The Bible

Without Excuse

Several months ago now, we sat down around our conference table in the office and made the difficult decision to discontinue services for a few customers. These are excruciating decisions for any entrepreneur but the reasons were important and varied and the list was a very short one. For some of them, snow removal was included in their contract. We wanted to get this letter of discontinuation of services into their hands as soon as possible so as to give them plenty of time to find a new contractor. The letters were written and sent out.

A few days ago, we had our first snow of the year. Imagine our surprise when no less than three of these customers whom we sent letters to in a timely fashion called to yell at us for not showing up. One claimed they never got the letter. However, because we know of this particular person’s penchant to ignore letters such as these, we also emailed it to her. We know she got it. A second flippantly said he just didn’t bother to open the letter. I am not sure of the third’s excuse.

At first, I was astounded at the lack of professionalism that plagues this world. One of these was an apartment complex. Another was a business. The third was a homeowner. How do you justify not opening a letter if you are in charge of an apartment complex or a business? I have to admit I was floored at the lack of responsibility.

But even stranger– they berated and scolded us for not doing their snow. They listed all of the reasons why we should do their snow. They listed what all their good “customer” attributes were. One just yelled.

As if this were our fault. How dare we discontinue them as a customer?

As I thought about this, I couldn’t help but think on how this is such a wonderful analogy for man’s approach to God’s Word.

God has written them a letter and they refuse to open it. They refuse to read it and see what it says. In it, He has told us His wonderful plan on how we can be saved from eternal damnation. It’s amazing! But people just don’t bother.

And yet, people will shake their fist at God and blame Him. Why didn’t you tell me, God?? How could you send a nice person like me to hell, God?

But He has told us. He has told us everything we need to know.

But, you may be asking, what about that person who doesn’t have a Bible?

The Bible says in Romans 1:20 says that all men are without excuse. That there is something inside all men that tells them there is a God. It’s up to man to search after God rather than to give heed to their own futile thoughts and follow their darkened hearts.

I know of several Christians who tell the story of searching after God. For each of them, at some point in their journey, God provided someone to tell them the truth about Himself. Someone to point them to the Bible and to pure doctrine. God won’t let anyone suffer from the lack of His Word who truly desires to know the truth. Even illiterate Pacific islanders and tribes in the heart of Africa back in the 1800s were able to understand salvation. God will make a way for the searcher to find what he is looking for.

And so all of us are without excuse.

Just as our company wasn’t responsible for whether or not our customers chose to read the letters we wrote, so God is not responsible for the whether or not we read His letter.

May we choose to read that letter. Because nothing is more important. It’s life and death. Eternal life and eternal death.

 

 

Twin Truths

A few years ago, a discernment ministry I had trusted to speak truth promoted an erroneous book. Recently, I was surprised and extremely disappointed to see another ministry I trust promote this book. Needless to say, I don’t quite trust them anymore. I wanted to take today and write about this because the book’s topic is so very important.

Well, I actually don’t want to write about this because, not only is it an important topic, but it’s also an incredibly inflammatory one. But the topic keeps coming to mind since I saw that post and I believe the Lord wants me to write about this. I ask you to read this thoughtfully. I am in no way claiming to be an expert on this topic nor do I have any interest in debating with anyone about it. I simply want to share what I have learned in hopes that it may be helpful to others who are struggling through this particular thing.

Let me back up a few years to when the “book” first came out. I received an email promoting this book and I was curious. The book’s premise was that Calvinism is heretical. Why would this author (and then this ministry in its promotion of it) put a line in the sand and say such a thing? That would have to mean that they believe that anyone who believes in Calvinism is a heretic, which means they are not saved. That is a very strong (and absolutely FALSE) statement and that, alone, turned me off greatly to the book and, if I am honest, to the entire ministry.

It is one thing to say I disagree with a certain secondary doctrine. It is quite another to say that the person who doesn’t agree with me is going to hell.

As I read the intro to the book in the email, I spotted something troublesome that caused further concern. Here was how the sentence started out: “We cannot believe in a God who…”

Do you see the serious problem with that sentence?

Who are we to decide who God is? God’s Word tells us who He is. We don’t get to decide which doctrines we do or do not like and what we will or will not believe. This was a huge red flag and discounted anything further that was written regarding the book.

