Encouragement

Being Oriented in a Disoriented World

Every now and again, I will accidentally remove an app from my phone and not only does that app go missing but everything else moves one place over or up. That seems like no big deal until you start looking for the app you need. Just where did it go? I stare at the phone and eventually find it. But I am stopped in my tracks on that initial effort because it isn’t where it is supposed to be.

What a lame analogy to what we are experiencing right now. Nothing seems to be where it’s supposed to be. And, while we can move things back to where they are supposed to be on our phones, we have no power to fix what’s going on in this broken, wicked earth at all.

This means that the only power we have in all the upheaval is how we personally handle it.

Sometimes it can be rather overwhelming, can it not? There is so much to take in. So much that makes no sense. There are so many who are deluded into believing things that are patently false. Things that are easily proven by hard stats and data. But few are listening. Whether we are referring to health issues, government issues, world events, or anything else, we can see a force at work that is not of God. While the world has always been in the hands of the evil one (I John 5:18-19), it seems quite ramped up right now.

So how do we stay oriented? How do we maintain our bearings in a world gone mad?

Know your Bible. If I’ve said that once, I’ve said it a million times: The Bible is the power for our Christian lives. God has given it to us so that we will stay oriented in a disoriented world. This morning, however, I want to speak specifically to the Bible’s incredible foretelling of the future. When we accept that Revelation must be interpreted literally, we will watch things fall into place in a supernatural way that means it must be the end. Let me speak to this for a moment. A few weeks ago I saw something going around on Facebook that basically said how dare you act like what you are experiencing is worse that what any other generation has gone through. And I hear that a lot. I am not sure anyone has claimed we are experiencing anything worse but we certainly are experiencing something that is different than any other generation has seen.

Why is this time in the world any different than any other time? Let’s look at a few of the basic reasons why this time is unique in the history of the world and would lead us to believe the very last days are upon us. Here are just a few of the main reasons: First, the technology is in place for a system that forbids buying and selling without a mark (Revelation 13:17). Second, the technology is in place for the two witnesses to be heard and seen across the entire world (Revelation 11:1-12). Third, the whole world is so obviously being set up for a global government and global religion (Revelation 13:7-8). Fourth, the nations are arranging themselves (just look into this–it’s quite fascinating!) in such a way that they are setting themselves up to fulfill the prophecies regarding Israel (Ezekiel 38 and more). And, fifth (and finally), the earth is responding just as we are told it would in the last days as it gets set up for the Tribulation (Matthew 24:7-8) All of these things–and so many more– show the astute Bible student that we are fast approaching the last days.

If we understand this, then what looks like chaos, confusion, and absurdity to most people starts to make total sense to those Christians who have studied what is predicted in Revelation. Knowing this helps to keep us oriented amidst all of the madness.

(There are so many Christians who do not believe in a literal fulfillment of Revelation. If you are one of these, please know that I count you as a dear sibling in Christ. This is no salvation issue. But may I gently encourage you to be willing to consider what I have written above?)

Control the anger and hold no grudges. When people feel out of control or have strong opinions about some issue, tempers flare. We can stay oriented by keeping our cool and refusing to hold grudges. While our flesh may push us to divide and break with friends and family, we must refuse, as much as it is up to us (Romans 12:18) to let this happen. We cannot be oriented if we cannot exercise self-control.

Be dedicated to all truth, no matter the cost. I am convinced that the reason so many can’t see the truth is because the cost is just too high. They will cause conflict with beloved friends or family. Or they will be ridiculed. Perhaps they would even lose their jobs or livelihood. It may be as simple as they will have to give up their view of the government or media or society and they just aren’t willing to do that. I will readily admit that in the overwhelmingness of what is becoming evident, it is difficult to grasp the truth. This is when we pray and ask the Lord to open our eyes to whatever He wants us to see. That He would keep us from being deluded and deceived as we move forward into this strange new world. In order to be oriented we need to be dedicated to the truth, no matter how painful and overwhelming that may be.

Keep the focus on the Gospel. In the midst of all that is swirling around us, we must remember that our true orientation comes from the truth of the Gospel. Christ died for you and for me so that we could escape the penalty of sin and live eternally with Him in heaven. Today, when you are at work or in the store, or wherever you find yourself with other people, just stop for a moment. Take a look around and realize just how many people are lost and headed to hell. If you believe, like me, that the end is near, then sharing the Gospel with those who are lost should become more and more urgent each day. And yet, so many of us just go about our days without ever giving this a thought.

We should be more concerned about this than anything else. A person can go to heaven while not understanding the evil that surrounds them. But they cannot go to heaven without hearing about Jesus and what He has done for them. We must keep the Gospel as our focus and not fall into the temptation to become wrapped up in the things that–when it’s all said and done–won’t matter for eternity. We stay oriented by keeping our main focus where the Bible tells us it should always be.

Refuse to be fearful or depressed. Fear and depression lead us into a chasm that totally disorients us. We must make a choice to not allow it to dominate us. We can only do this by the Lord’s help, of course, but we must make a choice. Why do I say this? Because it is what the Bible tells us. Let’s look at a few of these commands that indicate that we must make a choice–

Be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6).

Do not worry about your life (Matthew 6:25)

Do not worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34)

Look these verses up and note that they do not give way for any wavering. We are commanded to do these things. I am not implying that this is an easy thing to do. In fact, we cannot actually do this on our own. If we make this choice we must rely on God to actually accomplish this.

As many of you already know, I had a very dark time of fear and depression last summer. I felt like I was in a pit I could not get out of. I know how this feels all too well. I cried put to God and He was so faithful. If you are struggling with fear or depression today, cry out to God for help. We cannot be wallowing in fear or depression if we want to stay oriented. (I still have to actively make a choice most every day regarding the fear. Bible memory has been invaluable to me in my efforts to turn away from fear and trust God.)

