter than mine!

(For those of you who have lived as long or longer than I have–what would you change? Your comments on this may help a younger reader. We are all different and have different struggles, so I’d love for you to share your thoughts on this.)

 

 

How Important is Your Stuff?

I had lunch with a dear friend this week and, as always, the conversation easily flowed as we talked about the Lord, life, family, and whatever else that came up.

During our time together, we started talking about her childhood as an MK (missionary kid). It all started with a string of gold beads. You know–the kind you get for your tree at Christmas. She glanced at them and said that when she was living on the mission field, she remembered her family having a string of brightly colored beads that went missing one day. The next day they started seeing the ladies wearing them in the form of earrings. They had been stolen and turned into earrings!

Now you may think–what’s the big deal? Who cares about a string of cheap beads?

True.

But as we talked further, I started to get just a little feel for the culture in which she lived. She went on to say that in that native culture, stealing wasn’t considered wrong unless someone “caught you”. With this being the case, everything they owned was at risk. Especially if it was outside. Even clothing hanging on a wash-line was apt to be stolen. Any servant brought into the house to help with the hard task of daily living would bring the risk of losing more of your personal stuff.

Since they were hours and hours away from the closest city, there would be no opportunity to get more stuff anytime soon. There was no running to the local Walmart or Target to replace something when you live in the jungle.

As she told me this story, she shared how her father had told her that he had learned not to care so much about his possessions on the mission field. What wasn’t stolen was often ruined by the awful heat and humidity.

As I listened to her talk, I was challenged. How much we all value “stuff”. Right?

Oh, some of us don’t have a struggle with any of this. But a good many of us do. And it goes way beyond just wanting the latest and greatest…

Some people just buy a lot. They are “stuff-aholics”. Others value stuff so highly that they get angry or depressed if some of their “stuff” is ruined or goes missing. And, of course, there are those who just like feeling like they are better than others because of their accumulation or brand of “stuff”.

But, after all is said and done, it’s just that: Stuff. We can take none of it with us to heaven. Whether we like it or not, it will all end up in the junk heap. And our value is certainly not determined by how much or what kind of stuff we own.

So why do so many of us wind up loving our stuff so much? How in the world do we get so off-kilter when it comes to this matter of buying, keeping, and valuing our stuff?

I am sure our materialistic culture is to blame, to some extent. Everywhere we turn we hear “BUY MORE STUFF!” It is the main marketing message that hits our ears [what feels like] a million times a day.

But that’s really no excuse for a Christian, right?

As I think on this, Colossians 3:1-2 comes to mind. It is here that I think we can find a principle related to how we view our stuff–

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

The more fixed our eyes are on heaven, the less important our earthly stuff becomes.

You see, there isn’t anything innately wrong with owning stuff. There are many examples in scripture of wealthy men and women who followed God whole-heartedly.

The trouble comes in when we don’t view it with the right heart and a godly attitude. And I’ve noticed that this attitude is not dependent on how much money one has. There are greedy, miserly people who are living paycheck to paycheck. And there are godly, generous people who make millions of dollars each year. The greedy, uncharitable, or discontent heart appears to be completely unrelated to income.

In my friend’s case, her father’s hands were pried loose from his stuff because, in a foreign land, it became a most uncertain commodity. At any moment it could be gone and he was forced to recognize his stuff wasn’t his own but God’s. And, in turn, he was forced to rely on God when his possessions would disappear.

Here in the western world we live in, we rarely get to such a point. Instead, we need to be much more intentional on learning the godly approach to stuff.

This can only be done by diving into the Word and learning there what kind of attitude we should have. God has blessed us immensely here in the west in regards to material things. But, with that, comes its own special challenges, as well as a grave responsibility.

So may we strive to hold our “stuff” with a content heart and an open hand. After all, it really isn’t ours, anyway. We need to be godly, generous stewards of what God has allowed us to have for this time.

 

An Intentional Life

How do we get from “here” to “there”? Is there some shortcut or some magic path that will take us where we know we should be?

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to speak to a group of Christian ladies about parenting intentionally: Making daily parenting choices in light of our goal that our children walk closely with God. As I was thinking a bit more about this, I realized that it is not just parenting where intentional living is necessary.

It is necessary in all aspects of life.

