spiritual growth

What Color Is Your Sky?

If I tell you the sky is blue on a bright summer day, you will probably agree. But there may be some out there who simply disagree. In their world the sky is purple or pink or chartreuse. Years ago, we would have recognized that this is a wrong answer. But now, we are supposed to give credence to any answer. No one is wrong. In fact, the greatest sin you can commit is to tell someone they are wrong.

We can see how this belief that there is no absolute truth has eroded the culture to a point of what I believe to be no return. The world we live in and the world that is our future (if the Lord tarries) will not be the world we grew up in. That is becoming clearer every day in a myriad of ways.

But this belief is also eroding the church. We can see this when someone points out error according to scripture and the messenger is attacked rather than the error dealt with. In the minds of most Christians, which have been molded to worldly thinking, it is more wrong to point out the error than the error itself. This response happens so often to those who stand for the truth and there is so rarely support or defense from even like-minded Christians, that eventually those who speak up often lose courage and just stop. The attacks are just too painful to bear alone.

And so I want to address this problem from both sides today. From the side of the hearer, as well as from the side of the speaker of the truth. How should this actually work from a biblical standpoint? Both sides have responsibilities if the Church (all believers) is to function well. And all of us should find ourselves on both sides on occasion. (May we never be found only a hearer or only a speaker. That right there will lead to serious dysfunction within the church body.)

According to scripture the hearer has some responsibilities–

➊ We are to test all things. No matter what it is, we are to test it and determine if it is true or false (I Thessalonians 5:21).

➋ We are to avoid those who teach a doctrine contrary to what we have learned; we are to abandon anyone who would not be teaching the truth (Romans 16:17).

➌ We are to recognize that there is but one true Gospel and that, sadly, many are trying to pervert that Gospel, yielding a multitude of false gospels. We must keep our eyes open and be a bit of a skeptic when something is called “Christian” (Galatians 1:6-11).

➍ We are to compare all things to scripture, following the example laid out for us in scripture by the Bereans (Acts 17:11).

➎ We are to be humble and teachable and willing to hear what someone has to say before getting defensive (I Peter 5:5).

➏ We are to recognize that God gave some the gift of discernment –literally the ability to distinguish between the spirits– as a gift to the Church; we should be thankful for this gift and pay attention when they are brave enough to speak up (I Corinthians 12:10).

➐ We are to be kind and loving to the speaker, even when we don’t agree with them. A Christian sibling speaking something we don’t like or don’t agree with is not our enemy (I Corinthians 13:4-7).

➑ We must recognize that it is our duty to protect the truth and that sometimes we must call out and break from those who call themselves a part of us when they show themselves to be wolves in sheep’s clothing; not all who claim to be Christ’s are genuine (I John 2:19, Ephesians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 11:14).

➒ Even if we don’t feel knowledgeable or brave enough to speak up ourselves, we should offer support to those who are; we must love and protect and support our brothers and sisters in Christ who stand for what is right (I Peter 1:22).

 

According to scripture, the speaker of the truth also has some important things to consider before we ever open our mouths (or set our fingers to typing)–

➊ We must be humble and teachable and, in fact, even more so as we try to correct or call out those who are in opposition to the truth (2 Timothy 2:25).

➋ When addressing false doctrine and false teachers, we must stick to the facts of actions and words, rather than attacking the person of whom we are speaking (Titus 3:2).

➌ We must acknowledge that we don’t know everything (this goes back to being humble but it is SO important that it bears repeating). We dare not be wise in our own opinions. Arrogance is just…ugly (Romans 12:16).

➍ These things that God has opened our eyes to should break our hearts. We must have so much grace for others, constantly remembering our own sinful hearts and always remembering that “but for the grace of God, go I”! (I Corinthians 15:10).

➎ We must speak and act in love always, understanding that if we speak up without love we are like sounding brass or a clanging cymbal (I Corinthians 13:1-3).

➏ We are to love those who just can’t see. Those who are blinded and have set themselves up as our enemies. The saddest thing of all is when these come from within our local churches and sometimes even our families. The pain of this can be almost unbearable sometimes and yet we must choose to love (Matthew 5:43-44).

➐ We must forgive. We dare not grow bitter or hold a grudge against someone who has treated us unkindly or condescendingly. This will yield very bad fruit–not only in our personal lives but also within the church body (Matthew 6:14-15).

➑ We must continue to pray steadfastly. Praying that God would open the eyes of those who are blind (recognizing that He is the only one who can!); praying that He would give us wisdom when to speak and when to just keep quiet; praying that He would give us love for others that supersedes their treatment of us; praying for courage and boldness and fortitude to say what others are too fearful to say (Colossians 4:2).

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We are ALL either hearers or speakers of the truth. Ideally, we are both of these things at various times. May we both hear and speak as scripture would have us do so. The world would tell us to get angry at and ugly with those with whom we disagree. It would tell us to speak up indiscriminately and without forethought. Basically, the world would have us do both things all wrong. We can see this all around us–on social media, by the water cooler at work, on the sidelines of athletic events, and anyplace the world hangs out.

If the world is doing it one way, we will want to do it another way. And that way is found in the Bible –where we can find clear principles for both hearing and speaking that will pave the way to purify, build up, and unify the Body of Christ.

 

P.S. The sky IS blue on a bright summer day. 2+2 always equals 4. And all babies are born as a girl or as a boy. Let’s not get caught up in the lie that there are no absolutes. It is a deadly lie that has many casualties. But that’s a post for another day…

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SO WHO IS REALLY A HERO?

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Reward of Work

Movement caught my eye as I sat on the porch. I looked up a bit to the right and saw a robin sitting in the “y” of a branch. She had something in her mouth and was busily moving around. I realized that I was watching her build a nest right then and there. It was the coolest thing.

She would take the longest time to get the bit of string or grass in her mouth situated at the right place and then fly off to find another one. Sometimes it would fall from her mouth and she would have to fly down and pick it back up again and start the process all over again. Sometimes she would put a piece of fuzz one place and then move it, rearranging it until it was in the perfect spot. When I went to check on her a few hours later, I found her nest about half done. And then, a day or two later, I found her faithfully sitting on her nest. In fact, she is there right now, as I type here on my porch this morning. I look forward to seeing her care for her babies and watching them grow.