Recognize that this is the end. I was out of town last year when the entire world changed. I vividly remember coming home and looking at my husband and saying “this is how it ends. I just feel like this is it.” At that time, I had no idea what was ahead but it felt different, didn’t it? There was something so sinister and ominous about what was going on, it’s hard to put it into words. A year and a half later, I stand by those words. This is how it ends. Staying oriented means being willing to see the truth about the state of things. When we compare world events with what we read in scripture, we can see that we are quickly approaching the end. If we want to stay oriented, we need to acknowledge this truth.

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I know there are so many who disagree with me on what I’ve written above. Perhaps those who disagree already stopped reading. They may think I am too negative. They might believe I am writing from a hopeless perspective that they just don’t believe is correct. (Let me just add here that I am not hopeless by a long stretch! I have just realized that our hope is not in this world but in the Lord alone!)

And so I’d like to take a moment and share something from my heart with you. While many bloggers and authors desire to get the biggest following possible, I have decided not to do that. I’d prefer to offer encouragement and support to like-minded people. I have chosen to be very specific in this according to a literal understanding of God’s Word. I believe very strongly that this is what the Lord has called me to do. While I never want to lose readers, I understand that it will happen with this philosophy of ministry and I accept that.

I hope that this has encouraged those of you who understand that we are in the last days. I hope, as I process for myself how to stay oriented in this disoriented (and insane) world, that this also encourages some of you.

May we continue to cling to God’s Word and to each other as we navigate these final days.

Preparing the Lemmings

Since the beginning of time, man has assumed that the world came into being through a Creator. This is across all cultures and lands, where you will find variations on biblical accounts (such as creation, the fall of man, and Noah and the flood).

While man has always had a rebellious heart and worked hard to remove the accountability of man to that Creator (through religions such as Deism), it wasn’t until the late 1700s that someone came up with the idea to just remove a Creator altogether. From that point on, various men put forth this idea, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the theory of evolution caught on through a man named Charles Darwin.

Now we find ourselves in a place where if we don’t believe in this ridiculous theory, we are viewed as unintellectual and even stupid.

Never mind that it goes against all natural laws and is absolutely impossible. Never mind that it takes more faith to believe that than to believe in a Creator. Never mind all those things. Just believe what we tell you. Or we will shame you and and ruin your reputation.

Sound familiar?

Fast forward over a hundred and fifty years. This has happened over and over again with so many different things, hasn’t it? Both within the church and without. They have convinced us that therapy and medication is our only hope for inner peace. That the new age practices of yoga and mindfulness will help us. We are told that it is normal for women to work outside the home and to lead in our churches. “They” have been prying our fingers from the Word of God and its literal interpretation for many years now.

Scientists, psychologists, specialists, professors, doctors, authors, preachers, and celebrities all wield a particular kind of power that is actually kind of strange and more than a little scary. We have been fully prepared to listen to any specialist or scientist rather than God. To believe what they tell us over what God’s Word tells us. And when they are all saying the same thing, it can become overwhelming in its wrongness.

And now many of these “professionals” are telling us that certain things work and certain things don’t. To follow certain paths and avoid others. Even though it is clear from the statistics and data that they are LYING.

And so here’s a reminder:

Truth is not determined by how many people believe it.

Read that again.

A million “professionals” can declare, publish, and affirm a lie while a handful hold to the verified truth. Who is right and who is wrong in this scenario?

More than a few years ago now, I read the story of John G Paton and his missionary adventures in the New Hebrides Islands (what is now known as Vanuatu). In it, he told the story of how he sat in his house with his family one night with native warriors all around. For some reason, they never attacked them. He was puzzled until, some years later, one of those warriors explained. When they came to kill the family, they had seen large men in white standing guard. Angels had protected that family.

Fast forward to a few months ago. I had remembered this story (it’s a memorable and comforting story!) but just couldn’t remember where I had read it. So I decided to do an internet search to see if I could find it. One of the articles that came up was a Snopes article “fact-checking” this event from the 1800s and declaring it false.

Dear readers, fact-checkers are not always right. And, I dare say, are often wrong. These are being used as a tool to sway and move the lemmings in a certain direction. There is a method to the madness of all that is going on right now.

And, once again, may I remind you that this is from both sides. Beware of both sides. Don’t align with either. Both are evil. The great reset side and the great awakening side are full of deception and lies.

The world is calling its lemmings to pick a side. Do you know what a lemming is? It’s a small rodent that has a long-standing myth that surrounds it: They will jump off a cliff en masse and commit suicide. How about that??

But we aren’t lemmings. We are people. And we have a Good Shepherd (John 10). Instead of looking to the “professionals” for our beliefs, we look to what the Word says. Instead of basing our lives (and the many decisions we are called to make) on internet posts and books and podcasts, we base them on the Bible. Instead of picking a side, we firmly plant our feet on God’s side.

We are the people of God and we are but pilgrims passing through. The waves of darkness and apostasy that are overtaking the world should not ruffle us as much as they do. (But, if we are honest, many of us are quite ruffled. We are nervous and upset and worried when we stop long enough to think about the future. Particularly, if we aren’t getting strength every day from the Word.)

So there are a few things we can do to keep ourselves from joining the lemmings. To set ourselves apart from the crowd. But we need to ask ourselves: Am I willing to do this? It’s not an easy route to take, to be sure. It’s a difficult and rocky path. But it is worth it and it is what we are called to do.

1. Read and study your Bible. I know I say this so often, but the reading and study of the Word by a humble and obedient soul cannot be over-emphasized. You see, as you read, many of the lies we have been fed about this world fall away as we recognize the Truth and the consistency of that Truth throughout the entire Book. It’s an amazing and incredible Book.

I heard a statistic the other day: 97% of people who call themselves a Christian have never read the entire Bible through. Are you one of those people? If you are, may I encourage you to make a change today? (Personally, I waited far, far too long to make this change and it is one of my biggest regrets in life.) We are powerless and vulnerable without God’s Word. It is what He has given us to live a victorious Christian life.

