Christianity

A Few Thoughts From the State of Texas

I have spent the past week in Texas, visiting my daughter, Adrienne, and her family. It’s funny how you never really know where your kids will land. I never dreamed I’d make so many trips to Texas!

As we headed to the airport, the weather was overcast and the sky was gray. As the plane lifted up, up, up through the clouds, the gray soon was replaced by clear blue sky and white clouds below. Underneath all of those clouds was a rainy, cloudy world but above them was this beautiful crystal blue made even brighter by the sun.

I couldn’t help but think that we are living in that rainy, cloudy world right now with a new storm on the horizon every time we turn around. But this is not our final destination. And far above all of this chaos is the mansion the Lord is preparing for us. We will fly there someday. I just can’t think it will be long now.

___________________

My daughter had minor surgery and so I was helping her care for her kids a little more than I would usually. One of the things that always had me stumped this past week were when the kids would need a drink. The cups were on a shelf with all of the lids in a bin. I could hardly ever find the proper matching lid. And if I did, I was sure to be confused about what “plastic thingy” to put in the lid–if it needed any at all. But, to Adrienne, this was as simple as…well, breathing. She knew every lid and plastic thingy and cup in that cabinet and she knew exactly what went with what. I did not and I needed her help. There was no shame in me asking for help because there was no way I could possibly know. Now what would have happened if I acted like I knew and put the wrong lid with the wrong cup and got all defensive when the juice spilled all over the floor and she gently told me that that lid doesn’t go with the cup?

I didn’t do this, of course, but are you following my train of thought here? It’s easy to admit you don’t know which cup goes with what lid. Not as easy to admit some other things. Oh, how quick we are to charge right ahead when we should have gotten counsel from those who are wiser than we are. How quick to get offended when someone knows more than we do. About anything.

Instead of humbly admitting we don’t know everything, we tend to act like we do and then get upset when things don’t work quite the way we wanted it to. If someone kindly mentions something we could have done better or even avoided, we get defensive and offended. Whether it’s about our parenting, our marriage roles, our life choices, false teachers and discernment, or anything else, how important to remember that we can all grow and learn. We are never too old, never too knowledgeable, never too wise. As long as we are on this side of heaven, we will have things to learn and lots of growing to do.

___________________

Adrienne and her husband live in a nice housing development that has a beautiful pool and splash pad. The other day we headed down there. It was a lovely morning to swim but only a handful of people were there. Besides a few others, there were three in particular whom we noticed. In one corner was an older woman sunning herself. In the other corner were two twenty-somethings. The reason these three came to our particular notice is because they both had their radios blaring loudly. With two totally different stations. One was country, the other was pop. Or maybe it was rap. All I know is that the two together made a cacophony of displeasing sound to the ear.

Oh, how like this world this trip to the pool was. One side is playing all of the songs of social justice, communism, and leftism. The other side is playing the songs of revival, freedom, and patriotism, and maga.

It’s all so loud. All the time.

Just as my daughter and I sat there annoyed to be hearing both stations all the time, so we Christians find ourselves frustrated by the loud noises on either side of these issues. If you understand that what is happening in the world perfectly lines up with scripture, then you know that both sides are wrong. Neither side is biblical. They are both simply two wings of the same bird that is flying to the same place.

But if we were going to swim, we had to listen to the competing music. Thankfully, we can leave the pool. And if we are going to live in this world, we have to listen to the competing sides. Thankfully, we can retreat to no-noise places.

I believe the world will continue to get louder and more dissonant as it prepares to accept the coming antichrist, who will bring a short time of tentative peace before things get considerably worse than they already were (Revelation 6:1-2).

But this is all a part of God’s plan and eventually we will leave this stormy place for the skies of crystal blue. So stay strong by the power of His might and keep looking up!

___________________

So those are a few thoughts I had this past week while spending time with family. Living life and daily happenings have so many lessons for us if we but open our eyes to see.

 

What Really Matters When Life Falls Apart?

This world is full of so much suffering. The latest we’ve been hearing about (or experiencing, depending where we find ourselves in the world at this time) is the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. There are many different stories, accounts, and reports making their rounds and, as has become the norm for us, we wonder who we should believe. There are so many lies. So much false information.

This is why hearing from reliable, first-hand sources becomes important in these situations. What is really going on? While there is much we can’t know, there is also so much we do know.

We know, with certainty, that the lives of millions of people have been thrown into utter turmoil in just a few hours. Sleep, food, water, gas have all become so much more precious as the Ukrainians strive to survive in the midst of an invasion by a neighboring country. They are sleeping in bomb shelters or corridors in order to protect their lives. Can’t imagine any of them are getting much sleep in that situation, can you? The shelves at the stores are becoming empty and they are starting to wonder how they will get food. If they want to escape the city, they find they can hardly move as they fight their way through all of the chaos and confusion. If you can even get gas, which has become scarce. Overnight, apartment buildings of peaceful citizens have been bombed in several cities, leaving innocent victims without homes in the middle of the winter. If they even survived the bombing…

Some of these struggling people are our Christian brothers and sisters. There is a thriving church in that country. Years ago, I was in Ukraine for a couple of weeks and one of my fondest memories is worshiping with the Christians there. I can remember singing in English while they were singing Ukrainian and feeling our bond in Christ. If we are believers, then we have family in Ukraine. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. And they are really struggling right now.