God has designed birds in an amazing way. How does that bird know what to do? Isn’t that incredible?? Do you think she wakes in the morning and says to herself, “I don’t feel like building a nest today. I think I will wait until tomorrow.”? Birds are driven by instinct, as are all other animals. They do what they are driven to do, through the intricate and intelligent way they have been designed by their Creator.

What I saw last week was a bird doing what she knew she had to do. It took so much work but she faithfully brought piece after piece after piece and then arranged them carefully with her mouth. Because that’s what birds do. The reward of her work was a masterfully created nest that was just what she would need to lay her eggs and then care for her babies.

Sometimes I think we humans are too smart for our own good. Because we can think and reason, we often end up thinking and reasoning ourselves out of work.

And, while we are seeing a sharp decrease in those who want to do any kind of work at all, I wanted to focus specifically on the work of relationships.

My girls and I will sometimes talk about the work of raising kids. My oldest daughter has three boys, my middle daughter has two girls,  and my daughter-in-law has a girl with another one arriving any day (I am so excited to meet her!) We will often discuss how it is so much easier (at least in the short run) to let things slide than it is to go to the child and deal with it. How you have to deny your own selfish desires in order to do what’s right.

Lazy parenting will never yield good results. We can’t parent by our feelings. Because we will never feel like disciplining them. We will often feel tired, making us want to say no to their requests to play with them. We will feel like it is easier to do the job ourselves instead of having them come along side us to do the dishes or help feed the animals or mow the lawn. We don’t often feel like having the hard conversations about God and sex and all of those other awkward questions kids have because we might not have the answers and finding the answers takes time. All of these things take work. A LOT of work. We must do the hard work in order to be an effective parent. There is no other way.

The same holds true for marriage. Marriage takes work. It takes putting ourselves aside and doing what is loving and kind, even if we don’t feel like it. It’s spending time with one another even–or maybe especially–when a million other things are calling our names. It’s going the extra mile and forgiving over and over again. Block by block, year after year. Like the robin, we keep going. Like that string falling to the ground, we, too, will have setbacks. We will struggle but we keep working. Because we know the work will yield an amazing reward.

(Of course, that specific reward of a healthy marriage can only come if both are willing to do the work. I know that some of you reading this are probably not in that situation and so you will have a different reward. You will have the invaluable reward of living in obedience to Jesus Christ in the midst of really hard.)

And so parenting and marriage take work. Our flesh just wants everything to be easy. We don’t want to have to intentionally plan. Life is easier when we can just coast (although that “easier” is temporary). The bottom line is that we just can’t have healthy relationships without giving effort and doing the work.

And that is true for our relationship with God, as well.

We can’t think we are going to be spiritually healthy if we only give God an hour on Sundays. That is like eating once a week.

We can’t honestly believe that we are going to be close to God without ever reading His Word. That is like receiving a letter from someone we say we love and yet never opening it.

We can’t believe we are close to God just because we feel like we are when that worship song comes on. That is deception.

Prayer and Bible Study take work. But they yield incredible results in the life of every believer if done with a humble heart that desires to obey. The power for the Christian life is in these things and yet so many just aren’t willing to do the hard work.

I, myself, was not willing to do this for many years. My own life is a testimony to the power of God’s Word at work in a believer. Small step by very small step. It’s not instant, by any means, and the further you go the further you know you have to go, so that generally keeps the pride at bay. The more you study God’s Word, the more your eyes are opened to just how sinful you really are. And the more you realize how sinful you are, the more you understand just how precious the gift of salvation is. It truly is that “pearl of great price” that Matthew talks about in chapter 13.

But none of this can happen without work. Many are willing to work at jobs, careers, hobbies, and friendships but, for some reason, aren’t willing to invest in the things that matter most– spiritual health and precious families.

Of course, I recognize that most of my readers here are cognizant of the work involved in a life well-lived and are faithfully–if not perfectly–doing their best each day. So I hope that this post is an encouraging reminder to keep building the nest the Lord has set before you. May we remember our most important investments. And then do the hard work of preparing both ourselves and our dearest loved ones for all eternity. The reward will be tremendous and we will never regret it.

 

 

How We Shouldn’t Be (and Should Be) Changed in 2020 (PART 2)

A couple of weeks ago, I took some time to consider some ways we shouldn’t let the unprecedented, overwhelming, and strange events of 2020 change us. Although that post didn’t garner a lot of interest, I believe it is a very important post. Sometimes we are changed in the wrong ways before we even realize it. But all that is going on should be changing us–just in the right way!

If any of us attended a biblical church in the 70s and 80s, when biblical prophecy was both promoted and studied with enthusiasm, then we recognize the enormity of what is going on here. I am making no predictions and I have no timeline, but anyone who is familiar with Revelation has to understand that this isn’t just like any other past world event. It’s bigger. It’s broader. It’s taking us right into the Revelation 13 scenario that always seemed so far away. And yet, here it is: Right here and right now.

As we reflect on all of this, it should be changing us in several ways. Some of these changes have probably happened naturally to us as we have processed all of this, but some of these take a little more intention. As with any year, we never want to get to the end of it without seeing strong growth in our walk with the Lord. 2020 has probably caused this growth a bit more naturally for us as we’ve had to contemplate some really hard things. And some of you have also endured some really hard things. Life was definitely different this year.

So how should this strange year be changing us?

1. We should gain a new perspective. As I sat on the porch with my sister-in-law a few weeks ago, our conversation went to these current events. Both of us agreed that our priorities had changed with this whole thing. Suddenly, certain things that had seemed so important had gone down several notches on the list. Many things have claimed our attention in this world, haven’t they? Fashion, an obsession with a spotless house, useless hobbies, extra-curricular activities for ourselves and for our children and so many more shallow things have demanded our attention and taken so much of our time. While these things aren’t wrong in and of themselves, they may have had the wrong priority in our lives and in the lives of our families. But this year has demanded we take another look at these things and should be giving us a new perspective on our time and energy and how we are expending them.

