faith

The Love and Compassion that Swallows Fear

I heard someone ask Ray Comfort the other day if he stills gets scared when he witnesses to people. If you don’t know who Ray Comfort is, you will find him at Living Waters teaching people how to share the Gospel and doing a lot of that himself. After all these years you would think he’d be super comfortable sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others, but he actually said he is still terrified. And then he said he has learned how to hold that terror and gave a little analogy that I wanted to share here–

If you had a pool filled with floating ice cubes and the coldest water you could imagine, you wouldn’t think about jumping in. But if a three year old fell in that pool, you wouldn’t think about it for a second. You’d just jump in and save him. There is a love and compassion that swallows fear.

That is true love, isn’t it? The kind that swallows fear?

And this isn’t just relevant to witnessing. It’s relevant to being a godly parent, being a godly leader, and encouraging Christians away from false teaching. These all take a love that will swallow that consuming fear that comes when we think about any confrontation.

What kind of fears do we fight?

There are so many but they all have one thing in common–

 

fear that people won’t like me

fear people will think I’m weird

fear that people will think I’m a fanatic

fear that people will think I’m divisive

fear that my comfortable circumstances will change

fear that someone won’t be my friend anymore

fear that people will be mean to me

fear that people will gang up on me

 

Do you see the main thing listed in these fears? Me and I. I am sure there are so many more fears but can you think of one fear you have in regards to telling others the truth about the Bible that isn’t wrapped up in you?

So this is a natural thing, isn’t it? We naturally want to live pleasant, happy, carefree lives. Of course, we don’t want to rock any boats or upset anyone because that means we have to deal with the unpleasant consequences that follow. The easiest thing to do is to just stay quiet. And so we don’t tell unbelievers about Jesus Christ–or if we do, we conveniently leave out the part about them being a sinner and needing to repent. All of that unpleasant stuff that no one wants to hear. And we don’t love our Christian brothers and sisters enough to call out sin or to mention that the author or the preacher they love so much is a false teacher.

Because our fear is bigger than our love.

You’d think–with my blog and all–that I wouldn’t struggle with this, right? I mean, let’s face it, when you do this kind of blogging there isn’t really any question of where I stand. But I still struggle with this. Somehow talking with someone one-on-one seems a lot more frightening than writing a blog post. I would imagine most bloggers and writers feel that way. In fact, you may feel that way even with social media, feeling much freer to share there (although that’s probably worth a blog post in and of itself–social media is not the place for these conversations, as a rule. If we wouldn’t say it to someone in person, we shouldn’t write it on a Facebook wall or tweet it).

Now, I must add one thing and this seems to be the perfect place to add it. “Jumping in that pool” to save someone is always the right thing to do. And because we do not know when someone is going to die, there is an urgency to witnessing that we cannot deny. However, while this isn’t really the topic of this post, I do think we need to remember to be wise. If we broach the subject of salvation or of a false teacher or of their own sin with someone and they grow angry and defensive, then we must know when to back away. We are not bulls in a china closet. We don’t just keep going, ramming Bible verses down their throats. There is a grace and love that must accompany speaking the truth.

But most of us never even get to the point where we are willing to speak the truth. To anyone. About anything. Because of that terrifying fear. But we have the power to overcome that fear. I John 4 tells us that God’s perfect love casts out that fear–

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

I think we must ask this question: At what point does our fear become a sin? At what point does it move from being a natural human response to an actual sin? Anger and envy are natural human responses but we don’t give them the same pass as fear, do we? Why is that?

Of course, this is compounded greatly by the fact that we are literally becoming the great enemy of the western world more and more each day. The agenda to demonize biblical Christians is vigorous and influential and so this intensifies our fears. And there is much to fear these days. The days of freely sharing biblical truth are slipping away into the twilight.

But there is a love and compassion that swallows our fear! And if we are born again, we have access to it. Right now. Today. Why are we allowing ourselves to be controlled by fear when we should be controlled by love?

 

 

Is the Lord Still Speaking?

I have been meaning to write this post for a while now. I have also been dreading it. I know that most of you–my readers–are going to disagree with this post (I even disagreed with it myself a few years ago!) However, I also recognize that this is probably the area that Christians are most vulnerable in this age that is driven by mysticism (experience=truth) and clouded by pragmatism (if it works, it must be true).

I also want to say right up front that if you don’t agree with me, I hope that you will stick around and that we can still be friends. I am not demanding that you believe as I do, but, instead, just ask you to open your mind as I simply share why I believe that the scripture teaches this. I ask you to do some digging of your own into the Word rather than just imbibing the messages of fallible authors, pastors, and teachers or listening to the experiences of friends.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with someone. We were talking about whether or not God still speaks to individuals today. The woman adamantly assured me that special revelation most certainly does continue. When pressed, however, for scripture to back up her viewpoint, she couldn’t give any.

Honestly, that used to be me. Until a good friend started talking with me about this and opened my eyes to the ramifications of this belief. If this is true, then the words God speaks to us must, by their very nature, be as authoritative as the words of the Bible. Wow. That is a Pandora’s box that we will never close once the lid is cracked (and this is exactly what is going on today). This same friend also handed me a book that not only changed my mind but also deepened my conviction called “Is That You, Lord: Hearing the Voice of the Lord, a Biblical Perspective” by Gary Gilley. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Almost always, the Old Testament or the book of Acts is the go-to for those who do use scripture to back up their case for special revelation. But there are a few problems with this. First, the Old Testament was under a totally different covenant and during the time when the Holy Spirit was not indwelling believers, so we can expect God’s communication with men to be very different than under the New Testament covenant. Regarding the book of Acts, we can see that if we carefully study the New Testament as a whole that Acts is a transitional book that had many unusual and supernatural occurrences as God built the early church. If you would like to know more about this, I encourage you to read Pastor Dean’s short essay on this very thing, which you can find here.

I thought I’d share with you some other reasons that I have arrived at the conclusion that the sign gifts and special revelation are not applicable to us today.

