Encouragement

My Hope Is Found in Nothing Less

Think back ten years or so. What was your life like? For most of us, it was pretty pleasant overall. We all had our challenges and trials and some walked through very deep waters, but, overall, no matter what trial we went through our outer world remained stable. Our way of life was not threatened.

Most of us didn’t realize what a treasure that was.

We went about our days with nary an interest in what was going on in the world or on the screens in our homes or in our kids’ schools or at work. We didn’t get too upset about much of anything and, in fact, joined much of what was going on if it wasn’t “too bad.” We didn’t get up in arms about sin or sinful living (and even brought it into our homes via the TV), as long as it didn’t affect us personally.

But, eventually, it would affect us. The world around us with its fascination with sin and sorcery would eventually affect all of us.

And so here we are. The time has finally come. We are watching the fabric of our country being eroded away. And many are angry.

But why weren’t we angry before?

I heard someone say something that gave me some insight into this. I found it rather profound and insightful as to what is going on in our Christian culture right now. And perhaps even in our own hearts.

Here is a paraphrase: If you are only angry at Disney now, then what is the reason for your anger? Because Disney has always been evil. Always full of magic and sorcery and evil. Why are you angry now?

Do you know why we are all so angry?

It is because their evil is not cute anymore. It’s not expressed by cute little fairies and pretend villains. Instead, it is overt and threatens the very core of our country. And this means a change in our own lives. It means we are or will be affected personally.

So are we upset because it is an offense against God? Or are we upset because we are losing something we love? They are two very different things. One is righteous anger. The other, self-centered.

Emotion steals our judgement. When we grow angry or frustrated we don’t make wise decisions. This emotion of sinful anger is what propels crowds in riots or moves someone to do something they regret for the rest of their life. It is a powerful tool in the hands of Satan.

As believers, we need to really think about this. Everywhere we turn we are told by many on the “white” side (conservative, mainstream evangelical side) to be angry. Get angry and fight for your country! Fight the tyranny! The cries for this are everywhere.

Now, I am strongly against tyranny. And I am deeply grieved over what I see happening to our country. But why? Why am I angry or grieved?

If I am honest, it is because it is affecting me.

If more of us would have been angry or grieved at the sin in this culture twenty, thirty, fifty years ago, it probably wouldn’t be in the state it is in. Surely, we realize that the sin that was pervading the American culture would eventually lead to this day? Did we honestly expect to ignore what was going on around us and never experience the devastating ramifications?

So is anger the correct response to what is happening in the world around us? Perhaps at some level, righteous anger is to be expected. But this is not what will change the world. And, in fact, we are not going to change the world. Scripture makes this abundantly clear. Our hope is not in this world. We are to think on things above and not on things on this earth (Colossians 3:2).

But there is another piece of this that we need to explore. What you will hear from this “white” side is that we must fight together to make the world a better place.

And, in fact, if you claim to believe in God’s timetable for the future of the coming rapture and Tribulation, the Christian “intellectuals” and mainstream evangelicals of our current Christian culture ridicule you and accuse you of being a person without hope who simply wants to escape.

So about that. Do I want to escape? You bet I do. I am so very thankful that God set it up to take His bride out of this world before the Tribulation unfolds. That is not an untrue statement but I fail to see why it is viewed as such a negative thing.

As for being hopeless…we, of all people, have hope! In fact, Titus 2:13 tells us to be looking for this hope!–

looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

You see, our hope is in Jesus! Not in this world. Never in this world.

This world is fading away (Isaiah 24:4) but God and His Word never fade away (Isaiah 40:8)!

I Peter 1:3-5 tells us where our hope should lie as believers–

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance [b]incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Without hope? That is just an empty accusation. Nothing could be further from the truth for the true Christian.

My hope is found in nothing less than Jesus’s blood and righteousness! (I will put the rest of the lyrics of this great hymn of the faith at the end of this post. It really does concisely express what we Christians should be thinking and feeling right now in this place in this time.)

It is so important that, in our desperation and anger with the world around us, we don’t lose sight of what the Bible teaches regarding the world and its inevitable future.

The Bible is our anchor. It is our only hope in discerning what is true and not true. It shows us what God hates so that we also know what to hate–whether it is affecting us personally or not. It is our only hope in piecing a puzzle together that sometimes doesn’t make any sense at all.

And it reminds us of what is to come and that we Christians will escape it. Praise God for this promise! There is no shame in being glad that God has promised to deliver us from the the specific time He has set in place to pour His wrath down upon this earth.

It is a strange time to live. But, in reflecting upon Revelation and the things we know are to come, we are now realizing that these things could never have happened in a vacuum. And so what we are seeing is the great setup for what is to come. These things are no surprise to God and they should come as no surprise to us.

So bear up under the ridicule and antagonism that will surely grow against believers who cling to the literal interpretation of scripture. And be encouraged! It is all making more sense than we could have ever dreamed. We are watching piece after piece of the end times puzzle come together in a way that would have seemed impossible even three years ago.

So let’s continue to study the Word and be watchful. And may our hope be found in nothing less than Jesus!

Someday soon now, those of us that have placed our faith in Christ alone, will meet Him in the air, leaving this wicked world behind us forever! Oh, what a day that will be!

 

On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Refrain:
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

 

 

It’s All in How You Look at It

Do you remember laying on the ground when you were a kid and finding shapes in the clouds? Oftentimes, two people looking at the same cloud see two different things. One might see a dinosaur, while another may see a truck. That is because those looking have two different perspectives.