Last week, my daughter, Jess, sent a couple text messages that are the heart of today’s post. She said something that really made me reflect on what really matters when your life falls apart. Such as what is happening to our Ukrainian siblings right now. At this moment.

Basically, her thought was if your Christianity can’t sustain you through these times, then it probably isn’t genuine. If it doesn’t work for Ukrainians in bomb shelters, Chinese imprisoned for their faith, or Nigerians and Indians under death threats from extremists, is it even real? Or is it, rather, some made-up ridiculousness that has absolutely no value when life grows ugly?

Do you think our Ukrainian Christian brothers and sisters are talking about their dreams or self-fulfillment? Are they sitting around and discussing the feminist agenda or social justice? Do you think getting wealthy is even on their list of priorities?

When life falls apart, none of these things matter. Not even a bit.

What matters are God’s promises to sustain us. To be our shield. To protect and shelter us. To give us peace and joy and comfort. The kind of peace and joy that goes far beyond “happily ever after” because, let’s face it: We all know life doesn’t work like that. It is not happily ever after (at least not in this world) and Christians do die in explosions. They get cancer and heart attacks at the most inopportune times. They lose their businesses and their savings. They get viciously killed by those who oppose them.

Christians are not guaranteed a happy life without problems. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest we are. Christians are not to fight for social justice (a Marxist term, never a Christian one) or to fix the world. We aren’t to be focused on our own selfish agendas or to use God like a genie in the sky to get what we want.

If anything can show us that these types of “Christianity” are false, it is what is happening right now.

What exactly does the Bible teach us about the Christian life? What does it say we can expect?

Yes, we can expect trials and troubles. Rather than avoiding them, the Bible says God will use them to grow us (Romans 8:28-29; James 1:2-4).

Yes, we can expect to be hated by the world, because our own Lord was hated. But we know that this is proof that we are Christ’s own and that the Holy Spirit will help us endure…even unto death (John 15).

So, contrary to much that is taught from “Christian” pulpits today, we cannot avoid these things. There is no magic prayer or sum of money we can give to a {fake} apostle that is going to miraculously make our life wonderful.

But, while we know these things will come (and may already be upon us), we also have the rich and abundant promises of our Heavenly Father to carry us through–

He will never, ever forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

The peace He gives is not like the world; it surpasses understanding (John 14:27; Philippians 4:6-7).

He will walk with us through the “valley of the shadow of death” so that we need not fear evil (Psalm 23).

When we fall, we shall not be utterly cast down for the Father upholds us with His hand (Psalm 37:23-24)

Of course, as we read of God’s promises, we also find in scripture that there is an attitude we must have in order to experience these promises of God to the fullest–

We must keep our mind stayed on God (Isaiah 26:3)

We must trust in the Lord (Psalm 112:7)

We must choose not to worry or to be anxious (Matthew 6:34; Philippians 4:6-7)

We must cast our burden on the Lord (Psalm 55:22)

We must draw near to Him in truth (Psalm 145:18)

We must forsake the world and purify our lives (James 4:1-10)

And, then, after all of this, there is one important thing to remember that helps us to keep all of this in biblical perspective: The true believer knows that their best life isn’t now. It is the one to come!

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:1-4)

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. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

 

The verses I’ve shared above are just a small sampling of the promises, the hope, and even the instruction that we find in God’s Word for those who have repented and trusted in Christ alone for their salvation. We can experience peace in the midst of the greatest storm. It has been a great joy reading of Ukrainian Christians testifying to this very thing!

I don’t think there are any Ukrainians turning to God’s Word to find out how they can be rich this morning. They are trusting in God to see them through the next day, the next hour…perhaps just the next few minutes.

What kind of Christianity are you hearing about on Sunday mornings? What is your preacher preaching? Is he pointing you to God’s Word as the final authority for the Christian life? Is he interpreting the Bible historically, grammatically, and literally, rather than allegorizing great chunks of it and casting doubts on its authenticity?

These are important questions we need to ask ourselves as the world grows darker. If we aren’t being fed true, biblical Christianity we are at much risk for having shallow roots that will not hold in life’s storms, much less in the chaos and confusion that threatens to consume us in the days ahead. We must be in the Word, both personally and in our churches. If our church is not preaching biblical Christianity, then we should not stay.

I don’t know how I ended up on challenging you all on your churches, but I believe that it is probably a challenge that we all need to hear. So many sit under and are influenced by ungodly preaching these days. May we not be numbered among them.

 

 

Without Excuse

Several months ago now, we sat down around our conference table in the office and made the difficult decision to discontinue services for a few customers. These are excruciating decisions for any entrepreneur but the reasons were important and varied and the list was a very short one. For some of them, snow removal was included in their contract. We wanted to get this letter of discontinuation of services into their hands as soon as possible so as to give them plenty of time to find a new contractor. The letters were written and sent out.