A few years ago, I experienced a lot of change. During that time, I started eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. While I am no binger, I would fill my plate with unhealthy things like potato chips (oh, how I love potato chips!!) and eat dessert every day–sometimes multiple times a day. I didn’t feel like cooking, so a few times each week, we’d go out or bring in takeout. I drank soda and sugar-laden iced tea. This became my lifestyle for a year or two. It was easy to fall into these habits because they were what my flesh called for. I was just obeying my flesh when it came to food.*

Unsurprisingly, I gained a lot of weight. I became uncomfortable and every step made my knees hurt. I hated photos of myself, trying on clothing was a torturous, discouraging process, and I couldn’t even hold my grandchildren without experiencing pain.

At some point, this past summer, this idea of eating intentionally took root. I knew that if I didn’t change, I would live like this for the rest of my life. And I didn’t want that. Oh, how I didn’t want that. So with fervent prayer and a little help from a weight loss program, I finally got serious about changing these extremely bad habits that my lazy flesh had adopted.

So every single day I had choices to make. Instead of following my flesh, I made little, intentional choices that added up to big changes.

And guess what? Eating less chips and desserts, cutting out sugared drinks, and cooking more at home leads to weight loss. I chose to be more intentional about what I put in my mouth and I lost weight. I didn’t need to eradicate these things to lose weight or to keep the weight off. In fact, eliminating them would have led to failure in my case. But being more intentional in consuming them has changed everything.

Those old habits are always calling my name. Pleasing our flesh is like a rushing river that is always threatening to draw us in. Paul puts it so well in Romans 7:19, doesn’t he?–

For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

And, yet, with the Lord’s help, we can say “no” to our flesh! We can choose to intentionally make choices that we know will please the Lord. This is a big part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives and yet, so often, we ignore it.

What are some other ways we choose to follow our flesh without any conviction to live differently?

How about financially? Buying what we want whenever we want is a real temptation in this culture of “having the latest and greatest right now”.

Or how about time spent in the Word and prayer? Our flesh will never call us to sit down and spend time with God. This habit will only be developed by intentionally sitting down and getting started.

Parenting has already been touched on, but we must understand that we cannot expect godly kids if we are filling their brains and their hours with ungodly entertainment, friends, and activities.

And what about relationships? If we want to have God-honoring relationships with our family, friends, co-workers, and others, this takes work. It doesn’t just happen. We have to intentionally build into the lives of others. Make time for them. It is improved by intentionally loving them, despite their being differences between you. Someone has to make the first move to heal or improve a relationship. Why not you?

So how do we live intentionally? How do we have the strength to choose what is right over the powerful pull of our flesh?

Galatians 5:16 tells us–

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?

John MacArthur says this in his sermon on this topic

Now the concept of walking really does mean daily conduct.  There’s never a time in your life when you just arrive and from then on you’re permanently spiritual.  I do not believe the Bible teaches some eradication of the sin nature in this life or some second work of grace or some perfectionism, when you have reached that you never sin again.  Not at all.  It is a daily moment-by-moment walk and it comes and goes, depending upon our submissiveness.  By the way, if anyone of us says that we have no sin we make God a liar.  We never overcome sin totally but we can overcome it as a pattern of life by walking by the Spirit.  That’s a basic, daily, practical life pattern.  And I say it again, the only way you can do it, the only way you can walk routinely in the Spirit of God is to have spiritual thoughts.  And the only way you can have spiritual thoughts is to be communing with the living God in an intense and continual prayer attitude and being fed continually on the Word so that your thoughts are God’s thoughts.

Consider these words for a moment. We cannot expect to walk in the Spirit without intentionally making a choice to do so. In order to do so means time spent in the Word and in an attitude of prayer. This, then, leads us to experience victory over sin in other areas of our life, since we know scripture teaches us that we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh if we are walking in the Spirit.

And so we can see that intentional living starts here! It starts with our dedication and commitment to prayer and study of the Word.

If we don’t have that properly in place, then our battle with the flesh–whether it’s our eating habits, our parenting choices, how we spend our money, or anything else–will only lead to eventual defeat.

The thing is, we know from Paul (and from our own lives, too) that we never arrive in this. Our flesh will always provide battles for us to fight. Intentional living will be harder sometimes than others. We will fail. We will fall down.

We just can’t stay there. We need to get back to praying and spending time in the Word. We need to really think about our daily choices and where they are leading us.

May we never give up or give in but choose, instead, to live an intentional life–one that pleases God in every aspect.

 

*I want you to know that sharing that little story about my personal weight gain is rather embarrassing. I can’t believe I left myself get to that point. I share it in the hopes that I can offer some hope to those of you who might have also given in to the flesh when it comes to food. While food itself is not moral, when and how much we choose to eat can be a moral choice. There is a way to please God through our choices and a way to please our flesh. This is a much-ignored sin in our Christian culture but I was acutely aware that I was not pleasing the Lord while I was pleasing my flesh in how I ate during that time of my life.

