False Teachers

Bill Johnson and Bethel: A Biblical Evaluation

The following is written by my oldest daughter, Jess, who is currently taking the time to do some in-depth research of popular false teachers. She compares what they teach to what the Bible says. This not only helps us understand just why they are considered a false teacher but also gives us a bit of knowledge when we are asked by fellow Christians about some of these teachers.

Today’s focus is on Bill Johnson, whom you may better know by the name of his ministry: Bethel. Jesus Culture Music and many other things stem from Bethel. Many of the worship songs sung in your churches are from Bethel. Let’s find out just what Bill and his ministry teach about God–

Bill Johnson could be called the modern day father of the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) movement. He is the lead pastor of Bethel Church and founder of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Bethel has also created their own music label, mission organization, and an “apostolic network” that includes hundreds of churches and schools all around the world. Jesus Culture is another popular movement that has emerged from Bethel.

I think most of the people reading this would agree that Bethel is, at the very least, a little weird. Their “manifestations of the power of the Spirit” include things like grave sucking, prophetic cards, prophetic dancing, waking angels, wearing “destiny pants”, fire tunnels, and holy laughter. Since we can’t find even one of those “manifestations” in the Bible, that list alone should be a clear enough warning to stay far away. But my goal today isn’t to dive into that aspect of Bethel. Videos and articles abound online if you want to research that on your own.

My goal is to give you a succinct overview of the heresies that are taught by Bill Johnson. It isn’t enough to simply say “they do weird things”. Their movement is a big one. Bill Johnson has said the main goal of Bethel is to “export their teaching” in music, conferences, books, sermons, schools, churches, livestreams, social media, and missions. They want to transform the church and the culture. We need to know why and how the teachings at Bethel contradict Scripture so we can warn others to avoid anything associated with them.

Today we will look at the 3 main tenants of Bill Johnson’s theology that should concern us. In Part 2 next Friday, we’ll see just how these theologies manifest themselves so dangerously in application and practice at Bethel’s churches and schools.

First, he teaches the theology of dominionism. He believes they are ushering in the kingdom of God or “heaven on earth.” They teach about a “7 mountain mandate” where each mountain represents a kingdom they need to take dominion over such as government, education, and media. How do they do that? By bringing revival. No, not by sharing the gospel but by bringing healing, eradicating poverty, reforming society, and undoing the works of the devil. He fails to see the only source of true revival: the truth of the gospel piercing and transforming the hearts of individuals. He ignores all passages about the last days being evil, the great falling away, judgement, and the way of Christ being narrow and unpopular.

Second, he teaches that we live in a second apostolic age. There are apostles on earth now that are equal to the apostles in Scripture that began the church and witnessed the life of Jesus. Bill Johnson claims to be one of them. They cannot be questioned and receive direct revelation, therefore he elevates his teachings to that of the apostle’s teaching in the Bible. He completely and totally denies the sufficiency of Scripture.

And finally, he teaches false theology about the person of Jesus Christ:

“He performed miracles, wonders, and signs as a man in a right relationship to God…not as God. If he performed miracles because He was God, then they would be unattainable for us. But if he performed them as a man, I am responsible to purse His lifestyle.” This is just one example of many of him teaching that Jesus emptied Himself of divinity when He came to earth. This is a massive heresy. Colossians 2:9 says “For in Him, the whole fullness of of deity dwells bodily” and if He was not God then His sacrifice on the cross would not have been a sufficient payment for our sins.

“Jesus bore stripes in His body through brutal beating as an atoning work to deal with the power of sickness and disease. Lord we give You thanks that You were willing to suffer the way you did to dis-empower disease, infirmity, and afflicting spirits” Bill teaches that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross gives us power over all sickness and disease. See 1 Peter 2:24, 1 John 3:5, and 1 Corinthians 15:3 to see why this is also heresy.

“God is in charge but not in control. He has left us in control.” Proverbs 19:1 and 21:1 are just two among many verses that refute that statement. He is absolutely in control of the entire universe including our lives.

He says that his “standard is Jesus” and that any interpretation of Scripture that doesn’t meet that standard is “theologically immoral”. There are “superior truths and inferior truths” such as ‘the judgement of God is true, the mercy of God is more true” and “anything you know about the nature of God that isn’t seen in the person of Jesus is an inferior truth”. 2 Timothy 3:16, John 17:17, and Psalm 119:160 are just a few among many verses that remind us that ALL Scripture is equally true. There are no inferior truths in Scripture.

We’ve only scratched the tip of the iceberg, friends. Let’s remember that the three main problematic theologies of the Bethel movement are Dominionism, belief in a second apostolic age, and a warped idea of who Jesus is and why He came to earth. There are more but these are enough for now. It’s time to turn our attention to how these unbiblical ideas manifest themselves in practical belief and practice.

First, they believe in healing. They do not simply believe that God can still perform miracles of healing today. Of course He does, if it’s in accordance with His will. And there are, as most of us know, denominations that believe that people still have gifts like speaking in tongues and healing today. (I personally do not, but that’s a topic for another day!) But this isn’t what Bethel believes either. They take it much further than that. They believe that healing is central to the gospel. That Jesus died to heal everyone of their physical pain, sickness, and poverty here on earth.

Bill Johnson preached a sermon on Galatians 2 where Paul tells the church that anyone who preaches a different gospel is accursed. Bill goes on to say that anyone who preaches a gospel that doesn’t include physical healing is preaching a different gospel and is therefore accursed. “I refuse to create a theology that allows for sickness” he tells the audience. He believes if something exists in heaven, it should exist on earth. So because there’s no sickness, pain, or poverty in heaven, that is what we can expect on earth. “We’re coming into a day where the presence of the Lord is so pronounced that everyone walking into the building will be healed…[it will be] a sustained reality in the church” he said recently in an interview.