But let’s back up a few years before this book to when I had no idea what I believed about free will and election. I had some wrong notions about how it all worked and was okay with that. Eventually, as I started to study the Word more, I began to understand that my conclusions were flawed. And then God led me to a sermon by John MacArthur called Twin Truths: God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility. It was by far the most clarifying and scriptural resource I have ever had the pleasure of listening to regarding this divisive topic. I recommend it highly.

Here is what I learned (in a nutshell): Both are true and run like parallel tracks into eternity. We can’t figure out how they work together and that’s okay.

You see, it’s man’s pride that makes him insist on choosing one or the other. It’s man’s pride that causes these arguments and divisions. It can’t be his dedication to God’s Word because no man dedicated to God’s Word could possibly deny election. And no man dedicated to God’s Word could deny free will. They are both clearly in the Bible.

So what does that mean? It means that our finite brains can’t understand.

We think we have to understand everything and we can’t understand this. And so men come up with (unbiblical) arguments that deny clear passages of scripture. It’s so tragic, really.

The funny thing is that Satan will seem to get you one way or another. Those who believe in God’s sovereign election rarely believe in God’s prophecy regarding the future of Israel. And those who believe in a future for Israel rarely believe in God’s sovereign election. I am here to tell you that both are clearly true. If you cast your preconceived notions aside and just read scripture, both are so very obvious.

But we get caught up in man’s systems and our denominations and intellectualism and following men and we get so confused. We don’t want to be viewed as stupid or unintelligent or unintellectual and so we follow the crowd. Ridiculous and destructive pride often keeps us from backing away from our wrong argument after we have made it.

The one other thing I believe it is important to mention is that, if you believe John Calvin was an evil man set on spreading an evil doctrine, I rather doubt you really know who he was. Spend some time getting to know this man. He was not perfect (as none are) but he did some tremendous things for the Kingdom and has been so wrongly maligned. I learned this upon my own study of him many years ago now.

So what do I want to communicate today specifically regarding this topic? Why am I writing about it?

I think the answer to that is simply that we cannot understand how these things work together and we must humble ourselves and be at peace with this.

The Bible clearly teaches election (Ephesians 1 is the passage that brought this home for me when studying it so many years ago but there are many others). To deny this is to deny scripture. Yes, it’s a hard and unpleasant doctrine to wrap our brains around but we do not have the option to say “we can’t believe in a God who…”! That is just plain sinful.

But the Bible also clearly teaches free will (that man is responsible for his choices).

So the only conclusion we can draw–if we believe God is absolutely fair- is that these two things work together in a way we can’t possibly understand.

As students of the Bible, may we be willing to believe what God says about Himself within its pages. Even when we don’t like it. Even when we can’t understand it. Even if it brings the ridicule of man.

This brings to mind an old song by the Heritage Singers. Here’s the chorus–

God said it and I believe it
and that settles it for me
Though some may doubt that His word is true
I’ve chosen to believe it, now how about you?

 

 

Trends (and when not to follow them)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Preparing for What Lies Ahead

The other night I awoke in the early morning hours and just couldn’t fall back to sleep. A million thoughts swirled through my mind. Sad thoughts. Scared thoughts. “What-if” thoughts.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything…

In the midst of the turmoil in my head, God reminded me of this verse I had memorized. Philippians 4:6-7 has been a balm to my soul during many a sleepless night over the past two years.

Last week, I struggled through something that happened with a dear sibling in Christ. Romans 12:18 has been the verse running through my mind throughout the struggle– If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. I can’t control the other person but as much as it depends on me I need to live peaceably with that person. Do I need to ask for forgiveness? Do I need to overlook an offense or offer grace? This memorized verse led me to ask these important questions and then take the necessary steps to right the situation. 

Last night I was preparing a short devotional and I Thessalonians 5:9 jumped out at me–  For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

I am familiar with this verse and have read it many times. I have also known that this is often used as an argument for the pre-trib rapture. But last night, in those few minutes of preparation, I understood that verse in a way I’ve never understood it before. And, while I wasn’t necessarily waffling on my pre-trib rapture stance, I did need to see that verse and be reminded that God has not appointed us to wrath. And the Tribulation is clearly God’s wrath poured out on man. Genuine Christians will not be here for that. It was a comforting reminder that I needed at just that time.

And, finally–as one last personal story– Throughout the past few years I have watched popular Christian after popular Christian join with false teachers teaching a false gospel. Romans 16:17 is why I recognize this as a huge RED FLAG. God’s Word tells us to avoid false teachers. It teaches us what to look for as we choose whom to listen to and read. And it gives us the red flags we should look for through verses like this. It’s an invaluable resource for discernment in an age of great deception.