A few days ago, we had our first snow of the year. Imagine our surprise when no less than three of these customers whom we sent letters to in a timely fashion called to yell at us for not showing up. One claimed they never got the letter. However, because we know of this particular person’s penchant to ignore letters such as these, we also emailed it to her. We know she got it. A second flippantly said he just didn’t bother to open the letter. I am not sure of the third’s excuse.

At first, I was astounded at the lack of professionalism that plagues this world. One of these was an apartment complex. Another was a business. The third was a homeowner. How do you justify not opening a letter if you are in charge of an apartment complex or a business? I have to admit I was floored at the lack of responsibility.

But even stranger– they berated and scolded us for not doing their snow. They listed all of the reasons why we should do their snow. They listed what all their good “customer” attributes were. One just yelled.

As if this were our fault. How dare we discontinue them as a customer?

As I thought about this, I couldn’t help but think on how this is such a wonderful analogy for man’s approach to God’s Word.

God has written them a letter and they refuse to open it. They refuse to read it and see what it says. In it, He has told us His wonderful plan on how we can be saved from eternal damnation. It’s amazing! But people just don’t bother.

And yet, people will shake their fist at God and blame Him. Why didn’t you tell me, God?? How could you send a nice person like me to hell, God?

But He has told us. He has told us everything we need to know.

But, you may be asking, what about that person who doesn’t have a Bible?

The Bible says in Romans 1:20 says that all men are without excuse. That there is something inside all men that tells them there is a God. It’s up to man to search after God rather than to give heed to their own futile thoughts and follow their darkened hearts.

I know of several Christians who tell the story of searching after God. For each of them, at some point in their journey, God provided someone to tell them the truth about Himself. Someone to point them to the Bible and to pure doctrine. God won’t let anyone suffer from the lack of His Word who truly desires to know the truth. Even illiterate Pacific islanders and tribes in the heart of Africa back in the 1800s were able to understand salvation. God will make a way for the searcher to find what he is looking for.

And so all of us are without excuse.

Just as our company wasn’t responsible for whether or not our customers chose to read the letters we wrote, so God is not responsible for the whether or not we read His letter.

May we choose to read that letter. Because nothing is more important. It’s life and death. Eternal life and eternal death.

 

 

Twin Truths

A few years ago, a discernment ministry I had trusted to speak truth promoted an erroneous book. Recently, I was surprised and extremely disappointed to see another ministry I trust promote this book. Needless to say, I don’t quite trust them anymore. I wanted to take today and write about this because the book’s topic is so very important.

Well, I actually don’t want to write about this because, not only is it an important topic, but it’s also an incredibly inflammatory one. But the topic keeps coming to mind since I saw that post and I believe the Lord wants me to write about this. I ask you to read this thoughtfully. I am in no way claiming to be an expert on this topic nor do I have any interest in debating with anyone about it. I simply want to share what I have learned in hopes that it may be helpful to others who are struggling through this particular thing.

Let me back up a few years to when the “book” first came out. I received an email promoting this book and I was curious. The book’s premise was that Calvinism is heretical. Why would this author (and then this ministry in its promotion of it) put a line in the sand and say such a thing? That would have to mean that they believe that anyone who believes in Calvinism is a heretic, which means they are not saved. That is a very strong (and absolutely FALSE) statement and that, alone, turned me off greatly to the book and, if I am honest, to the entire ministry.

It is one thing to say I disagree with a certain secondary doctrine. It is quite another to say that the person who doesn’t agree with me is going to hell.

As I read the intro to the book in the email, I spotted something troublesome that caused further concern. Here was how the sentence started out: “We cannot believe in a God who…”

Do you see the serious problem with that sentence?

Who are we to decide who God is? God’s Word tells us who He is. We don’t get to decide which doctrines we do or do not like and what we will or will not believe. This was a huge red flag and discounted anything further that was written regarding the book.

But let’s back up a few years before this book to when I had no idea what I believed about free will and election. I had some wrong notions about how it all worked and was okay with that. Eventually, as I started to study the Word more, I began to understand that my conclusions were flawed. And then God led me to a sermon by John MacArthur called Twin Truths: God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility. It was by far the most clarifying and scriptural resource I have ever had the pleasure of listening to regarding this divisive topic. I recommend it highly.

Here is what I learned (in a nutshell): Both are true and run like parallel tracks into eternity. We can’t figure out how they work together and that’s okay.

You see, it’s man’s pride that makes him insist on choosing one or the other. It’s man’s pride that causes these arguments and divisions. It can’t be his dedication to God’s Word because no man dedicated to God’s Word could possibly deny election. And no man dedicated to God’s Word could deny free will. They are both clearly in the Bible.

So what does that mean? It means that our finite brains can’t understand.

We think we have to understand everything and we can’t understand this. And so men come up with (unbiblical) arguments that deny clear passages of scripture. It’s so tragic, really.