Let’s just quickly go over a few of the many errors with this type of belief. First, there’s no death in heaven, right? So if we could truly bring heaven to earth, then we also should be able to eliminate death. Something Bethel has yet to accomplish or even mention. Secondly, he totally ignores passage after passage in the Bible that talks about death, suffering, and trials. About eternity being our only hope for freedom from sickness, death, and sin. The verse in Matthew 26:11 where Jesus says “the poor will always be with you.” Someone asked him about the book of Job and he simply replied “Scripture can’t correct my understanding of Jesus.” Excuse me? What he’s really saying is “Scripture can’t correct my understanding of the idol I have created and call Jesus.”

Finally, this belief says that if you aren’t healed, then you don’t have enough faith. I have read testimony after testimony of men and women that have left this movement after they had very real physical pain or sickness that wasn’t being healed. They were only told over and over that they lacked faith. Even Bethel has classes entitled “keeping your healing” since apparently often people think they were “healed” during a meeting only to see their physical problem return. Scripture is clear: faith is never measured by whether we are healthy or sick, poor or rich. True faith, according to Hebrews 11, is trusting and obeying the Word of God even when we can’t see.

Second, they believe in a very heretical type of prophesy. Bethel’s students are encouraged to “say anything” and soon they will be prophesying. Bill asked a group to tell him something they thought Jesus would say if He was sitting in the room with them. After each student answered, he applauded them for their prophesies. Their only qualification for prophesy is that it must be edifying and encouraging. They can’t say anything negative. (nevermind that there are plenty of negative prophesies in the pages of Scripture) Their head prophet, Kris Vallatton, boasts that about 80% of their prophesy is wrong and 20% is right. They conveniently ignore the passages where God says that no true prophet is ever wrong. Their version of prophesy sounds very similar to Jeremiah 23:16: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.”

Third and finally, they blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Their websites states that the “The Holy Spirit gives every believer the supernatural power to witness and release miracles, signs, and wonders.” These signs and wonders include things like holy laughter, grave sucking, communicating with angels, convulsing, and seeing the presence of God at their services in gold dust, holy clouds, and falling feathers. No scripture exists that tells us the Holy Spirit gives us supernatural power to “witness and release” signs and wonders or anything even slightly similar.

I could go on and on about how Bill thinks people can’t believe the gospel without signs and wonders. About fake, manipulated healing and “supernatural” events. About the way they treat people who aren’t healed and question their theology. About the demonic influence in their strange practices. About how Bill tells people to claim the promise of financial blessing. About how students left someone injured lie at the bottom of a cliff for hours while they tried to pray for his healing instead of call for help. We’ve only scratched the surface.

But the bottom line is this: Bill Johnson has created a counterfeit faith that is based on feelings and self instead of Scripture. This faith is all about what God can do for them. They tell God what they think is best instead of the other way around. This faith says that signs and wonders are how God manifests His love towards us instead of the cross. It creates an idol out of the Jesus they want instead of the Jesus that is revealed in Scripture. Bill Johnson purposefully manipulates and tricks and destroys. He picks and chooses which passages of the Bible he likes and twists them to say what he wants. He blasphemes the Holy Spirit. This faith he preaches, without a doubt, denies the truth of the gospel. And so, in conclusion, I recommend we all stay far away from him and his “faith.”

 

 

Please note: You can follow Jess on Instagram at anchor.for.the.soul and on Facebook at An Anchor for the Soul

Steven Furtick: A Biblical Evaluation

So I do realize that it is Saturday, contrary to what the photo says above. So let me explain. Many of you will remember that my daughter, Jess, wrote a guest post a couple of weeks ago about the series “The Chosen” (you can find that post here.) She has started Facebook and Instagram pages dedicated to the topic of discernment (I’ll put links to her pages below). Her goal is to hold popular teachers, authors, songs, and movements up to the light of the Word and to do so in a succinct way that makes sense to the average layperson.

Many of you have seen Jess’s posts on Facebook because I have been sharing them to the Growing4Life page. However, I was thinking about the fact that many of you are not on Facebook. And I was also thinking about how hard it can be to find posts on Facebook once they’ve been replaced by more current posts. It was with that in mind, that I asked her if she would mind if I re-posted what she writes here at Growing4Life. She kindly said yes.

I didn’t have time to do this yesterday so we are going to have a “False Teacher Friday” on a Saturday. :) This week, Jess examines Steven Furtick. Some of us may not have realized that Furtick and Elevation church are clearly unbiblical, while others of us do realize this but aren’t quite sure what exactly is wrong. I think this short post will be beneficial to all of you–

Steven Furtick is the pastor of Elevation Church in North Carolina. His multi-site church is one of the fastest growing churches in America with over 27,000 attendees. He claims God gave him a vision to start the church. His charismatic, emotion-driven speaking style has made him popular among many. You won’t find any glaring errors in the church’s statement of faith and he has the ability to mix in just enough truth with heresy so that it can be hard to pinpoint exactly where he gets it wrong. So let’s dig a little deeper and explore 4 reasons why I think we can classify him as a false teacher.

1: MAN-CENTERED PREACHING

Steven Furtick makes the Bible about you. Every Old and New Testament passage is about YOU. He ignores the context and jumps right to a meaning that is completely false. (fancy term for this is Narcigesis) Here are just a few examples of this:

David & Goliath– you are David, Goliath is your fears and insecurities. You have to defeat those fears and insecurities for God to bless your life.