Three Mortal Enemies of Spiritual Growth

This year has been incredibly busy. Part of the fall-out of that busyness is that my Bible study and prayer life really took a nosedive. When I did have a spare minute, I was just too tired to think. While I did continue reading for the G4L Bible Challenge, I found it challenging to fit in and I also found my reading to be more of a duty than an enjoyment. It saddens me to admit this but it is the truth.

As I was contemplating these past months, I was thinking about how much my busy schedule negatively affected my spiritual growth. As I was thinking about this, a few other things that stunt our spiritual growth also came to mind.

Let’s talk about them.

Busyness

In many ways being busy has become synonymous with living a productive life. Where I live with our German roots, there are many who feel guilty even sitting down for a few moments because that signifies laziness. And so just sitting and reading the Bible would make them feel like they aren’t accomplishing something productive. And then there are those that have no conviction that sitting is lazy but they are so wrapped up in work, lessons, sports, and the gym that when they have a minute to sit, they are simply exhausted.

Sometimes we can’t help our busyness and we have to endure for a season, understanding that God has grace for us during these times. It could be a new baby or needing to be a caretaker for an elderly parent. It could be a special project at work or school. These are occasional things that take us out of our routine and may, for a time, slow down our spiritual growth.

But there are those times that we can help our busyness. Times when we fill our schedules with the superfluous and unimportant. Times when we follow the crowd by putting Johnny and Suzie in every single activity or sign up for classes or activities that are not beneficial to our spiritual well-being. Most of these things aren’t wrong, in and of themselves, but when they keep us from God’s Word, this creates a problem.

If we feel overwhelmed and too busy, then we need to take an honest look at our schedule and contemplate if there is something we can eliminate or at least put off temporarily to give us more margin in our lives.

If we say that we believe prayer and studying God’s Word is the most important priority of our lives, then we must show this by our actions. If we are too busy to study the Word and pray, then we are too busy.

 

Pride

I have often pondered how someone can say they are reading the Bible and yet have no transformation whatsoever? How can someone have regular devotions or be in the Word and yet remain utterly unchanged? I’ve come to realize that it is pride that causes this. If we approach God’s Word with a lack of humility then our spiritual growth won’t only be slowed, it will be halted completely.

Why is this? Well, a prideful heart believes it knows most of life’s answers before even approaching the Word. A prideful heart has no interest in hearing suggestions from a different source other than one’s own mind. A prideful heart always thinks it knows better.

Why does this make a difference in our spiritual growth? We can turn to James 4:6 where we read that God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.

A humble heart is a heart ready to receive God’s Word as its final authority. In contrast, a prideful heart is not. This is the root of many of the false doctrines that abound today–prideful hearts that twist the scriptures to their own agendas.

 

Worldliness

Worldliness is a death knell to spiritual growth. I John 2:15 and James 4:4 couldn’t make it any clearer–we can love the world or we can love God. But we can’t love both.

God is opening my eyes to this more and more. When I was in my 20s, I was listening to a heavy rock song (yes, I used to enjoy this back in the day.) As I listened, God convicted my heart. The music made me angry. In fact, I’d purposefully play this type of music when I was angry because it would fuel my anger and make me feel better. This was the beginning of my journey in understanding that what we put in our minds affects us. It either moves us towards the Lord or it moves us towards the world. It can never do both.

As I started to gradually and intentionally work to remove worldliness from my life (which has been a lifelong process and I still continue to work on), I have personally experienced a renewed desire for Bible study, a reawakened sense of what pleases God, and a complete change in my desires. Only by the grace of God can any of us intentionally choose to remove worldly things from our lives.

Movies, books, and music that promote sexual immorality, sorcery, bad language, blasphemy, and all sorts of evil; Going to bars or dances; Dressing immodestly in order to be like the world and follow the trends; Gossiping and passing rumors; Gambling; Addictions (to any thing–including food); Materialism and always wanting the latest and greatest…

All of these things kill our desire for God.

All of these things, without exception, move us towards the world and away from God.

 

Do you struggle with any of the above? Is there any change you can make this week to set your spiritual growth on a better path? Many of these things sneak up on us while we aren’t even paying attention. I know that has been the case with me on many occasions. All three of these mortal enemies have worked their way into my life at one time or another. And, honestly, they still do. While we live in the flesh, we are forever susceptible to these enemies and we must stay on guard.