So are you wondering yet why I am telling you these random personal stories? Have you noticed what they all have in common?

I am convinced that the greatest thing we believers can do to prepare for whatever lies ahead is to be in the Word. And, even better yet, to be memorizing it.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

The only way we can truly be prepared to build up, lead, support, and encourage our families, our church families, and other fellow Christians is to know and study God’s Word. The only way to shine an unquenchable light in the darkness is to be immersing ourselves in the Bible. The only way to share the Truth of God’s Word with the lost around us–some of whom, given the circumstances, will be searching in a way they have never searched before–is to know God’s Word.

The Bible is our anchor. Our guide. Our lamp on a dark path. Our comfort.

This isn’t some cliche. This is real life. We American Christians have been playing at Christianity for a long time. It’s not that we have desired to be shallow but our circumstances gave us few opportunities to live a life of faith. We are headed into a time where we will often be left with little option but to trust God. Trust God for a job, for the health of ourselves or our loved ones, for the future of our children, perhaps even for our very necessities.

The future looks grim and we cannot walk into it unarmed and without knowledge of God through His Word. For here we find out that God cannot go back on His promises. Here we find that what we are experiencing is what we can expect to experience at the end of the age. It all makes so much sense when we take God at His Word.

Our study of the Bible should take precedence over everything else. Our desire to know it and study it should be a priority for us all. We all have different schedules and demands on our time. I don’t know what that looks like for you. But I encourage you to make a study of the Word a priority. I encourage you to make it more important than keeping up with what is happening in this crazy world; to prioritize it over that TV show that isn’t honoring to God, anyway; to make Bible Study an essential part of your day before turning to the hobby, the golf game, the book, or some other distraction.

Satan knows the power for the Christian life is in the Word. He knows that Christians are pretty much rendered helpless and ineffective without it. And so he has created a million different distractions.

He has even caused many of us to believe we are wasting time if we are sitting. Do you equate sitting with laziness? If you do, know that this is a LIE from the devil. To feel guilty when we sit down means that we feel guilty when we read God’s Word. Think about that for a moment. Oh, Satan is so very crafty. Don’t be deceived. There is NOTHING more important than getting in God’s Word.

If you have been around for awhile, this is not a new message for you. I have been talking about the importance of God’s Word in the life of the believer for many years now. Little did I know, however, how critical this would become for our survival and spiritual health.

We give little thought to the air we breathe when we are walking in the fresh air outdoors. But when we start drowning, air becomes more precious than anything else. It’s literally the only thing that matters. The Bible is the air to Christians in this drowning world. May we never neglect the air tank that God has so graciously provided for all those who love Him.

 

 

Must We Defend the Bible?

A few weeks ago, my youngest daughter, Marissa, casually mentioned that she had had to write a blog post for a school assignment. While this young woman is artistic, she tends to use a paintbrush rather than a pen to express herself (She recently opened an Etsy store, which you can find here). But I have to confess that, after reading what she wrote, I can’t help but wonder if she may end up as a writer, as well.

I believe what she wrote for her school assignment is an important message that believers need to hear. We can get so mixed up by the noise and cacophony that comes at us from all directions and sometimes we lose our perspective. This short post reminds us of some very important truths. I hope it serves as a wonderful reminder and an encouragement, too.

Here is what she wrote–

Do science and the Bible go hand in hand? Must we have science to believe in Scripture? Must we use science to give proof for the Scriptures? These are all questions that have come into discussion in recent times. There has been a scientific push in this day and age. Everything must be be “fact based.”

I contend that the answer to the questions above is an absolute no. This is an unpopular stance to take. However, let me give my reasoning before you discount my claim.

#1) God never needs man to achieve His purposes. While God can use His people and circumstances to reach a soul, He is never dependent on them. The Holy Spirit can change a heart and give faith as He wills and pleases. To say that an individual needs to know the proof of the Scriptures before they can place their faith in the Bible, is giving absolute discredit to God’s power.

#2) Humans are fallen. This intrinsically means that science is fallen. There have been numerous scientific claims that were proven false years down the road. Pharmaceutical companies give false information for the sake of money. Governments make false claims for the sake of their own agendas. News companies spin stories to receive the reaction they want. As long as sin remains on this earth, science will inherently fail. Why should we rely on misinformation from secular sources to prove the Bible given from a holy and perfect God?