Moses in Exodus 3:14– Steven writes “Perhaps God was sending Moses—and each of us—a message: don’t skip over the I am….when you go to church, usually you’re given a lot of handles on who God is….but often we don’t know who we are. See, it’s one thing to know who God is to you, but who are you to you? Maybe you can describe and define God, but does that sync up with how you describe and define yourself?”

The wall of Jericho– you need to get into God’s presence for perspective to see over the high walls in your life. And once you have an elevated perspective you will be “able to see past your problems and you will see that the enemy that you were intimidated by, was actually intimidated by you all along.”

The healing of the woman in Mark 5:25– she was consumed by her issue just as you are consumed by your issues or addictions. She didn’t wait for a touch from God, she went and touched God. If you need to feel God, you need to touch Him. She was healed by a thought, so too you can overcome your issues with “just a thought” about God.

I’m not making this stuff up. Not only does he misinterpret and misapply every single passage (I failed to find even one text interpreted and applied correctly in all the clips I watched), he doesn’t even come close to pulling out a Biblical application at all. There is no mention of sin (instead he uses words like problems, issues, addictions) or repentance. He uses the word blessing a lot but fails to explain that God’s blessing doesn’t come in the form of health, wealth, and worldly happiness. He completely fails to understand that the Scripture, from beginning to end, is about CHRIST. He never encourages his listeners to seek answers in the Bible. John 3:30 says that “I must decrease, He must increase” and all of Steven Furtick’s messages do the exact opposite of that.

2: UNBIBLICAL TEACHING IN HIS BOOK “UNQUALIFIED”

It is a book in response to a comment made about him being unqualified as a pastor. Instead of proving that he is Biblically qualified (he doesn’t talk about biblical standards of a pastor even once), he seeks to “find the answer within himself.” In a nutshell, the book suggests that all negative perceptions of ourselves are negative and “hinder our discovery of the self-esteem God wants for us.” He encourages us to figure out who we are, complete with an “I am” self-evaluation that includes 12 categories for sexuality and 6 categories for religion with no further explanation or evaluation of the answer you choose. “God believes in you, He loves everything there is to know about you.” Oh really? How about God loves us despite of who we are? He doesn’t love everything about us or He would love sin. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says that His power is made perfect in our weakness. The first stepping stone of the gospel includes a negative perception of ourself – our weakness, sinfulness, and unworthiness. If he doesn’t understand that, he doesn’t understand the gospel.

3: CORRUPTION OF THE GOSPEL

One of his messages is entitled “God broke the law for love” where he attempts to prove that the law was ineffective at redeeming mankind, so God broke it to save us. God did NOT break the law. The law isn’t ineffective at anything. It is holy, just, and good (Romans 7:12). It is our complete depravity that renders us incapable of keeping it. This is why God sent His Son, in love, to fulfill the law. Otherwise there would be no justice. Again, this proves he has no understanding of the true gospel.

4: STAGED BAPTISMS AND EXAGGERATED NUMBERS

I came across his guide book that explains “how to prepare the way for God to show up” in their spontaneous baptismal services. This includes planting 15 people in the audience to get up and walk toward the front with the “highest visibility and longest walk,” creating an atmosphere of excitement and celebration, having a live feed on twitter, and keeping the baptisms to less than 45 seconds. Does this sound like the biblical version of baptism to you? He also admits that his church leaders often exaggerate their baptismal and conversion numbers.

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And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He downplays the need for Bible study, saying “you don’t need all that fancy, special knowledge” and making fun of people who want to “stuff your face until you’re so obese spiritually that you can’t even move.” He openly proclaims that his church is for the unbeliever, which is in direct contradiction to John 21:17 and 1 Peter 5:2-3. He preached that the one thing Jesus can’t do is rise above your unbelief (see Daniel 4:35). His wife preaches sermons at his church. He teaches Modalism*. He says that nobody can believe Jesus is Lord “without a doubt.” He associates himself with many false teachers and speaks at conferences about using “God’s power to get wealth.”

Please keep in mind, this is not a judgement of him or his heart or his motivation. I am judging only what he has publicly said and comparing it to Scripture so that you can avoid what is contrary to the Word of God. It’s important that we don’t just know whose teaching is false but why it is false and I hope this helps you with that. If you’d like proof of what I said above, I’ll gladly provide the links if you contact me directly.

 

Guest Post by Jessica F
Anchor for the Soul

Find her Facebook page here
and her Instagram account here

 

*Modalism denies the Trinity and instead states that God is a single person who, throughout biblical history, has revealed Himself in three modes or forms. Find more about this heresy here.

 

Fighting Germs

The other week we flew down south to see our new granddaughter. On the way home, we had a stop in Atlanta and then we were finally on the last leg of our journey. On that final flight home, my husband and I looked around and noticed that we were surrounded by people that took virus protection very seriously. Three women scattered around us wore both face masks and face shields.

As we made our way off the plane an hour or two later, we stopped at the restroom. As I waited beside our luggage for my husband, I was quite amused (and a little concerned) to watch one of those women pull out disinfectant spray and spray it all over her husband, front and back. He then proceeded to do the same for her. Ummm…I don’t think that is what the spray is intended for.

It was funny but it was also sad. While protecting ourselves sensibly is smart, some people are so scared to die that they will go to great lengths to fight off and keep away from GERMS.

But while you have those extremes, you also have the rest of us. From those who wear face masks inside and outside of their homes 24/7 to those who are just using hand sanitizer a bit more, almost everyone is just a little more aware and concerned about germs.