I hope this post will encourage you to examine your life and to start making changes that will boost your spiritual growth. Let’s choose to spiritually flourish in a world that is so lackadaisical and status quo!

 

Thinking Beyond the Obvious (Part 1)

The past several months have brought several trials across my doorway. A few major ones but mostly minor. A few extremely heart-wrenching but most simply annoying or inconvenient. Through it all, I’ve had a choice in how I was going to react and respond. And, to be flat-out honest, I’ve been less than impressed with myself. The tough moments of life quickly show us our weaknesses, don’t they? You think you are getting somewhere in your spiritual journey and then BAM! A trial hits and you realize you haven’t gotten near as far as you thought. It definitely keeps me humble. To say the least.

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about recently in regards to this is worldliness. I found myself responding way too often just as the world would respond. Wouldn’t responding and reacting just like the world make me “spotted” by the world? (James 1:27) Throughout most of my life, I’ve viewed worldliness mostly through the avenue of entertainment. I’ve written several posts on trying to eliminate this form of worldliness from our lives. And rightly so. The lack of discernment in this area is epidemic in the lives of Christians. There is a gigantic disconnect between Christians and their entertainment.

But, while this is important, I’ve been realizing that worldliness is far more encompassing than entertainment. I’d like to take a few posts and look into this subject of worldliness. What does the Bible teach about it? What are some surprising areas where we need to be on guard against it? And what steps do we take to minimize or even eradicate it from our lives? If there is time, we may even take a look at how the doctrine of separation and the term “worldliness” was completely eradicated from our current church culture. Whew! That’s a lot to cover.

It’s been awhile since I wrote a series, but as I’ve been reflecting on this topic recently, I believe it is critical to have a good understanding of it. I hope that this series is a blessing to us all as we strive to live holy and godly lives.

First, let’s talk about what the Bible teaches specifically about worldliness. A few passages quickly come to mind. You could find more if you do your own study. God makes it clear that we are to be separate from the world. Not in connecting with and loving others or in sharing the Gospel with the lost but in how we live our lives. There should be a vast contrast between our life and that of our unsaved neighbor.

Let’s look at three of the scripture passages that speak about this–

I John 2:15-17Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

Do not love the world or the things of this world. Wow. How more clear can you get than that? We are not to love the world or the things of the world. This encompasses all areas of life. Not just entertainment. Not just the obvious things we think of immediately. The world’s wisdom and philosophies permeate every aspect of life. Have you ever thought about this? I really hadn’t until just recently.

Romans 12:1-2I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 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.

Do not be conformed to this world. The definition of conform is: to be similar or identical. From these verses, we can know that we are not to look anything like the world in any way. We can also see that as we grow and start to look more and more like Jesus we will look less and less like the world.

James 4:4Adulterers 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.

Friendship with the world=Enmity with God. God couldn’t have made it much clearer than that, could He have? If we insist on being a friend of the world, then we have, by default, become the enemy of God. If we think about this seriously for just a moment, we have to recognize something that is very sobering: True believers are not friends with this world. This doesn’t mean that we don’t sometimes desire friendship or even cave to that battle. It also doesn’t mean that we are without struggle or growth in this area. This is not perfectly realized as a baby Christian or even as a mature Christian. What it does mean is that eventually the Holy Spirit convicts us and we recognize that we cannot be friends with God and friends with this world at the same time. God doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room in this area of befriending the world.

So we can see from these passages above that God expects us to remain disenchanted with the world and its philosophies. That we are to separate ourselves from it and to be different. In fact, it is this difference that will make us stand out to those who are seeking Jesus Christ. It will be this difference that makes us as light and salt to a lost and dying world (Matthew 5:13-14) Of course, this is a far cry from what is being taught in the mainstream church these days. Most popular Christian teachers, preachers, authors, and musicians are either completely ignoring this doctrine or promoting the exact opposite.

So let’s take a look now at some of the ways worldly thinking and attitudes creep into our lives when we least expect it. I confess I had to really stop and think about some of these things and I will readily admit to you that I have to recognize that I am far more worldly that I thought I was. It happens so subtly. How easy it is to fall prey to this–especially in a Christian culture that is promoting it so heavily.

So here we go. I will start the list today and continue on in the next post. Please keep in mind that in several of these categories the mainstream church isn’t too far off from the World. It’s a sad, sad thing and we must be on guard. Just because your favorite Pastor says it or a Christian author promotes it or a Christian artist sings it, does not mean it is biblical truth. We truly must compare everything to God’s Word. This has always been true, but perhaps never so critical as in the minefield that is called “Christianity” today.

