Encouragement

Life and Legos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But to a child? Wow.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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!

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

The Veneer is Dissipating

Awhile ago, I was doing laundry and found a penny. I am not sure what adventures that penny had been on but what I learned that day was that pennies aren’t copper all the way through. The copper is only a thin veneer that covers what I imagine must be some cheaper, undesirable metal.

A few days ago, my daughter told me she was in an elevator with her two year old. The masked man in the elevator said to my granddaughter, “you can push the button.” My daughter thought he was being nice. And then he said the words that showed his true heart and removed the thin veneer of courtesy: Let her get the germs.

That awful man cared more about his own health and safety than about the health and safety of a two year old little girl.

But this is not a lone story. Everywhere you turn you are learning things about people you just never wanted to know. We are learning the priorities, the fears, the selfishness, the ugly hearts. We are learning this about strangers; and about neighbors, church family, and co-workers; about extended family, and, sadly, even about our own dear family members.

Status Quo has a way of covering up the truth. When status quo is shaken, the truth –which was always there– starts showing itself.

So that’s kind of depressing, really. I mean it’s been so heartbreaking to see the division, the anger, the unforgiveness, the selfishness, the fear-driven decisions. It’s absolutely disheartening, isn’t it?

But within those depressing, heartbreaking, disheartening circumstances lies an unprecedented opportunity for believers.

Let’s go back to that penny for a moment. We believers still have that undesirable flesh that resides within us causing all kinds of trouble. The only difference is our coating. Instead of a thin veneer of courtesy and morality, we are now covered by Christ’s blood. Our veneer has been replaced by the indestructible gold of Christ’s sacrifice. And that covering will start changing our ugly old flesh into something precious. It takes a while and we all have our own journeys, but we should be battling the flesh less and less as we grow in the faith.

So now comes that opportunity to which I was referring.

In this world gone mad we have the opportunity to look different than the lost around us because we are different. Our responses, our choices, our actions, our lifestyles, our decisions–they should be born out of faith instead of fear. They should be born out of a love for righteousness instead of a love for evil. They should be born out of a heart surrendered rather than out of a spoiled, selfish “I want my own way” heart. Some questions to ask as we reflect on this: Are my responses and choices determined by my thoughtful study of God’s Word? Do I care more about the welfare of others than I do about my own? Do I trust the Lord for the days ahead? These are the changes that are made in the heart of God’s child.

Oh, not instantly. Rarely instantly. But we have the Word as our guide and help. And we pray. We ask the Lord to show us our weak spots. Our ugly sins and flaws. We ask Him to make us more like Christ. And then when we stumble, we readily and humbly admit we have sinned and try again.

And so…it isn’t that we are perfect. It isn’t that we are some icon of calm in the midst of the chaos. It doesn’t mean that we are without an occasional short temper or curt word.

No, the difference is that we humbly admit when we are wrong. The difference is that we desire to be a light in this dark night and we act on that desire. We aim to grow in our faith. We are never satisfied to look like the dying world around us. Instead of hypocrisy, we are characterized by frank honesty. Instead of hiding our heads in the sand, we are are characterized by a willingness to face the hardest truth with courage. None of this is done perfectly. We just bring a willing and wanting heart to do what is right.

The other day someone treated me very rudely at the store. I hadn’t done or said anything to them but simply wasn’t doing what they thought I should do. I reflected on how rude some people are becoming in the midst of all of this uncertainty. And I pondered for a moment how bad it would get if there literally was only some food on the shelves and not enough to feed everyone. What would people be like then? Visions of the toilet paper shortage from early 2020 come flooding back and we know how people would act. It’s kind of scary, isn’t it? But a more important question is what would I be like? If I couldn’t get my basic necessities how would I respond?

Will this happen? I have no idea. But a great time to practice for that is right now. We can and we must be intentional in our responses right now. When we can’t get that item we need because it’s out on a cargo ship somewhere; when the waitress is overworked and struggling in the short-staffed restaurant; when the store clerk is just so incompetent; when the customer service rep on the phone couldn’t care less about you or your problem; when the neighbor ridicules you for your worldview; when a family member makes a choice you 100% disagree with; when that employee calls off yet again; when a fellow believer hurts you deeply; when life just doesn’t go our way.