#3) The element of faith. Salvation has never been about knowledge. A person coming to faith doesn’t need to know how the creation is backed up by science before they make their decision. They choose to follow Christ based on faith. They choose to follow Christ because they understand the Gospel and its message. To say that science is needed cheapens the Gospel.

#4) The danger of pride. When we say that science is needed to prove Scripture, there is a larger emphasis on man’s knowledge than on God’s Word. Suddenly, humans have the responsibility to prove the Bible based on human knowledge and findings. It’s important to recognize who God is versus who we are. We are His creation. It’s as if the potter’s clay works to prove that their creator exists. How incredibly foolish. We know the Creator exists because we see His workmanship so clearly and evidently. We believe that He exists because He has given us all that is necessary to do so.

Now listen, I’m not saying there isn’t any purpose for understanding how science and the Bible work together. There are times when scientific proof serves as a great confirmation for a doubting believer or the cynical atheist. God can use science for His purposes. However, even if science and the Bible contradict, I will choose to believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and remember that earthly knowledge is fallen and a result of a depraved society. His ways are always higher than ours.

 

What to Expect When You are Expecting

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

But, first, a story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is our hope in Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Wisdom and Controversy of Agassiz

In the mid-1800s a man came from Europe to America by the name of Louis Agassiz. He was asked to be a professor at Harvard but, being a rather eccentric free spirit, he bucked the system. And Harvard, recognizing his genius, allowed him to do so. He smoked cigars on campus. He wore no black robes as the other professors. He allowed students in his classes without passing entrance examinations. And he prepared no syllabus.

I had never heard of this man before this past weekend, when I started reading David McCullough’s Brave Companions. McCullough writes in the introduction of this book that he is much more drawn to the people of history than to the events. I find that I, too, am the same. I was disinterested in history when it was all dates and happenings. But attach people and their stories to those dates and happenings and history absolutely comes alive!

Okay, I guess that is enough of the “History is Awesome” commercial… :)

Anyway…

This professor had a unique way of welcoming new students. He would grab a jar from his shelves of specimens. Inside the jar would be a dead fish. He would ask the student to observe anything and everything about this fish and then leave the room. A young man named Scudder describes his experience after giving his observations to the professor and then being told to look some more–

I was piqued; I was mortified. Still more of that wretched fish! But now I set myself to my task with a will, and discovered one new thing after another…The afternoon passed quickly; and when, toward its close, the professor inquired: “Do you see it yet?”

“No,” I replied, “I am certain I do not, but I see how little I saw before.”

Scudder goes on to write how the lesson lasted three whole days and of how much he learned about that fish. He says it was a lesson of inestimable value.

You see, Agassiz believed the backbone of education was to know something well. He believed that a “smattering of everything was worth little”. He believed that it was a “great and common fallacy to suppose that an encyclopedic mind is desirable. The mind was made strong not through much learning but by the “thorough possession of something.” In other words, “look at your fish.” *

As I read this story from the past I couldn’t help but think of Christians with their Bibles. How many of us have just a smattering of knowledge here and there? How many of us are reading or hearing about the Bible (devotionals, books, sermons) instead of making our own observations of the Bible? How many of us give our time and dedication to learning it well?

As believers, shouldn’t this be our main priority? Do we even recognize how important this is to our lives and how we live them?

The young man, Scudder, thought he had learned all there was to know about that dead fish. And, yet, when the professor encouraged him that there was more to learn, he turned back and found out what it was. He had a teachable spirit and he realized how very much he had missed in those first few hours.

If this is true of a dead fish, just think of how much we are missing when it comes to the Bible! We so often approach the Bible with the same spirit as Scudder in those first few hours, our eyes blind to the fact that there is literally endless treasure there within its pages. The more we study, the more we mine its spiritual depths.

If you have spent any time in the Word, you are already well aware of this. The more you study, the more you realize how much there is to know. And how much you don’t know. The more you study, the more you know your God. The more you study, the more insight you get, the deeper the comprehension and understanding of God’s plans throughout history and for the future. The more you study, the greater your discernment as deception grows in leaps and bounds all around us.

If we know anything WELL, may it be our Bibles!

And now, briefly, I want to touch on the controversy that surrounds Louis Agassiz. This morning as I typed his name in the search box to see if his museum of zoology is still in existence, the articles that popped up show that Harvard is ashamed of this professor. I have not done a thorough investigation, but apparently he was pro-slavery and also anti-Darwinism. These are two huge “no-nos” in the intellectual world today and they don’t seem to be quite sure what to do with him.