The funny thing is that Satan will seem to get you one way or another. Those who believe in God’s sovereign election rarely believe in God’s prophecy regarding the future of Israel. And those who believe in a future for Israel rarely believe in God’s sovereign election. I am here to tell you that both are clearly true. If you cast your preconceived notions aside and just read scripture, both are so very obvious.

But we get caught up in man’s systems and our denominations and intellectualism and following men and we get so confused. We don’t want to be viewed as stupid or unintelligent or unintellectual and so we follow the crowd. Ridiculous and destructive pride often keeps us from backing away from our wrong argument after we have made it.

The one other thing I believe it is important to mention is that, if you believe John Calvin was an evil man set on spreading an evil doctrine, I rather doubt you really know who he was. Spend some time getting to know this man. He was not perfect (as none are) but he did some tremendous things for the Kingdom and has been so wrongly maligned. I learned this upon my own study of him many years ago now.

So what do I want to communicate today specifically regarding this topic? Why am I writing about it?

I think the answer to that is simply that we cannot understand how these things work together and we must humble ourselves and be at peace with this.

The Bible clearly teaches election (Ephesians 1 is the passage that brought this home for me when studying it so many years ago but there are many others). To deny this is to deny scripture. Yes, it’s a hard and unpleasant doctrine to wrap our brains around but we do not have the option to say “we can’t believe in a God who…”! That is just plain sinful.

But the Bible also clearly teaches free will (that man is responsible for his choices).

So the only conclusion we can draw–if we believe God is absolutely fair- is that these two things work together in a way we can’t possibly understand.

As students of the Bible, may we be willing to believe what God says about Himself within its pages. Even when we don’t like it. Even when we can’t understand it. Even if it brings the ridicule of man.

This brings to mind an old song by the Heritage Singers. Here’s the chorus–

God said it and I believe it
and that settles it for me
Though some may doubt that His word is true
I’ve chosen to believe it, now how about you?

 

 

Thirty Pieces of Silver

Betrayal is an ugly word. The heart of betrayal is always love of self. Take Judas, for example. He betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Can you even imagine?

Here he was, impersonating a disciple and professing to follow Jesus, but deep down it was never real. Deep down inside this man had an insatiable desire for money that stuck with him because he was never saved.  He never believed the message of Jesus but was simply pretending.

There are many parables in Matthew with this same theme of impersonation. The parable of the seeds, the parable of the wheat and tares, the parable of the wedding garment, the parable of the dragnet, and the parable of the wise and foolish virgins all seem to focus in on this truth: There will be many who claim to follow Jesus but are actually only pretending. 

At the end of the age and when Jesus comes back in all His glory, He tells us that he will finally separate true believers from the pretenders (Matthew 25:31-46). True believers will go into the Kingdom that has been prepared for them and the pretenders will be cast into everlasting darkness.

This is a sobering truth.

And, with this truth, comes a few questions we all should be asking.

Am I living for God or for self?

Am I a true follower or a pretender?

What would it take for me to turn my back on Jesus? A little ridicule? Unpopularity among my peers? Severe persecution?

Pretenders always show themselves when it becomes difficult to be a true follower of Jesus. And with the way this world is going currently, I would guess we will start to see many who show their true colors.

The thing that makes it difficult to discern is that so many pretenders continue to pretend but they change the rules. They make up all kinds of falsehoods about God and His Word and twist scripture irreparably, all while claiming to be a follower of Christ. This is why all things must be examined in light of the Bible.

Judas betrayed our Lord for thirty pieces of silver. But many betray him for far less than that. They betray Him for a few extra dollars on their IRS return check. They betray Him for a job promotion or to be liked by their co-workers. They betray Him to avoid discomfort and conflict. Or to gain a popular following on social media.

May it never be said of us that we have betrayed our Lord.

Thankfully, in this same chapter where we learn of Judas (Matthew 26), we also see the failure of the disciples to acknowledge Jesus when He is arrested. This reminds us that a true disciple can really mess up sometimes. We can turn our backs temporarily as we fall to temptation.

But a true disciple will feel deep remorse and repent and change. That’s how we can know the difference. False disciples fall away and never return. True disciples ask for forgiveness and change.

I am so glad God put those verses about the disciples in that same chapter so that we can understand just how great His grace is and that sometimes true followers really fail.

And so Matthew 26 gives us so much to consider. What would it take for you to turn your back on Jesus permanently? Hopefully, the answer to this question for all of us is nothing.

I often think of something I read a long time ago about the martyrs who were burnt at the stake for Christ so many years ago. While they hung on a pole with the flames licking their feet, many of these martyrs sang praises to God. They sang.

Oh, what a great encouragement this is by demonstrating that God can give us a song in the midst of any trial or persecution. Oh, may we keep singing by and through God’s all-sufficient grace, all the while knowing that we have a far greater glory that awaits!

_______________________________

The worst kind of deception is deception about our eternal destiny. Please click on link below to read what God says in His Word about our eternity–

What is the Gospel?