2. Value and search for the truth, no matter the cost. Ask God to show you the truth about what is going on in this world, no matter the consequences. One of the reasons so many people shy away from the truth is because it costs too much. It hurts too much. It’s often so much more pleasant to believe a lie. But we can’t expect to know the truth if we aren’t willing to pay the cost.

Humanity has always loved lies. From the Garden of Eden to this present day, we are so much more prone to listen to a pleasant lie than an unpleasant truth. And God even tells us in His Word about this, where He explains that the ungodly exchange the Truth of God for the lie (Romans 1:25).

But, as believers, this should not be so! We should be earnestly searching for the truth in all situations. We should be facing the world with open eyes and ears, willing to hear even the hardest of truths. Christians can face these hard truths because they have a secure future in Christ. No matter what happens in this world, we are safe from eternal harm.

3. Stop caring about popularity. Oh, how powerful peer pressure is. You can see the lemmings lining up to do as they are told because they want people to like them. They don’t want to stand out as different. They don’t want to make a scene. They don’t want others to think they are uncaring or mean-spirited. They want to be accepted and loved. As we are told that there are certain actions we must take in order to receive acceptance, love, and to look like we are a “nice person”, many cave to the pressure. But it’s important that we fully evaluate any decision before we bow to that pressure. Is this what is best or is this simply what is going to keep us from standing out as odd?

4. Expect to be ridiculed. As you make choices that go in direct contrast with the world, expect to be hated. The world has never liked the guy swimming upstream in a downstream world. They have never liked the guy who chooses the narrow, difficult path, instead of joining the throng on the easy, wide road. As you make choices that go against the crowd, these things will come.

Sometimes they come from a very sad and disheartening direction and family relationships are strained and friends are lost. Sometimes even Christian ones. These may be the price to pay if we search out the truth and follow it whole-heartedly.

 

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As we strive to live in this crazy insane world, may we choose to remember our identity: We are the people of God. We are not the lemmings of the world that can be swayed and moved any which way. As we see the lemmings prepared for the antichrist system, may we believers keep ourselves separate and apart, just as we are told to do in God’s Word (Romans 12:2).

 

 

(A Lot of) Lessons I Learned This Past Month (Part 2)

Earlier this week, I wrote PART 1 of this series. The purpose of this is to share how my month-long focus on missionary stories over on the Growing4Life Facebook page changed me. There were lots of lessons to be learned from these courageous men and women and I wanted to not only share what I’ve learned but to encourage you to do your own study of these men and women, as well.

I plan to put a PDF together with a list of the missionaries and the corresponding links and other resources I used during Missionary Month. If you’d like a copy just reply to this email (or if you are seeing this on social media, simply message me your email address.)

The first part of this series focused on some pretty foundational Christian principles. Things most of us already know but perhaps needed to be reminded of. This second part is going to be a little different as these things are applicable for all of us right now–calling for change in specific areas of our lives. At least this is the case for me. You can be your own judge… haha

So here we go. Prepare to have your toes stepped on (maybe)–

7. They had an eternal perspective. These missionaries were, without exception, focused on eternity. They cared little for their own lives as they boldly traversed jungles to reach hostile, savage tribes or subjected themselves and their families to filthy conditions and diseases that had been eradicated years before in their home countries. I thought I was doing a “pretty good job” overall at keeping an eternal perspective, but these missionaries challenged me. Their eternal perspective wasn’t only about keeping fear at bay or feeling peace and joy in their hearts. It was not self-centered. Their eternal perspective was God-centered (This is probably worth a whole post.) They wanted to bring Him glory and tell others about His plan of salvation, no matter the cost. They denied self, they sacrificed, they endured unthinkable conditions. All because they remembered what really matters. Oh, how important that our eternal perspective is God-centered and not self-centered.

8. Prayer matters– a lot! So many of these missionaries spoke about prayer in a living way that is unfamiliar to most of us. This was a vital part of their ministry and they challenged me to think more deeply about this issue of prayer. You see, I think we all say that we know prayer is important but few of us actually live like we believe this. But these missionaries knew prayer was important. And that they needed the prayer support of those across the seas as they endeavored to take the Gospel to foreign people groups who were soundly in the hands of Satan through demon worship and other pagan practices. Oh, to take prayer more seriously!

9. Music matters. Several of these missionaries mentioned the importance of Bible memory and hymns as they faced solitary confinement or other situations where they had no access to scripture. I don’t know what kind of music most of you listen to, but may I encourage you to pay attention to the lyrics? Would those lyrics strengthen and encourage you during a time of need and desperation? The music we listen to matters. A lot. It will either encourage us in our walk with God or it will move us away from Him and from sound doctrine. (Keep in mind that just because a song mentions God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit does NOT mean it is of sound doctrine. In fact, much of Christian contemporary and worship music is NOT doctrinally sound. Pay attention and be aware.) Protect and prepare yourself by listening to music that is God-honoring and faith-strengtheningOh, to listen to great songs of the faith that will be a balm to our souls during troubled times. 

10. Redeem the time. Oh, how much time we waste. I really had to reflect on this. Particularly when I considered the many Bible verses that came to the minds of these great Christians just when they needed them. How well do I know my Bible? How much have I memorized? God can’t use His Word in our lives if we don’t know it. And we can’t know it, unless we intentionally give our efforts to know it. Oh, how important to make Bible Study a priority!

I was also reminded that it is incredibly important to consider what kind of things we are putting into our minds. Not only music as mentioned earlier, but all entertainment. What do we want to remember if we are ever without TV, books, and music? What do we want filling our minds and hearts when we face difficult situations and unthinkable circumstances? Whatever our answer, THIS is what we should be listening to, memorizing, watching. THIS is what we should we spend the majority of our time on. Oh, to be more intentional with how I spend my time.