I bring this to your attention because it reminds me so much of the book “1984” which I read (for some unknown reason) in 2019. I wish I wouldn’t have read it, to be quite honest. But one of the things that sticks out in my mind from that book is the re-writing of history. It seems that this is what is going on in the academic levels. If they don’t like someone’s view on something they cancel them. As if that certain view makes everything from their lives–even their amazing contributions to mankind–null and void.

Do we realize the tragedy of this??!? And do we realize the absurdity of this? I think it is time we stop looking to the experts and the professionals and academic intelligentsia for answers. It seems they have obviously lost their collective minds.

It reminds me so much of that verse from Colossians 2:6-10–

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding [d]in it with thanksgiving.

Beware lest anyone [e]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. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead [f]bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all [g]principality and power.

We Christians have been snookered into thinking that man has our answers to life. We turn to professionals, experts, and academia for everything. We look for answers to our problems and big questions in the wrong place.

If we will but study our Bibles humbly and thoroughly, we will realize that the answers we seek for life are there. We are COMPLETE IN HIM. And that is straight from the Bible.

I do want to make one thing abundantly clear, however: I am not saying that there aren’t times we need help from others. There is nothing wrong in asking for help. But this help should come from someone who is dedicated to God’s Word and the principles for life we find there. These helpers are hard to find. Recently, someone shared with me their conversation with a current student of a biblical counseling program. As he shared what he was learning with this person and how he would handle different situations, it became quickly apparent that there was no “Bible” in it at all. It was all humanistic ideas and concepts.

If you find yourself in need of help, give much prayer and some research, too, before placing your trust in them. So many experts are leading Christians into unbiblical thinking.

As we continue on in this world, the Bible is literally our lifeline. It is where we find our hope, our sustenance, our joy. It is where we are told of our wonderful Savior and where we find principles for living a life that is pleasing to God.

Dedicating ourselves to really knowing it– knowing it deeply and fully–is the first step to living a holy, discerning, peaceful, and joyful life!

 

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for [c]instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

 

 

*From Brave Companions by David McCullough, p. 25-26

 

 

(A Lot of) Lessons I Learned This Past Month (Part 1)

A few weeks ago, I made a rather spontaneous decision. My mom and I were talking about how June has been hi-jacked and she casually mentioned that we should make it Missionary Month. Without any background research or preparation in advance, I decided to do just that.  And so, on the Growing4Life Facebook page and also on my personal Facebook page, I’ve been featuring a different missionary each day. The well-known and the not so well-known. Martyrs and those who lived into their nineties. At home and on the foreign field. So many different missionaries but all with the same purpose: Proclaim the Gospel!

I have to admit when I made the last-minute decision to do this, I had no expectation of it changing me. I just wanted to bring some attention to these amazing men and women who sacrificed all for Christ. And that was that. Or so I thought.

And so I spent about hours this past month pouring over articles and watching videos to learn more about this special group of people. I had already read some of the biographies. Others I knew only by name. It was a profoundly rewarding exercise. (I am considering creating a PDF that includes each featured missionary along with the links I used. If this is something that would interest you, just let me know by replying to this email.)

As I researched and studied from my very comfortable home with my coffee cup in hand, I started to recognize how weak and spoiled I am. Honestly, I did already knew this but this study really drove home the point. Oh, to be more like these people who truly followed Jesus by denying themselves and taking up their cross (Matthew 16:24). They had it easy and chose hard. And I complain when the smallest thing doesn’t go my way. It’s a contrast that is striking and disgusting and I truly came up wanting. This month really challenged me personally both in living my daily Christian life, as well as in what should be done to prepare for whatever lies ahead.

Here are a few of the lessons that had the most impact in my life–

1. God is faithful. (Lamentations 3:22-23) Over and over again, through all circumstances, God proved Himself faithful. Many–I would even say most–of these missionaries lost multiple children and their spouse throughout the course of their ministry. Some endured terrible hardships under the Japanese and communist regimes. Many were hungry, out of money, mocked, scorned, persecuted, in need of clothing and other necessities, in the filthiest of conditions, surrounded by disease and yet God remained faithful. This doesn’t mean that only good things happened to them. It means that God was faithful through the good and the bad. I always cringe when I hear people imply that God intends for us to only experience good things. So many in the western, materialistic word believe that God is the great genie in the sky just desiring to make our own personal, selfish dreams come true. Nothing could be further from the truth.