So just how do we let the world slip into our daily lives so easily?

Let’s look at the obvious and not-so-obvious ways–

1. ENTERTAINMENT. Let’s start with the obvious. After all–it is one of the primary ways that worldliness inches its way into our lives.

The World: Watch, listen to, and read what you want. It doesn’t matter. Numb your brain as much as you can with any and all kinds of entertainment–no matter how wicked. God and even morals are irrelevant when it comes to entertainment. The only thing that matters is that you experience pleasure.

What the Bible Says: I will set nothing wicked before my eyes (Psalm 101:3). We can also look at Galatians 5:19-21, which provides one of several lists of the “works of the flesh”. These are things that we are not to practice as believers–and we can safely assume that they are things we are not to entertain ourselves with, as well.

This area of entertainment is one of the key ways Satan infiltrates a Christian’s life. Cleaning up and even cutting back on our entertainment has the power to tremendously change our walks with the Lord for the better. There is something that stands between us and the Lord when we are constantly filling our minds with the things He abhors. Until we are willing to give these things up, there is a wall there that cannot be removed. As we grow in Christ and yield our entertainment to Him, we will lose our appetite for these things. But we have to be willing to give them up first and let Christ “clean house”.

Think about not only what you watch but how often you watch. Pay attention to music lyrics on the radio. Think about not only what you read but how often you read frivolous fare compared to the solid food of the Word or even the works of solid Christian authors (most of whom are long gone now–Ryle, Spurgeon, the Puritan writers, etc.)

Sometimes it isn’t what we are watching but how often we are watching. I really had to think about this a few months ago. I had allowed myself to get lazy and we just turned the TV on every evening as a matter of course. It stayed on a good part of the evening while we mindlessly consumed what we considered as fairly innocuous programming. But somewhere in there God really convicted me and we made an effort to really change that. I realized just how much precious time I was wasting. If Satan can’t get us with the evil entertainment issue he will try to get us with the wasting time issue. We must be on guard for both. I was also challenged about my definition of “innocuous” programming. When we really evaluate what we are watching through the lens of scripture, we are really left with little to watch.

2. NETWORKING/BUILDING A PLATFORM. This is a more recent thing. Several years ago, I took an online class that taught me how to “build a platform”. I took it because at that point in time, I was hoping to grow this blog. It wasn’t until a bit later that I took on John MacArthur’s philosophy of marketing (as in: I don’t market myself. If God wants to grow the blog, He can take care of that. I will just be faithful to God and His Word, in whatever ministry He places me and let Him take care of the rest!)

The World: Get as many connections as you can. Work hard to connect with the ones that will help you build your platform. Numbers matter. Get as many followers and connections as you possibly can to enlarge your circle.

What the Bible Says: Don’t worry about building a platform. Our job is to serve faithfully in whatever ministry we have been called to (Matthew 20:16; Hebrews 12:28; 2 Timothy 1:3). John 3:30 takes it a step further: He must increase, but I must decrease. We aren’t even to be worrying about ourselves or our “platform”. Our focus should be on giving God the glory, sharing the Gospel, and growing the saints. He will take care of building any platform that we need.

Would it surprise you to know that there is not one word in the scripture about building a network? Does this mean it is wrong to be on social media? Of course not. We like to follow those with similar interests or those that encourage us in our faith. And it is fine for them to follow us. This is not about the what but about the why. Are we following someone so that they will follow us back? Are we commenting on something so that we will bring notice to ourselves and get our name out there? Are we developing a friendship with that guy or conversing with that girl because they have “connections”? In short, are we using people to further our own agenda?

One of the things I was told that I would need to do in order to build my platform was to read other blogs and be actively participating by commenting. I did try this for awhile, but at the time I was extremely busy and didn’t have time to read a lot of blogs that I didn’t really care about. Since that time, I only read blogs that I really enjoy. (This change in attitude has also given me total freedom from offense if friends or family don’t read my blog. There are just so many hours in a day and I totally get it if my blog isn’t their “cup of tea”. We all have to choose what we have time to do. I mean I absolutely love when someone I know personally tells me they like my blog or that they were blessed by a post. But I also know that just because they don’t take time to read this particular blog isn’t necessarily a reflection on their feelings for me. Okay–enough of that bunny trail!)

In summary, we must not use people to further our ministries, careers, or personal followings. In fact, we should spend minimal–if any–time marketing ourselves. The world would say use people and puff yourself up. But the Bible says love people and diminish yourself. See how these are complete opposites?