The Fragrance of Christ

As I sit outside writing this morning, the incredible fragrance of honeysuckle wafts up to the porch on a light breeze every once in awhile. We have a bit of woods behind our house and the last few weeks of May and the beginning of June always bring the blossoming of, first, the wild roses and, shortly after, the honeysuckle– both filling the air with their wonderful scents.

But to some people, farmers and others, these plants are viewed as noxious weeds to be destroyed. Many don’t appreciate their amazing– albeit brief– time of glory each year and seek avidly to rid their landscape of these pests.

One person views them in a positive light and one person views them in a negative light.

As I was enjoying the scent of the honeysuckle the other evening, I examined my own life and wondered if I am the fragrance of Christ to those around me. I long to be, although that sinful nature does trip me up all too frequently!

What is the fragrance of Christ? What does it look like? It’s love and peace and joy. It’s selflessness and self-control. It’s honesty and patience and kindness.

But is that all there is to it? And if it is, then why are we viewed as noxious weeds to so many? Why does the world hate Christians so? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 helps us understand, showing us that, while we are the fragrance of life to a few, to many we are the fragrance of death(!)–

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us [d]diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

None of the things listed above would ever make an enemy. Who doesn’t like someone who is kind and patient and loving? What is the fragrance of Christ that turns people off and makes them want to attack and destroy Christians?

Let’s turn to scripture to gain some insight. For it is there that we find some of these offensive principles that make people turn away from, reject, avoid, and rebel against God. It is here we find out why the world at large hates us Christians.

Being the fragrance of Christ to the world also means that–

–We are committed to the truth of the Gospel. We proclaim that Jesus is the only way. There are no good works we can do or supernatural, mystical happening we can experience to make us right with God. (John 14:6)

–We understand that we–and everyone else in this world– are not good people. We are all born sinners and are in desperate need of a Savior. (Romans 3:23)

–We intentionally surrender our own desires to live for God. We give up our dreams in order to obey God. We take up our cross and deny ourselves. (Matthew 16:24)

–We separate ourselves from the world. From its passion for success. From its definition of love. From its goals and values. From its entertainment. (James 4:4) (please note that I didn’t say we separate ourselves from the people of the world–for we are clearly told to reach the lost. But, according to scripture, we must separate from the world’s system. Contrary to today’s popular opinion, you don’t need to participate in the world and its entertainment to reach someone for Christ.)

–We trust God instead of self. We turn to the Bible for answers instead of to man’s wisdom. (Psalm 118:8)

–We expect persecution and trials as we live our Christian life. We don’t want them, but we understand that we are swimming upstream in a world that is going downstream. (2 Timothy 3:12)

There are so many more things the Bible teaches that we must stand upon. And these are things HATED by the world. We teach that women are the keepers of the home and are to submit to their husbands (Titus 2:4-5). That homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27). That we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). Can you think of others?

__________________________________________

 

These things are not very popular to teach and preach and write about, are they? And they garner the antagonism and ridicule of the world and even much of the church. Only someone who is already a true believer or seeking after God will be drawn to these principles for life. Only this small group of people will recognize the benefit and blessing of a life lived in obedience to the principles laid out in the Word. Only these few will find these words life-giving, and comforting.

But the rest of the world (and much of the church) will view us as noxious weeds. People to be destroyed. An invasive plant to be gotten rid of.

And we are seeing this, aren’t we? My daughter-in-law sent a photo of a response someone sent to a Christian on Instagram. It was the very essence of what we are talking about. In a nutshell, this woman declared that Christians are a bane on society and should be destroyed. If Christianity is only about kindness and love, why would she declare this? It is because Christianity is about more than love. It’s about TRUTH.

There are a few things for us to reflect upon as we consider this idea of fragrance.

First, we should examine our own lives. Are we giving off the aroma of Christ in all ways? Or just the easy, appealing ways that will gain the acclaim of the world? This is tough and it’s getting tougher. We are all so susceptible to peer pressure. It is only through the strength of the Holy Spirit that we can speak the entire counsel of God and defend the Bible. It is only through His power that we can be the light of truth in this dark, dark world.

Second, I have to confess that one of the biggest puzzles to this for me is how Christians who love truth are often strongly disliked–and even hated–by other Christians. These are good people who are living for Christ. And, yet, when you declare someone to be a false teacher based on their own words and actions, they get mad at you. When you give clear documentation of a false doctrine or some other unpopular truth from God’s Word, they declare you to be negative or legalistic and ridicule you. What is going on here? If they are saved, why don’t they love the truth? Why don’t they want to see the Church and its members protected? I don’t have any answers but it is a puzzling and discouraging truth. If you are a watchmen on the wall, trying to protect the church, the arrows will come from both sides of the wall. And the arrows from inside the church hurt far, far worse than the ones coming from the world!

The perfect Christian life is to live like Christ. We will never attain that on this side of heaven, but this should be our desire. This will consist of those wonderful things that everyone loves but it will also consist of those things that aren’t so loved. To be a true representative for Christ, we must embrace all of who He is. Not just the parts that are pleasant.