11. Stop Complaining. Oh, how condemned I felt after reading and listening to these testimonies. They are without necessities, facing the deaths of spouses and children, dealing with the indifference and hatred of those they want to help and they are doing it willingly for the cause of Christ. And then there’s me. Getting a little worked up because the customer service representative of the credit card company I called was so inept. Oh, how much I complain. Over stupid stuff. It’s honestly ridiculous. Oh, to stop being such a complainer!

 

SO WHO IS REALLY A HERO?

I get so very weary with those who are deemed “heroes” in America (not sure how it is in your country). Movie stars and sports figures, few who have done anything of value, are raised on a pedestal while those who are true heroes go completely unsung. A movie star acts and a sports figure plays. Neither of these things are worthy of honor. A true hero sacrifices. They sacrifice their own well-being, their own comfort and convenience, their own lives for a greater cause. And they inspire others to do the same!

Christian heroes do this for the cause of Christ. In my opinion, there are no greater heroes than these men and women who gave their lives for Christ. I can’t even imagine the crowns they will receive in heaven!

Oh, that we, too, may be Christian heroes wherever God has placed us!

 

 

 

Every Bubble Pops

I was babysitting this past Saturday and the boys decided they wanted to blow bubbles while their baby brother napped. And so we went out into the backyard and found a shady spot where I blew bubbles and they chased them. It was great fun. What a joy watching a three and five year old happily chase bubbles, completely unaware of all that is happening in the world.

As I sat there waving the bubble wand back and forth, all sizes of bubbles were formed. There were tiny ones, medium-sized ones, and great big ones. Of course, the great big ones were the favorite and the boys would often set their sights on the same bubble, even though several others wafted around their heads.

At one point, a huge bubble was lifted by the air out of their reach. Up, up, it went. The oldest followed it, knowing it would eventually come down again. But, alas, it floated over the fence and into the neighbor’s yard, where it hung for a bit and then finally drifted to the ground and popped.

But it did pop. Every bubble that formed popped. Some popped immediately. Some floated awhile and then popped. But not one bubble was left when they grew bored with blowing bubbles and moved on to something else.

Sooner or later, every bubble pops.

Let’s think about about those bubbles in the context of lives. The other day I ran into someone and he mentioned to me how many people are dying recently. My family and I have discussed the same thing. There seems to be much more death than even last year when the pandemic was at its height. At least in my circle of friends and associations. It might be different for you.

But this got me thinking about how we always think we will have tomorrow with people. We will apologize later. We will do that promised thing next week. We will take that anticipated family vacation in a few years. We will work on our marriage or spend time with our kids after this busy season or that project is completed. We will share the Gospel some other time.

We will…we will…

But we never do.

And then one day, that person isn’t there. And it’s too late.

All bubbles pop. And all people die. Two laws of the universe that cannot be changed. What do we need to do today? Right now? How do we need to fix, improve, or change a relationship today? How can we encourage or support someone today? Who needs to hear the Gospel? What would the Lord have us do today–before it’s too late?

 

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Colossians 3:12-13

 

And now let’s think about the bubbles in the context of the world. It feels like there are some pretty big bubbles around us that have to eventually pop. Particularly a financial one that is, quite impossibly, still floating. How can an economy go on when its government simply creates money with nothing to back it? When it kills small businesses by paying their employees more to stay home? Watching this happen should lead us all to a be wary of a government that claims to care about its citizens. I think the whole world is just in a waiting mode this summer. What is next? But let’s take a moment to look at a few bubbles in this world that have already been popped.

The bubble of stability. We Americans blithely thought our country was pretty stable. Sure, we’d hear the arguments from opposing political parties and we knew, eventually, down the road sometime, things would probably change, but the uncertainty we all live with now has brought that time to now–to this very specific time in history. The stability we all enjoyed (which I have discovered was just an illusion to begin with) is no longer. And while most of us are still living pretty comfortably, we now understand that any earthly foundation beneath us could shake and move and change at any time.

The bubble of abundance. I can never remember a time when the shelves of the stores in my country were not abundantly full of goods. We American Christians (and perhaps all of us in westernized countries) have had little opportunity to experience needing something that we cannot get. And, suddenly, last year, shelves in stores were empty. The bubble of abundance had been popped and we now realize that we may have to go without. That those full shelves are not guaranteed in this life.

And then there is the bubble of freedom. We thought we were free. But we are finding out that we clearly aren’t. We are being censored, we are being mandated to, we are treated as sheep to be controlled. We are not free. Many are losing jobs because of not wanting to take a va[[ine that is untested and unapproved. Think about that for a moment. In what world? But, you see, this is because, we aren’t really free. We thought we were, but we now know we really aren’t. And, while most of us are still living life as normal and haven’t experienced the fall-out of this tyranny, we can see it coming on the horizon, barring God’s sovereign intervention.

All of these bubbles popping around us should be turning the eyes of believers from this crazy, unpredictable, changing world to our rock-solid, unchangeable, awesome God. This is where our hope and faith should have always been. But, if you are like me, it wasn’t.

And God has been teaching me so plainly: Every bubble in this world will pop. There is not one thing in this world that will last. Kings and Kingdoms come and go. Humans may shine brightly for a time and then they grow old and weak and die. Stuff tarnishes, rusts, and fades.

This world is passing away. Which is why we need to be focused on the next one. Paul tells us so clearly that we are to be focused on the eternal world to come. Our souls will last. The souls of our children will last. The souls of our parents, siblings, extended family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends will all last. The souls of the clerks and the parents on the soccer field sidelines and the childrens’ teachers and the doctors we go to–they will all last.

Oh, to live with this in mind. Oh, to put our own selfish agendas, desires, and fears aside and to go about our Father’s business with zeal and passion as we perceive that this world is just passing.

 

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.

Colossians 3:1-2

 

Life is so short and it changes constantly. Nothing stays the same. If we think on one thing today from this post, I hope it is this: Focus on the eternal, recognizing that we may not have another day with someone. We may not get the opportunity to apologize, show love, or share the Gospel if we don’t do it today.