As believers, we should always have a different perspective than the world around us when it comes to the small irritations, the bigger frustrations, and even the great trials in our lives. But how often I fail at this very thing! I thought of this the other day when I took a quick trip to a store.

My eyes strained and tried to make sense of the words. But, as I stood in that toy store, I knew there was no way that I could decipher the small print on the box I had picked up. The words were just blurred blobs of black. And I have to admit that I sighed as I pulled out my reading glasses. The sigh indicated my frustration and my heart of complaint. Though I didn’t speak, my head was certainly thinking it and God knows my thoughts.

A few minutes later, this thought struck me: Have you considered just how many people in history never had the incredible gift of reading glasses to extend the usefulness of their eyes?!?

Whoah. As I thought through this, I knew it couldn’t have been but a few hundred years that they have been in existence. And, although literacy has not been in existence all that long and the need wouldn’t have been terribly great for reading glasses, I knew that it would have been frustrating to grow older and not be able to see anything close up.  All through history, women would have to have had to mend and sew and cook and bake and wash clothing. How frustrating it must have been for them as their eyesight failed and detailed work became impossible to do well–if at all.

And I was complaining? If even in my heart, I knew this was sinful. I had the wrong perspective! Instead of being thankful for God’s gift of eyeglasses, I was grumbling because I needed them.

As I intentionally turned my perspective right side up, my overall attitude changed. There is just not room for complaint in a heart that is filled with gratitude.

I wish I could say I am always so quick to see what is going on in my heart when I complain. But, alas, I am not. It’s like second nature for us all. It is the thing we turn to when things aren’t going our way. Sometimes we have the wherewithal to simply think it. Other times, we vocalize it. No matter how we express our complaining hearts, it is always sin.

The Bible says this in Philippians 2:14-15–

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.

There are no exceptions that make a complaining heart acceptable. No conditions or set of circumstances that give us a right to complain.

If we continue to read the verses, we can see that this is how we shine as lights in the world. Isn’t this so interesting to reflect upon? We shine as lights in the world by not complaining and arguing about everything.

This has to mean then that when we do complain and argue (dispute), our lights are dimmed. Perhaps even turned off.

Later on in Philippians we read the following–

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

Did you catch that word in there that keeps us from having a complaining heart? It is by bringing our requests to God with thanksgiving.

Complaints and thanksgiving cannot reside in a heart side-by-side. They are mutually exclusive.

So, practically speaking, how do we cultivate a thankful heart rather than a complaining heart?

Sometimes, we can just turn our complaint on its head and change our perspective, as I did with my glasses. When we are doing housework, we can instead thank God that we have a home. When we are taking care of the children, may we remember the tremendous blessing of caring for these precious souls. When our car breaks down, well, let’s thank the Lord for the car in the first place. You get the idea. This change in perspective can be a powerful tool.

But what about the things that happen in life that have no upside? The things that devastate us and are life-changing? How do we go from complaint to thankfulness then?

It is only through trusting God and His Sovereignty. Intentionally resting in His promises in scripture will enable us to endure and be thankful–not for them but through them as we dwell on His love, His grace, His mercy. Understanding and believing that ALL things work together for God’s purposes and for the good of those that love Him (Romans 8:28) –this truth can and will uphold us and carry us through the darkest days.

Yesterday, I was in the company of an elderly couple who has been through some very rough times in the past couple of years. Things are still frustrating and difficult for them. When I asked them how the Lord has helped them, the wife said something like, “He’s just been with us all the way.”

When she said that, I thought of these verses from Psalm 37 (vs 23-24)–

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him with His hand.

The Lord will uphold us, no matter what happens. And that is a reason to be thankful, no matter what we are going through.

Hearing this truth in the lives of those who have experienced it can be greatly encouraging. Even more encouraging is thinking back over our own lives and remembering the times we have been upheld. God won’t drop us now. We are His sheep and we can never be lost–

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. (John 10:28-29)

So may we turn our complaints into gratitude today. May we remember God’s promises. May we look at things from an eternal perspective and, with a heart of gratitude, shine as bright lights in this very dark world!

 

Change Isn’t Always Welcome

Our little puppy needed a haircut. I was unable to get her into a groomer for far longer than it should have been. She was an unkempt and matted little fluff ball when I dropped her off and a too skinny and yes, plain ugly dog when I picked her up. My heart sank as the groomer apologized profusely explaining how badly matted she was and that she wouldn’t normally cut a dog that short. Yes, I understand. I had such a difficult time finding a groomer to take her and then when I found one, of course, I had to wait for an appointment so here we were. No one’s fault.

As we pulled into the campground last Friday, our oldest grandson looked at her when she hopped out of the truck and wondered whose dog she was (yes, she looks THAT different). We all had a good laugh over that. A day later, he was in the camper petting her and exclaiming that her fur is already starting to grow and she’s looking cuter already. Also had a good laugh over that.

But despite his hopeful words, we all know that she’s just not very cute without her fur. I wish it wasn’t true but it is. Currently, she’s a dog only a mother (and perhaps those with soft spots in their hearts for ugly dogs) could love.

Now…she’s the same dog. She hasn’t really changed who she is. She just looks different. Not as appealing.

One could say that a similar thing happens when we turn to Christ or even when we grow in Christ. We recognize sin for what it is. We start turning away from sin. We begin our journey in living life to please God instead of pleasing self.