2. This should change our expectations. Most of us Christians have gotten used to being treated fairly well by others. But we can feel this changing, can’t we? It’s been changing slowly for many years but this year it has taken on warp speed. We know the Bible says that the world will hate us (John 15:18-19) but up until now we haven’t felt too much hatred. The part that makes this extra hard is that so many “Christians” are actually part of the world. And so we feel ostracized and ridiculed by those who would call themselves our brothers and sisters in Christ. However, upon a little further investigation, we can see that they are serving a different Christ. The remnant that is remaining true to God’s Word is shrinking dramatically during this time and that’s just how the Bible said it would be. As we endure and come to expect the hatred that is growing quickly now for those who hold to the literal understanding of God’s Word, may we remember we are in good company. Jesus and His disciples were also hated by many.

3. Gratitude should be increasing. Do you, like me, now have a deeper appreciation for the many simple blessings in life that before were taken for granted? Going to church, getting together with family and friends, store shelves filled with goods, going to a restaurant or store freely and without a face mask, and so many more things. When we realize that something we took for granted can be taken from us by the declaration of a pandemic or at the whim of a tyrannical leader, oh, how our gratitude for those things should increase. But not only those things. Don’t you find yourself appreciating your child’s (or grandchild’s) happy laughter so much more? Even a walk in the woods or a sunset seems to hold more glory than ever before. And God’s Word has become even more precious. If I can thank 2020 for anything, it is for the renewed appreciation of the things that really matter.

4. We should have a new courage, boldness, and urgency in sharing the Gospel. Have you felt it, too? An urgency to cast aside what people think about you in your passion to share the Good News? Suddenly, it doesn’t seem as if we have forever to share with that neighbor or friend. That family member who has intimidated us for years may be lost but we haven’t had the courage to have a hard conversation with them. But with the rapture feeling more imminent than ever, we recognize that now is the time. We can’t wait. 2020 should be filling us with a renewed and bold desire to share the Gospel and to have hard conversations with those who claim Christ but live without any fruit. We’ve always known that Jesus could come at any time and that people we love could be left behind, but now it feels more real than ever before, doesn’t it??

5. This should increase our desire to study the Bible, especially Bible prophecy. If we haven’t invested time in the study of scripture before now, this should start happening now. Especially if we are believers. Not only is the Bible our only anchor in this crazy time, but it is also rapidly coming true right before our eyes! If these two things don’t increase our desire for knowing the Word, then I don’t know what will.

6. This should build our faith. While many of us have faced many different trials–losing loved ones, economic hardships, illnesses, etc.–the world at large was a constant. Life always pretty much continued as normal outside our trial. But that isn’t the case this year and that fact has caused many of us to examine our hearts and see what we really were relying on for our safety and security. We have said the Lord is our Rock and that we trust Him many times before, but this year, like no other, demands we prove it. Recognizing that at any time and within a few short days, all of life can change should be changing our perspective from the temporal to the eternal. Oh, how easy it was to keep our eyes on this world when all was “normal”. But when normal was stripped away, our eyes were opened to just how much we were relying on that “normal” for our safety and security, instead of on God. This is a great opportunity to change our perspective and place our trust in God instead of in our circumstances (or country).

As we face the uncertain and the unknown, our faith and trust in what we “cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1) should be increasing. This should be a great faith-building year for all of us. We have faith that God is working out all things for His glory. We have faith that He will return for us. We have faith that He is preparing a place for us. While we could never “see the future” before, we made many assumptions, did we not? We assumed life would continue on as normal. We assumed we could continue our normal activities. We assumed that a Revelation 13 scenario was way down the road on the timeline. All of a sudden, our assumptions have come crashing down around our heads and we can’t “see” a thing. While this is certainly no fun, it really is amazing how God is using this in our lives to build our faith and to move our hope from this world to place it in Him alone.

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And there are some ways in which 2020 should be changing us. I don’t know what is ahead. Perhaps there could be another fifty years of this end time scenario unfolding before we are raptured. Or perhaps five years. Perhaps three months. None of us can know the future.

What we do know is that 2020 is a year like no other, showing a convergence of end time signs like no year ever before. May we consider this seriously and soberly as we continue to step forward into the future.

 

How We Shouldn’t Be (and Should Be) Changed in 2020 (PART 1)

I woke up feeling a bit chilly this morning. When I went to check the thermometer, I realized that it went down into the 40’s last night which is a sure indication that summer is on its way out and fall is coming. This is just another reminder that life doesn’t stay the same. Seasons come and go. We change jobs. Illness changes our way of life. Our kids grow up. We move to a new neighborhood. Life is so full of changes. But few years have brought as many changes (and threats of changes to come) to our lives than this one.

When we celebrated New Year’s Day in 2020 none of us had any idea all of the major (and quite surreal) events that lay ahead. We had no idea the ways in which our world would be altered in just a few short months. All of us, no matter where we live on the globe have experienced this upheaval. And, as for my fellow Americans reading this, I think you will agree with me that we had no idea how morality, constitutional freedoms, and “age old” beliefs about life would be challenged and finally turned completely upside down.

As believers, we have been given a time to shine. It is so important that we respond differently than the world, which is full of anger, malice, fear, and anxiety. Those in the world long to escape and so they turn to alcohol and drugs. Or they may over-consume food and entertainment. We may long for an “acceptable” escape, as well, but we are believers and shouldn’t need one because we have a hope the world doesn’t have. Oh, we might struggle with these things for a little while but we can’t stay there. True faith shines brightly in trials.

We have all been handed a bit of a strange and unexpected trial. It could get worse (and it might not) but do you agree with me that this is a perfect time to put into practice all we have said we believe for so many years? No matter if this comes easy or hard for us, the important thing is that we continue to work at it. We want to show the world that Jesus Christ truly does make a difference!