 

 

 

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?

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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

 

 

 

The Power of Encouragement

Yesterday I attended the Memorial Service of a man I used to attend church with many years ago. He was a godly man who loved the Lord and he and I had had some really wonderful and thought-provoking conversations in those years. A few months ago I found out that he had been diagnosed with cancer and that his wife was also suffering from ill health. On a whim, I stopped in to see them for the first time in many years and the Christian fellowship we experienced for the next hour during that visit is something I will always remember. A few months later, my husband and I stopped in for another visit. And then a few weeks later he was gone.

As I listened to two men talk of their memories of this man during the service, my mind wandered for just a few moments to my own memories of him. There is one very special memory that I want to share with you. It is truly a reminder of how powerful words are. I wish I would have shared my appreciation of this memory with him before he left this earth.

Before I share this memory, you need a little background. When I started attending that church so many years ago, I had some real obvious flaws. Unfortunately, I still have them, but they were much more pronounced at that time. I’d talk before I’d think. I’d sometimes sound harsh in my passion to communicate the truth of God’s Word. I’d use the wrong tone or say the wrong thing. I didn’t mean to do these things. I didn’t want to do these things. And after I’d say something the wrong way or said something I just shouldn’t have said, I would often pray afterwards for forgiveness and to ask the Lord to somehow give the person (or group) I had shared with no memory of my gaffe or at least an understanding of my heart as I said whatever it was I had said.

I still struggle with this, but not to the same extent as back then. How I thank the Lord for growing and changing me in this particular area.

Anyway, a few years after we had been there, I can still remember talking with this man in the hallway after church one day. I am not sure what we were talking about but at some point in that conversation he stopped and looked at me and expressed how he had misunderstood me. In other words, despite my blunders and missteps, he understood now that I truly loved the Lord and His Word and that, in my heart, I really wanted to do what is right.

I respected this man and for him to say that meant the world. To have him say that he understood my heart to do what is right was such a tremendous encouragement to me.

This memory reminded me so vividly of the power of our edifying and encouraging words. Those words we speak that build up. No doubt you, too, can think back over your life and remember moments where you were given some unexpected encouragement and the impact that it had on you.

It was a great reminder of the importance of encouraging one another in the Lord. These things can mightily impact us. God uses them to comfort, strengthen, and cheer us along life’s way.

Too often, we use our mouths to criticize and tear down. We don’t seem to have any trouble saying all of the negative things to or about people. (I am not referring here to the times it is necessary to speak the truth in love but to the petty criticism and lack of grace we afford one another as believers.)

Or we just speak nothing. Perhaps we pride ourselves on not speaking negative, critical words to others but we also don’t speak uplifting, edifying words either.

Why is it so hard to speak positive words to others?

It can go against the grain. Especially if you were raised by distant or critical parents. And, yet, by intentionally encouraging with our words, we have the opportunity to make a real difference in someone’s life. Those words I mentioned above were spoken to me probably close to thirty years ago and I still remember them. God used this dear man to encourage me at a time when I really needed encouraged.

May we, too, be used by God to encourage other fellow believers along the way. May we help strengthen and intentionally encourage them in the Lord. It’s a tough world out there. Let’s edify and build up. Let’s extend grace and loving-kindness. Let’s break the bad habit of not speaking of and, oftentimes, not even noticing the good things around us.

 

Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.

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

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

I Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.

 

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!

 

 

Time to Wake Up

Last night at 12:22am, our phone rang. It jarred me out of a very deep sleep and my heart started pounding. It’s not usually a good thing when the phone rings at night and my thoughts went immediately to our parents. It ended up being an automated call about our company’s security system (at 12:22am!) and I started to breathe easily again. But it took a long time for my heart to stop pounding and my brain to slow down.

A few hours later, we woke up to a short beep. We looked around, couldn’t figure it out, and closed our eyes. We were just about back to sleep when we heard it again. It seemed to be coming from my nightstand. I decided it must be some kind of low battery signal from my alarm clock. I unplugged the clock and we settled down for a couple of more hours of sleep. But, no. There it was again! At this third beep, I flew out of bed, turned on the light, and examined my table. Finally, my husband said he thinks it’s the phone. The cordless phone (which I had answered at 12:22am) had lost its charge and was begging to be put back in its cradle. How it lost its charge in just a few short hours is a mystery. That particular phone rarely leaves its cradle and was sitting on it when I answered during the night.

Those rude awakenings made for a rough night of sleep. No wonder I feel so tired this morning.

Those sleep interruptions remind me of the life we are living now. We so badly want to go back to our normal ordinary living but we keep getting jarred awake by discouraging and often nonsensical happenings. We will live for a few days–perhaps even a week or two–and we can forget how much the world has changed. But then something vividly reminds us.

I wrote parts of what you will read below on Facebook the other day, but decided to expand here as many of you are not on Facebook and, also, because I did not include or expand on certain things due to space. I want to warn you that this first part is going to be somewhat discouraging but just keep reading. It gets better.

As we catch bits and pieces of news these past days, we see many disturbing things. In America, It seems like almost every day we hear of laws that will strip us of our rights. We hear of terrible things happening at the borders. We hear of people dying from Covid and from the vaccine. And we hear about supply shortages and higher expenses. Meanwhile the government is throwing money it doesn’t have at its citizens to pacify them. This can’t end well.

There are perhaps even more disturbing happenings from across the world, where we hear of extreme lockdown measures that continue to keep people from traveling even within their own countries. There are massive protests across Europe about these lockdowns, which we never hear about in the mainstream news. A pastor in Canada was recently released from a five week stay in jail for his church’s in-person meetings against his province’s health guidelines. And then there are the reports coming from Israel that there is “medical apartheid” going on. If you aren’t vaccinated, you are viewed as Enemy #1 and with their newly instated “green pass”, only the vaccinated are allowed to eat at restaurants indoors, go to events, and even shop in some stores. Many of their citizens have been forced to be vaccinated or lose their jobs. Now keep in mind–this is over a virus that has a death rate that is actually less than 4% (and that death rate has been falsified in so many ways and with the falsifications being proven by so many different studies and reports that it is hard for any thinking person to deny it.) There’s much more going on in this world. But that’s enough.