First, we cannot possibly know if we are hearing from God or Satan (or a demon).  2 Corinthians 11:14 makes it clear that Satan comes as an angel of light. This means he pretends to be something he is not in order to deceive. So let’s say you hear a voice say something to you. Even if it is a good thing—perhaps to help a neighbor—how can you possibly know it came from God? How can you know with absolute certainty? You see, Satan could feasibly pretend to be good—perhaps even for many years—until you trust that voice and listen to that voice. And then he will suddenly start to steer you off the narrow path. He is like a lion who wants to devour us and he is a deceiver. We dare not underestimate him when it comes to hearing a voice in our head.

Second, as we study the gifts we can see that the sign gifts as described in the Bible are absolutely nothing like the sign gifts of this modern age. Two really obvious examples are tongues and healing. First, tongues in the Bible (see Acts 2) were actual languages that were used to tell foreigners of the Savior. They were always used to bring glory to God and never to self and they were always to be interpreted (See I Corinthians 14). This is in complete opposition to the gibberish of today, which is rarely (if ever?) interpreted and looks much more similar to the demonic sects of Hinduism and other false religions. The similarities are truly shocking! As for healing—Acts 5 shows that even Peter’s shadow healed people who were obviously sick and dying. Today, modern apostles who claim to heal never heal radically. It’s always something you can’t see such as headaches or lengthening a leg. Never radical healing where someone with spina bifida can walk instantly or someone in hospice is radically healed in the blink of an eye. That is because the time for that is over. NOW, can God heal? Yes, yes, yes! He can and He does. Being a cessationist doesn’t mean you don’t believe in miracles. God works in marvelous ways and I have been privileged to see that on occasion. I just don’t believe He gifts prophets to do that healing in this day and age and I don’t live for miracles. Perhaps that is the biggest difference between a cessationist (someone who believes the sign gifts have ended) and most continuationists (someone who believes the sign gifts continue): Cessasionists appreciate miracles and we praise God for them, but they are not what make up the excitement or substance of our Christian lives.

Third, God put Himself in a box. Inevitably, the argument is always that we can’t put God in a box, but I want to assure you that God did that Himself. When we read His word, we see a couple of things that stand out. First, I Timothy 3:16 says this—

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Do you see verse 17 says that scripture will make us complete and thoroughly equipped? We don’t need any other word from God or special experience to equip us for the Christian life.

And Jude 3 says this—

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Do you see the words “once for all”? This means that we shouldn’t expect any more revelation from God. As I already mentioned above, if God is speaking to us today those words must hold the same weight as the Word of God. No revelation from God can be more important than another one. And this causes us a major problem–especially because so many who claim to hear from God speak things in complete opposition to the Bible. In fact, did you know that almost all false religions started with a vision or “special message” from God? Do a little research and you will see. It is a sobering reminder of just how deceptive and crafty Satan really is.

Fourth, experience is the opposite of faith. The accusation I hear frequently is this: If we don’t believe in the sign gifts and special revelation, we are lacking in faith. But I would beg to differ. I believe that those who must rely on special experiences are actually the ones lacking in faith. We read this in Hebrews 11:1–

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith means we haven’t seen or felt or heard it physically but are trusting God and His Word that what He says will come to pass. We must have faith to believe that He has saved us through grace alone in Christ alone. True faith means that we don’t need any special messages or visions to confirm this.

Fifth, God’s special revelations in the New Testament always had to do with growing the Church and sharing the Gospel. They were rarely (if ever?? I’ve not done a thorough study) about someone’s personal dreams or desires or health or wealth. For example, in Acts we see several places where Peter and Paul experienced the supernatural, but it was always to point people to God and the Gospel. It always had to do with furthering God’s Kingdom and had nothing to do with their own selfish motivations and desires. This is a rather significant contrast to most special revelations claimed today.

Sixth, we must do a careful evaluation of the fruit that has resulted from the movement that promotes and endorses these things. I have not seen churches grow stronger or sounder or more biblical as a result of practicing the “spiritual gifts” but instead we see, as a general rule, movement away from the sufficiency of scripture and sound doctrine, while moving towards mystical, experience-based religion that has no absolutes. Individually, most end up in a self-absorbed, mystical religion that is always hungering for the next experience, which inevitably takes their focus off of studying, submitting to, and obeying the Bible.

And seventh, and most importantly, is that the emphasis on special revelation always takes the emphasis off of the Word and places it on to personal experience. Interestingly enough, we know from a study of the book of Revelation that in the last days there will be a one world religion. This religion will draw all men together into the final false religion of the antichrist. If we take an honest look at the fruit of the charismatic and NAR movements, we can see that they are drawing men away from the Word and making them reliant on mystical experiences. This is exactly what Satan wants. You can’t rely on experience and on the Word. They are mutually exclusive. So we can see that this movement is drawing men away from true Christianity into this mystical one-world religion that is coming.

So these are some of my reasons.

BUT what about…

I know you are asking it, so let’s just go there. What about the time that I felt like I just needed to pray for someone and found out later that they needed prayer at just that time? Or the time that I could “hear” the Lord say “give so-and-so some groceries” and I find out later that they desperately needed those groceries?

Phil Johnson has written a great post on this, which you can find here. But I want to share this quote from it that, to me, wraps it all up rather nicely–

I am convinced by all the clear commands and best examples of Scripture that God would have us seek understanding and guidance by looking into the more sure Word of Scripture, rather than listening to the declarations of uncredentialed modern “prophets” who frankly admit that they often mistake their own imaginations for revelation from God.

What does this have to do with providence? Glad you asked. I’m willing to acknowledge that God has sometimes employed my intuitive hunches, spontaneous notions, subliminal logic, unconscious thoughts, or whatever, to order my steps providentially.

I emphatically deny that this is a form of prophecy or revelation, because it is notoriously fallible. And following your sense of intuition will get you in trouble at least as often as it works out well. To regard one’s intuition as a gift of prophecy or claim it as a kind of special revelation is really no better than what pagan fortune-tellers and occult clairvoyants do.