3. LANGUAGE/COMMUNICATION. How the world talks and communicates should be very different from how we Christians communicate on so many different levels–how we talk, what we talk about, and even the tone with which we say what we say.

The World: Foul language; Agreement equals love; Gossip; Speak your mind no matter who you hurt.

What the Bible Says:  Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)

What exactly is edification? According to google, it is defined as: The instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually. Now if we run everything we say through this grid, it clears up a lot of things real quick.

Are we edifying someone by using foul language? No.

Are we edifying someone if we stand around and talk about about the boss or a fellow employee? No.

Are we edifying someone if we give our agreement to something that we know is wrong? No.

And one more–

Are we edifying someone if we speak our mind in a brusque, matter-of-fact manner without a smidge of love or kindness? No.

See how helpful this verse is? Probably would be a good one for us all to memorize and reflect on before we say anything.

 

Are you starting to see how much the world has crept into our mindset? How many things we have let slide and never even think about? As I started thinking about this, it can be a little overwhelming. But we can’t let “overwhelming” stop us from living in submission and obedience to God’s Word.

My next post will continue with more areas we have allowed worldliness to seep into our lives without even thinking about it.

 

 

 

Disregarded Sins

The other day my phone screen went black. I could hear the texts coming in but I couldn’t see them. I fooled with the buttons but nothing I did was successful in giving me back my screen. In my thoughts, I started to complain. What in the world? Why now? Normally, I will tell someone where I am going, but not this time. If I didn’t answer texts, my family might worry. Thankfully, there was an AT&T store nearby so I stopped in there, borrowed the phone of a nice man to call my husband and let him know what was going on, and spent an hour (or more) trying to figure out how to solve my problem.

Somewhere during that hour, while I was waiting for the AT&T representative to return from the back of the store, I realized what a ridiculously unimportant, first-world problem I was having. Really? I am going to complain (in my head, mind you) about such a thing? What is wrong with me?

But we do it so easily, don’t we? We literally complain about everything. Or am I alone in this?

Every time I read Numbers 11, I am struck by God’s lack of tolerance with complaining. Go ahead and look it up. It is incredibly sobering. God hates complaining. It is a vile sin and strikes at the very heart of His sovereignty in our lives. Any complaint-no matter how big or small–is a way to let God know that we are not happy with our lot in life. We are in essence letting Him know that we don’t think He is doing a good job and that, at this particular moment in life, we really don’t trust Him.

We don’t normally think of complaining like this. We view it much more casually than it really is.

Philippians 2:14 lets us know that God’s hatred of complaining continues on into the church age–

Do all things without complaining and disputing.

All things. When our phone dies. When it rains for our summer picnic. When we get sick. When our arm hurts. When someone disappoints us. When we are betrayed. When something really bad happens. We are supposed to live all of life without complaining. That is a really tall order in a complaint-drenched society.

Complaining can become almost habitual if we aren’t careful. It can even be the main gist of the conversation when we hang with friends or family. It can become a way of life.

But perhaps it is time to change. God hates it. This is reason enough to break ourselves of the habit.

As if that isn’t enough, in the next chapter, Numbers 12, we go on to read about the sins of gossip and envy.

Numbers 12:1-2 puts it like this–

Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. So they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it.

The Lord becomes so angry about this that He strikes Miriam with leprosy!

Was He more angry about the envy than the gossip? We can’t really know, but we do know that both are sins that are very serious in God’s eyes.

We read about gossip in Proverbs 16:28: A perverse man sows strife, And a whisperer separates the best of friends. 

And envy is one of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:17): You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

Both are considered sin in the Lord’s eyes. And for that Miriam paid dearly.

But in this age of grace, we are not often struck down for complaining or for gossiping or for holding envy in our heart towards someone. Does this mean it is any less grievous to God than it was in the Old Testament? Has the age of grace changed how God views sin?

Most certainly not.

And it’s these sins we view as small and inconsequential that can be the most damaging to those of us who truly desire to live a life pleasing to the Lord.

While we feel pretty good about ourselves for avoiding the big, obvious sins, these other sins sneak in unobtrusively through the cracks in our spiritual armor and before we know it, they have taken up permanent residence in our souls.

Has any of these sins made themselves comfortable in your Christian life today? I know I had to really do a heart and mind check after reading these two chapters.

If God hates these things so much, why do we treat them so casually?

After awhile, we can get discouraged. When we realize some of the sins that have become a part of the fabric of our lives, we can be frustrated or overwhelmed. I don’t believe this is what God intends.