Not only is the world in chaos but the church at large is also in major chaos. Here in America, we read of a famous “Christian” singer who was recorded shouting obscenities at his son. We see an ugly debate over a recent Christian book and the promotion of Bethel by a much trusted Christian. The promotion of wokism and social justice in Baptist and other once-solid churches is now the norm. The church has been on a bad trajectory for quite awhile but it has taken on warp speed. Why does it matter what is happening to the American church? I believe it is because she has been a beacon of the Christian faith in this world for many years. It has been she who has sent thousands of missionaries across the world and it is she who has been one of Israel’s greatest supporters. As this American church weakens and is overtaken by apostasy, so the darkness won’t only increase in America, but across the world. (Did you know that many mission organizations aren’t even sharing the Gospel anymore? Or if they do it is as an “add-on” to the person’s current religion? There is much going on in the world of missions. Be careful whom you support.)

What is especially interesting to see is the efforts to draw all people into a one world religion (which we have been told is coming in Revelation 13), with many once-trusted figures joining with false teachers or promoting false doctrine. I recently saw a “Christian” company who is re-making their company with an emphasis on Buddhism, while still claiming to be Christian. I’ve heard of “Christian” pastors and teachers joining with Islam. In fact, it is so common that it’s been given a name: “Chrislam”. There is just so much wrong with the modern day mainstream church across the world. What I have written is just a glimpse into all that’s going on.

But let me encourage you! As the American church has weakened, the true church in other countries is growing. Oftentimes, this is happening in countries where there is much persecution and cost for being a believer. The true church is still so wonderfully alive and well and will always remain so until the Lord returns for her. Yes, she will be small but perhaps we are simply gaining a new understanding of Matthew 7:13-14? Our Lord told us the gate is narrow and few there will be that find it.

Then there are weather events. Did you know that last year in America there were 16 ‘one-billion dollar’ weather events? This means that insurance companies had to pay out at least one billion dollars in coverage. There are usually under ten per year. And this year the Texas freeze has already been a three billion dollar event. So not only is the world going crazy, so is the weather. And that’s just in America. This pattern continues across the world, with an increase in hurricanes, volcanic activity, and earthquakes. The official data shows this increase in activity. I think we can all agree that the weather has seemed to sense the mood of the earth. We hear that it’s global warming causing all this havoc. I tend to believe it is the beginning of the birth pangs as predicted in Matthew 24. Of course, I could be wrong. It’s just an observation.

Meanwhile, technology is exponentially increasing, making possible the mark of the beast as predicted in Revelation 13. One can easily see how the green pass in Israel and the mandatory chipping of employees in Sweden are stepping stones to the mark of the Beast. (Let me be clear: The vaccine is NOT the mark of the beast.) Yes, how they will make the mark of the beast possible is becoming just a little clearer with each passing day. Technology is also now available to see the two witnesses in live time from anywhere in the world through satellites. Anything that we thought was impossible forty or fifty years ago when we read Revelation is now possible. It’s mind-blowing when you really stop to think about it.

And then, finally, the last thing I want to touch on is globalism. I have thought for many years now that it would be quite impossible to have a one world government with a strong America. I believe that we are watching the intentional take-down of this country. I do not say this lightly. The evidence is clearly there. This, along with the failing economies of other countries around the world, will pave the way for a global government. They are already discussing it. Just look up the World Economic Forum and read some of their chilling plans.

I haven’t even mentioned the activity in the middle east that is lining up with scripture in a way that could only be supernatural.

It’s funny because I never really thought before 2020 of the many details and changes that would need to be put in place for the Revelation 13 scenario to come to the world. But now as we are living them, it makes so much sense. It’s not like you can just suddenly have a one world government, a one world religion, and a mark of the beast that is needed to buy and sell. These things can’t just happen instantly. There must be much happening in the years before that.

Now you may be saying to yourself right now “I don’t agree with you“. And I want you to know, first of all, that I am not trying to change your mind. I don’t think it will really matter what we believe about world happenings when the Lord returns. Second of all, I am so gladly willing to hear evidence to the contrary. I would gladly admit it if I am wrong. I simply ask you to do some research on your own before commenting with negative words to this post. Spend some time finding out about the vaccine from doctors who are losing their licenses and reputations to sound the alarm. Read a few news sources that are not carefully controlled. Dig into history to find out the background of current events.

To me–and I know to many of you, as well–it is so clear that the end is near. Everything the Bible predicted is either happening or being set up to happen.

How does one live in a world that is getting ready to end?

It can be tempting to fear and to be anxious. It is tempting to just withdraw and ignore.

And, honestly, I don’t pay much attention to the news anymore. I am not going to change what is happening by knowing about every detail. And we aren’t really getting real news anyway. At least not in America. We are getting a very scripted narrative.

Does anyone else find themselves hunkering down in the midst of all of this and just living a more simple life? One where family, work, and church are the main priorities?

That’s what I find myself doing. And, honestly, if it wasn’t for the wonderings and uncertainty of the future, I’d be happier for it. There is much to be said for the simpler life.

Actually, “hunkering down” is probably not the best term to use. I don’t mean that we shelter in our houses and don’t go out. I am referring more to a life where we invest in our families, treasure fellowship with like-minded believers, and have conversations that actually matter with both the unsaved and the saved. A life where we focus on what’s important.

Our families need us. They need us to be engaged and communicating and laughing with them. They need us to turn away from our phones and our TVs and our activities to love them and teach them about God and His Word.

Our church families need us. I have heard from several different people now how difficult it is to find people to serve in various ministries at local churches. This is so discouraging. We need to be actively serving as we wait for the Lord to come. This is not the time to back out of all of our church ministries.