2. The missionaries had one purpose and one purpose only. (I Peter 2:9-10) They did not set out to change the world and make it a better place in a temporal sense. They did not go to a third world country to provide the impoverished people there with clean water, food, and other necessities. While this may have been part of their plan, their main goal was always to proclaim the Gospel. Nothing could deter them from pointing people to Jesus and saving them from hell. Oh, what a contrast this is to modern day missions where the focus has moved to fixing temporal, earthly problems. Caring for their bodies while ignoring their souls. I am thankful there are still some very godly missionaries out there but that group is shrinking fast.

3. The Word was foundational. (2 Timothy 3:16) In the lives of these missionaries, the Bible was key. They recognized that the power for the Christian life was there and it was the center of their ministry, as well as their source for strength. It’s no wonder so many Christians are leading powerless lives encumbered by sin, depression, addictions, worldliness, and idols. The Bible has taken a backseat in homes and churches across the world and this is where that leads. God has given us His Word as the tool by which we are transformed day by day. And yet so often it just sits on a shelf.

4. Christians who give up everything are happier. (Philippians 4:11) Yesterday, a friend of mine put a photo on Facebook with the covers of two books. One book had missionary stories and the other contained short biographies of movie stars from bygone days. She mentioned that the contrast between the two groups of people was striking. I have noticed the same thing. The biographies of most famous people are incredibly disappointing. They are generally full of broken marriages and families, addictions, materialism, bitterness, resentment, and deep and abiding sadness. They have wasted their whole lives chasing after something that they just can’t find.

Contrast that to the missionaries and other sold-out Christians. God has filled them with a purpose that is far outside themselves. I know it doesn’t make any sense to our finite minds, but somehow God has designed us that when we live for Him, we are happier. When we turn away from our selfish desires and submit to and obey God, it brings a peace and joy that can’t be explained. We can grasp after that next house or car, we can try to fill our hearts with earthly relationships, we can attain the greatest success in our jobs or we can gain fame and fortune–but none of that leads to the peace that passes understanding. This only comes through God. And when you have that, then nothing else matters. It truly is the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46). These missionary stories gave real life evidence to this over and over and over again.

5. Missionaries aren’t perfect. (I John 1:8) Many of these missionaries made errors in judgment or chose to do something that ended up costing them dearly. They had tempers, they lacked management skills, they had to work through bitterness–just as we do. Some came to wrong conclusions about some secondary biblical issues. Some sacrificed their children for their missionary call. In summary, they were sinners. They were regular people just like you and like me. And yet God used them mightily. For it isn’t from our own stores and talents that we do great things for God, but it is His working through us.

6. They wouldn’t change a thing. (Romans 8:28) I remember listening to the testimony of one missionary as she described her experience as a POW of Japan during the second world war. It was absolutely horrifying and far beyond anything you and I could comprehend. And yet, she said she wouldn’t change a thing. She not only submitted to God’s sovereignty in her life but she recognized that He had used these unspeakable trials to bear fruit that could not have otherwise grown.

 

Well, this may be a good place to stop for today, as this is getting far longer than I expected. I think I will divide this into two posts and try to get Part 2 out later this week. Thanks for reading!

 

 

The Fragrance of Christ

As I sit outside writing this morning, the incredible fragrance of honeysuckle wafts up to the porch on a light breeze every once in awhile. We have a bit of woods behind our house and the last few weeks of May and the beginning of June always bring the blossoming of, first, the wild roses and, shortly after, the honeysuckle– both filling the air with their wonderful scents.

But to some people, farmers and others, these plants are viewed as noxious weeds to be destroyed. Many don’t appreciate their amazing– albeit brief– time of glory each year and seek avidly to rid their landscape of these pests.

One person views them in a positive light and one person views them in a negative light.

As I was enjoying the scent of the honeysuckle the other evening, I examined my own life and wondered if I am the fragrance of Christ to those around me. I long to be, although that sinful nature does trip me up all too frequently!

What is the fragrance of Christ? What does it look like? It’s love and peace and joy. It’s selflessness and self-control. It’s honesty and patience and kindness.

But is that all there is to it? And if it is, then why are we viewed as noxious weeds to so many? Why does the world hate Christians so? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 helps us understand, showing us that, while we are the fragrance of life to a few, to many we are the fragrance of death(!)–

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us [d]diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

None of the things listed above would ever make an enemy. Who doesn’t like someone who is kind and patient and loving? What is the fragrance of Christ that turns people off and makes them want to attack and destroy Christians?