Now this is something to think about, isn’t it? Are your hunches and intuitions and impressions and thoughts of action always right on? Mine are certainly not. And that is how we know that God can use them but they aren’t prophecies or special revelation. I encourage you to read Phil’s entire post if you would like to understand this subject better.

Now, after all of this, I recognize that many (probably most) of you will not agree with me on this. I share this post to just encourage you to not come to your conclusion lightly as you ponder this subject. I did this myself and I believe that I came to the wrong conclusion. If not for my friend, I would still be at that same place–strongly holding an opinion that I don’t believe, after studying the scriptures, was the right one.

I want to reiterate that I do not share this to cause division and I still warmly consider you as part of my Christian family, even if we disagree on this area. This is one of those secondary issues that seems fuzzier than it should. It’s one of those things I’d like to ask God about when I get to heaven. Sooooo why didn’t you make it clearer, God? My suspicion is that if it was clear the mainstream church (as opposed to the remnant of the true Church) would never be drawn into the one world religion predicted in the last days, but time shall tell.

Well, I hope this post has been an encouragement to those who agree with me, and that it has caused those of you on the fence to really think about what you believe, and that it will drive those of you who disagree with me into the Word to disprove what I have written.

I’ve said this before but I’ll repeat it: My opinion on this doesn’t matter. At all. Don’t rely on me. Go to the Word. We must get our opinions on biblical matters from the Bible. Personally, I believe this is what the Word teaches after extensive study. I simply suggest that you, too, only make a firm opinion about this after doing your own study of the issue with a humble and submissive heart.

 

Are You Treating God Like Your Personal Genie?

At the beginning of this year, I asked God to teach me how to pray. I have felt for a long time that this is an area of my life that is sorely lacking. It’s not that I haven’t been praying at all but I was keenly aware that when it came to the topic of prayer, I was just not what I was supposed to be.

God has been answering my prayer and He is teaching me a lot. One of the things He has been teaching me I’d like to share with you here today. We probably all know this already (I did), but sometimes a good reminder is just what is needed to get us back on the right path.

Somehow in 2018 we have landed in a world that is all about self. Self-advancement, Self-centeredness, Self-indulgence, Self-aggrandizement. All of life is all about self for most everyone. We can see this in our workplaces, restaurants, stores, sports fields, and even in our churches. We especially see this in families, where moms and dads are often off busy chasing their dreams while they leave their kids to be raised by strangers. This is probably worth a post itself but I really just needed this paragraph to remind us of how selfish we really have become as a whole in this current age.

And, as believers, while we know we are to be the opposite of all of the above, we can sometimes get caught up in this, as well. Sometimes without thinking. And I believe one of the ways this happens is in our prayer lives.

How often do we treat God like our personal genie? Asking only for the things we need and want personally? Asking (and maybe sometimes even demanding?) for the things that affect us in some way. And yet how often we never find the time to spend time praising and thanking God or to bring the requests of others before His throne.

As I was thinking about this a bit this morning, I thought of my relationship with my kids. If all they ever did was to ask for things from me or to use me and my resources to their advantage, I would not feel very loved. And I think we can say that this would be an indication that they don’t love me. At the very least, we can be sure that they love themselves more than they love me. This doesn’t really lead to a healthy relationship, does it?

James 4:3 describes a skewed prayer life by putting it like this: You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

When we ask out of wrong and selfish motives, we ask amiss. Sometimes we can fall into this pattern without thinking–trying to use our relationship with the Almighty, Omnipotent Creator to our own advantage. We can find ourselves always asking, always taking.

So how do we keep this from happening? What steps can we take to have a healthier prayer life? Here are five things that will help–

1. Spend the first few minutes of our prayer time in praise and adoration.

2. Spend some time thanking God for answered prayer requests. Thank Him for how He has worked in our life and for what He has already provided.

3. Spend time in His Word with a submissive and obedient heart, reading what He has to say to us with a willingness to live it out.

4. Submit our wills to God’s with all requests. Never demand, but ask with a heart that will take “No” for an answer without getting mopey or holding a grudge.

5. Live righteously before God, pleasing Him with our actions and obeying His commands, so that He knows we truly do love Him and we don’t just view Him as our magic genie in the sky.

Prayer is a tough thing, especially now that it has been hijacked. Satan has badly mangled it by bringing contemplative prayer to the scene, turning it into a self-centered (notice that word “self” yet again) time of experience and feelings. But prayer isn’t about what we can get. It’s about God and our relationship with Him. It is an opportunity for us to praise and worship God each and every day. It is an opportunity for us to submit our wills and lives to Him as a living sacrifice. AND it is also an opportunity to bring our requests before Him. Yes, we should do this. He wants us to do this. But let’s be careful that selfish requests aren’t the only thing we are bringing before Him, lest we fall into the trap of treating God like He is our personal genie, waiting to do our bidding.

 

P.S. If you want to know how to pray biblically, Jesus told us Himself in Matthew 6:9-13–

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.[a]
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,[b]
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.[d]

Notice that He doesn’t tell us to be silent before Him or to wait for Him to speak to us. If this was critical to our personal prayer time, I am quite sure Jesus would have mentioned that here where He is teaching His disciples how to pray. The fact that this type of prayer is never recommended in scripture anywhere should be enough to keep us far away from this type of mystical praying that comes straight from eastern religions and Catholic monasticism and has nothing to with biblical prayer.

 

The Essential Importance of the Cross

On Sunday we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. God’s Son who died on a cruel cross on Calvary was raised again to give us victory over sin and death. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone. According to scripture, there is no other way for us to be saved (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Sadly, Satan has warped the message of the cross since….well, probably since Jesus died on it. We can see this in Paul’s letters to the churches. Already, Satan was busy warping the Gospel and deceiving believers as well as unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 11:13-14).

A Gospel that is changed even a little bit is not the true Gospel.