We know He uses the Word to convict and correct us (2 Timothy 3:16) and we know that we are foolish to read the Word and then to remain unchanged (James 1:22-25). And so, as God shows us the sin in our lives, we should thank Him and then begin to intentionally eradicate (or at least greatly lessen!) that particular sin in our lives.

And here’s the wonderful thing–not only will we please God but we will reap the wonderful benefits personally. Curtailing sin has a way of doing that.

If we aren’t complaining all the time, it is much easier to be grateful. And when we are grateful, we are much more content. And when we are more content we are just naturally happier. See how this works?

When we make pleasing God our main priority, He naturally takes care of our peace and happiness. It’s an amazing thing. God’s plan for us is right and good. He is not a mean ogre in the sky making demands (as some people would think). He is a gentle and loving God who wants and knows what is best for us. And it is best for us to not complain, to not gossip, and to not be envious.

But, most importantly, it is best for Him and His glory. What kind of testimony are we if we have these sins in our lives?

When Christians gossip? Envy? Complain? What kind of impression is the world getting?

I’ll tell you: They are thinking “these Christians are just like us.” And, rightly so–because it’s true.

We can remove all kinds of worldly things in our lives but if we are complaining, if we are gossiping, if we are filled with envy–well, we are still very worldly. And we are a discredit to our Lord and Savior.

I say all this to myself, too. It is convicting to think about, is it not? And these sins sneak in so subtly, don’t they? May we never let our guards down.

I thank the Lord for His Word and I thank the Lord that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can change. It is never too late!

Let’s begin that change today.

 

 

Running Ahead of God

Have you ever faced something that looked utterly unfixable but you just had to fix it? You didn’t know how but you just knew you had to try and do something. And so you come up with all kinds of ideas. You might think of these ideas while you are driving or while you lay in bed at night. Always thinking about how to fix a hopeless situation that so desperately needs to be fixed.

I wonder if Sarah did that, too? Did she lie awake at night wondering if she could help God fix the situation that she and her husband, Abraham, found themselves in? She knew that God had promised land to Abram’s descendants (Genesis 15:18) and yet they didn’t even have any children. That, combined with the fact that she was really old and past child-bearing years, probably caused her much consternation.

I wonder if she fussed and stewed and worried about this seemingly unfixable situation? I wonder if she lost sleep over this?

However she faced this insurmountable problem, she ended up doing what most of us do .

She tried to fix it herself (Genesis 16:1-4). She gave her maid to her husband so that she could have children for her. From our perspective this seems extremely strange. But to Sarah this seemed a very sensible way to fix a very dire situation.

Before we become too critical of her, think about yourself for just a moment. Haven’t you done the same? Oh, it may not have been a situation such as hers that had such far-reaching consequences, but, seriously, haven’t you ever tried to jump ahead of the Lord and fix something?

I know I have. I used to think I could fix situations by talking. God has since shown me that this is unlikely. And that if I am going to talk or discuss I need to wait on His timing instead of jumping ahead and making things worse. Not that I’ve mastered this, by any means. I still run ahead of God occasionally–especially with my family. And it still almost always makes things worse.

There are so many ways we try to run ahead of God instead of waiting. And praying.

Sometimes we do need to bravely and courageously stand up and take a step forward or have a hard conversation. But, so often, we do this without prayer. So often we do this before we seek wise counsel.

History would be very different if Sarah had not run ahead of God and tried to fix her problem without His help. She literally changed the course of history.

Of course, God, in His Sovereignty, knew all of this would happen and His purposes were not thwarted. They can never be thwarted. This thought is a true comfort for all of us who have the tendency to try to fix things.

And another thing to consider here, as well, is that God uses these waiting periods and unresolved situations in our lives to grow us. Romans 8:28-29 tells us that God uses all things to transform us into the image of Christ. When we try to fix things, not only may we botch things up but we may lose out on a wonderful opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness.

The thing I have struggled with, particularly, when this subject comes up is this: I hate for circumstances to be unhappy. I long for my life to be filled with ease and comfort and happy thoughts, and–perhaps even more than for myself– I long for this for those I love, as well. And so this makes it especially tempting to try and fix things.

But, before we do anything, we should probably wait a bit, pray, and then seek wise counsel. Anything we do before that will probably, at best, be unproductive, and, at worst, make things so much worse than they already are.

So let’s leave our circumstances in God’s hands rather than trying to help Him fix things. He can take care of it and He will in His timing. And He will be faithful in letting us know when it is time for action. He does this by opening doors and giving us opportunities that could only come from Him. He does this through the counsel of those who have walked with Him for a very long time, making them not only older in the faith than us but but generally so much wiser than we are, as well. And He does this through orchestrating circumstances in such a way that leaves little doubt it is time for action.