Let’s turn to scripture to gain some insight. For it is there that we find some of these offensive principles that make people turn away from, reject, avoid, and rebel against God. It is here we find out why the world at large hates us Christians.

Being the fragrance of Christ to the world also means that–

–We are committed to the truth of the Gospel. We proclaim that Jesus is the only way. There are no good works we can do or supernatural, mystical happening we can experience to make us right with God. (John 14:6)

–We understand that we–and everyone else in this world– are not good people. We are all born sinners and are in desperate need of a Savior. (Romans 3:23)

–We intentionally surrender our own desires to live for God. We give up our dreams in order to obey God. We take up our cross and deny ourselves. (Matthew 16:24)

–We separate ourselves from the world. From its passion for success. From its definition of love. From its goals and values. From its entertainment. (James 4:4) (please note that I didn’t say we separate ourselves from the people of the world–for we are clearly told to reach the lost. But, according to scripture, we must separate from the world’s system. Contrary to today’s popular opinion, you don’t need to participate in the world and its entertainment to reach someone for Christ.)

–We trust God instead of self. We turn to the Bible for answers instead of to man’s wisdom. (Psalm 118:8)

–We expect persecution and trials as we live our Christian life. We don’t want them, but we understand that we are swimming upstream in a world that is going downstream. (2 Timothy 3:12)

There are so many more things the Bible teaches that we must stand upon. And these are things HATED by the world. We teach that women are the keepers of the home and are to submit to their husbands (Titus 2:4-5). That homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27). That we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). Can you think of others?

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These things are not very popular to teach and preach and write about, are they? And they garner the antagonism and ridicule of the world and even much of the church. Only someone who is already a true believer or seeking after God will be drawn to these principles for life. Only this small group of people will recognize the benefit and blessing of a life lived in obedience to the principles laid out in the Word. Only these few will find these words life-giving, and comforting.

But the rest of the world (and much of the church) will view us as noxious weeds. People to be destroyed. An invasive plant to be gotten rid of.

And we are seeing this, aren’t we? My daughter-in-law sent a photo of a response someone sent to a Christian on Instagram. It was the very essence of what we are talking about. In a nutshell, this woman declared that Christians are a bane on society and should be destroyed. If Christianity is only about kindness and love, why would she declare this? It is because Christianity is about more than love. It’s about TRUTH.

There are a few things for us to reflect upon as we consider this idea of fragrance.

First, we should examine our own lives. Are we giving off the aroma of Christ in all ways? Or just the easy, appealing ways that will gain the acclaim of the world? This is tough and it’s getting tougher. We are all so susceptible to peer pressure. It is only through the strength of the Holy Spirit that we can speak the entire counsel of God and defend the Bible. It is only through His power that we can be the light of truth in this dark, dark world.

Second, I have to confess that one of the biggest puzzles to this for me is how Christians who love truth are often strongly disliked–and even hated–by other Christians. These are good people who are living for Christ. And, yet, when you declare someone to be a false teacher based on their own words and actions, they get mad at you. When you give clear documentation of a false doctrine or some other unpopular truth from God’s Word, they declare you to be negative or legalistic and ridicule you. What is going on here? If they are saved, why don’t they love the truth? Why don’t they want to see the Church and its members protected? I don’t have any answers but it is a puzzling and discouraging truth. If you are a watchmen on the wall, trying to protect the church, the arrows will come from both sides of the wall. And the arrows from inside the church hurt far, far worse than the ones coming from the world!

The perfect Christian life is to live like Christ. We will never attain that on this side of heaven, but this should be our desire. This will consist of those wonderful things that everyone loves but it will also consist of those things that aren’t so loved. To be a true representative for Christ, we must embrace all of who He is. Not just the parts that are pleasant.

And then we must expect, just like the wild rose and honeysuckle plants, to be delightful and pleasant to a few and to be viewed as a pernicious and virulent weed to most. This is the life of the true believer.

 

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 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. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

John 15:18-20

 

 

 

Do You Have Time for Two Quick Questions?

First question: How many Bibles do you have in your house? Count the apps you have on your phone, your tablet, your laptop. Don’t forget the big family Bible on the shelf or in the attic. Remember that childhood Bible that is somewhere. Count the kids’ and your spouse’s Bibles, too. Is the total five? Or ten? Maybe even twenty?

If you call yourself a Christian, my guess is that you have a fair amount of Bibles. Most of us do.

My second question is this: How often do you read any of those Bibles?

If we are the average Christian in the western part of the world, we might read it for an hour or so each week. That equals 8 1/2 minutes per day. That’s about how long it takes to read a chapter or two. Many of us are just reading a few verses which takes it down to a half hour per week. Some of us aren’t reading it at all.

I was all of those at one point in my life and, really, I still struggle some weeks to get that hour in, depending on my schedule. Isn’t that pathetic?

We Christians ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

Let’s look back to history for a moment and remember those who didn’t have Bibles. Home churches ripped pages out of the Bible so that they could each have a portion to take home for the week. People walked for miles in the hot hot sun, or the darkness, or the cold snowy winter to hear the Bible preached. Many were killed for owning a Bible. To these Christians of the past, the Bible was a precious, precious book.

Perhaps, in its abundant availability, we have forgotten just how precious it is.

Satan hates the Bible. Did you know that? He knows that the power for the Christian life is in the Word. As long as he can keep us too busy and distracted to be in the Word, he will render us ineffective for God’s Kingdom. As long as he can convince us that we can’t understand it or that it’s boring, it would seem that he will have accomplished what he set out to do.

Have you ever gone digging for treasure? Think about what it takes to find a treasure. You need a map and you need a shovel. There is a lot of work involved until you reach that chest of gold. In a lot of ways the Bible is no different.

God has given us this amazing treasure of His Word. And while we can enjoy and benefit from bits and pieces of it at a surface level, the true wealth of this Holy Book is revealed when we actually take the time to read and study it. We need to work to get to the real treasure. And that takes time and effort.

I know this because for most of my life I was a “bits and pieces” gal. I’m ashamed to say it but it’s true. It wasn’t until I started really digging into the Word that it began to change me. (You can read my testimony about this here and here.)

It is only when I finally gave serious time to studying the Word that I learned just how interconnected and consistent the entire Bible is. The Bible is teaching me to focus on the eternal and how to combat worry. It it teaching me Who God is and why I can trust Him. It gives me wisdom on living righteously before God and how to love others. And it helps me know how to help others who are going through difficult times (I have nothing worthwhile to offer someone else of my own making. Without Christ, I am as lost and hopeless as the next person). It is showing me that, while the events of the past twenty years (and particularly the past year and a half) have been discouraging, it’s all going according to God’s well-laid out plan for the last days. There’s so much more there in those pages. I am just touching the surface. (I do wish I could say it has perfected me and that I no longer struggle with sin, but its pages tell us not to expect this until we reach the other side.)

The funny thing about scripture is that you can read it and gain insight in one area and then a day, a month, or years later, go back and read the same passage and benefit from it in a totally different way than the first time. It’s a never-ending treasure that just keeps on giving. God, through the Holy Spirit, helps us learn and grow through the Word.

So you don’t find the Bible interesting? You struggle to read anything? You just can’t seem to make Bible Reading a habit?

Let me make a few suggestions–

• Don’t set lofty and unattainable goals. If you struggle, committing to studying an hour a day may lead to frustration. Instead, why not determine to read a few verses each day? And then, instead of letting them go in one ear and out the other, take the time throughout the day to meditate on what you have read. Perhaps even memorize a verse or two.

• If you struggle with reading, find an audio version of the Bible (I use the Bible.is app) so that you can read a chapter or two and then follow it up with listening to it. This may help with your comprehension.

• Find an encouraging accountability partner who will be committed to asking you if you are staying in the Word.

• Find a Bible reading schedule. There are so many different ones–from reading through the Bible in a year to reading the New Testament or the Gospels. (The Growing4Life Bible Reading Challenge can be joined at any time of the year and we’d love to have you join us. I receive no compensation for this whatsoever but simply provide this challenge as an accountability for myself and for my readers to keep us in the Word on a daily basis. You can find out more about the challenge here.)

2021 Bible Reading Challenge

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Here’s the thing…

As much as we’d like to think things are growing more normal, it’s an illusion. What has taken place in the last year has changed the entire world forever. It is leading us at breakneck speed into the scenario that is needed for what has been prophesied in Revelation.

The time to prepare for whatever lies ahead is NOW. And the only way to prepare is to immerse ourselves in the Word. God has given us the Bible to keep us anchored and to weather any storm that comes. If we have any hope at all at navigating what’s ahead with grace and strength, we need to be in the Word. It truly is our only hope.

 

The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.
Isaiah 40:8
As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
Psalm 18:30

 

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