While Satan has always been busy eroding, attacking, and distorting the Gospel, I am not sure it’s ever been with such a push as now. It’s almost as if he knows his rule of this world is coming to a close.

He has always been busy convincing people that they must add works to the cross in order to be saved, such as in Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many other branches of “Christianity”–even including legalistic “Christians” who would add rules that need to be followed in order to be saved. This continues to be one of his main distortions but in the last forty years or so he has strengthened his efforts (and he has been by and large successful!) to unify the true church with those who would be following a works-based salvation.

He is convincing people to give lip service to the cross but to bypass it in practices like lectio divina and contemplative prayer, which are mystical practices that lead people to believe that they can be close to God without the cross. He has persuaded so many that it is impossible to be close to God without hearing personally from Him, without experiencing visions, without supernatural events, etc.. All of this removes the focus of our faith from Christ’s finished work on the cross to our personal experiences.

He whispers in the ears of others that there is some good in them (Romans 3:12 tells us otherwise) and that Jesus simply died to make them whole and to give them a better life.

He has also convinced many that God would never send anyone to hell. Because men don’t like to think of God in this way (in spite of what scripture teaches us in Matthew 10:28 and Mark 9:43), men turn away from it and fall for something called “universalism”–that Christ died for all and all are saved, no matter if they call on Jesus or not. This is clearly denounced in scripture in many places but especially in John 14:6.

And, of course, Satan loves to convince people that their biggest mission is to make this world a better place. Called by the name of the social gospel, it is all about fixing the temporal problems of this world and yet rarely, if ever, includes sharing the Gospel with those to whom they are ministering. Sparing them physical hardship, they fail to given them the opportunity to be spared eternal damnation.

These warped views of the Gospel have invaded almost every nook and cranny of Christianity today. For many, they are in your own churches in the form of seminars, curriculum, books, or special speakers. They come by way of blog posts and emails from friends or family members. And they are promoted by even some of the most trusted, religious leaders of our day.

When anything comes our way, we must ask ourselves–is this taking the focus off of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross? Is it adding something I must do in order to be reconciled with God?

The cross has been and will always be the central doctrine of true Christianity. Christ died to satisfy God’s wrath against man (Romans 3:23-26). Our only hope to be reconciled to God is to repent of our sins and to place our faith in Christ (Romans 5:1). There are no works we can do or any special program we can follow to skip this step (Ephesians 2:8-9). The pure, unadulterated Gospel is the only Gospel that saves.

As we approach Resurrection Sunday, I want to encourage you to really think about all that is going on around you in the “Christian” world. What “gospel” is being preached? Compare everything to scripture, for it is only there that we find truth. It is our only anchor. And as the world around us grows more and more treacherous, our need for that anchor will increase.

In reading Jude yesterday, I was struck by its final verses–

How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19 These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.

20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

By these verses, we can see that in the last days it will continue to get worse and worse. Our instructions are found in verses 20-21– we are to build ourselves up in the holy faith (which can only be done by faithfully being in the Word), prayer, and by keeping ourselves in the love of God, all while looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. If we skip down to verse 24, we see that it is God who will keep us from falling during this time. He Who will present us faultless before the presence of His glory has complete power and absolute sovereignty over all that is happening. We must turn to Him in this time.

Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins. There is no other “interpretation” or any works that must be added to His finished work to save men from their sins. God, who is infinite and omnipotent, has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him and it is only through the death and resurrection of His Son. Praise God!

 

No Excuses

Have you ever heard a fellow Christian say something like this: “Well, I just don’t have that gift.” Maybe you’ve even said it. Many of us have. Whether the discussion is on the topic of evangelism, giving, hospitality, or discernment, we often give ourselves passes on these commands in scripture with the phrase, “I don’t have that gift.”

But does that response hold up to biblical scrutiny?

This morning I want to take a look at this fairly common answer that is given whenever topics like these come up and make us uncomfortable.

God has made it very clear in Romans 12:3-8 that every redeemed person has a spiritual gift. Some of us know what ours is, some of us are still wondering, and some of us have never bothered to think about this at all. But every believer has one. The purpose of this post isn’t to delve into the spiritual gifts and how to know which one you have, but, rather, to determine if not having a particular gift is a pass at not practicing it.

It’s almost as if we believe that if we just say we aren’t good at it, then we can ignore it and go on our merry way.

So let’s unpack this just a bit. I feel like I may have bitten off a bit more than I can chew this morning, but let’s see what God’s Word says and see if I can then pull it all together. Let’s first turn to the book of John. This is one place that Jesus makes it very clear that we show we are His by doing what He commands–

John 14:21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.

We show we love Christ by keeping His commandments.

John 15:10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

The only way we can abide in Christ’s love is by keeping His commandments.

John 15:14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

We have to assume the opposite is true, don’t we? If we don’t keep Jesus’s commands then we are not the friends of Jesus.

Lets hop on over to I John 2 where we read this–

I John 2:3-5  Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

So this takes it even one step further and says we are lying if we say we are a Christian but are not following God’s commands. We can’t say we know Him and then ignore the Word and the commands therein. John makes it all too clear that true believers just won’t do this.

But we can be deceived into thinking that a certain commandment doesn’t apply to us. Let’s take a look at some of these commands that we tend to ignore, using the excuse that it isn’t our gift–

HOSPITALITY

I Peter 4:9  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.

Romans 12:13 {Be} distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

EVANGELISM

Mark 16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at[a] His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

DISCERNMENT

Philippians 1:9-10 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

I John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

GIVING/GENEROSITY

2 Corinthians 9:7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

Proverbs 3:9-10 Honor the Lord with your possessions,
And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
10 So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.

I’ve picked these specific four things, because they seem to be the ones that are most excused because of not having the “gift”. Did I miss anything else?