I believe there is a spiritual parallel here that we shouldn’t ignore.

A few months ago a friend sent me an idea for a post. I had it at the back of my mind all summer as I’ve watched people obsess over their health. But the couple at the airport brought his idea front and center. He said this and I quote:

I was considering all that we have done to mitigate our exposure to a germ that is deemed dangerous to us. This germ is not unlike other germs that have been out there yet we have never gone to such lengths in our society. Even in the church we have gone to great lengths to limit our exposure to this germ. So while the church has went to such great lengths to mitigate its exposure to this germ that can harm our bodies, we constantly expose ourselves to “germs” of false teaching that can harm our faith. Even little issues (small germ) can cause great harm. Yet much of the church does little to warn people or even limit its own exposure.

Amen and amen!

Oh, how churches are spiritual germ-infested places. There is little concern for these spiritual germs that are infecting and killing off their sheep. One by one, many become sick as they read the books and listen to the sermons of false teachers and follow after false doctrines. And not a word is spoken. If someone dares to speak up to protect the sheep, they are viewed as divisive and unkind.

It is especially sad and concerning, given the lengths churches are going to protect the physical lives of their congregations. Don’t they realize that the spiritual health of the sheep is even more important than physical health?

But it isn’t only churches. It is true for us on an individual level, as well.

Are we as concerned about our spiritual health as we are our physical health? It is quite understandable to see those who have no idea what is happening to them after they die to be overly concerned about dying. That makes sense. But to see believers be more concerned about their physical health than they are about their spiritual health makes no sense at all.

Paul reminds us of what our priorities should be in I Timothy 4:7-8–

But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with giving effort to keeping our bodies healthy and protected from germs, our concern should be far greater for our spiritual health.

Is this what you are seeing in the lives of believers around you? Is this what you are demonstrating in your own life to those who are watching you?

These are questions worthy of reflection.

Satan is eating Christians alive because they are literally unconcerned about spiritual germs. He even has Christians believing that to point out those germs and to say anything negative about a false teacher is sinful. So now we have demonized watchmen in a crowd of earthly-minded believers.

Oh, dear readers, may we not be part of that “crowd”. May we pay attention to the watchmen and heed their warnings. May we be far more concerned about heavenly things and our spiritual health than we are about this life and our temporary, physical body.

For this is what scripture teaches us to do.

Colossians 3:1-3  If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 

Romans 16:17-20  Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord [d]Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and [e]simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

 

Revival: What It Is and What It Isn’t

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

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

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

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

(1) : a period of renewed religious interest

 
Dictionary.com gives this definition–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, of course, I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know:

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

How do I know this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think that is a great question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Loving a Lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

If I Shout Louder Than You, Does That Mean I’m Right?

Friday night we sat down to watch a very forgettable movie. It was based on a true story but it was disjointed, hard to follow, and, if I’m honest, pretty boring.

But sometime during that couple of hours, one of the main characters was having an argument with someone. As they loudly bickered, he finally stopped and said something very profound: “If I shout louder than you, does that mean I’m right?”

Don’t you feel like that’s what is going on? The people who are shouting the loudest are demanding they are right. They are ripping down statues and destroying property and demanding name changes and all others sorts of nonsense, in their quest to be acknowledged as “RIGHT”.

But they aren’t right.

It doesn’t matter how loud someone screams or how much ruckus they make or what kind of tantrum they throw. These things are irrelevant to what is right.

Interestingly enough, if we’d just stop and think for a moment and do our own research, we’d see that those who are shouting the loudest are, as a rule, against what is right.

Of course, we first have to know what is right. This can only happen through our knowledge of God’s Word. There is no other way.

Once we have a good handle on what the Word teaches, we then can discern if the latest, greatest movement or trend is a godly one. If it’s a right one or a wrong one.

But most people get stuck at the first thing. They don’t know what is right, nor do most care.

Do YOU care about what is right?

If you do, then you have a responsibility to dig in and see what’s really going on beneath the obvious before you choose where to stand on any issue–whether it be current events, a popular Christian author or speaker, or the latest trend.

Look past all that the media is spewing forth; look past the “Christian noise” (the deafening insistence of the many who are deceived and following the world); look past what you always thought was true. And then ask yourself “What is really right here, according to scripture?”

Over the weekend, one of my daughters told me of a conversation she had recently. The woman she was talking to told her the advice her father gave her when she was a girl: If everyone is going one way, you probably want to go the other. At the very least you need to investigate what’s going on before following the crowd.

What great advice. So few parents are teaching their kids this important principle. I, too, was taught that if it’s popular, it’s probably not right. If we understand this basic principle of the world, it will make discerning what’s right a whole lot easier.

Of course, what makes this so much more troublesome for us is our desire to be liked by others. We want to fit in, join the group, follow the crowd. To stand out is difficult and often painful.

Are you willing to pay this price? This is a question I have asked myself often. If we can honestly answer yes, then God will open our eyes to the truth and give us strength to bear up under the name-calling, antagonism, and loneliness. It’s not fun but it is so worth it.

I don’t know all that much about this world. But I do know the One who knows everything. And I choose to stand quietly with Him in the midst of all this noise, taking opportunities to defend what is right as He provides them. In the midst of all the compromise, in the midst of all the chaos, I don’t need to shout the loudest because God will fight for me. I don’t need to shout the loudest because I know how this ends.

 

 

Real Christianity

I was talking with someone recently and they were mentioning to me how most Christians seem to believe that the most important character trait any believer should have is that they are a “nice person”. While being nice is a good thing, being a Christian is so much more than just this. But, I, too, have found that “niceness” seems to trump telling the truth, forsaking the world, and even sharing the Gospel.