And this looks ugly to our friends. They don’t like this change. Stripped of our partying, our sinful entertainment, our drinking, and our obscene language, well, we just don’t look all that appealing to our old friends.

But this isn’t just true with unbelieving friends. This often happens with Christians friends, too. When we really start studying the Word and recognizing the acceptable sins and the worldliness within the church and try to begin turning away from them, it usually means turning away from our friends, as well.

If we are going to get serious about our faith and follow the Lord whole-heartedly we will lose friends. People are going to treat us like my ugly dog. They will keep their distance and murmur cool hellos but they won’t want to get within more than a few feet of us because we look unappealing to them. Not only do we no longer live up to their definition of “fun to be around” but, if they are saved, we may make them feel uncomfortably convicted.

And so, as serious believers, we need to be prepared to give up everything for Christ. And for many of us, that will probably mean a few (or many) friends.

But God is faithful. He will most likely provide new like-minded friends who love Him as much (or more) than we do. And if He doesn’t do that, He will be our friend. For He alone is all we need. He will give us the strength to walk alone if that is what He asks of us.

When we read this verse in Luke–

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

we often think of denying ourselves material wealth or some other tangible thing. But I’d submit to you that this means we deny ourselves in every way–including our much longed-for relationships with friends and even family. Our desire to follow Christ should be greater than our desire for anything else.

The true Gospel is so simple but it could potentially cost us everything.

When we begin to change, many won’t like it. They will start distancing themselves. They may even get angry at us. They will ridicule, call us names, gossip and lie about us. I’ve been on the receiving end of all of these things at some time or another. It is not fun. But I can tell you without a doubt that it is worth it.

Growing more like Christ is always worth it in every way. In this life and the next. Oh, we may not think so during a painful time that would be made so much less painful if we’d just follow the crowd and be like everyone else. But God will help us survive that temporal, painful time (and it is temporal no matter how long it lasts).

And don’t forget– eternity is just around the corner and it will be awesome.

 

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)

 

 

 

Life and Legos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________________________

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

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

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

But to a child? Wow.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Sometimes a Look Back Is Invaluable

The past is a tricky thing. Look back too often and you may end up in the quick sands of pride or bitterness. Never look back and you might repeat your mistakes. But there is always much to be gained by looking back at the lives of those who have gone before us. Unfortunately, this is generally neglected and viewed as “boring”.

I am deeply saddened by this because it is from these godly men and women of the past that we find examples of God-fearing, stand-firm-no-matter-what, holy Christian lives. God has always had His remnant–the true Church– woven throughout history. It has never been a group of great size or much popularity and it was often persecuted mercilessly. But it was always there.

If you have never heard of the Covenanters, the Huguenots, the Anabaptists, the Reformers, or the Dissenters then you may be unfamiliar with the persecution of the past. These are some of the more well-known persecuted groups. There are countless others.

Parenthetically, the true Church has been most persecuted by the followers of the false religion that goes by the name of Catholicism. It never fails to astound me to see the efforts to join with this church when I know the history of it. Only recently, I saw a video of Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin worshiping at the feet of the pope. These two popular artists are known by all. If not by name then by their songs, which are sung in churches around the world. Their apostasy in this way should alarm us beyond measure!

Protestants (named thus because they protested the false doctrines and abuses of the Catholic church) fought long and hard to divide from Catholicism. Many, many lost their lives pulling away from this false church to join Christ’s true Church. They lost their lives in horrible, unconscionable ways. Should we now join it in the name of unity and ecumenism? May it never be!

Some of the stories of these martyrs are recorded in a book called Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Which I read just a little at a time. It’s taking me years. Literally.

It’s actually a little overwhelming. So why would I even want to read a book like this?

There are a few reasons. I want to tell you what they are and then share a profound excerpt from the book itself.

First, one of the main reasons I like to read this book is to remind myself that God’s promises are true. He really will never forsake us. Even when we are overwhelmed by evil and wickedness in this life. Even when we are attacked, ridiculed, or betrayed. Prison, death sentences, or banishment can’t remove God’s grace and blessing from His children.

The accounts of these martyrs, recorded in this book written in the mid-1500s, are filled with amazing stories of God’s all-sufficient grace. Firmly standing on God’s Word, these men and women refused to recant in front of councils and in trials. There are many records of a martyr singing as he or she burns on the pyre. This can only be strength that comes from God.

So let me tell you… this is a LOT easier to write than to actually contemplate. We can tremble with apprehension when we consider what might lie ahead. But the testimonies of these faithful ones are a much needed reminder that God’s grace will be sufficient for whatever lies ahead.

Second, this book is a reminder of the price that has been paid by the true Church throughout the ages. Satan hates the Bride the Christ. He will do anything he can to shut it down. He has tried to snuff it out (persecution) and he has tried to join it (false religions that use the Bible). But God’s true Church lives on. Yes, it is small and unimpressive, by the world’s standards. But the Holy Spirit has moved and worked throughout the ages and continues to do so. The true Church will live on until she is raptured and taken home where Christ has prepared a place for her (John 14:1-4).

Third, a book like this (along with so many others that tell of the sufferings of believers in other times and lands) reminds us that suffering for speaking the truth should be expected. The Truth of the Word is never welcome to the world. Yes, the Holy Spirit continues His work of convicting and drawing individuals but it will never be the majority. The Word of God will never be appealing to the world at large, which loves its sin and wants no accountability. Wherever someone stands for Christ and His Word, there will be hatred and hostility. Some will give up their years in a prison or give their lives. Others will pay with their reputations or by losing precious relationships. Ridicule, attacks, and suffering should be expected. There is always a cost involved in following Christ whole-heartedly. Always.