Yes, God has given people special gifts and they help make the church run smoothly. But if they are only practiced by people who have these “gifts” then the Church would be sorely lacking, wouldn’t it? And that is where we find ourselves. Fewer people sharing the Gospel with others, fewer people giving of their first fruits, fewer people discerning, and fewer people practicing hospitality. And, perhaps, saddest of all, there are fewer and fewer even caring about these important things commanded by God in His Word as they are distracted and deceived by worldly worship, supernatural experiences, and mystical practices. The focus has turned inward to our own personal experience, rather than outward to how we can minister to others both by setting a godly example and by serving, according to God’s commands.

Not having a certain “gift” is not an excuse for not following God’s commands. Sure, it may come harder for us but that just means we need to work harder at doing it.

I will close with an example from my own life. I would not consider myself naturally gifted at hospitality. I have some friends who are really awesome at this. Their homes are lovely and impeccably clean, their food is delicious and served beautifully, and they make people who enter their homes feel comfortable and loved. My house is just a house and I am not all that into cooking. I don’t mind it, but it’s just not really my “thing”. And so I gave myself a pass on hospitality. But, more and more, the Lord convicted me about this. And I started to recognize a couple of things. First, I had to give up my pride. If my house isn’t cleaned or decorated just right, it’s okay. I am using it for His glory and I need to only please Him. I can’t worry about the critical eye of the “perfect homemaker”.  And, second, I don’t have to cook a fancy meal to be hospitable. I can just do coffee and dessert or buy pizza. We can do hot dogs at the fire outside or make ice cream sundaes. When I started thinking a little more outside the box it became so much easier.

I don’t have this nailed down and I certainly don’t practice it as often as I should, but I do feel like I’ve made progress and it came when I released what I felt it “should be” and started practicing what it “could be”. Perhaps this is true for all of the gifts. We don’t need to practice a gift perfectly. We just need to practice it to the best of our ability. That is all God asks of us. He will take it from there.

So let’s release our impossible expectations, our reluctance, and, most of all, our excuses and start following God’s commands in these areas. God will bless our obedience and the rewards will be great–here or in heaven and, often, in both places!

 

Helping Your Child Flourish

What is the single most important thing we can teach our children in order for them to flourish both spiritually and emotionally? This may even help in their worldly success…

Of course, as Christian parents we want to teach our kids to love and serve the Lord. We want them to be saved. But even salvation can’t happen without this.

Any guesses?

It is a humble and teachable heart.

I have seen an interesting and discouraging change in Christian parenting in the last number of years. The culture that worships youth and thrives on change has crept into the church. And this has turned parenting on its head. Children have become the center of the family. Children are catered to while parents work to meet every desire and whim they may have. Children get what they want. From the time they are an infant angrily screaming in their crib to the time they are hurt by a teacher or students at school to the time they are teens who want to see an ungodly movie, parents run as fast as they can to rescue and please their little tyrants. I understand how it happens. I have done it myself. It’s easier. It seems more loving at the time. It feels wrong not to give them what they want. It makes us look like we are a bad parent.

But what are we teaching our children by meeting their every demand? What are we doing to their psyche by giving them the impression that the world revolves around them?

There are many downsides to this kind of parenting, but perhaps the one that will affect them the most is the pride and self-centeredness that we are instilling in them. They believe–and rightly so because it is what they have been taught–that they are the center of the world and that what they say goes.

As Christian parents, it should be one of our greatest desires to teach our children, both by example and by actions, to be humble and teachable. To recognize that God is our focus and that we are here to honor and serve Him–even at the sacrifice of our own desires and will.

By doing this, our children flourish in so many ways. Think with me for a moment about the most humble and teachable person you know. What do you like about them? Keep in mind, we are not talking the false “doormat” type of humility here that blows towards every wind of doctrine and is afraid to speak up. We are talking about biblical humility. (See Philippians 2:5-11 and James 4:6-10 for a better understanding of biblical humility.)

Let’s  look at some of the ways that our children (and ourselves) will flourish with this kind of heart. Children and adults who are humble and teachable–

–First and foremost, will find it much easier to submit to and obey God. A humble heart is necessary for repentance and faith in Christ. A teachable heart makes the Christian life much more peaceful and joyful. It is the kind of heart that produces the most growth and spiritual maturity.

–Are kinder. They think beyond themselves and focus attention on others.

–Are easier to get along with. Whether in church or at work, humble people do not demand their own way. When something biblical is on the line and they are standing for what’s right, they speak truth with love and grace. They don’t hold grudges, forgiving others who have wronged them. Humble people are willing to learn from others and don’t think they know everything. Humility is really the only path to unity in a church body or work place.

–easier to live with. A humble heart makes it much easier for a husband to love his wife. It makes it easier for a wife to submit to her husband. It makes it easier to apologize and to express openly one’s remorse over sin and failures. It keeps parents from the “because I say so” model of parenting, and instead cultivates an atmosphere of engaging children in lively discussions, listening to their fears, anger, and frustrations, and answering their questions from a biblical perspective. It radically eliminates the hours and days (or even weeks) of angry silence that sometimes take place in homes. A teachable heart creates an atmosphere of growth and unity within the family.

–are much more prone to growth in so many ways. Where a prideful heart is akin to hard, dry soil, so a humble heart is like moist, fertile soil. Good things grow in the soil of a humble, teachable heart. They grow faster and stronger. Pride makes growth hard. It may happen but it is so much slower and the result is usually weak and small.

–willing to listen. Humble, teachable people are willing to listen to others. They recognize that the elderly, the middle-aged, and the youth all have something to teach them.Whether they are 80, 50, or 25, humble people recognize that learning is a life-long process and that they can learn so much from someone else’s experiences, gleaning wisdom that helps them in their own lives. They also recognize the importance of kindly listening to someone even if they do not agree with them.

–have a biblical view of sin in their own lives and in the lives of others. Humble people do not berate and gossip about those who are living in sin. They don’t point fingers and speak arrogantly. They recognize that it is only by the grace of God that they are not caught up in that sin themselves. They understand the wickedness of their own heart and don’t view themselves as “better than”.

If we can teach our kids to have a humble and teachable heart, we are giving them such a wonderful advantage as they head out into the world. They will be better workers and church members. They will thrive as spouses and parents. It really is like a golden ticket to peace and joy. For it is only through humility that any of us can submit to God and His sovereign hand in our lives.