There is a real clash of philosophies going on currently. What makes it especially tragic is that this clash is taking place between two groups of people who would call themselves Christians.

One is right and one is wrong. We need to look in the Bible and study it to find out which is which.

It is only through the study of the Word that we can finally understand that Cultural Christianity is not Real Christianity. When someone calls himself a Christian, we must comprehend that there are two very different definitions for this word.

This became so clear to me as I prepared to speak on this topic last weekend for the women of a small Baptist Church. I thought I’d like to share some of what I learned here today.

What is Real Christianity? And how is it different than Cultural Christianity? Let’s take a look–

First, Christianity is based on the Bible alone. God’s Word is the authority for our faith, and this authority is derived from the fact that God has complete authority and He tells us that the Bible is His Word. (see I Thess 2:13; Romans 13:1; Matthew 28:18)

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Here we find a faith that is based on experiences, feelings, and emotions. We hear things like “God told me” or “God wants me to be happy”. The Bible quickly shrank in importance and influence as the focus of this false religion turned towards these things.

Second, Christianity is a rational, logical faith. It makes sense. It is based on a rational understanding of scripture. While there are some things that are mysteries to us, these things are not irrational. We are called to use our minds (and not shut them off) when we are saved. (see I Corinthians 2:16; Ephesians 4:22-23; 2 Timothy 1:7)

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Where we find a religion that is based on mysticism. Doctrine, Theology, and Bible Study are discouraged, as the focus turns towards the subjective and the sensual. It doesn’t have to make sense. Holy living and separation from the world is scoffed at and deemed unnecessary while special messages, visions, and impressions become the litmus test of true faith. A rational understanding of sin and repentance and salvation is irrelevant in a religion that makes experience the only thing that matters.

Third, Man is a sinner. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves right with God or to earn eternal life. (See Romans 3:10-12; Isaiah 64:6)

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Which teaches that man is basically good. The only thing he really needs Jesus for is to fix his problems. How often have you heard a CCM song or blogger talk about how beautiful and worthy you are? That is one of the easiest red flags to spot in cultural Christianity.

Fourth, Salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone. There is no other way to God (John 14:6), it is not of works (Romans 3:27-28), and it must be understood and acknowledged by the person (John 3:16).

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Where we will find a variety of heresies regarding this. First, we will see many religions accepted as “Christian” that require works. Religions such as Catholicism, Mormonism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are clearly false, since they require works in addition to Jesus’s finished work on the cross. We will also find the heresy of Universalism, which says that all men are saved, whether or not they know Jesus personally. The author of The Shack has publicly acknowledged that this is what he believes and yet his books are still labeled “Christian”. That’s because it is a cultural Christian book but certainly not a biblical one.

Fifth, Christianity is God-Centered. Our choices, decisions, and life direction should all be based on what will most please God. We desire to submit to His will in all things. We are willing to sacrifice our own desires in order to live a godly life. (See Romans 12:1 and Galatians 2:20)

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Here we find a self-centered religion filled with mantras like “Follow your dreams” and “Find your purpose”. It is in this kind of Christianity, people rationalize their sin because they are their first priority. God is to bend to their wishes and desires and they call on him to do their bidding like one would call on a fairy godmother or magic genie.

Sixth, Christ calls us to live a holy and pure life. (I Peter 1:13-16). We strive to live a godly life filled with the fruit of the Spirit (Romans 12:9-12; Galatians 5:22-26), decrease sin in our lives (Romans 6:12-14), and to separate from the world (James 4:4 and I John 2:15).

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Where we find that relevance is all that matters. Separation from the world and holy living are viewed as negative and legalistic, while the “be like the world to win the world” is the only form of evangelism. (Which is obviously not working, by the way. Because this method is not found in scripture. Anywhere.)

Seventh, Christianity is about the cross. Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross for our sin and his resurrection and victory over death is the message of Christianity. It is what happened at the cross that makes us right with God and gives us the promise of eternal life. (see Romans 5:10, I Corinthians 5:18-19)

As opposed to Cultural Christianity: Where we find a false religion that is centered on finding personal purpose, understanding my worth, or making the world a better place.

 

And so you can so obviously see that, when we actually sit down and open our Bibles and do a comparison, these two religions–although going by the same name–are nothing alike. In fact, they are polar opposites.

One centers on God. The other centers on man.

One has a high view of God and a low view of man. The other has a low view of God and a high view of man.

They are two separate religions. Two separate and utterly different religions.

So don’t be fooled.

I encourage you to keep these differences in mind as you talk with fellow believers, evaluate materials for your home or church, bring in special speakers, choose what books to read, what pastor to listen to, or what radio station to turn on.

Be diligent, be steadfast, be cautious.

 

Test all things; hold fast what is good.

I Thessalonians 5:21

 

Sometimes Chairs Break

The other night I was sitting with a friend on a porch swing that has been in our backyard for many years. In my arms I held my youngest grandson in my lap and I was leaning him down in front of me and then pulling him back up to make him laugh. We were having a grand old time when, quite suddenly and without any warning at all, the swing pulled away from its anchor and we landed on the ground.

Other than a jolt to my back, we were all okay. I was so very thankful that, in God’s Providence, the swing had crashed when my grandson was up and not down. It could have ended much worse.

I rubbed my back a bit and my friend and I went on with our evening, but there was lesson in what happened and it did not elude me for very long.

Swings break. Chairs break. Things we have trusted to hold us sometimes don’t hold us. They may break quite suddenly, like what happened to me on Saturday night. Or they may slowly start to erode away in the elements until one day you realize the chair is no long trustworthy.