And, finally, fourth, it is a great reminder that we need to fear only God. Matthew 10:28 says this–

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 

It is easy to get caught up in protecting our physical selves, isn’t it? I think many of us were surprised at how precious our lives were to us a couple of years ago in the midst of the 2020 craziness. We Christians thought we had our eyes on eternity but, all of a sudden, we had to actually ask ourselves that question. Do I have an eternal perspective? Or am I loving this world? That time made me really consider the hope that I had within me. Was it based on things above or was it based in this world?

These are questions we believers need to answer now. We need to build our healthy fear of God, which will naturally diminish our sinful fears. We need to strengthen our hearts and minds through our memorization and study of the Bible. We need to redeem the time in these evil days and stop squandering it on frivolous, worthless things. We need to pray that God would strengthen and prepare us for whatever lies ahead. And reading a few biographies of Christians who refused to waver wouldn’t hurt, either.

Since I know not all of you will pick up a book and start reading, I wanted to share this small excerpt from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. It profoundly impacted me. I thought it may also do the same for you–

*A merchant of Prague, going to Breslaw, in Silesia, happened to lodge in the same inn with several priests. Entering into conversation upon the subject of religious controversy, he passed many encomiums upon the martyred John Huss, and his doctrines. The priests taking umbrage at this, laid an information against him the next morning, and he was committed to prison as a heretic. Many endeavours were used to persuade him to embrace the Roman catholic faith, but he remained steadfast to the pure doctrines of the reformed church. Soon after his imprisonment, a student of the university was committed to the same jail; when, being permitted to converse with the merchant, they mutually comforted each other. On the day appointed for execution, when the jailer began to fasten ropes to their feet, by which they were to be dragged through the streets, the student appeared quite terrified, and offered to abjure his faith, and turn Roman catholic if he might be saved. The offer was accepted, his abjuration was taken by a priest, and he was set at liberty. A priest applying to the merchant to follow the example of the student, he nobly said, “Lose no time in hopes of my recantation, your expectations will be vain; I sincerely pity that poor wretch, who has miserably sacrificed his soul for a few more uncertain years of a troublesome life; and, so far from having the least idea of following his example, I glory in the very thoughts of dying for the sake of Christ.” On hearing these words, the priest ordered the executioner to proceed, and the merchant being drawn through the city was brought to the place of execution, and there burnt.

Read what the merchant “nobly said” once more.

This is the bottom line, is it not? May we never “sacrifice our soul for a few more uncertain years”. May we never sacrifice our soul for a bit of popularity or in our desire to be admired by the world. May we never sacrifice our soul to keep the peace. May we never sacrifice our soul to be spared a moment of ridicule or embarrassment.

By God’s grace, may we never sacrifice our souls.

Oh, these are evil days as the world grows more and more hostile to biblical truth. But God still reigns and nothing can touch us until He says so. May we soldier on in full armor as His ambassadors in this world until He calls us home.

 

 

 

 

*Foxe, John. Fox’s Book of Martyrs (Or A History of the Lives, Sufferings, and TriumphantDeaths of the Primitive Protestant Martyrs). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

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.

 

 

An Encouraging Word (and a personal note, too)

Here we are. It’s Christmas of 2021. Last summer we wondered if we’d even see this date. And if we did see it, what in the world would it look like? But here we are.

Oh, the “ship that set sail” certainly hasn’t turned around. We can see and feel that in a thousand small ways: The anxiety we feel about going to under-staffed hospitals; The restaurant that closes at 5pm because they have no workers or perhaps has shut its doors altogether; The rumblings of terrible tyranny going on throughout the world; The censorship and lying by media, government, and the healthcare industry that has become so blatantly obvious.

Oh, yes, we clearly know the ship is still sailing full force towards what is prophesied in scripture. But then again, it always has been, hasn’t it? It’s just picked up a lot of steam as it nears its destination.

Sometimes we can forget as we live our busy lives.

Although, for too many, life won’t ever be quite the same. A chair will be empty at the holiday table this year and many are trying to cope. My heart hurts for you. Far too many are dying. Someone mentioned to me recently that it’s almost like we are getting used to people dying.

And for most people in the past and even now, throughout the world, that was and is the norm. Death was a common occurrence and people expected it. Most of us have lived in a cushioned, unreal way that is really not normal. Many of us have been sheltered from so much awfulness by being blessed with clean water and wonderful healthcare and access to nutritious food and helpful medicines. Particularly here in the United States, the “land of plenty”, we have been spared so much.

I am not sure that this abundance will serve us well going into the future, as it has spoiled us and ripened our hearts and minds to sacrifice our rights in order to keep the “plenty”.

The plenty: Health, wealth, and security. The big three. They’ve become idols in so many of our hearts.

The thought of losing them brings fear and dread. Of course it does. We are human, after all.

There’s only one way to truly overcome that fear and dread and it is to surrender all to God. Our hopes, our dreams, our future, our safety, and, yes, even our health.

Fully surrendering is a long, arduous process and certainly not a one-time decision. But the peace that accompanies our complete submission to God’s Will is truly a peace that “surpasses understanding” (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:6-7).