This list probably gives us all something to think about, even if we don’t have children in our homes. Are we setting an example of a humble, teachable heart to all of those around us? Our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, our Sunday school students, our neighbors and co-workers–they are all watching.

If we haven’t cultivated a humble, teachable heart in the past. If we grow defensive and struggle to apologize. If we hold grudges and find it difficult to forgive. Well, it’s not too late to change. No matter how old we are, it is never too late to change.

My guess is that all of us can grow in this area. Pray and ask the Lord to help. On a humorous note, I have asked the Lord many times to please keep me humble. And He never fails. I chalk some of my most embarrassing moments up to those prayers. But, after the horridness and acute embarrassment of the moment was over, I can honestly say that I was glad. Glad that God had reminded me that I wasn’t “all that” and that I really don’t have it all that much together, after all. Those moments keep me seeking after God and discarding my pride. So, if that’s what it takes, well, it is truly worth it. And since this is a continual process and never something I can seem to master, I expect many more embarrassing moments ahead!

Life is hard. But it is harder when we are proud and unwilling to learn. Let’s work at being humble and teachable and let’s teach our children both by example and by how we parent, to be the same. They will thank you one day.

 

A Lesson from Football

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This past Sunday was the Super Bowl. For me, it was unlike normal Super Bowls because the Eagles were there for the first time since 2004. Of course, if you follow football at all, you are aware of the falling ratings of this sport due to the disrespect displayed towards America by a handful of players at the beginning of this past season. Patriotic people (which includes many football fans) found this highly offensive and, in fact, the Super Bowl audience was at an all-time low this past Sunday. Of course, this didn’t stop Eagles’ fans from watching.

I am sure that many of you are not interested in football. And with all that went on, you may have written it off forever. Honestly, there was talk that football in this country might have been dying a slow death as we watched the mess the NFL was in just a few short months ago.

But then along came the Philadelphia Eagles. If you haven’t already heard, the Eagles are an extraordinary team that seem to have a very special bond. But what has been extra-special for me to watch is that the men who claim to be believers seem to be the real deal. I have watched interviews and I have read articles that would give evidence to this fact. In a world made up of celebrity Christians that “talk it” but don’t “walk it”, this has been incredibly refreshing. In fact, some of them meet together to study the Word (when’s the last time you heard a celebrity Christian talk about the importance of the Bible??) and they let nary an opportunity escape where they do not direct attention to Jesus Christ and give Him the glory.

It’s been an amazing thing to watch. And, being a diehard Eagles fan since I was a child, it’s been especially exciting. But, of course, while we should be thankful for the platform they have been given, they are still just human men in a really tough world. If anything, we should pray for them to stay true to God and His Word in the tempting world that is professional sports.

However, believe it or not, this isn’t why I am writing about football today. I just thought you might be interested in that little tidbit about the Eagles–if you didn’t know it already.

Actually, I heard a couple of back-stories on Sunday about the lives of the two head coaches. It’s worth writing about.

Doug Pederson, head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Bill Belichick, head coach for the New England Patriots, have something in common. Would you believe that both of these men were viewed as “bad hires”? This happened to Belichick back in 2000 and to Pederson more recently (I’ll include links about this below). Thankfully, the owners of both of these teams decided to go against the tide of public opinion and hire them anyway.

And what do you know? Football history has been made by these decisions. With Bill Belichick as their coach, the Patriots have had an amazing run over the last eighteen years with multiple Super Bowl wins. And the Eagles, within two years of hiring Doug Pederson, not only made it to the Super Bowl, but actually managed to win the Super Bowl with several of their key players on the injured list, including their main quarterback! These are two amazing coaches!

So why did popular opinion roll against these two guys?

I actually have no idea. I am not really that into football. But I do think there is much to learn from their stories and the courage displayed by the owners of these two teams. You see, so often we so desperately want to be liked by everyone that we aren’t willing to go against popular opinion. And yet if you really think about it, there isn’t one person that has really made a difference in this world by siding with popular opinion. Whether we are talking football, medical break-throughs, modern-day inventions, or standing up for biblical Truth, the people who make a real difference are the ones who are brave enough to turn away from what the crowd thinks and walk in a different direction. They are the ones that will swim upstream amidst the ridicule of others.

This takes courage and confidence. It takes believing in a person or a possibility. It takes someone willing to sacrifice their short-term comfort, ease, and glory for something greater. And, as a Christian who stands up for the truth of the Bible, it takes faith and trust in God and His Word.

So the next time we are tempted to stand with the crowd, let’s stop and think. Is this actually the best thing? Even more importantly–is this what the Bible teaches? Or is this just what is popular and trendy right now? And then let’s be brave enough to stand up for the truth! If we can do this, we will make a difference–not in a temporal game on a football field–but in God’s Kingdom for eternity.

 

Doug Pederson: Read articles here and here.

Bill Belichick: Read articles here and here.

You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too

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Have you ever noticed that almost everyone loves Chick-Fil-A? The other day we went to one for a mid-week lunch and it was lined up almost to the door. In a world where fast food has lost much of its popularity and is considered quite unfashionable, Chick-Fil-As are still always busy. Why is this?

I believe it is because when you go there you will find their restaurants clean and organized and the employees respectful and helpful. Of course this isn’t true across the board, but there is a much greater chance of finding a Chick-Fil-A like this than any other fast food restaurant.

How does the owner of Chick-Fil-A accomplish this? This article states that Truett Cathy screens his franchise owners. They must exhibit Christian values and be involved in their communities. It’s a Huffington Post article that puts a negative spin on it (of course!). But, actually, what Cathy is doing is completely lawful. He’s protecting the reputation of Chick-Fil-A, which he owns. (Funny how you never see Huffington Post talk about the unfairness of progressives forcing business owners to bake wedding cakes…)

So why does having Christian values make a difference?