This same thing can happen with people. Leaders. Singers. Authors. Preachers. Pastors. Churches.

Just because they have been trustworthy for a million years does not mean that they are incapable of slipping or changing direction. We need to understand that just because someone has had a wonderful ministry for many years does not automatically keep them immune from making a bad decision or falling away completely.

I have especially noticed undying, passionate loyalty among certain camps within evangelicalism. There is a seriously unhealthy idolization of these men and women that breeds a serious lack of discernment.

Currently, the joining of the true teachers with the false teachers is taking place in all circles and camps. I can’t think of one that has not been compromised in this way.

While I have been watching this kind of thing happening in overdrive over the past few years from most corners of modern day evangelicalism, it’s now also happening with teachers I’ve trusted for many years to stand firm to the end.

What is going on? And why are they doing this? There is just no possible way to answer these questions.

However..

Just like we need to realize that sometimes we need to stop trusting the chair that holds us, so, too, we need to understand that men we have trusted for years are capable of leading us down a wrong road. When someone makes a really bad choice to partner with a false teacher or to say something that isn’t biblical or to promote a new age author, this should raise red flags– no matter who they are. It should lead us to be just a bit more cautious and a lot more watchful. Is this a one-time bad decision or is this a direction they are going? Only time will tell. But if we close our eyes to it, we are making ourselves so very vulnerable.

The fall I took when that swing dropped was a hard one and it could have been so much worse. It could have been avoided had we realized the swing was in need of repair. Sometimes we can’t see things coming and we are caught off-guard. But sometimes we can. If God opens our eyes to an inconsistency or false teaching or a bad choice by someone we have trusted, then we must be willing to face that fact bravely and without rationalizing it away.

Does this mean you never use the chair again? Not necessarily. Some chairs must be cast aside because they are beyond repair. But sometimes chairs can be fixed. Occasionally, someone will recognize their error and return to truth. This doesn’t happen often but it does happen. One bad choice or one partnership with darkness does not make a heretic. We don’t want to be head hunters.

The main point of this post is to challenge you to only be perfectly loyal to God and His Word. No man or woman deserves our loyalty to the point where we rationalize unwise and even sinful choices. No human deserves this kind of loyalty. (If they are truly following Jesus Christ, they don’t even want this kind of loyalty). I’ve said this often but I see this as a really big problem as we navigate this confusing time of compromise and wrong choices made by people we have trusted for so many years.

I am growing less and less enamored with anyone that has a platform. I see a huge level of joining together with false teachers across the board. Ecumenism is worming its way into all areas of evangelicalism. I can’t think of one that has not been affected.

So if you don’t take anything else away from this post, I beg you to remember this–

Sometimes chairs break. We trust them but sometimes they break.

This is a very important thing to keep in mind as we navigate the strange synthesis of those who have a history of adhering to biblical doctrine joining with those that clearly don’t.

Just in case you think I am a little over-the-top, I remind you of these important verses–

I Timothy 6:3-5 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the [a]doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, [b]useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. [c]From such withdraw yourself.

Please Note: We are to withdraw from false teachers–not invite them to conferences.

 

Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather [c]expose them.

Please Note: We are to expose false doctrines–not pretend like they don’t exist.

 

2 Timothy 3:5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

Please Note: We are to turn away from those that pretend to be godly but don’t do things according to God’s Word–not join with them at conferences.

 

Romans 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 

Please Note: We are to avoid them–not quote them in our books.

 

Look, let me say one more time–I am not judging motives or hearts. But I think if we are going to be honest, we have to say there is something wrong here. Men and women who have taught that it is not right to join with false teachers are turning around and doing what they have preached against. It doesn’t Make. Any. Sense.

Get frustrated with me. Or call me negative. Or cancel your subscription to Growing4Life. None of those things changes the facts. Chairs are breaking and eroding all over the place and the only people that get ridiculed and bullied are the ones who actually acknowledge that it is happening and venture to ask a couple of questions.

There is no way to know who is making an innocent mistake and who knows exactly what they are doing and we can’t even begin to guess. But we should acknowledge that, for whatever reason, it is happening.

So stay in the Word and give your loyalty to God alone. Don’t rationalize away a bad choice. Acknowledge it and stay watchful. God is faithful and will keep us on the narrow path, if we but trust in Him alone to lead us.

 

The Common Denominators

What are the commonalities that all false religions share? If we understand these things, it will help us to easily determine if anyone’s religion is true or false–even those that would use the vernacular of scripture (God, Christ, etc.) It is important to remember that using the name of Jesus does not give any religion a free pass. Oftentimes–in fact, most times–they are not talking about the Jesus of the Bible.

My husband is currently teaching a series on world religions in our Sunday School class at church. He gives the history and then shows us how they differ from what the Bible teaches. Personally, I am finding it extremely helpful. I never really knew what these religions believe or how far off they were from scripture.

Today he talked about Jehovah’s Witnesses and something really struck me.  Let me give a bit of background first: The founder of the J.W. religion, Charles Taze Russell, just decided–as an 18 year old–that he didn’t care for what the Bible said and so he decided to just make up a religion of his own. Using verses out of context and twisting them all round, he came up with what would become one of the main cults of this current age, impacting at least 255 different countries across the world.

One of the things he didn’t like from the Bible was its teaching that men who rejected Christ would go to hell. And so he just changed it. In his religion there is no hell.

And this is what struck me: All false religions create a god of their own making and to their own taste.