And then we must expect, just like the wild rose and honeysuckle plants, to be delightful and pleasant to a few and to be viewed as a pernicious and virulent weed to most. This is the life of the true believer.

 

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

John 15:18-20

 

 

 

Our Response to Christ’s Sacrifice

It is Good Friday. When I was younger, this was an official holiday. Banks and stores were closed and the mail wasn’t delivered as the population at large stopped and contemplated what Christ had done on the cross. At least that was the idea. I think that the actual contemplating had stopped long before I was born but tradition remained for a long time. Until one day, the holiday was just no longer.

But this is still the day, in fact the entire weekend, that we Christians focus on all that Christ has done for us. And, oh, what He has done! I believe I realize more and more each year the wickedness of my own heart and the significance of the gift that was given to me when Christ died on the cross.

As we continue to live in “limbo land” and wait for all the changes that will result from the upheaval to our “normal” lives in 2020, this gift has become even more precious, hasn’t it? And I think any of us who are genuinely born again has thought about this in a different light, as we wonder what it will cost us to continue to follow Jesus in the coming days.

But Christianity has never been costless. Or at least not for the majority of people in the world. We are simply moving into what has been the normal experience for Christians throughout history.

It is difficult for many of us to pay even the price of a scowl or an unkind word when we speak up for Jesus and so we remain silent. This is because we have been deceived by the wave of self-centered Christianity that has taken the world by storm. A Christianity where it’s all about God’s love and His “genie powers” to make our lives on this earth amazing.

But, while God’s love is certainly an integral part of the Gospel, we must continue to read God’s Word to find out what salvation means. What all it entails. You see, we aren’t saved so that God can fulfill our dreams and give us a great life on this earth. His Word makes this abundantly clear. And, while it is true that we experience peace and joy that the unsaved cannot experience, it is supernaturally experienced through the trials–not in the lack of them.

So what does God expect from us after we are saved? What does He have for us to do?

Let’s look to the Word for this answer–

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.

Matthew 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

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

These verses clearly show us that after we are saved, our love for the world should start waning. Oh, for most of us this isn’t instant but, gradually, as we mature in Christ, the gleam of the world shows itself for what it is: Fool’s gold that has no value. The fame, the glory, the riches, the popularity of the world dim as we grow closer to Christ.

James doesn’t mince words as he also echoes this change in affections–

James 4:4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Not only are our affections changed, they MUST be changed if we are truly born again. For them not to be changed gives evidence that we aren’t saved at all since it is impossible to be friends with God and with the world at the same time.

As we stand for the truth of God’s Word in a world that hates Him, we will face difficulties and persecution. This is made clear throughout scripture–

Matthew 5:11-12  Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I Peter 4:12-14 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are [e]reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. [f]On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.

Christ died on the cross to give us life. What an awesome, incredible gift! But that life is to be lived for Him, doing the good works He has set out for us–

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

In response to God’s amazing gift of grace and mercy, we are to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Christ–

Luke 9:23-26 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross [b]daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.

We are to deny ourselves. Lose our lives (all earthly advance and glory) to live for Christ. If we are ashamed of Christ, He will be ashamed of us. In a Christian culture that promotes the complete opposite of these verses, these are sobering thoughts, are they not?

Biblical Christianity isn’t popular these days and it’s growing less popular by the minute. People think we are strange and odd and even dangerous (which makes no sense at all until you read John 8:44 and I Peter 5:8 and recognize Satan’s pure hatred for believers).

As we contemplate Christ’s sacrifice this weekend, may we also prepare ourselves to pay the price to follow Him to the end. No matter the cost.

And let’s remember that we aren’t relying on our own strength as we face the days ahead. (I can’t think of a more comforting thought than that, as my heart can tend to quiver at the road that lies ahead.) We know the ending to this old earth’s history. We know the King who will be victorious and we are on His side. He will give us the fortitude and courage to stand strong. May we proclaim Him to the end, no matter the cost!

 

 

A Believer’s Response

A few days ago, I experienced the viperous hatred of a woman who thought she knew best about the happenings of the past week and had no grace for an opposing view. She was very clearly brainwashed by media and the education system. It was actually a little scary. What made it even more scary is that this woman did, at least at one time, claim to be a believer.

We are running into these kinds of situations more and more. If you are a Christian who is committed to proclaiming and obeying what the Bible says, you are realizing that there is a type of Christian out there who hates you. They preach love and tolerance for everyone else, but they hate the true Christian.

This has probably been the greatest cause of sorrow for me. You expect to be hated and even persecuted by the lost. But I am beginning to understand that much of this will probably also come from “the church” (little “c” because it is obviously not the Bride of Christ.)

I had hoped to direct your attention away from the happenings of this world and on to scripture today. And so I will. But I wanted to do so in relation to what is happening in the world, because it has pretty much been all-consuming for most of us. As we watch the changes occurring, we are stunned. We see censorship happening that is scaring us. We are starting to realize that we cannot believe anything mainstream media says. (In case you are still watching mainstream media, do a little experiment as one of my daughters did. Switch back and forth between a mainstream news and a news station committed to bringing you the real news, such as news max. She and her husband couldn’t believe the spins and lies that came from the mainstream media. It’s gotten almost comical now–at least it would be comical if so many people weren’t still believing it.)