Sarah tried to fix her situation and it made things so much worse. Let’s not jump ahead of God like she did.

There’s More to Christianity Than Doing Good Works

“The reason Social Justice is attractive to the church is because it doesn’t invite criticism.” My brother (Pastor Dean) said these words as we talked on the phone yesterday. I immediately realized just how profound his words were.

Perhaps they are words each and every one of us should reflect upon.

There are many good things the church does that all people love. It matters not if they are Christian or not Christian. Nothing matters as we work hard with our fellow man to make the world a better place. This includes things like–

Feeding the hungry ♥ Adopting orphans ♥ Caring for the homeless ♥ Providing fresh water for third world villages ♥ Providing food, clothing, and shelter to needy families ♥ Giving money to charities

Who in their right mind is going to oppose such things?

And, just to be clear, I am not opposed to these things. And neither should any of us be. The Bible is clear: We are told to care for orphans (James 1:27); we are to help our fellow man– and particularly our Christians brothers and sisters– who are in need (Ephesians 4:28; Hebrews 6:10). These are good things to do.

But these aren’t the only things Christians are to be doing. Doing good for others is just a part of what it means to live a godly, righteous life.

There’s so much more. But the “more” doesn’t often draw the praise of man.

As soon as we go out into the world and preach the Gospel–the clear, unadulterated Gospel as the scripture teaches it–we immediately invite the antagonism, the scorn, and the hatred of the world.

And as soon as we try to teach and live out the Christian life that is clearly mandated in scripture among the murky and muddy waters that is the mainstream church we invite the antagonism, the scorn, and the hatred of that church.

When we bring a message the world doesn’t want to hear, such as you cannot be reconciled to God without believing in Jesus Christ (John 14:6), we will be criticized, mocked, and labeled. We may even be persecuted. By both the world and those claiming to belong to the church.

When we bring a message the mainstream church doesn’t want to hear, such as encouraging believers to practice discernment (Hebrews 5:14), be separate from the world (James 1:27), and strive for holiness (I Peter 1:15-16), criticism and animosity will often rain down upon our head from within the church doors.

This is why so many of us choose to do the Christian things that invite the praise and laud of people. And it’s also why we avoid doing the Christian things that invite criticism.

How much do you care what people think about you? Does this change what you stand for or stand against?

I have to be honest and let you know right up front that this has been–by far–my biggest battle in this ministry.

It is natural for people to want to be liked and I am no exception. I don’t want to be labeled divisive, negative, unloving, arrogant, and whatever other words I have been called.

And yet, over and over again, God continues to remind me that my job is to please Him, first and foremost. As believers, our priority is to do all to the glory and pleasure of our Lord, irrespective of the opinions of man.

The opinions of those around us are, in essence, irrelevant.

Now reflect on that truth for just a few seconds. Why do we do what we do? How do we feel if we do something good and it goes unnoticed? How do we respond when we are faced with a choice to speak out against something we know God hates or a false teacher that is leading someone we love astray? Do we have the courage to share the Gospel unapologetically with the lost all around us? Are we truly living like no one’s opinion matters but God’s?

Inside each of us, a battle rages between the flesh and our new man. And the flesh wants to be pleasing to our fellow man. It is just how we are. But when we are saved, we have a new purpose. We seek first God and His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33). We are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). Everything is changed.

In theory, that is.

In real life, it doesn’t just happen. It is a daily struggle.

However, as new creatures, we must fight this fight. For if we let the flesh win, it is not without deadly consequences. Think of how many children in Christian homes have grown up and gone out to live ungodly lives in the world because parents didn’t want to be unpopular? Think of how many inroads Satan has made into the lives of believers because they want to be cool to their friends? How many have followed false teachers because their Christian friends are afraid to speak up? Think of the light that has gone out in the church because of the desire to win the praise of the world?

If we aren’t willing to be different than the world and if we are driven by a passion to please the world (or the compromised, mainstream church), we will be rendered ineffective for the cause of Christ.

Sure, we can do all sorts of nice things for others and make this temporal world a better place to live in, but if we aren’t sharing the Gospel and pointing people to biblical Christian living, what eternal good are we even accomplishing?

Are we more likely to do the things that draw the praise of man? Do we shy away from the righteous and good things that draw criticism?

Pastor Dean’s words really made me think. And, once again, I was reminded: My priority is to please God.

Am I living to please God or are my daily life choices based on pleasing those around me? It is an important question that we should probably all give some thought to.

 

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