As I thought on this further, I realized that they have more than that in common. Let’s take a look at four of these commonalities–

First, and foremost, they rely on works. A false religion always, always, always teaches that one must do something in order to attain heaven. Oh, some will say that it’s grace plus works (such as Catholicism and Mormonism) but there are always works involved. Whether it’s the meditation of the Buddhist or the idol worship of the Hindu or the five daily prayers of the Muslim or the praying to Mary or the Saints of the Catholics or the required door-to-door witnessing of the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses (just to mention a very few of the many, required works of these false religions)–all false religions require works. One cannot possibly be saved without them.

In contrast, consider the wonderful news of scripture! Ephesians 2:8-9 could not make it any clearer–

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

It is through faith in Christ alone that we are saved by God’s grace alone. No works. Nothing we can do. It is a free gift. Christianity is the only true religion and we can know this because it is the only religion where God reaches down and saves us of His own accord.

Prideful man can hardly fathom that he is so sinful that there is nothing he can do to reach God. And so he strives and works and wrongly thinks he’s looking pretty good in God’s eyes–when all he would have to do is simply repent and accept God’s gift.

Secondly, false religions turn to human wisdom and create a God of their own making. Instead of turning to the reliable Word of God, they turn to their own thoughts, visions, dreams, and minds to create and develop their own religion. Search the roots of any false religion anywhere and you will find a man who one day decided that he knew more about God than anyone else. A prideful man who thought he knew the truth.

This is one of the main reasons I just love the Word of God. Our faith is based on the Word, not on any man. The Bible was written by many men as the Holy Spirit directed them (2 Peter 1:21). And yet, even with so many different human authors, by God’s miraculous plan, this one book, upon its completion, was consistent and cohesive in every way. A never-changing guide for believers throughout all the ages. We can rest confidently on its truths and doctrines. God has given us His truth within its pages. He is King of the universe and it is our duty to obey. It is outright rebellion to determine that we don’t like this doctrine or that one. We are simply his subjects. All people are–whether they want to admit it or not.

Of course, in a culture obsessed with independence, most people are not going to bow to anyone–even God. No one is going to tell them what they can and cannot do or where they can and cannot go. And, so along with the outright rebellion of the world, we also have those who claim to be Christians changing and twisting long-held doctrines of the scripture. It’s under the umbrella of “evangelicalism” that we now hear of major doctrines being changed to cater to “felt needs”. Perhaps these changes are also being made to cater to the evil world we live in rather than bear the brunt of their hatred, should we disagree.

Thirdly, false religions always by-pass, minimize, or ignore the cross. The Bible teaches us that our salvation come through the sacrifice of  Jesus Christ on the cross. There is no salvation without His sacrifice. There is no other way for us to be reconciled to God (I Timothy 2:5). But false religions make very little of the cross. Some bypass it completely and change who Jesus was. They say He was a prophet or a wise teacher. Others will give lip service to the cross but the thrust of the religion is in works. Jesus isn’t enough. When you want to see if a religion is false, look at the place of the cross.

This is one of the ways we can know that the current false religion that goes by the name of “Christianity” is a false religion. They have completely minimized the cross and the Word of God (more on that below) in favor of mystical experiences. It is based on feelings instead of facts; on personal experiences instead of actual reality; on relativity instead of absolute truth.

Fourthly, false religions always by-pass, twist, or minimize the Bible. Since the inception of biblical Christianity (the book of Acts is the beginning) the focus of this true religion has been on the Word of God. As mentioned above, we will find all we need for life there (2 Timothy 3:16). The Word is living and powerful and a discerner of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). It is there we read about God’s plan for man’s salvation (John 3:16). Without it, we are powerless creatures vulnerable to any direction a false religious leader may take us.

This is why you will find that all false religions either bypass the Bible altogether (such as Buddhism and Hinduism), override its doctrines by providing sacred documents of their own (such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses), or minimize scripture by teaching its followers that they cannot and should not read the scriptures for themselves (such as Catholics and Amish).

This last one is so critical. This is because, while a false religion that looks fairly close to Christianity can still fool us on the first three for a little while, this fourth one becomes clear immediately. Whenever the focus is taken off of the Word or the Word is taken out of context to meet some speaker or author’s agenda, our “antenna” should immediately go up. This is usually the first area of compromise.

We have seen this in the mainstream church over the past several years. Does the Bible really teach ______________? We don’t like that so let’s remove it. We need a new “interpretation” for a more advanced culture so let’s change _________________.  Pulling verses out of context, we hear the false message that God wants you to be healthy and rich.

Over and over we are seeing this. So if you want to know if someone is caught up in a false religion (even if it is called “Christianity”) look here first. What is the place of the Word in their lives? What is its place in their church? In the books they are reading? I can almost guarantee you that its place will be minimal–if it has any place at all.

I hope that this post will help you be able to spot a false religion more easily. It really is pretty easy to discern if we look at these four things. What is not easy at all is reconciling ourselves to the truth that people we love may be caught up in these false religions. That’s the hard part.

Know and study the Word as you stand for Christ and a true biblical faith. Don’t ignore or back down, but lovingly show others how their false religion doesn’t line up with scripture as God gives opportunities. This is how we plant seeds of truth.

While most of those seeds will fall on hard hearts, a few of them will grow. We may not realize it until we reach heaven–but a few of those tenderly planted seeds will grow.

 

 

When God Doesn’t Say Yes

Do you think God is playing favorites when He heals some people and not others? Do you believe that you are somehow inferior spiritually if His answer to you isn’t yes?

While you might say confidently that you don’t believe that, I am afraid that sometimes we lean towards believing like this without really thinking about it. We feel forgotten and neglected and we think that somehow we did something wrong to bring on special punishment from God.