I am fully aware that I have become so redundant as I try to encourage us all to keep our eyes on Jesus in this strange, new world and to be ready for the trump that will call us to the marriage supper of the lamb at any moment. The rapture feels oh, so close and yet it could still be a few years out. How long we will need to stay on this ship that is sailing to certain doom is unknown to all but God.

But what we do know with complete certainty is that God will take care of us. These promises are scattered all through scripture and are not given lightly. When God says something He means it.

Of course, this doesn’t mean (as so many are saying in this warped and twisted “Christian” culture) that God will help us fulfill our dreams and life will be wonderful. Scripture doesn’t promise this.

What it does promise, however, is that we will never be alone (Hebrews 13:5), that God will be protect us (Psalm 18:30), that we will be given new mercies each day (Lamentations 3:22-23), that all things will work out for good for God’s children (Romans 8:28) and that we can never be lost if we are saved (John 10:28). There are so many more precious promises for those who have trusted in Christ alone for forgiveness of sin. They are overwhelming in their goodness!

As we approach a new year that is even more uncertain than the last, may we remember God’s great love and care for us. Great is His faithfulness!

________________________________

And on a personal note: This will probably be my last post for the year (other than the final part of the story, which will be posted on Friday. I hope you are enjoying it! I know I threw a little twist in there last week that you weren’t expecting!) I have family coming for the holidays (yay!!!) and I will be caught up in all kinds of wonderful activities and get-togethers.

As this year comes to a close, I did want to take the time to thank you for reading this blog. Someone said to me recently that people aren’t really reading blogs anymore. And, honestly, I’ve noticed that, if I’m honest. Most don’t really click on links from Facebook or take the time to actually read something unless it’s very eye-catching or extra-fascinating. And, let’s face it, this blog certainly doesn’t specialize in either of those categories.

But God has shown me, at least for now, to keep going. And that is through many of you who have kindly reached out and encouraged me–usually at just the right time. Your emails and messages of encouragement never go unappreciated. If you’ve sent something to me and I’ve not personally responded, please know that I am filled with gratitude. I do try to respond to every email I get but I know that things get missed on occasion.

There is one other item I do want to bring to your attention. Several months ago now, I asked you all to email me if you’d like to stay on my mailing list. I have kept that list and am compiling it. I do plan to make a switch to a different subscription service sometime in the new year so if you’d like to be on that list so that you continue receiving Growing4Life updates, please email me and let me know. (You don’t have to email me a second time if you have already emailed me.)

I hope that you can thoroughly enjoy the holidays, knowing that God is still on His throne and, if we are His, then all is well! Merry Christmas!

 

 

Trends (and when not to follow them)

For years now, my family has been giving me a hard time because I choose to put colored lights on my tree. It’s been an ongoing conversation since my husband and I were married. Early on, we settled on white lights outside and colored lights on the tree. But as time has gone on, colored lights have gone more and more out of fashion. Currently, the trend is definitely not colored lights. I really don’t feel that strongly anymore, although I do love colored lights. Something about those bright colors twinkling and glowing. I always did love colorful things. That love doesn’t just disappear when the trend changes, as out-of-style as it may be.

Trends can be demanding things. Even pushing us towards things that we don’t really care for or outright despise. But because we want to look or be like everyone else, we do them anyway. Trends change constantly, making most anything new we buy “out of style” within a few years. Trends can even function as prison bars when “keeping up with the Jones’ ” becomes an obsession.

There is nothing, in and of itself, wrong with following a trend. Many of you prefer white lights. They happen to be on trend. Perfect. Sometimes we like what’s “on trend” and that’s easy. The not-so-easy part comes when we choose not to follow the trend. This is particularly true for those who care a great deal about what people think.

Of course, then there are others who rebel against trends and do everything to not be like the rest of the world.

And then there are those who just don’t care.

However you view the trends of home style, fashion, and any other thing really doesn’t matter too much–unless it leads you into sinning before God. For example, choosing to dress immodestly because you want to follow the fashion trend or choosing to go in debt to buy new “stuff” because the trends are so important to you.

But there is one place trends really matter. There is one place that we have no luxury to follow or not follow any trend.

And that is in biblical interpretation. How we interpret the Bible can never be about a trend and must always be about what does it actually say?

I realize that most of you probably believe that you aren’t touched by the current trends in Christianity (although I believe you are touched by the people you choose to read and listen to much more than you know). You probably don’t realize the sacrifice one must make to actually stand up and say they believe in a future for Israel or a literal Revelation. You see, this belief is definitely not on trend.

What is currently on trend regarding the future of the world?

There are three really popular trends regarding the future of the world in the Christian realm. First, there is Amillennialism which teaches that we are currently in the millennium now and awaiting Christ’s final return. Second, there is Replacement Theology, which believes that the church has replaced Israel as the recipient of God’s promises. And, third, there is Postmillennialism, which teaches that there will be a time in the future where the entire world will be converted to Christianity and usher in the Kingdom of God.

Now, I am not going to take the time to explain why these views are clearly wrong if we examine them through the light of scripture. All I will say at this point is that I have done quite a bit of research–especially on Amillennialism and Replacement Theology, as this is what most of the reformed world believes. Many godly men and women believe this. This is what intellectual Christianity teaches. And if you choose not to believe this, you are viewed with condescension and even ridicule in those circles.

Postmillennialism is pretty much reserved for those in the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) camp. I do believe, however, that this belief of God’s Kingdom coming to earth will be critical in ushering in the antichrist’s kingdom, so it is definitely worth understanding what it teaches.

But, as Berean believers, who search the scriptures, we want to remove ourselves from the trends and find out what scripture actually teaches. After all, the above views aren’t innately wrong because they are on trend.

And so I want to take a few moments to point out just a few reasons why I believe there will be a future for Israel and why there will most definitely be a literal Revelation.

First, it is clearly what the Bible teaches. If we would come to the Bible as a simple peasant and simply read the Bible from cover to cover (something I highly recommend to come to truly understand God and His plan for all mankind), this will be the view that we come away with. It isn’t until we start reading outside sources that our thinking may be swayed. Let me add here that the early church believed in a literal one thousand year reign (called Chiliasm). It wasn’t until the third century that Augustine, in his fervor to remove the church as far away from Jewish beliefs as possible, came up with allegorical approach to the prophetical scriptures. Interestingly enough, one has to literally do hermeneutical somersaults and backflips to come to an amillenial belief. Oh, they will intimidate you with their intellectual arguments and complicated terms. But when we take scripture as it is written, it is clear: There is a future for Israel and there will be a literal Revelation.

Second, it is the only view that aligns perfectly with God’s character. It wasn’t until recently that this started to especially resonate with me. Many times throughout scripture we read of God’s everlasting love for Israel. We read of His promises of blessing and prosperity to this special people group. We find this throughout the Old Testament. We also find this in Romans 9-11, the passage God used to solidify my belief and understanding that there is most definitely a future for Israel.

Imagine a God who makes these promises and then churlishly decides that the Jewish people haven’t behaved in the way He wanted so He has decided to “transfer” these promises to a group of Gentiles called the “Church.” Is that the kind of God you want to serve? A God who doesn’t keep His promises? A God’s whose “everlasting love” isn’t actually everlasting? I don’t think Amillennialists truly understand what they are saying about God’s character.

Third, history proves this. I challenge you–if you have any doubt regarding a future of Israel–to do a study of their modern history. The fact that they are even still a cohesive people group after being removed from their land and scattered throughout the world is an absolute miracle. The fact that they make up like .2% of the world’s population and have produced 20% of the 900 Nobel prize winners and are responsible for so much innovation and technological advances in this world seems more than some strange coincidence. The fact that the Balfour Declaration issued in 1917, which promised of a Jewish Homeland, coincides, to the very day, the date set specifically by Daniel and Haggai is astounding. These are just three in a long list that show that the Jews are a very special people–God’s chosen ones whom He has certainly not forgotten and will never, ever stop loving with His everlasting love.

Fourth, current events confirm this. For many years, we wondered how a Revelation 13 scenario could possibly take place. Oh, we believed it would, but many things remained a mystery. But, suddenly, particularly over the past two years, many of those mysteries have been solved. As we continue to march into the world’s uncertain future, the one thing that is most certain is that there will be a literal Revelation.

______________________________________

I have made the choice to not follow the trends when it comes to the Bible and Bible prophecy. I have made this decision because I believe with all of my heart that the trends are definitely NOT what the Bible teaches. If you are in doubt, being swayed by so many these days who would move you with their intellectual arguments, I encourage you to just read the scripture, particularly the prophets and the book of Revelation with an open heart and mind. I encourage you to read of the incredible history of modern day Israel (I only touched on the many miracles and “coincidences” surrounding the birth and ongoing presence of this nation. There are so many more!) I encourage you to view what is happening in the world through the view that Revelation will be fulfilled literally.

I believe that these other wrong views of eschatology are distracting true believers from seeing what is happening right in front of their very eyes. It is disheartening to see how many can’t see that the end is near and the return of Christ is truly imminent.

Now I do realize that I can’t change your mind nor am I trying to. I am simply writing what God has revealed to me through the reading and studying of His Word and also through my study of history and current events. It all fits together so perfectly that is hard to believe people can’t see. The confirmation of the Bible throughout all of history and especially in this current day is truly astounding. And so I choose to believe in the literal interpretation of scripture–no matter what the current trend.

 

 

What Will Heaven Be Like?

How do you picture heaven? Do you imagine a place full of white, fluffy clouds, harps, and snow-white robes? Do you wonder if you will get bored floating around in this ethereal place for the rest of eternity? I know these were some of my thoughts before God, through His Word, started to slowly open my eyes to the reality of what’s ahead for all those who trust in Christ as their Savior.

It was “nutshelled” for me yesterday when I went to hear my brother, Pastor Dean Good, as a guest speaker at a Bible Study in my parents’ community. His topic was heaven and it was very insightful. He gave me permission to share here today. (The points will all be his but what is written will be my own expansion of those points, much of it drawn from what he shared but put into my own words.)

We have to come to grips with the fact that life is short. Dean shared his own story about losing his wife after twenty short years. Many of you will remember that happening, as I shared about it here on the blog. But he also reminded us that death will happen to everyone. We always act so surprised and, yet, everybody dies. And the minute you die nothing we fretted or stewed over or strove for on this old earth matters a bit. Only one thing matters: Do you know Jesus Christ?

If we can say yes, we definitely do know Christ, then death should not be something we fear because we know with certainty where we are going.

But many of us still feel uncertain and nervous because we can’t really know what it’s like. Well, that’s true. The Bible doesn’t tell us too much about heaven. My husband has often said over the past two years that we probably have no idea how awesome heaven is. In fact, if we realized what is ahead, we probably wouldn’t want to stay on earth. I love this verse that expands on this thought–

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  I Corinthians 2:9

And so we know that heaven will be incredibly awesome! From this passage and others. Today, we will specifically look at Revelation 21:1-8 in our efforts to understand a bit more what heaven will be like and who will be there.

First, let’s see how heaven is described.

All things will be new. The old will have passed away and all things will be new (Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17f; 2 Peter 3:13)

It will be a physical place. We will walk around and eat. There will be economies, vineyards, governments. We won’t be hanging around bored somewhere in the clouds (see the end of Isaiah 65 for just one evidence of this).

The New Jerusalem will be a holy city. It is hard to think of a city that is perfectly holy. Since the beginning of time, cities have seemed to be where sin and wickedness congregate. Corruption, tyranny, prostitution, gambling, human trafficking, the selling of illegal substances, and crime often begin and flourish in cities.

But this will be a city without evil. It will be perfect with no sin or corruption of any kind. Isn’t that so hard to imagine? It will not only be beautiful but it will be perfectly safe.

The New Heaven will also be perfect. No presence of sin, no more curse, no death, no sorrow or tears or pain. We will have no fear because there won’t be anything to fear. Can you even imagine??

Here on earth we sometimes expect perfection but why? Why do we expect things to go according to our plans when we live on a fallen, sinful earth? But in heaven, we will be able to expect (and we will receive!) perfection. That’s actually hard to comprehend, isn’t it?

Second, let’s look at the certainty of Heaven.

Revelation 21:5-7 says this–

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said [b]to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And He said to me, “It[c] is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes [d]shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

Notice the words “for these words are true and faithful.”

Last night, my husband and I watched another couple of episodes of the series Against All Odds (link below). It is the story of the birth and life of modern day Israel. Watching that makes it clear that Israel is only there for one reason: God has ordained it. In fact, God had promised it in His Word long ago. This reminded me how true and everlasting God’s promises are. Which reminded me of how true God’s Word is.

God will fulfill His promises and His words are true and faithful.

Which leads to the final and third point: Who will be in heaven?

If God’s Word is true regarding Israel; If His prophecies have come true at the rate of 100% throughout history; If He is truly faithful–well, then we know that what He says about who will be in heaven is absolutely true, as well.

Verse 7 says that those who thirst for living water will be given the fountain of life. Those who have repented and trusted Christ as their Savior are the only ones who may enter. The evidence of their salvation are their good works but that is not the means for their ticket to enter. Only those who realize that they are utterly destitute but for the atoning work of Christ will enter heaven.

Verse 8 of Revelation 21 tells us who won’t be there. But that is only if they continue in these sins. Christ’s sacrifice has wholly covered these sins by His blood if we but repent and turn to Him! It is not too late to submit our rebellious heart to the One, True God who longs that no man perish but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

I know that this is a tough truth for so many of you who have loved ones who just don’t seem to get salvation. It is so tempting to “save” those who are living in sin who may have made a “decision for Christ” as a kid. But, as Dean has said–there will be many who made a “decision for Christ” who won’t be in heaven. The Bible is so very clear that true salvation yields fruit. This is throughout scripture: Those who are saved desire to serve and obey Christ. It is a hard truth to face and it costs much. But that doesn’t change that it is true.

This truth should compel us to share the Gospel and challenge our status-quo self-absorbed loved ones who think they are going to heaven. While we can’t know if any soul is truly saved (only God knows this), we can and should earnestly pray and have the hard discussions.

_______________________________________

As we move into these last days, it is hard to imagine that anyone can’t see that what is happening is of biblical significance. But, as I told my husband last night, if someone can ignore the true miracle of Israel’s rebirth, then I guess they can ignore anything. When Israel became a nation, the final hour of this age began. While we should never set specific dates, it seems foolish to live as if everything will return to normal. We are so obviously in the last days. Heaven is closer than ever for those who love God!

And with this recognition should come a deep burden to share the Gospel. Heaven is a wonderful place. And those who are saved will go there. But Revelation 21 says that those who aren’t saved–those who insist on rebelling against God and living in sin–will go to hell–

 But the cowardly, [e]unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

I don’t especially like this doctrine and I can see why people try to reason it away. But it’s there. Not only in Revelation 21 but all throughout scripture. May we remember this as we seek to reach the lost and, particularly, those who think they are saved but may not be.

Heaven will be a wonderful place for believers. Of that we can be sure. While we may not know a lot, we know enough. May we passionately share the Gospel so that more people can experience this amazing wonderful place. But, more importantly, that they may avoid an eternity in hell.

 

 

*Against All Odds is currently free (with ads) on Tubi. Find it here. I highly recommend!

 

 

The Road Trip

A few days before we left to see family it became clear that a dear friend of mine wasn’t going to make it. I agonized for a whole night over the fact that I was going to miss her memorial service and then, finally, just surrendered it to the Lord. I couldn’t change my trip dates and I couldn’t change the date of the service. It was out of my control. For some reason, God didn’t think I needed to be there.

A few days into our visit, we were told the date of the service. We would be able to make it –if we’d do the 19hr drive home straight through. We aren’t particularly “straight through” kind of people and generally like to take our time and make stops as needed. But these were special circumstances and, so, at 4am on the day before the service, we crawled out of bed, threw some clothing on, hugged our family, and headed out into the night.

Things went pretty smoothly for the first few hours. Until we got to Tennessee. South of Chattanooga we ran into horrendous traffic. It was around 4pm on Friday evening. We stopped completely. Waze offered no tiny accident symbol so we couldn’t figure out what was going on. I nervously watched our waze “arrival time” creep in the wrong direction. Finally, we breathed a sigh of relief as traffic started to crawl toward the city. I had to use the restroom something fierce and was feeling discouraged about that, as well. I felt like I was going to burst when, in God’s perfect timing, a rest stop appeared. I know this sounds foolish but if you have ever had to go to the restroom when you are in a traffic jam you will know the joy I felt at seeing that sign!

We continued to crawl after that stop and then gradually started to move at a more lively pace. But it was short-lived as we ran into more traffic on the north side of that city. Again, we sat. And crawled. And then sat again. Losing more minutes, we were both pretty discouraged. The drive was long enough without this. We continued to crawl towards Knoxville. This pattern continued on the other side of Knoxville.

We had had no traffic issues on the way down and were a bit puzzled. It was Friday evening rush hour but this seemed much worse than usual. I finally remembered the popular attraction that the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area is in the autumn. I can’t help but think that perhaps people were traveling there for the weekend. But that is just a guess.

We started to travel along again and then, suddenly, came to an abrupt halt. This time there was a little accident symbol in the waze app along with a tiny red line running up the left side of the app and this discouraging number: 1 hour and 30 min. 

We could expect to be sitting in this traffic for an hour and 30 minutes. I was downright frustrated at this point. And pretty discouraged. I hate staying up late at night and determined in college, actually, that 2am was my limit. I learned pretty early on that 2am was the latest I could stay up and actually function the next day. Our original time to get home was around midnight. Our arrival time was already showing after two and now we were stuck in this accident traffic.

I stewed and stewed and stewed. And then I finally just surrendered. This was in the Lord’s hands and He knew what was going on. And how thankful we were not to be the ones in the accident. There is always something to be thankful for.

I sent out a few texts asking for prayer that we would stay awake in those wee hours of the morning as we sat there waiting to get going again. I didn’t know how this would all work but I was just going to trust God.

When the traffic started moving again our arrival time had crept to after 3:30am. We realized that we should grab supper soon, as it was already after 8pm and restaurants would start closing. When we stopped I also grabbed a large cup of coffee and stuck it in the Yeti cup I had brought with me on the trip. The cup was a last minute, unplanned thing to grab that morning we left and, oh, how thankful I was for it now.

Around 10pm, Eric laughed and said we only had a trip “to see my brother” left. He lives about 5 1/2 hours away. That was pretty discouraging but we were happy to be moving along at a good pace and so we laughed and kept going.

Around 11pm, the coffee was working pretty well so I told my husband I would drive for a bit so he could rest his eyes. I turned on a radio drama of The Prince and the Pauper that I had on my Music app but had never listened to and sipped on my coffee as I drove into the night.

I was surprised to feel pretty wide awake and drove until 1am while my husband slept. I know that it had to be those prayers that had been lifted for us. My husband took over the wheel and the rest of the night was uneventful. We pulled into our home driveway just a bit before four.

So in the midst of that frustrating day, I was reminded of a few things and wanted to share with you here.

First, God was so good to allow me to be at my dear friend’s memorial service. Just when I had resigned myself that I would have to miss it, He made a way for me to be there.

Second, He provided small blessings that just wouldn’t have been necessary. A perfectly placed restroom and a travel coffee cup that was a last minute grab reminded me that God cares about the little stuff. The King of the Universe cares about the littlest details of our lives and I am always so amazed by that.

Third, It wasn’t until I finally just yielded my will to God’s that I felt any peace in the midst of those traffic jams. I think this is true in little stuff like road trips, as well in the big stuff of life. I always remember this profound statement by Elisabeth Elliot: With acceptance comes peace. That is just so true. While we fight against God and His will, no matter what the circumstances, we will be in turmoil. It is only when we surrender that we experience the “peace that surpasses understanding” that God has promised His children.

And, fourth, when we started moving along again, I had a moment to reflect on the frustrating hours behind us. In the past, those hours would have been filled with an irritated and short-tempered couple snapping at one another. We don’t tend to fight a lot but those kind of circumstances usually bring out the worse in us. Imagine my surprise when I realized that we hadn’t fought even once. Oh, we came close a time or two but we both restrained our tongues and our tempers in ways never before. God used that opportunity to show us that we are growing in Christ. We are actually changing and growing. It was an encouraging realization that we would have never noticed or become aware of– had we not run into those problems on the road. Our true colors generally don’t show themselves until we are put under some form of heat. We had been in a bit of heat and we could see growth. God is changing us!

This post may seem rather inane and silly to some of you. Who cares about a road trip, anyway? But I feel like this road trip is a microcosm of all trials and what we learn through them.

 

No matter what the trial, God is good.

No matter what the trial, God pours out His mercies (both small and large) on us.

No matter what the trial, we must surrender our will to God’s will.

No matter what the trial, we experience the opportunity to examine ourselves spiritually in light of our responses.

 

Life is full of troubles and trials–both great and small. But if we are Christ’s own, we are not alone. God walks with us, supplying us with His sufficient grace and mercy. No matter what the trial, they are all within His Sovereignty and He is using them for His eternal purposes and for our good.

 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Romans 8:28-29

 

 

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