Our communities need us. I spoke with a woman yesterday whose family is deeply hurting from this past year. Their extended families have been deeply affected economically by Covid and they are trying to help them. But they, themselves, had to take a 10% pay cut. It’s been a rough road to travel for them. I am sure her story could be told a million times over across the world. In fact, many are facing much worse things. Some are struggling to even eat. We need to support those who are hurting however we can. We need to boldly share the Gospel when we are given opportunity. We need to show God’s love in this harsh, harsh world.

It’s time for the alarms around us to wake us up to what’s important. It’s time to wake up to the fact that we are probably never going back to our old “normal”.

This reminds me of the verses from I Thessalonians 5:5-11—

You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be [a]sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.

11 Therefore [b]comfort each other and [c]edify one another, just as you also are doing.

We mustn’t sleep as others do but watch and be sober. We are children of the day. Children of the light. And we must keep our eyes open and our armor on.

And don’t forget that one of these days we will be raptured! The Lord has promised that we will escape the wrath to come. We are not going to be here while the earth experiences the worst seven years in its history. Oh, praise the Lord for keeping His own from this terrible time.

Meanwhile, as we traverse the land of “limbo”, waiting for whatever is next, we need to make the best of it and appreciate what we have now. We need to be actively serving our Lord and sharing the Gospel. And we need to be sure we are growing deep roots of faith so that we can stand firm and face whatever may be ahead.

This is not the time to be resting and waiting. We need to be in the Word, learning who God is, learning to trust Him. Another thing that has been tremendously helpful to me is reading stories of missionaries and other Christians who have gone on before us. These are incredibly faith-building and are a wonderful reminder of God’s care and provision in the worst of times.

So hang on tight. It looks like we may be in for quite a ride. But let’s be sure to hang on to the right thing. Stuff will decay. People will let you down. Glory will fade. Only God and His Word are a sure anchor in the turmoil around us.

And so let us cling to Him alone. He will never fail us for He cannot fail.

 

The Challenges of Being a “People-Pleaser”

The other day, my dad shared something he remembered about me as a child that surprised me. But then, as I thought about it further, I realized that it is absolutely true and it is what has caused me so much misery through these past years of blogging. God has been helping me understand this about myself recently and has also given me greater insight in how to deal with it. I am sharing here because I thought this might also be of benefit to other “people-pleasers”.

We were talking about the grandkids (my dad’s great grandkids) and their personalities when he suddenly mentioned how different my brother and I were. I was so sensitive and wanted to please people as opposed to my brother, who never really cared what people thought about him.

I am not sure why but a light bulb went on in my head. Finally.

You see, since I have been blogging and I guess for my whole life, I have had a great desire to adhere to God’s truth and to share it with others. Because the truth is so important to me, I can see often see when there is false doctrine afoot or when someone is twisting scripture. (I don’t do this perfectly, of course.)

However, this desire to share truth is in direct conflict with my innate desire to make people happy. Since people often don’t want to hear the truth, I find myself not always pleasing them. I’ve never thought about myself as a people-pleaser but as I have reflected on my dad’s words, I can see that this is what has caused me so much heartache throughout my life. Especially since I’ve been publicly blogging.

You see, I have often noticed people that I’ve counted as friends and even acquaintances take a step back from me. They start avoiding me. They won’t make eye contact. Or they just act like I’m no longer on the planet. Or blog readers just disappear. A fellow blogger became a friend (I thought) and then poof! Just like that she disappeared. I still have no idea why.

There’s been no conversation or discussion so I often surmise that it must have been something I wrote (or said). Since I am never given the opportunity to actually find out what it exactly is that I’ve said or wrote that offended them, I am at a loss to fix it.

This has caused me incredible turmoil through the years and I will tell you why. It is because I have absolutely no way of knowing if someone is upset with me because of some truth they read (or heard me say) OR if I have done something sinful.

The questions that I repeat over and over again to myself when this happens are: Did I do something wrong? Did I write something that wasn’t biblical? Did I say it in a way that was unloving? Did I make a big deal out of something that shouldn’t have been a big deal? Father, have I sinned against Thee?

These go round and round and round in my head whenever someone so obviously backs away from me. And, contrary to what many people think about me, I don’t enjoy this. I HATE conflict. I HATE making people unhappy. I HATE when people don’t like me.

So why do I keep doing what I do? It’s because I care about pleasing God more than I hate people not liking me. I care more about God’s Word than I do about offending people. And it’s because so many of you have reached out and told me how the Growing4Life posts have encouraged and helped you. It’s because, for whatever reason, God has given me this platform and I want to faithfully accomplish what He has given me to accomplish.

But there is this dreadful uncertainty in the midst of all of this. Do people disappear because I have sinned or do they disappear because they didn’t like a particular truth I mentioned? I have spent hours in agony over this question. I am not exaggerating.

If people don’t like me for speaking truth then so be it. Scripture makes it clear that this is the price we should expect to pay. But if they don’t like me because of something sinful I did, then I must fix something. But what is it? Because it’s just easier to disappear than to have a conversation, I am rarely given the opportunity to know just what is going on.

Sometimes God will reveal something to me and I will apologize to someone. Or I will go back and change a sentence or two in a blog post. But that question still haunts me. Because if I had my choice, everyone would like me.

As I thought about this yet again a few weeks ago and spent a morning in turmoil, I finally, by the grace of God, found peace. For the first time since I started writing publicly, I found peace regarding the disappearing readers and friends.

And this is what I wanted to share with you. I hope it is an encouragement to those of you who have people-pleasing personalities like mine.

A week or two ago, as I once again sat agonizing over this, wondering if I have sinned against someone, it suddenly hit me. I can do nothing if people aren’t willing to share with me why they are offended.

My responsibility is to humbly surrender and change as God reveals things to me. But if someone is offended and they won’t share that with me, then there is really nothing I can do. I am helpless to make them happy or to be at peace with them, because they have found it easier just to walk away.