But this just isn’t true. While we do sometimes reap the consequences of sinful choices, not all bad things that happen to us or those we love have to do with our sin or lack of faith. And when God gives an answer to prayer that we don’t like it doesn’t mean He is mad at us. How can I be sure of this? Because the Bible tells me so.

If we take a walk through scripture, we pretty quickly see that many godly men and women were afflicted by many sore trials and tribulations. We all are familiar with Job, who went through terrible afflictions for reasons unknown to him at the time. We read of Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel, who suffered with infertility and then died during the birth of her second son. We know about Ruth, who lost her husband and traveled with her mother-in-law to a foreign land, leaving behind everything she has ever known.

We read of Daniel and his friends, who were uprooted from their lives and taken on a pagan King’s order to live in his court. There they experienced many temptations and trials. God did not remove the trials, but walked through the trials with them.

We read of Jeremiah, who was God’s special prophet to the people of Israel and yet they hated him. They hated him so much they sought to attack him (Jeremiah 18:18) and put him to death (Jeremiah 26:24). He was speaking for God and was persecuted unmercifully.

As we move to the New Testament, we find countless more examples of godly people who endured terrible trials.  All of Jesus’s disciples except John were martyred for their faith. John himself was exiled to the island of Patmos, to live out the rest of his days far from his beloved home and family. Paul suffered many great things before finally being martyred by the evil Roman emperor Nero. (Read more about the apostles here).

I’ve only mentioned a few from scripture. There is not enough room here to mention every person in the Bible who suffered miserable trials and violent deaths. So why did God allow so much heartache and pain in the lives of those who were sincerely seeking to follow Him? Was He angry at them? Did He want to punish them? Or did He have other reasons?

The answer, of course, is yes, there are other reasons and no, God isn’t mad at us. I believe this biblical answer is two-fold–

First, God is God and will do as He pleases for His glory and His purposes. We grow proud and insist that we must understand the “why”.  If we can’t see how it is all working together then we assume it must all be pointless and cruel.

But Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that God’s ways are higher than our ways–

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Deuteronomy 29:29 also puts us back into our place as loyal subject and servant to the Great and Almighty King of the Universe–

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

God is God. We are His to do with as He chooses for His own purposes. We can submit or we can rebel. But it doesn’t change the fact that He is the King of all Creation. And He uses many things to accomplish His purposes, including disease, death, and tragedy.

Second, if we are saved, this world is not our home. As believers we recognize that we are simply pilgrims in a foreign land. We are weary travelers that have much to look forward to. Our best life isn’t now but is still to come! Hebrews 11:13-16 reminds us of this so beautifully–

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off  were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

Notice the first sentence of these verses: These all died in faith. Every one of them died, just as every one of us will, as well. We are born to die. It is life in this fallen world. But those of us who have faith, have a very different future ahead of us. For we have defeated death! (I Corinthians 15:55-57) And we desire a better, heavenly country.

When we turn our focus to our eternal perspective, it changes how we view temporal trials. Oh, it doesn’t take the hurt away but it is a comfort. Our trials are temporary and serve a greater purpose–one that we cannot always see or understand. And we realize that the entirety of our life here on earth–all of the joy, the pain, the pleasure, the sorrow–is but a moment in our eternity.

From studying the scriptures we recognize that trials are a part of life. All lives. And that a godly person is not released from them simply because they follow Christ. But we also can see in His Word that God hasn’t left us without hope. He walks with us through the trial, giving us abundant grace and bountiful mercy.

Sometimes we ask for the storm to calm or the trial to cease but God chooses to say no. This doesn’t mean He has deserted us or is angry with us. Instead, we can confidently know that He has a higher purpose and we can be assured that He will walk with us every step of the way.

So why do some people still insist that when God tells you NO you must be a weak Christian?

Nothing in scripture would indicate this anywhere. So we have to assume they are getting this vain philosophy from the teachings of man.

And, actually, we don’t have to dig very long before finding it. A quick google search revealed several sites run by familiar names and ministries that insist that it is God’s will to physically heal all sick Christians, while deplorably mangling God’s Word in their attempts to back up their premise. This is a blatant falsehood that is slithering its way even into the evangelical church. It is most disturbing because it is NOT TRUE!

We know from God’s Word that we will have trials, we know from His Word that we will get sick and die, we know that we will be persecuted–sometimes unto death. We live in a fallen world. Evil abounds. And all of us, at one time or another, will feel the sting of pain and death. It cannot be avoided–no matter how much a false teacher promises that it can.

I just want to conclude by encouraging you to stay in the Word. There are so many false teachers out there and if we listen to them we can grow quickly discouraged. Is it not incredibly disillusioning to believe that we will be healed if we have enough faith–and then not experience healing? How many seedling faiths has Satan destroyed by this devilish movement?

Know the Word. Know the Word. Know the Word.

By doing so, we can quickly identify that healing is not always granted. We understand immediately that Christians aren’t promised to be free of trials. (In fact, if anything, they are promised extra trials and persecution for following Jesus. John 15:20). And it’s only through knowing the Word that we can recognize if what is being said to us is twisted, out of context, and inconsistent with the rest of scripture. It truly is our only protection.

And so what does scripture have to say about my initial questions? Is God playing favorites when He heals some and not others? We know without a shadow of a doubt that the answer is NO. And are you spiritually inferior if God says NO to your prayer for healing or relief from a trial? And, of course, we can answer that with a rousing NO, as well.

We can rest assured that God deeply loves us and holds us in His hand–no matter how He chooses to answer our prayers. I will end with these very encouraging verses from Psalm 37:3-4–

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

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