In next week’s post I want to specifically think through some of the ways this strange and life-altering year should be changing us if we are believers. Ways we may not have even considered.

But, first, in today’s post, let’s look at some ways this year’s strange events should not be changing us–

1. It should not be causing division and strife between genuine believers with differing opinions. There are a million opinions out there right now about every aspect of what’s going on. As believers, we have to determine what is clearly biblical and what isn’t. And then we  must stand on the biblical and let the rest roll. Romans 12:18 puts it like this– As much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. We can only control ourselves and it is important we do so. We must not become bitter and angry at our brothers and sisters in Christ as we navigate this strange time. Disagreement in trivial matters is never worth broken fellowship. Satan would like nothing more than to divide the true Church.

2. This should not be causing us to hate people. As we watch incomprehensible things happen around us, we must continue to remember that these people are lost. They have no Savior, no changed heart, no reason to live a godly, pure life. That governor casting down ridiculous mandates; that kid in the streets rioting and looting; the lady at the store who screamed at you for not wearing your mask properly; the person posting on social media using bad language and going against God’s Word–these people do not know Christ. They are slaves of sin. This should fill our hearts with grace (albeit, it may take us awhile to reach that point–especially when it affects us directly.) But we cannot let hatred and bitterness towards those that don’t know Christ worm its way into our soul. These people are not our enemy–they are our mission field!

3. We should not be consumed by the news of this world. It is easy to become obsessed with all that is going on because there is SO much going on! And there is nothing wrong with keeping an eye out on what is happening. But when we are watching the news more than we are in the Word, there is a priority issue. When we can’t think or talk about anything else or when it starts affecting our moods or demeanor, then we are consuming too much.

4. It should not turn our focus to the politics of this world. We are not of this world and we are to set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). This does not mean we don’t vote or participate in politics as the Lord leads, but simply that our focus is not on this world. Our goal isn’t to save our country or to make things better on the earth. I see so many Christians looking towards a man to make things better. And, yet, God’s timeline may not be ours. It may never get better. We must remember that our citizenship is in heaven and not here on earth. We should be much more passionate about heaven and those who need to hear the Gospel so they can spend eternity there, than we are about making this old, broken earth a better place to live.

5. It should not be causing us to set specific dates for the rapture or the coming tribulation. While we can see puzzle pieces falling into place so quickly now, we certainly can’t know the specific day or hour. It can be a temptation for us, as believers, to start surmising about this. Especially as so many things converge into making the Lord’s soon return not only possible, but very likely! However, we must continue to live our lives, even while we look up expectantly. The doctrine of the rapture includes imminence–which means it could happen anytime. In the “twinkling of an eye” (I Corinthians 15:52). It could happen anytime, but we will never know exactly when until we meet each other in the air! And so we don’t spend time concerned with the “when”, but, instead, busy ourselves with the Lord’s work while there is still time.

6. It should not be making us fearful and anxious. Whether it is because of current trials we are in– losing a livelihood or lifelong business; worrying about unsaved children; experiencing illness in a hospital that doesn’t allow visitors; caring for aging parents that we aren’t allowed to see as they languish in a nursing home; and so so many others… OR…whether it is because of the uncertain and unknown future that doesn’t look as bright as it once did, these things can cause us to be very, very anxious. But God tells us in His Word that we are not to be anxious (Phil. 4:6-7). He tells us not to fear evil tidings (Psalm 112:7). He tells us not to worry about the future (Matt. 6:34). We are familiar with these verses and have even had to practice them as we have faced various trials. But has there ever been a better time than now–while the whole world seems to be spinning out of control–to really consider these promises and commands?

7. It should not be weakening our family relationships. When tensions rise high and we are struggling –whether financially or emotionally or in any other way–we can become very edgy and irritable. Living under a cloud of uncertainty is enough to make any of us feel on edge. Throw in a variety of perspectives and opinions about all that is going on and we can have the makings of much discord. And if there isn’t discord, there may simply be a lack of focus that keeps you from being really present in the moment. We can’t let this get the best of us and steal valuable moments from our families. We must intentionally value each member of our family and work at strengthening our relationships in the midst of this time. This includes spouses, kids, parents, and even that sibling that has views that are in direct opposition to ours. And once again we must remember that we can only control ourselves and our own responses.

 

So there are seven ways we should not be changing as we face these uncertain days. Have you found yourself falling prey to one or two of these? I know I have. I really have to check my heart and mind as I navigate this really strange time. Next time we will look at some ways this year should be changing us.

 

Those Deceptive, Capricious Feelings

In the past year or two, God has been showing me how much I have lived by my feelings. Oh, when I compared myself to the world, I looked pretty good. I didn’t live by my feelings so often that it was ruining my life. Not like some people. Or was I? It has been something that I have been thinking on for awhile but it intensified greatly when I started experiencing extreme anxiety during this past summer.

I became aware that I was most definitely living by my feelings. I was allowing them to control me. They were ruling my thought life, my choices, and…well…pretty much my entire life.

When I felt anxious or scared–which, at one point, was almost every second of the day–I became a different person. I was allowing these feelings to change me. To direct my path.

But I guess most of us do this in one way or another. We don’t “feel” like doing anything productive so we scroll through Facebook or mindlessly watch TV. We “feel” like eating that second helping or that third cookie and so we eat instead of practicing self-discipline. We see something in the store or online that we “feel” like buying so we buy it, even if we can’t afford it. We don’t “feel” like talking to that annoying person (who needs Jesus) so we walk the other way. We “feel” scared to share the Gospel with someone so we just don’t. We “feel” angry with our spouse or our child and this dictates how we treat them–whether through yelling at them or by giving them the silent treatment. We “feel” scared or shy or excited or frustrated or sad–and these feelings dictate our choices and responses.

It’s a very human thing to do.

But it is not godly.

Living life according to our deceptive, capricious feelings is a very natural way to live. But it is not a godly way to live.

Recently, my dear friend, Becky, passed away after a 2 1/2 year battle with cancer. Before she died, she wrote a post (find it here) for the “Changed Lives” series. One thing she wrote really struck me while I was in the midst of my battle with fear–

“Then one day while pondering all this, I started asking myself, “Do I really believe God is Who He says He is”? I grew up in a Christian home singing the hymns of the faith, hearing the Word preached, memorizing Scripture, and hearing of other fellow believers’ experiences of God working in their lives and carrying them through life’s storms. But now that I was put into this position, what was going to be my anchor? Do I really believe God about His character, His promises?

Then and there is when I made up my mind that I do believe God, and Who He claims to be in His Word. That is when I found peace, His peace the passes all our understanding! And along with that came the deep seated joy!”

Becky lived out this peace and joy. Oh, she had moments of doubt and fear. Life wasn’t perfect. But when I’d visit with her, I’d come away encouraged by her love for the Lord and her trust in Him, in spite of all of the hardness life sent her way during that time. There was genuineness to her joy that only God could have given. There is no other possible way.

As I thought of what she wrote, it became clear to me that Becky had to make a choice. She had to make a choice that went beyond what she felt about her circumstances.

We are called to do the same.

Satan would like nothing more than for us to be imprisoned by fear or anger or a desire for pleasure. He wants us clad in iron chains or to be so far down in a dark, miry pit that we are rendered ineffectual for Christ. And it’s easy to land there if we are controlled by our feelings. The power that sin and Satan have in our lives is directly correlated to the power we give to our feelings.

I am not sure that we can ever master control over our feelings on this side of heaven. In fact, I’m sure we can’t. But we can certainly make progress.

However, first, we need to be aware that we are doing it. I believe living by how we feel has been so thoroughly ingrained in us, so consistently lived out by those around us, so pushed in the media and entertainment worlds, that we may not be aware that this is a problem.

Feelings change. But the Word of God never changes. Feelings lie and deceive. But God’s Word is Truth. Feelings often lead us in the wrong direction. Scripture always leads us the right way.

May we think through our lives and reflect on what our many choices each day are based on. Are they based on the truths and commands and promises found in scripture? Or are they based on how we happen to feel at the time?

 

Christian, Why Are You Joining the World?

Since I was a teenager I have marveled at the love that so many who call themselves Christians have for the world. They enjoy its entertainment, they wear its immodest clothing, and they follow hard after its philosophies. And, in fact, I have struggled with my own love for the world as I have traversed through this life.

Worldliness seeps into so many areas of our lives. Not only do we love our worldly entertainment that espouses such things as sexual immorality, profane language, and sorcery but we also find it tempting to trust in human wisdom and philosophies for solving our problems. We are quick to join causes that have anti-biblical core values. (Currently, the Black Lives Matters movement is the perfect example of this. People who call themselves believers are standing in solidarity with a movement that goes against all that the Bible teaches.)

We also see such a great passion to be in line with the fashions of this world that women who call themselves Christians bare their almost naked bodies on social media, thinking nothing of it. They present themselves as sexual objects, putting men at great risk for sin as they navigate these almost pornographic photos. How tragic this is!

Worldliness has made its way into our conversations, which are often about nothing that really matters, and also into our homes, where we focus on grades and sports and self-esteem instead of Christlikeness, self-sacrifice, and serving Jesus.

It’s literally everywhere and most of us probably aren’t even aware or have given it that much thought. The need for separating ourselves from the world is rarely taught in churches anymore–even solid, biblical ones.

Today I’d like to take a look at some of the costs of turning away from the world, and then look at some of the rewards of this life-changing decision.

If we purposely choose to not love the world, it will bring some unpleasant consequences, such as–

You sacrifice being cool. People think you are old-fashioned and fuddy duddy at best and extremely strange at worst.

You sacrifice friends. Most friends, even “Christian” ones, do not want to be around someone who is sold out for the Lord and turning their back on the world. In their eyes, this eliminates all the fun and brings wayyyy too much guilt. They don’t want anyone making them feel guilty about their own worldliness.

You sacrifice worldly gain. There are often times when the Christian is passed over for promotions because of their biblical stand. They are ignored, antagonized, and mocked because of their stances against certain things that just aren’t popular.

You sacrifice popularity. And this may be the hardest one for most. Everyone wants to be popular. It is a powerful thing to be liked by others. Swimming against the flow is not for the faint of heart.

But not loving the world brings many wonderful consequences, too–

You deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ. For example, I am amazed at the growth that took place when I was willing to surrender my entertainment to the Lord. Because I have experienced this, I continue to carefully examine any entertainment in light of the Word. I would much prefer to be close to the Lord than to experience an hour or two of pleasure.

You develop far more meaningful friendships. Friendships that are based on a mutual desire to please the Lord, no matter what the cost, are far more deeper and much sweeter than those based on common interests or anything else. The fellowship I have with like-minded friends is far, far more richer than anything I have ever experienced.

You learn to enjoy life in a fuller way. When I was filled with worldly entertainment, I scoffed at those who enjoyed simple things or certain types of music. But as I have eliminated much that was worldly in life, I have found a whole new world of wholesome things to enjoy. What once would have seemed simple or mundane has blossomed into interesting and far more entertaining and enjoyable than any blockbuster movie or top ten song.

You learn how to think again. I believe that intellect and critical thinking has been greatly stifled by modern entertainment. When you start to examine things in light of scripture, you start your brain on the path to critically thinking. This is important in light of all aspects of our lives and it’s a great exercise for your brain in order to live the best life you can that is pleasing to the Lord.

You look different than the world, which gives opportunities to explain why. When someone says they are a Christian but they do everything an unbeliever does, including dressing immodestly, watching the same ungodly movies, listening to the same vulgar radio station, and joining the same anti-biblical causes, there are certainly no questions asked. But looking different affords us many opportunities to share the Gospel. If we have been transformed, then we should look transformed. 

 

Worldliness is something that is not discussed much these days in the evangelical world. And yet it yields such a deadly blow to any spiritual growth. Filling our minds with the things of this world, looking like this world, being like this world renders us spiritually stunted and utterly ineffective for use in God’s Kingdom.

We often talk in our family about how, even in our quest to eliminate worldliness, we are probably far more worldly than we even realize. It is amazing how that world sneaks in in the most unexpected places.

But the first step for us all is recognizing this and making efforts to eradicate it small step by small step.

I know, from my own experience, that, if you are genuine believer, you will not be sorry! The rewards of turning away from the world far, far outweigh the costs. Giving up the world as we choose to follow Christ is such a small price to pay for the wonderful rewards that are ours when we do so!

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Here are some verses that explain how worldliness should have no part of a Christian’s life. I hope that you will find them convicting and confirming of what I have said above–

John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

I Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”;

Ephesians 1:1-5 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the [a]course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

Philippians 2:15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

James 4:4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

I John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Swimming Up a Waterfall

The other morning I was sitting out on my second-story porch for my quiet time. It is one of my favorite spots in the whole world. Below the porch is our little fish pond where both fish and frogs make their home. This provides much entertainment for our grandchildren.

That particular morning, as I sat on the porch alone, I took a moment to watch the fish, as they were doing something very curious. You can see from the photo below (which is a snapshot I took that morning), that the fish has its head into the waterfall. It looked like it was trying to go up the waterfall and then, discouraged, he would swim away. Only to come back again a few seconds later. This went on for quite some time.

I found out later from my knowledgeable husband that there is something about the oxygen at the bottom of the waterfall that the fish like and so they will congregate there. But, from my vantage point on the porch it really did look like the fish was trying to swim up the waterfall and failing every time.

It reminded me of my life as a Christian. We are all called to “swim up a waterfall” –or, in other words–do the impossible. We are to die to self and crucify the flesh and live only for Christ. This is as impossible–perhaps even more impossible–than swimming up a waterfall. And, yet, this is our calling as believers.

Mark 8:34 — And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Romans 6:6 — We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

Ephesians 5:8 — or at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

Galatians 5:16-17– But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

I Peter 2:11 —  Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

So, we know that we are to leave our flesh and swim up the waterfall to holiness. This goes against our innately selfish nature which demands to be pleased and coddled. Our hearts demand we listen to our feelings and our minds work in creative ways to make excuses and to develop logical reasons why we can do what our flesh is demanding to do and still be guilt-free and “godly”.

But the Bible is very clear that we cannot do both. We cannot please self and God. We cannot love God and love the world. We cannot be obsessed with fulfilling our personal dreams of glory and fame while furthering God’s Kingdom. These things are mutually exclusive. They cannot be done at the same time.

There are only two kingdoms.

There is the Kingdom of Light. God is the light (I John 1:5) Jesus Christ is the light of the world (John 8:12) We have been rescued from darkness to light! (Colossians 1:13) Being rescued, we are now children of light (I Thessalonians 5:5). We are to walk as children of the light (Ephesians 5:8).

AND…

There is the Kingdom of Darkness. Satan is the head of this kingdom and the whole world lies in his power (I John 5:19). Natural man loves this kingdom (I John 3:19-21). Natural man is blind to the the light (Acts 26:18). As children of the light, we are to turn away from the darkness (Ephesians 5:11) and to never partner or commune with darkness and its children (2 Corinthians 6:14). This kingdom of darkness is represented by both the flesh and the world, which Satan uses to war against our souls and to keep mankind in darkness.

Every choice we make, every action we take, every thought we think, and every word we say furthers one of these kingdoms.

Now, with this in mind, let’s go back to our adventure of swimming up the waterfall. As children of light, swimming up the waterfall becomes possible. It is possible to live a righteous and holy life that is pleasing to God. Notice I didn’t say easy. It’s not easy.

But here are a few things to keep in mind as we strive to swim up the waterfall to holiness–

1. We must first make our way to the bottom of the waterfall.

We can’t be righteous without salvation. We can’t even get to the bottom of the waterfall without it. If we are not saved, we are unaware that the waterfall even exists. It is only when our eyes our opened, that we recognize which direction we are to go. And this direction is in complete opposition to the direction of the rest of the world. We will be mocked, viewed as odd, and may lose our reputation by going this direction. Remember, we can’t have the world and Jesus, too.

The old hymn puts it like this: Take the world but give me Jesus.

Too often, modern-day Christians would prefer to sing: Give the world and give me Jesus.

But it is simply not possible according to James 4:4. Swimming to the bottom of the waterfall means turning our backs on the world.

2. Not making efforts to swim up the waterfall indicates a serious problem.

Many are those who’ve said a prayer for salvation as fire insurance and they aren’t even making their way to the bottom of the waterfall. They are still swimming in the opposite direction with their worldly friends. They haven’t given up the things of this world and they are still focused on furthering their own kingdom. They are people who are living solely for themselves but think they are saved because they said a prayer. This person may very well be–and probably is– a false convert! (Matthew 7:21-23) I hate even saying this, because I know that describes so many that we all know and love. But we can’t mince words because their eternity is literally at stake. If you know someone who thinks they are a Christian but who is still swimming out in the pond, pray for them. Really pray for them.

3. We can’t do it alone.

As I watched the fish turn away again and again, I assumed he was just discouraged and tired. I found out later that he wasn’t, of course, but it was a great analogy for our own efforts to get up that waterfall. We try and try, using our methods and our self-discipline but we just don’t make it. That’s because we are trying to attempt it without the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to live a godly life without the Holy Spirit. We are to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This is the only way to make possible a holy life that is pleasing to God.

4. We must discard distractions and secret sins.

So often, we get so frustrated that we aren’t making progress up that waterfall. But if we really examine our lives, we may understand just why that is…

We have either crowded our lives so full that we have no time at all to give any effort or intention to this calling of living a pure and holy life.

Or we are holding on to secret sins that we just aren’t willing to turn away from. It may be an unwillingness to give up a grudge against someone or a love for the world’s entertainment or style that causes us to compromise our purity. It may be laziness or gossip. But, oftentimes, if we are really struggling to make progress in our Christian life, there is some sin that we are nurturing and feeding and unwilling to give up.

Or, perhaps, we haven’t yielded to God’s sovereignty in the happenings of our lives. We try to live a godly life, but, inside, we are angry and discontent and upset about how things are going. This makes it almost impossible to get up that waterfall because we don’t trust God. Instead, we are wary and disbelieving. This lack of faith stymies our Christian growth severely.

5. We will never reach perfection on this side of Heaven.

One of the things that makes this such a hard thing is that we will never reach perfection. We, like that fish, are always trying, always trying, but we will never arrive at the top. This can be discouraging and sometimes we may think: Why even try? So let’s unpack that a bit. Why is it important to keep trying to get up that waterfall?

First, we keep trying because we are told to do this (I Peter 1:15). To live a life of obedience to our wonderful Savior, we strive to live holy and pure lives.

Second, we keep trying because we do grow and change and bear much fruit, through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Psalm 92:12-14). If we have been a Christian for more than a year, we can look back and see how we have grown and changed. This is very encouraging as we face new challenges and sins that discourage us. God is growing us to be more like Christ, be it ever so slowly.

Third, we keep trying because God uses our efforts to build His Heavenly Kingdom (Colossians 1:24-29). Our efforts to live a holy and pure life shine as a bright light in this dark world. We should look different in every way when compared with those around us. Remember, there are only two kingdoms: Light and Darkness. Children of light should never resemble children of darkness. This includes being loving and kind, but it also includes what we watch, how we dress, what we talk about, and every other little and big choice we make in our lives.

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So, my dear readers, keep swimming up that waterfall. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t try to do it alone because we are not alone! We have the Holy Spirit to strengthen, comfort, and guide us. May we cast off the things that distract and tempt us. May we intentionally live as children of the light, because that’s exactly what we are if we have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ alone!

 

The Nature of the Promises of God

When we consider the promises of God, we often go to the book of Psalms or consider the words of Jesus, Paul, and other biblical authors that provide strength and comfort to us. These are a balm to our soul during trials and uncertain days.

These days, so many false teachers rip verses out of context when it comes to God’s promises. I thought it might be helpful to take a brief look at what we know is true and what is not true as we consider God’s promises, no matter how big or small.

1. God’s promises are not physical in nature.

God’s promises do not have anything to do with our physical pleasure or ease of life.

When it says in Matthew 21:22–

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.

or in John 14:13–

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

we must realize that this cannot be implying that we will receive perfect health, material wealth, or a trouble-free life. While this is a popular false teaching, how can we know that this is not what these passages mean? Without digging too deep into theological waters, I’d say two things easily stand out–

First, we know this because of context. When these words are spoken by Jesus in Matthew they are referring to the spiritual realm. It has nothing to do with physical blessing. In John, Jesus is talking about having the strength and power to continue on as His witnesses after He leaves the earth. Context is always crucial but perhaps especially so when claiming a promise of God.

Second, we can know this because of what we read about godly men and women throughout scripture. Joseph was betrayed by family, Noah stood utterly alone, Jeremiah was mocked and persecuted, Stephen and John the Baptist were martyred, Paul was imprisoned, and John was exiled. We can move on into history where we see terrible persecution of Christians under Nero and the Catholic Church. And we can talk about the here and now, where we see people dedicated to serving Christ and building His spiritual Kingdom suffer innumerable physical hardships. We can and must conclude from this that God’s promises are not about our physical well-being.

In contract, God’s promises are spiritual in nature.

They are about our spiritual health, our wealth in heaven, and being effective witnesses for God here on earth.

2. God’s promises are not temporal in nature.

Temporal means relating to life in the world, as opposed to eternal life. While many of God’s promises do give us hope and peace right now, we can see that much of this hope and peace comes from us setting our eyes on the right thing. Colossians 3:1-2 says–

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

So when we read the promises of God, we must do so with an eternal perspective. We must view them through the filter of a mind set on things above. When we do this, so much of the concerns and worries of this life fall away. Richard Baxter, a Puritan author, talks about this better than I ever could. I’d like to share a portion of his writing here–

Unbelievers seek their happiness in the things of the world. Believers find their happiness in God. It is contrary to the nature of faith for a believer to seek peace in his earthly enjoyments. Our present pilgrimage is a prison, yet alas, we too commonly do this. By this we kill our comforts and then complain they are missing. It is folly to expect any stable peace or solid joy that does not come from Christ as the fountain. O that Christians would learn to live with one eye on Christ crucified and the other on His coming in glory! If everlasting joys were more in your thoughts, spiritual joys would abound more in your hearts. No wonder you are comfortless when heaven is forgotten. When Christians let fall their heavenly expectations but heighten their earthly desires, they are preparing themselves for fear and trouble. Who has met with a distressed, complaining soul, where either a low expectation of heavenly blessings, or too high a hope for joy on earth is not present? What keeps us under trouble is either we do not expect what God has promised, or we expect what He did not promise. We are grieved at crosses, losses, wrongs of our enemies, unkind dealings of our friends, sickness, or for contempt and scorn in the world. But who encouraged you to expect any better? Was it prosperity, riches, credit, and friends that God called for you to believe? Do you have any promises for these things in His Word? If you make a promise for yourself, and then your own promise deceives you, whom should you blame for that? We have less comfort in earthly things because we have too high an expectation from them. Alas, when will we learn from Scripture and providence to seek far more from God, and far less from the earth?

God’s promises are not rooted in earthly hope but in eternal hope. If we have our eyes set on temporal things, then we will be most disappointed and believe that God has let us down. But if we recognize that God’s promises are not of this world, we will see miraculous answers to prayer and experience the peace and comfort we are promised.

3. God’s promises are not generally instant in nature.

In this current world where we want everything instantly, God’s promises take some hard work to mine from the scriptures. They are like special treasures that we find throughout the Word as we give our time to study it. Understanding and greater comfort come the more we dedicate ourselves to this study. It is only through personal prayer and Bible study that we are able to more fully understand.

The thing that is most tempting when we are faced with a trial or uncertainty is to turn to other, much less satisfying, ways to deal with all of the emotion and feelings that well up within us. We watch more TV, we shop, we eat more, or we immerse ourselves in a book or hobby. Anything to dull the pain and discomfort of our current circumstances.

And, while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with doing any of these things, it is important that we don’t do them in place of mining God’s Word for the rich promises He has given us in His Word.

It is easy to cast prayer and Bible study aside during trying times because we feel distracted and unfocused and it’s extra hard. But we must persevere. God is waiting patiently for us to turn to Him and will reward us mightily if we but just turn our eyes upon Him.

Another way God’s promises are not instant is in the timeline of how we experience them. When something happens that is terrible, most of us respond in shock. We question God, we question our faith. We are filled with doubts of God’s goodness and we wonder if we really believe all we said we believe.

It often takes time to sort through these feelings. We often fall into a ditch beside the proverbial narrow road and it takes some work (study of the Word) and time to pull ourselves up and out of that ditch. The more we practice, the quicker this will happen but we must give ourselves time to process and work through things. God will not let us down but our journey from fear and doubt back to the solid, narrow path rarely happens instantly. Trials give us precious insight into where our affections lie and what sins still beset us. We can’t be comforted until we have a true understanding of why we need comforted.

I also want to add that sometimes God provides instant comfort that is an incredible balm to our souls. Small mercies and unexpected tiny miracles dot our lives in such a way that we, His children, know without a doubt, He is real.

But, generally, God’s promises, rather than being instant, are uncovered as we give effort and time to study the Word, humbly and willingly examine our lives for sin and worldly affections, and then wait calmly on God to work in and through us.

Isaiah 40:31 says it so beautifully–

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.

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And, so, as you look for God’s promises throughout the Word, I hope that you will remember these three things. They may not be what our flesh desires, but they are all we need to live a holy life that pleases God.

Perhaps this can all be summed up in this verse from Philippians 1:21–

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

May we filter all of God’s promises through this point of view that Paul expressed while writing this letter to the Philippians from his prison cell in Rome.

My dear friends, God’s promises are real. But we must view them as scripture teaches us to view them, rather than how a worldly, false church teaches us to view them.

God’s promises are far deeper and wider than simply life on this earth. They encompass all of eternity. He is with us, He will never forsake us, and He will protect us. And that you can count on!

 

 

Where’s Your Home?

Many of us are spending a lot of time at home right now. Some of you probably live in tiny apartments, others live in mansions. Some live in picturesque villages, others in cities. Some live on a farm in the country, others live in a development in the suburbs. But wherever we are, that is home to us.

Is home a safe place for you? Is it a happy place? If so, then the stay-at-home order isn’t as bad as it could be. Of course, if it’s not happy and, worse yet, if it’s not safe*, then this time stuck in our homes has been a great, great trial for you.

No matter what our view of our earthly home, as believers, we have the fantastic promise of a future home in heaven–

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3)

Jesus is preparing a home for us. Isn’t that just amazing when you stop and think about it?

I do like my home and I am so blessed to have a wonderful place to live and, more importantly, to share that place with people I love dearly. However, the events of the last few weeks have really put all of the physical blessings on a bit of a shaky level that they have never been on for me in my lifetime.

I have this house now, but will I have it in a year?

I have plenty to eat now, but will I have enough in six months?

I can go to the local hospital now, but will it still be around when I need it?

I can worship God freely now, but is that going to change soon?

The “What-Ifs” can eat us up alive if we aren’t careful. Articles of doom abound on social media and the scary thing is that many of them raise very valid questions. The ramifications of this all are still unknown and with each day of lock-down those ramifications grow exponentially.

The foundation of our materials blessings and innate freedoms has always been a very solid one here in the United States for most of us. There was no lack of food on our store shelves, no fear of businesses collapsing en masse, no threat of churches not being able to meet, not even the hint of a thought about being unable to visit our families…or shop, golf, and travel.

And then came the “pandemic” and the ensuing fear that closed the world.

As we start to tentatively open countries and economies back up, may we not fall too quickly back into our status quo.

May we remember that our home is not here. Oh, God has blessed many of us with wonderful, comfortable homes and we love them dearly. But our eternal home is where we need to keep our focus. This is the hope that we have and this is what we are to “set our minds” upon. Paul puts it like this in Colossians 3–

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)

As believers, we are to seek the things that are above. In a life bustling with activities and material blessings and freedom, I all too soon forget that eternity is coming. But when all that came screeching to a halt and those things were taken away and threatened, it made me think. Really think.

Where does my hope lie? Do I really view myself as a pilgrim on this earth? What brings me joy? And peace?

And I had to come face to face with the fact that I was seeking earthly things, not heavenly ones. I wasn’t doing this purposely. I was reading God’s Word and studying it. But there is nothing like a pandemic to release our tight grip on this world just a bit more, is there?

Have you, too, felt your grip releasing on the things of this world? Have you, too, felt this bump out of status quo grow you in ways you didn’t even know you needed to grow?

I don’t want to go back to the “old me”. I want to remember the lessons in faith and trust that I have been learning these past eight or so weeks, whether we go back to normal or everything has changed forever.

Life is never easy. And we have all faced a myriad of different trials throughout our lives. I am not sure, however, that we can say that we have ever all faced the same trial together. But that is exactly what has happened these past few weeks. We are all dealing with empty store shelves, economic ramifications, being stuck at home, and all of the other dynamics that are part of this pandemic. It’s a strange time to be alive, but may we not waste it.

You may not need lessons in faith like me, but perhaps this has grown you as a spouse or parent. Perhaps your lessons were in areas of impatience or anger or time management.

In whatever we have grown these past few weeks, may we not slide back into the comfortable place we were before they occurred. Let’s keep taking the next step on that narrow path. God will never waste any experience in our life and that includes a world-wide pandemic!

 

 

*I have been deeply burdened specifically for women and children of abusive spouses during this time and cannot imagine how hard this forced home stay must be for you. If you are in this situation, I would like to pray for you specifically. Please email me at leslie {at} growing4life {dot} com or use the contact page here. No one else will see the email but me.

 

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