At that point I am not responsible. As long as I am living out Romans 12:18 (As much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men), there is nothing further I can do. The fact that Paul even wrote that verse shows that it is not always possible to be at peace with all men.

This is all compounded by the fact that, over the past few years, a rather strange new thing has entered our culture: We only like those with whom we agree. This change is extremely sad and causes so much division and heartache.

So I’d like to just go on record to say that I still like you even if we don’t agree about everything. I count you as a friend even if you and I differ on eschatology or how we view a specific Christian teacher. And if you can show me, from scripture, why I should change my view, I’ll change it. I am always open to discussion. I never want to be hard-headed or the kind that needs to prove I’m right. If scripture is clear that I am wrong, I am not too proud to admit it.

And, quite frankly, it is those of you that have kindly shared your disagreements with me who have led me to really dig deeper into the Word to clarify and confirm what I have said I believe. I am thankful for those of you with whom I can have candid and kind discussions. This is how we sharpen one another. This is how the family of God is supposed to work.

And, so, that is just a brief look into the window of my heart. I have made myself rather vulnerable with this post but I do so because I believe we are going to face this dilemma more and more as we stand for the truth of the Bible. It’s growing increasingly unpopular and I believe we are going to please people less and less as we cling tenaciously to God and His Word. We people-pleasers will have to come to grips with this.

So may we stand firm. May we unapologetically proclaim the truth of God’s Word–all of it! The pleasant parts and the not-so-pleasant parts. And may we humbly acknowledge when we have sinned, repent, brush ourselves off, and begin again.

 

Random Thoughts on a Winter Morning

It is a cold winter morning. The ground is covered with snow and spring seems far away. Over the weekend I had the privilege of visiting Florida, where I drank in the warm sun and beautiful flowers that are still nonexistent where I live. I was grateful for those few days, as the winter here in Pennsylvania has been very long. We’ve had snow on the ground for many days and it’s been very cold. But spring is coming. It always does.

I spent the weekend in Florida with my two best friends from college. We have been dear friends for many years and can always pick up where we left off. They are both great examples of how to be a “pleasant traveling companion”. Their selflessness, kindness, and generosity made the weekend so pleasant. Not to mention our like-minded faith that has grown stronger through the years. True friends like this are rare and I am so thankful for them. Do we agree on every little thing? Of course not. But that is where grace comes in. Grace is most important in lasting friendships, is it not?

Grace is also critical to healthy family relationships, work relationships, and church family relationships. Without it we are petty, critical, and argumentative.

While in Florida, I had something really interesting happen to me that I wanted to share with you. On Saturday morning, I was laying in bed praying for a few moments before getting up. One of the things that I prayed was that God would give me an opportunity to talk to someone about Him. Now, honestly, I have to say I didn’t really expect Him to answer. I have to be up front about that. After all, I was in a place where I knew no one and, well…it just seemed pretty unlikely that this prayer would be answered.

But God…

That morning, we attended a baking class in the area. It was great fun and the teacher was an engaging older lady who made it both funny and interesting. In the midst of her demo she told us she was recently divorced after many years. She kind of said it off-hand but I could tell she was devastated. At the end of the class, she came up to me (Why me? Of all the people in the class, why me? I believe it is because of my prayer. There is no other reason. There is nothing special about me) and started talking about her broken marriage and her religion and gave me the perfect opportunity to plant seeds for the Gospel. I did what I could in a room full of people without a lot of time, but it didn’t feel like enough. Should I have said something different? I always come away feeling so inadequate in those situations. But I pray God will grow those seeds. Would you join me in praying for this woman? We will call her R. Pray that she will read the Bible and that her eyes would be opened to the Truth. She is disenamored with her current religion and seems to be really searching.

I don’t really know why I prayed that on Saturday. I don’t pray it often (even though I should!) but isn’t it amazing how God answered that prayer? When I am tempted to think God doesn’t care or that I can’t trust Him, I think about these faith-building moments. He surely does hear us. He hears us and He cares about us. It is a marvelous thing to comprehend!

It was nice to take a few days’ break away from reality. But I had to come back. And, honestly, I was glad to return. I missed my family and wouldn’t want to be gone from them much longer than a few days.

As I left the airport the cold air quickly reminded me that I was back in the land of winter. But spring will come again. Soon now, the snow will melt and the air will turn warmer. The trees will start to fill out with plump buds of green and the first flowers will slowly emerge from the soil. Winter never lasts forever.

I think that’s a good thing to remember, right now, in the midst of current events. It’s dark and it feels like the wind is getting brutally colder. But spring will come again. Most likely, it will come in the form of our eternal home. As we watch things take shape, we know that the end has to be near. But this, too, is in God’s Sovereignty. It’s funny to think most of us believed it would come but never contemplated that the last days plan would come to full fruition in our lifetime. But now I think most of us realize it very well could.

As we wait and watch for our Lord, may we be actively serving the Lord and sharing the Gospel. Now is not the time to sit twiddling our thumbs. I am convinced that there is little time left to us to go about the work of the Lord and there are so so many who still need to hear! There are so so many who need encouragement or who need “snatched from the fire.” Now is not the time to grow sluggish and lazy.

As we give our best, only God will keep us from stumbling. On our own, we are so weak and helpless. We will be presented blameless only because of our Lord Jesus Christ and certainly not due to any works of our own. This is the heart of the Gospel. Praise God for His amazing grace! But for Christ, we would be lost.

Now let’s unashamedly tell this to the world! They may hate us. They may marginalize us. They may grow frustrated. But we aren’t doing this for our own glory. We are doing it for God’s glory and because we love people. If we keep these things in mind, it will help make us stronger.

Let’s keep our focus on the Lord as we navigate this alternate universe. I will conclude with these important verses from Jude 17-25–

But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time[h] and now and forever. Amen.

 

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