So, in the midst of all this mess, we are Believers. What does that mean? How does that look? I think there are some very specific things to consider as we navigate these terrifying and unstable days. These things are not conditional. Their application doesn’t suddenly just end when our circumstances change. Or when things go wrong in the world. They don’t change when we are persecuted or maligned or marginalized.

First, as Christians, we must remember our purpose.

It is very easy to get caught up in picking sides of a worldly system that has no good side. It is more important than ever that we remember why we are here on this earth. We are here to glorify God (Psalm 86:12) and to make Him known by sharing the Gospel and then discipling those that would embrace it (Matthew 28:19-20).

Second, we must remember the greatest commands, according to Jesus.

We can find this in Mark 12:30-31:  30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Notice that the greatest commands do not include fixing the world or changing the culture. They are not to bring God’s Kingdom to earth or to get caught up in a movement that is loyal to a human. The greatest commands are to love God and to love others. Let’s not get distracted.

Third, we are to love our enemies.

Luke 6:27-28 couldn’t be any clearer–

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Jesus doesn’t tell us to just love others but He makes it even more challenging by telling us to love those who hate us. As people who love the Lord, we strive to do everything we can to stay at peace with those around us (Romans 12:18) but, more and more, this is becoming impossible. Simply by believing and following the Bible, we have become objects of extreme hate and anger. It is so very, very important that we don’t hate back! It is tempting. It is natural. But Jesus tells us to love them. This is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fourth, stay in the Word.

Study, memorize, and then study and memorize some more. Scripture is our only anchor in this world gone mad. It is our only source for truth. As bad news and unbelievable, incomprehensible stories swirl around us, we have God’s Word. And we must cling to it.

Fifth, seek the things that are above.

I just love Colossians 3, particularly these verses–

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

So much of our stress and strife and worry and fears are because we aren’t seeking the things above. We are worried about here. We are worried about losing earthly treasures. We are worried about losing temporal freedoms. How important that we keep our eyes focused above.

Sixth, don’t live in fear.

We are expressly told in Philippians 4:6-7 to be anxious for nothing. If you turn to those verses, you will notice that it doesn’t say “Be anxious for nothing, unless…the world is falling apart.” No matter what is going on, we are to be anxious for nothing. We are to make our requests be known to God with thanksgiving and then to rest in His promises. If we do this, we are promised a peace that passes understanding.

And Seventh, and finally, remember God’s Sovereignty and personal care for you.

I’ve written this many times here on the blog throughout this past year of uncertainty and questions. But it’s worth repeating because it is one of our greatest encouragements.

God has a plan. And God loves those that are saved through faith in Christ alone. We are not left in the hands of a wrathful God who desires to make our lives miserable. Every minute of every day is foreknown by the God of the universe who has promised to work all things out for His glory and our good for those that love Him (Romans 8:28).

Think about that promise for a moment and then cling to it. No matter what is ahead for us, this promise remains true. His grace will be sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9) and to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). May we joyfully yield to God’s will for us as we face the unknown days ahead.

______________________________

Thank you for joining my search of scripture as I seek how to respond to these current events as Christ would have me to. I hope that this has been as much of an encouragement to you as it has been to me. Oh, friends, let’s pray for each other as we strive to respond as a true Christian should to these unprecedented events around us. I’d like to close with an encouraging passage of scripture that was sent to me as I wrote this post this morning–

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”

(Daniel 3:34-35)

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: At the end of last week, I sent a special email regarding the censorship that may be coming and how to keep in touch with me. If you’d like to continue hearing from me, should I be censored, I am asking you to give me your name and email address if you haven’t already done so. You can do this by simply replying to this email. I am trying to find a censorship-free platform to use for my subscribers and will only add those that really want to hear from me. You can find more details in an email I sent to you entitled “PLEASE READ”. I hope it doesn’t come to this, but I’d rather be prepared than sorry. :)

(I am sharing this here again because someone mentioned that the aforementioned email landed in their spam folder.)

 

Revival: What It Is and What It Isn’t

The word “revival” has always been tossed about freely by Christians. It is our hope for this temporal world, it would solve what ails the culture, it would fix so many problems.

I hear this word more than ever now, as the culture grows darker and darker. “There could still be revival,” is heard often by those whose fervent hope is to get back to some type of normalcy. Whose hope is to start the culture in a more positive direction.

But what exactly is revival? And is it something we can and should expect? These are the questions I’d like to take a look at today as our world grows increasingly darker and our hope for this world teeters on the brink of extinction.

Merriam-Webster gives this definition of Revival as it relates to religion–

(1) : a period of renewed religious interest

 
Dictionary.com gives this definition–

an awakening, in a church or community, of interest in and care for matters relating to personal religion.
 