The Bible teaches us many things about life and human relationships. And it is clear that when we put them into practice, life is generally better. We avoid so much heartache and pain and generally experience so much more peace and joy when we don’t lie, steal, cheat, or hate. We have a much more restful home when we love, forgive, discipline our children, treat one another with respect and kindness, and live out the roles God has established for Dads, Moms, and kids. And we run much better restaurants and companies when we are honest, fair, train our employees to treat others with respect and kindness, and operate with integrity.

Christian principles make for a better restaurant, family, church, workplace, and LIFE.

Psalm 1 puts it this way–

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
    Nor stands in the path of sinners,
    Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
    Planted by the rivers of water,
    That brings forth its fruit in its season,
    Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

The ironic thing is that even unbelievers love what results from living this way, don’t they? Chick-Fil-As are filled with customers who are unbelievers. It is because they love the outcome of this unappealing way of life, they just don’t want to do the work or make the sacrifices to have that same outcome in their own personal lives.

This goes the same for parenting. The world (and even other Christians who are following the world when it comes to disciplining their children) longingly watch parents who are actually enjoying their well-behaved and respectful children. But these godly parents are diligently following scriptural principles and making sacrifices to experience God’s wonderful promise that children are a reward (Psalm 127:3). It doesn’t just happen. Other parents watching them–whose children are unruly and unmanageable and make life so difficult– long to have the same results as their friends. But they are completely unwilling to follow the biblical principles in order to do so.

Well, you just can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

You can’t have the positive effects of living life based on Christians principles without…actually living life based on Christian principles. And that does take work and sacrifice and usually comes with its own share of mocking and ridicule, no matter where you live.

Interestingly enough, one can actually live a life based on the principles of the Bible without actually being a Christian and fare pretty well from a temporal perspective. I have seen this many times. Couples that live out and have instilled these Judeo-Christian values in their kids and who are living a life of harmony and success because of it. (In fact, these actually can be some of the hardest people to reach because they don’t see their need for a Savior.)

Perhaps this, too, is why America was so wonderful for so long. Perhaps this is why she attracted so many from countries all around the world. Being based on those same Christian principles created her reputation of being fair and free and safe and full of opportunities.

Of course, that’s all changing rapidly now.

We can’t change the world. But we can, like Truett Cathy, change our corner of the world. We can change our families by following God’s ordained roles for men and women and by training our children according to biblical principles. We can change our place of employment by doing our jobs with integrity, honesty, and diligence. We can change our churches by teaching the Bible, treating others with grace and mercy, and by calling out sin. Living life according to biblical principles not only makes our lives better but it also makes life better for those who live with and around us.

God wrote the Bible for us. He wrote every word for a reason. Our job is to study it and to live it out. Psalm 1 is not a promise but a principle. Some Christians have really hard lives and hardly seem to prosper at all. But you can never judge a book by its cover. The poorest Christian may be much more prosperous in eternal treasure than the richest one.

One thing we do know for sure: The way of the ungodly shall perish.

 

 

Do I Need a Special Experience in Order to Know God?

Experience

There is an atmosphere of mystery within the church these days. As if we must somehow reach a higher spiritual plane through a special experience in order to reach God in a deeper way and receive His special blessing. This is taught in Charismatic circles, where they teach that one must speak in tongues and receive a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit in order to be truly spiritual. It’s taught in the New Apostolic Reformation, where they teach that apostles are God’s especially “anointed”. And it’s taught in Keswick theology and ministries such as Eric Ludy’s program at Ellerslie*, where mystical means are used to move us towards a sinless life here on earth (according to them). This is also the main premise of the contemplative prayer movement and the monastic teachings such as the “silence”, lectio divina, and the labyrinth. All of these things supposedly take us to a place where we will truly experience God.

So this begs the question: Do I need some kind of special experience in order to know God?

Of course, we must go to scripture to answer this question. One of the best places to answer this is I John 2, verses 18-20–

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the[c] Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.[d] 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

According to this passage, we are assured of four very important things–

First, that there are going to be many antichrists before the actual Antichrist comes on the scene. Just because someone mentions the name of Jesus does not mean they are talking about the same Jesus you are. We Christians have gotten into a very lazy habit of assuming that any mention of God or Jesus or prayer means that someone is a genuine believer in Christianity but this just isn’t the case. Paul tells us clearly that Satan will masquerade as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). We must remember this and test the spirits (I John 4:1).

Second, we have all been anointed by the Holy One. Under the New Covenant, all believers are anointed by the Holy Spirit. There is nothing in scripture that would lead us to believe that we need a second, special anointing.

Third, as believers, we know all things. There is no secret knowledge that we must somehow obtain by using contemplative prayer, listening for special messages from God, or receiving some special, extra dose of God’s presence. In contrast, scripture says here that we already know all things. All we need to know is in God’s Word. If it’s not in His Word, then it we don’t need to know it.

And, fourth, we know the truth. We know the truth by studying the Word. John 17:17 confirms this–

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

To understand the timelessness of this book, we need to look back at just why John was writing this epistle to an unknown group of people. John MacArthur writes this in his introduction of I John

These false teachers advocated new ideas which eventually became known as “Gnosticism” (from the Gr. word “knowledge”). After the Pauline battle for freedom from the law, Gnosticism was the most dangerous heresy that threatened the early church during the first 3 centuries. Most likely, John was combating the beginnings of this virulent heresy that threatened to destroy the fundamentals of the faith and the churches.

Gnosticism, influenced by such philosophers as Plato, advocated a dualism asserting that matter was inherently evil and spirit was good. As a result of this presupposition, these false teachers, although attributing some form of deity to Christ, denied his true humanity to preserve Him from evil. It also claimed elevated knowledge, a higher truth known only to those in on the deep things. Only the initiated had the mystical knowledge of truth that was higher even than the Scripture.

What does this sound like? Sarah Young with her messages from God that are outside of scripture? Beth Moore’s visions that yield special knowledge? Countless others claim to have special knowledge that comes from God to them personally. Secret knowledge that yields a special relationship.

If we go back to the garden, we can see that Satan used a similar ploy–

 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4)

“Listen to me and I will give you special knowledge,” he whispers. The only difference between then and now is that he wasn’t masquerading as God back then. But it is the same message.

Gnosticism is dangerous because it takes the focus off of Christ’s finished work on the cross and the Bible–which is our only trustworthy source for knowing the full story of God, who He is, and what He has done for us. And, instead, subjective experiences, feelings, and emotions become the focus.

From what John wrote in his epistle, we can see that this has been going on for ages. It ebbs and flows but it has always been a danger to Christianity. But perhaps never so much as in these last days when we can see it all working towards a one-world religion that must bypass Jesus Christ and His work on the cross.

At some point, we must move our eyes from our own personal experience, even as Bible-believing Christians, and get a glimpse of the bigger picture. History has so much to teach us.

John combated Gnosticism, just as we are combating it. There is nothing new under the sun. Let’s heed the words of scripture and realize that God has given us all we need. There is no special knowledge out there that we need to somehow attain. No special experience that is going to make us closer to God. The cross did the work! Praise the Lord, it was finished there!

When we are saved, our response to this is simple. Jesus makes it clear: If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15).

Of course, simple isn’t always pleasant and sometimes Jesus’s commandments are burdensome to a heart that loves the world and wants to be loved by the world. So as those who claim Christ find following His commandments distasteful, a vacuum of desire for closeness without self-denial opens wide its mouth. And guess what enters in? Special experiences that deceive us into believing we can be close to God without submission and without obedience.

Look, we can’t change the direction this is going. It’s just not possible. But we can be informed, so that we can be on the look-out for ourselves, our families, and for those that God has placed in our path who genuinely want to know the truth. My prayer is that this post will lead a few of you to search for the truth as we read it in scripture. This view is certainly not popular (how’s that for an understatement?!) but it is biblical. And that’s why I write.

If this has disturbed you or you don’t agree, may I encourage you to do your own digging? Do so with a humble spirit, open mind, and a heart that honestly desires to know the truth and is willing to obey that truth. Pray and ask God to show you His truth about these matters and He will. I have seen God answer this prayer on many occasions. He is so faithful. Our God is faithful. Praise His name!

Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
Deuteronomy 7:9

 

*Eric Ludy and Ellerslie carefully conceal their mystical leanings and rather bizarre teachings quite well. You will not find them in their marketing materials or on their website. My daughter experienced this firsthand and, after sitting under their teaching for just a few short weeks, made the choice to leave. This happened almost ten years ago now, so perhaps they have changed. If you are interested in his ministry, please do your homework. Here is a post that echoes our concerns with this place.

Enjoying the Ride

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The other night we decided we would spend the evening looking at some Christmas lights. After paying $15 to drive through a display that was considerably short of impressive, we decided to drive across the county to check out another one that came highly recommended.

The thing I haven’t told you is that there were seven of us so in order for us to all drive together in the same car, two people would have to sit in the rarely used backseat. I really thought we’d have more fun if we went together so I offered to sit there. After all, my car was made to “seat 7”. My son-in-law offered to sit there, as well, and so we both climbed into the back. This was our first clue that it was going to be tight.

We weren’t back there more than 30 seconds before we realized that the backseat was definitely not meant for adults. With the two of us sitting a bit sideways and with our knees to our chests, we all set off on our adventure.

The first part of the evening wasn’t too bad. After about 15 minutes we stopped for dinner. And then another 15 minutes after that we drove through the first display. But the last ride–the one across the county– ended up taking over 30 minutes (maybe closer to 45). This is when it started to stretch my patience just a bit. We were going on a back country road and I started to feel a bit carsick. And then the other dynamic was that no one listened to us. We’d try to join the conversation but we were back so far, we were generally ignored because it was so hard to hear us.

About halfway through that drive I was starting to get annoyed. My bad knee was starting to hurt, I was extremely uncomfortable, and the carsickness was really starting to get to me. And it was around that time that it hit me: I can choose to focus on the negative or I can enjoy the ride. After all, here I was, with two of our kids and their families, having a good time together. What a blessing! I recognized that I had so much to be thankful for, even if I was temporarily squished into a seat that was meant for children. And, thankfully, our son-in-law has a good sense of humor and made the ride in the back much more enjoyable than if I would have been back there alone.

Ironically, when we finally arrived, we found out to our dismay that the display was in front of us. As we parked the car in preparation for the light show, we realized that we wouldn’t even have a good view to watch. We just had to laugh.

And that was my Friday night.

But I couldn’t help thinking about this in relation to all of life (of course!)

So often we are on a ride we don’t enjoy and we can’t get off. We can’t change it, we can’t fix it, we can’t stop it. We just have to ride through it. But the one thing we can choose is what attitude we are going to have as we take our undesired ride. We can choose to be joyful or we can choose to complain. We can choose to rely and lean on the Lord or we can choose to focus on our own feelings and despair. Keep in mind that we are going to have to take the ride either way. It’s non-negotiable. Having a negative attitude isn’t going to change anything or make anything better (in fact, it will make it worse), while having a joyful attitude not only makes us more pleasant to be around, it is also a dramatic testimony of God’s grace, mercy, and love that is provided to His children during the tough times.

This is a hard lesson for many of us to learn. I feel like I am writing to myself here, quite honestly. I struggle so with this. We have come to have certain expectations in life. We want life to be convenient and comfortable and easy. And so when the road turns a little bumpy and we are stuck in the backseat, we can tend to grow a little discontent and grumpy. But that isn’t going to help anyone–especially ourselves. And, most importantly, it reveals that we don’t really trust God’s plan for our lives. It truly is an affront to God’s Sovereignty, if you think about it.

Isn’t it amazing what you can be reminded of on a ride through the country?

 

Romans 8:28-30

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Isaiah 45:9

Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
    a pot among earthen pots!
Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
    or ‘Your work has no handles’?

Daniel 4:34-35

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

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

 

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