THESE are opportunities to respond with love and grace and truth and kindness. These are the opportunities–and they are becoming more and more plentiful, aren’t they?–which God can use to grow and prepare us for whatever lies ahead.

We may still be ugly metal on the inside, but we are promised transformation. And little by little that ugly metal is changing into something much more precious. Oh, we will always have some of that flesh within us here on earth but, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can diminish it’s presence and power in our lives.

I wish I could say I have this down perfectly. But, like always, I am simply writing about what God is teaching me. The other day I had such a frustrating conversation on the phone with a customer service rep and I found myself growing angrier by the minute. While I do think I handled it better than I would have ten years ago, I still have such a long way to go. But I am getting lots of opportunities to practice these days and I am guessing so are you. So, together, and with God’s help, let’s intentionally be different from the rest of the world. And, through that difference, may God use our light to draw the lost to Him and to encourage fellow believers along the way.

 

 

Just Traveling Through

Imagine you are in a small foreign country on a long-term mission trip. The country might be in Asia or Africa or perhaps you are on an island nation in the South Pacific. Wherever it is, while you are there serving the Lord the country goes to war. You are stuck there. There is no way to escape the carnage you see around you. And this isn’t just any war. This is a civil war that has divided the nation in half.

Do you pick a side? I guess it depends how much you have invested there and if you plan on returning permanently. If you are only there for a few months or a year, you probably stay pretty neutral. There is no reason to be involved. This country is not your home. However, you do stand strongly for life and do what you can to help save lives as well as minister to the needs of the hurting around you.

How you respond in a country that is not your own is probably very different than how you would respond in a country that is your own.

I’ve actually never had that happen to me and I doubt you have, either. But maybe it’s happening to us right now. To all of us, probably no matter where we live. Oh, we may not be in an all-out civil war, but we are in a war, nonetheless. It’s a war of philosophies. The competing philosophies are in utter opposition to one another. It’s especially bad here in the states.

I was thinking on this the other day while I was meditating on I Peter 2:11. This is one of my memory verses from a year or two ago that came up for review. (One of the reasons I love memorizing verses is because of the ability to meditate on the memorized verses in the car or when you are in bed at night.) Here is what it says in the NKJV–

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,

We won’t dwell on the end of the verse today (although it, too, has been the cause of much personal meditation). Today I want to focus on what Peter calls us followers of Christ: Sojourners and Pilgrims.

Let’s take a look at the definitions of these two words–

Sojourner–A person who lives somewhere temporarily

Pilgrim–A traveler or wanderer; especially in a foreign place

Now Peter uses these two words to describe believers. Why does he do this? Why does he feel the need to write down both words? Of course we can’t know for sure, but I do find myself wondering if God, moving Peter to write this, knew how easily it would be for us to set down deep deep roots in this world.

I don’t know about you but one of the greatest lessons this past year and half has taught me has been that very thing. I didn’t think I was so invested in this world, but I found out that I was invested far more than I thought. That the roots of love for the things of this world and for the life that I never thought would change ran deep.

As I am pulling up each root one by one, it’s a rather painful process. But this verse has helped me. It has reminded me that I am no longer a citizen of this world but belong to an everlasting Kingdom. This is just my temporary home.

We need to remember this as we face the uncertain days ahead but I also want to consider this fact in light of all that is swirling around us and just take an honest look at what’s going on and why we must not pick sides unless it is clearly biblical in scope.

There are many divides in our nations. Here in the U.S. it is the divide between the V’s and the unV’s. It’s the divide between the socialists and the capitalists. It’s the divide between the pro-death and the pro-life. And so many more. Sadly, this country has been split in what feels like a thousand different ways.

But we have to be so very careful not to get too involved. We are not citizens of this world. I know this message won’t sit well with some of you. You believe that you are here to bring change to this world. You want to make it a better place. You may even believe it is God’s mandate for us to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. Or perhaps you believe that we can still stop the madness that is happening. That if enough of us just come together to fight this, we can make a difference.

So let me address these two viewpoints briefly.

First, the Bible never teaches that we are to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. There is a real push in several “Christian” movements to popularize this inaccuracy and it’s just not true. There is no biblical mandate to prepare the earth for God. None whatsoever. This is probably worth a whole post, in and of itself, and has, in fact, been the subject of several books. If you would like to read more on this, I recommend Alva McClain’s The Greatness of the Kingdom or Andy Wood’s The Coming Kingdom.

Second, not only are we not told to bring God’s Kingdom to earth but we are clearly told that, in the last days, the world will grow more wicked. There are many signs of the last days that we are told to look for in the books of Daniel, the minor prophets, Matthew, I Timothy, I&II Thessalonians, Jude, and Revelation that show us what to expect. (There are other books, too, but these are the main ones that come to mind and are a good place to start for any student of prophecy.)

At the end of the age, we are clearly to expect lawlessness, natural disasters, wars, false christs, certain things in the middle east, and a setting up of the beast system. That’s just a few of the things that we can expect. There are so many more. And, dare I say, every one of these things we are told to expect is beginning to take shape before our eyes in a way never seen on this earth before? A serious student of Bible prophecy recognizes that we must be close to the end. A wise person will never make predictions on dates or time frames, but we are clearly approaching the end of this age.

So what does that mean for us? I think it means that, while we certainly work together to improve situations in our churches, our families, our places of employment, our schools, and any other opportunities we are given, we don’t expect to fix the world. We don’t expect that we can push the snowball back up the hill (so to speak). While we may win small victories and rejoice over them, our expectations should not be shattered when this world continues on its collision course to God’s final years of wrath on this earth called the Great Tribulation.

One final thing that is critically important is the nature of both sides of this current “war” we are in in our nation. Listen closely to how each side talks about God. One side is very clearly going against Him. It’s easy to spot their rebellion against Him and His set laws. But I’d like to submit to you that the other side is doing the same thing, in just a much more subtle way.

Listen closely to the language of the other side. The new age phrases and notions are pretty easy to spot once you know what to look for. Both sides are rotten to the core and the one side may be more dangerous, simply due to its deceptive nature. Be. So. Careful.

If we are sojourners and pilgrims (and we are!) then let’s live like we are these things. May we remember that we are on this earth for just a short time. This world is not our home. Let’s rise up to the opportunities that God gives us to serve and minister in these dark, dreary days but let’s not get too involved in the sides of it. Neither side is “God’s side”.

And there are many opportunities, aren’t there? Practically speaking, what are some ways we can honor God and bless others during this time? A few things come to mind–

1) We can talk to others about our permanent home with enthusiasm and joy (in other words, share the Gospel often and freely!); 2) We can send cards and letters and emails and texts of encouragement; 3) We can face our job losses, our financial setbacks, our health crises, and other trials with a peace the world can’t know but longs for; 4) We can be a light in our churches and work places and schools, pointing others to God and His Word; 5) We can save lives by getting the truth out there; 6) We can join with others in the crucial battles that are taking place in our work places and schools and communities; 7) We can be instruments of God’s peace, joy, and love in this ugly world we find ourselves in.

May we believers step up boldly and courageously to the unique opportunities God gives to each one of us. For such a time as this! But, in the process of stepping up, let’s remember that this world is not our home. We are just traveling through.

 

 

What to Expect When You are Expecting

There’s a popular book for pregnant women called What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It was actually very helpful to me thirty years ago and it must be fairly timeless as I see the 4th revised version is still available today. But this post isn’t about expecting a baby. It’s about our expectations of this life and what we should expect when we are expecting.

But, first, a story.

Last fall, our youngest daughter, Marissa, decided to take a semester off of college so that she wouldn’t lose her senior year playing soccer. With that in mind, she restarted in Spring and this fall is her final semester before she graduates in December. She was really looking forward to a her final soccer season and things were going well. She was expecting a great season.

But that all came to a flying halt a couple of Saturdays ago when her foot made contact with someone else’s shoe and shattered two of the toes on her right foot. With a trip to the doctor and a boot on her foot, the expectation for a great soccer season faded away to nothing and left only bitter disappointment in its place.

It’s been a hard couple of weeks for her because this girl loves soccer. I know God is growing her and teaching her because she loves Him and He has promised us in Romans 8:28-29 to use all things in the lives of those who love Him to conform them to Christ’s image but–as we all know–some of those “all things” can be very painful.

As I was reflecting on the past few weeks yesterday, I was thinking how my daughter’s disappointed and unfulfilled expectation mirrors what we are all experiencing to some extent. Prior to March 2020 we all had expectations for our lives. They were reasonable expectations (for most of us). Things such as: Have a happy family whose needs are met; Enjoy spending time with those we love; Travel and vacations; Good health (and wonderful healthcare should we need it); buying anything we need (or want) and getting it in a timely fashion; financial security; etc, etc, etc.

While we knew (and had probably already experienced) the hard facts of life (such as disease, death, betrayal, broken relationships, financial difficulties, etc) the world around us always remained stable in the midst of those terrible trials.

But within one week in the year 2020, all of those expectations came crashing down. Suddenly, our world wasn’t so stable after all. We recognized in such a short time that we aren’t really free, after all. We recognized the stranglehold on the information flow. And we recognized the outright deception being played out on so many levels. It was disconcerting and frustrating. And as time marched on after that pivotal week, our expectations became less and less likely to be fulfilled.

And we were reminded in a more vivid way than ever before of what can we expect when we are expecting in this life on earth: We can expect disappointment and disillusionment.

But, just like my daughter will need to work through her unfulfilled expectation for her life, so, too, will we need to do the same. We need to release those expectations we had and rest in the Lord’s will for our lives. His will is not our will and we need to trust Him as we move forward.

The wonderful thing is that we can trust Him. Not only has He proven Himself over and over again in our own lives and the lives of those who have gone before us, but we are seriously watching what was prophesied two thousand years ago getting set up to come to pass right before our eyes. If that doesn’t confirm scripture for you, then I don’t know what will.

And we finally realize: There is one expectation that will never go unfulfilled. One hope that will never dim or fade away.

And that is our hope in Christ.

He made a way for us to be reconciled to God through His sacrifice on the cross so that we could live in His presence forever (learn more about this here.) Our expectations for a future with God in heaven will come to pass.

Unlike this old earth that is fading away, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and we can count on Him to fulfill His promises.

So instead of tentative, precarious expectations based in this unsettled, strange world, perhaps it’s time we base our expectations in the rock of Ages. Perhaps this is part of what God is doing–moving His children’s hearts from this world to the one to come (Colossians 3:1-4); deepening our understanding of our role as pilgrims and sojourners in this world (I Peter 2:11); and helping us understand that our hope for this life and for our future should lie in Christ alone (Ephesians1:18-21).

Oh, my friends, let’s move our expectations from this world to the God of the universe. Let’s move them from the tentative and unsure to the certain and the definite.

And, in so doing, everything will change. Instead of being driven by discouragement and disappointment, we will rest secure in our eternal hope. Instead of being self-absorbed we will turn outwards, bringing hope to the lost souls around us and emanating the peace and joy that only God can give.

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If I look at myself, I am depressed. If I look at those around me, I am often disappointed. If I look at my circumstances, I am discouraged. But if I look at Jesus, I am constantly, consistently, and eternally fulfilled! ~Author Unknown

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(Yeah, that sounds so wonderful, doesn’t it? And I do know that what I wrote above is true. But that doesn’t mean I always live it. Like you, I am trying to grow and learn in this strange new world we are living in. It’s a real challenge some days. The most important thing that has helped me is studying and memorizing the Word. If you are saved and just don’t know where to begin in moving your hope from this world to an eternal hope, start there. Open Ephesians 1 and read what God has said about His own. Read Philippians. Read John 10, John 15, Colossians 3, Psalm 37. And on and on. God has given us so much in His Word from which we can draw strength in these difficult days.)

 

 

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