So we can see that Revival, as it relates to religion, means an awakening in matters of personal religion. In fact, one of the most famous revivals of all was called “The Great Awakening”. It happened in the mid-1700s and the two most famous men connected to it are Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, although there were many lesser-known men (and women) used by God during that great time.

What brought about such revival? Many years ago I read Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards (which I highly recommend, by the way). As I recall, there were three very important keys to that famous Revival: 1) Prayer and 2) Repentance of sin and 3) Separation from the world.

Fervent, frequent prayer was the fuel of the revival and the people’s repentance of sin and separation from the world was the result of that prayer.

The church in that day was much like the church of this day, in that many people went to church to ease their consciences but there was little true religion.

I remember thinking as I was reading: This sounds so much like today.

We always think we are so much worse, but there really is nothing new under the sun.

So, given the definition of revival and the three important components of revival, should we expect revival?

I think it is important to say, first, that none of us knows what is ahead. We never have known but, now more than ever, the future is unsettled and uncertain. As you read anything I say below, please keep this in mind. We can only guess where we are at on God’s timeline by reading the signs. None of us can know definitively or specifically.

What I do know from reading scripture is that in the last days (which I strongly believe we are in because of the signs given to us in the Bible), times will wax worse and worse (Read 2 Timothy 3 and Jude). People will not truly turn to the Lord but they will pretend to be godly while loving their sin and this world.

From these passages, I don’t believe we should expect revival on any large scale, although there may be scattered pockets throughout the world.

But, of course, I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know:

Much of the talk of Revival these days is not true revival.

How do I know this?

It is because, while there may be talk of a vague repentance, there is rarely talk of repenting of specific, personal sins and never talk of turning from the world.

Most Christians who declare revival as this world’s solution rarely, if ever, encourage people to turn from not only their sin, but also from their fascination with and love for this world.

And, yet, can there be true revival without it? I think not.

James makes this extremely clear in chapter 4, verse 7–

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

We cannot be in right relationship with God if we are in love with the world. And when we hear calls for revival, we never hear anything about this.

Christians are quite comfortable in this world. They live their married lives like the world (Dad is not the head of the home, moms leave their children to go to work); They parent like the world (they don’t discipline, they ignore what the Bible teaches); They watch, listen to, and read the same things as the world. They wear the same things as the world, letting even their precious teen girls dress in such a way to draw sexual attention to themselves so that they are accepted by their friends (I am shocked and dismayed at the many Christian parents who allow this. I cannot even believe it. And I see no conviction about this. From any direction. I’ll climb down off my soap box now. This has been puzzling me for years now.)

Christians look like the world. It is hard to see any difference, really.

And I am convinced more than ever that Revival cannot come while we Christians are steeped in this world.

If we want to bring true revival, we must wean ourselves from this world.

So how much do we actually want revival? How concerned are we for souls? Or are we more concerned about getting back to our comfortable, convenient lives and the world we believed we lived in? These are questions worth our consideration.

If true revival means fervent prayer (by true believers) and turning from sin and from this world, what is all this talk about revival among false teachers (and those who we thought were true teachers that are joining with false teachers)?

I think that is a great question.

You see, there is such a thing as fake revival. And it will be characterized by many people coming together with worldly music and raised hands, powerfully moved by emotion. The truth of God’s Word in these meetings means nothing. Personal repentance of sin and commitment to separate from the world are never a part of these kinds of meetings. It is an ecumenical unity based on feelings.

I believe there will be many fake revivals. In fact, there will be a last, great fake revival when people take the mark of the beast as an act of worship. People will bow at the feet of the Antichrist, believing he IS the Christ (Revelation 13).

It is so important that we carefully examine any rumors of revival by these standards. What is driving it? Is it fueled by prayer? Is there a focus on repentance? On turning from this world?

As we ponder these things, I think we must also realize that true revival starts with individuals. You and me. While we may not expect a wave of revival to overtake this nation or the world, we can perhaps start mini-revivals in our own homes and churches and communities. This can happen through much prayer and our own personal turning away from sin and this world. It is a painful process and we can expect much marginalization and ridicule, but it will yield fruit. Perhaps not as much as we’d hope for, but God will always use a life dedicated to Him for His purposes and His glory.

So pray for Revival. But make sure you are praying for the right kind of Revival and for the right reasons.

I want to leave you with these words by David Cloud on this topic of Revival–

The heart of the tree is being eaten away even as the watchers are pleased at keeping a few leaves alive. Some type of revival could happen if individual Christians and individual churches would repent of an adulterous love for this God-hating world, repent of setting the affections more on things below than things above, and earnestly beseech God’s help. Who knows how far the forces of evil could be driven back? God has never needed a majority. Gideon’s vigilant few are enough. But so many churches are like Sardis; they have a name that they live, but they are dead. They are comfortable in the world, not pilgrims but dwellers, mighty for pot luck but weak for spiritual warfare, zealous for video games and sports and consuming fleeting hours on social media vanity, but not zealous students of God’s Word, passionate for parties but not for prayer. (From Friday News, Nov 13, 2020)

 

Loving a Lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: