The Bible

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

 

How Do I Know Who’s Telling Me the Truth?

There has been a lot of conversations about lies as compared to the truth over this past year. It is so difficult to work our way through all of the chaos and confusion. But do you know this has been going on for years? We just didn’t realize it.

It has been especially prevalent in the church over the past 50 or more years, where we have seen lies bound into the church (often splitting churches and causing genuine Christians to leave and start another church) or slither in so subtly they go completely unnoticed by almost all.

So two people asked me the same question last night: How do I know if the sermon or commentary or book I am reading is telling me the truth?

I answered off the top of my head then but have been giving it more thought since that time. It is a great question and some of you may have wondered this, as well. I thought maybe I’d try to tackle that question here this morning.

So you are reading a Study Bible or a commentary on a passage and you wonder: Is this guy interpreting this passage correctly? Or perhaps you are listening to a sermon and you think: Is this what the Bible is actually teaching here?

What are some steps you can take to make sure you aren’t deceived? There are a few important things you can do. Let’s take a look at them–

1. Pray for discernment. It is important that we are diligent in asking for the Holy Spirit to guide us as we study the Bible. Many have been the times I have heard something and it just didn’t “sit right” with me. This caused me to start digging deeper and finding out if that person was right or not. I’ve head many people share that they’ve had the same thing happen to them. One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs in our lives is to help us understand and interpret the Word rightly (John 14:26) and He does faithfully do this.

2. Recognize that we can understand a lot of the Bible without help. God has designed His Word to be understood by the average lay person. Think about how many things are clear in the Bible when you just sit down to study it without helps. Sure, there are some things that are a bit confusing or hard to understand, but the majority of the Bible is pretty understandable overall. As we become more familiar with its theme, its context, and its content, dedicating ourselves to reading and studying the actual Bible, we will be able to spot things that are off much more quickly.

3. Value the truth of God’s Word and be willing to pay whatever it costs to follow it. If I have seen one thing that has caused people to stumble or even turn away from genuine Christianity, it is this. The loyalty to men runs deep and when someone is confronted with a favorite teacher who is teaching a false doctrine, they will often choose the teacher over the Bible. Or perhaps they are confronted with the truth that genuine Christianity requires sacrifice and self-denial. They don’t like that truth and so they go towards the false Christianity that promises health and wealth. The bottom line is that if we are not willing to follow the truth of God’s Word–no matter the cost–we will open ourselves up to being deceived. We must value the truth of God’s Word above all else as we grow as believers.

4. As you start studying the Word, you will start to become familiar with those you can trust. Many men who have died aren’t changing their messages, so I often start there. While I may not agree with everything, I do know I can trust them regarding the main doctrines of the faith. Men like Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J.C. Ryle, and many of the Puritans have so much to offer when it comes to the topics of salvation and sanctification. (I want to note here that many of these men followed the wrong eschatology of reformed theology. Augustine developed the idea of Replacement Theology out of his own hatred for the Jews and their doctrines and this wrong doctrine has been followed by so many since. But since many of these men have been alive, things have progressed and been made so much clearer in regards to a literal Revelation that I do wonder if some of them would be changing their minds about now…)

5. Ask someone you trust if you have a question about something you have read or heard. Now before you ask, do make sure this person is committed 100% to the truth of God’s Word over pleasing men. Make sure they will tell you the truth in answer to your question. There are many people out there who aren’t willing to do this because they don’t want to lose you as a friend or offend you. You want to find someone who is willing to tell you the truth, no matter the cost. If you have someone like this in your life, you are beyond blessed. Ask them your questions and be willing to hear their answers.

6. Research the person in question. Oftentimes when I have a question about something I have heard or read, it will be answered if I dig a little deeper into the person who said/wrote it. If people are seriously in error in one area, they are probably seriously wrong in others.

7. Look at the speaker/author’s friends. Psalm 1 says that a righteous man will not hang out with the ungodly. Romans 16:17 tells us we are to avoid those who teach things contrary to pure doctrine. If the person you are listening to or reading spends his time, unapologetically, with false teachers or proudly declares his connections with the unsaved (for instance, in his/her efforts to better this world), beware. This is a HUGE red flag. Mark and avoid any teacher that does this. The Bible makes it clear that this means the teacher is compromised.

8. Have much grace and a humble spirit when there are minor differences. We will never agree whole-heartedly with anyone on everything. This is just life. We can’t be so over-zealous that we turn away from someone simply because of a minor disagreement about a passage. And we must humbly recognize that we aren’t right about everything, either. No one is. So, in the little things, we have grace and humility, striving for unity among true believers. Oh, how many churches have been destroyed over minor disagreements.

9. Recognize that Satan wants to deceive you. We are told that he is like a roaring lion, who seeks to devour (I Peter 5:8) and that he often presents himself as an angel of light, as do his workers (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Unless we are aware of Satan’s dedication to putting us off-course, we will be vulnerable in our naivete and ignorance. We must be aware of the spiritual battle that is raging for our souls. Satan would like nothing more than for us to be rendered ineffective for Christ and His Kingdom through deception and distraction.

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I hope this has been helpful. It is certainly not exhaustive and I’m sure I will think of other things as soon as I post this (that is usually what happens!) If you have other suggestions that have helped you, I would love to read them in the comments section.

Life continues to get crazier and truth is costing more and more. Both biblically, as well as in the real, everyday world. Many are not willing to pay the price.

But if we are to keep ourselves walking in the truth, we must dedicate ourselves to it. No matter the cost. We must submit ourselves to God and His Word (even if we don’t like what it says), and, when we do, God will honor this desire. He will keep us and guard us from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3; James 4:7).

So stay strong and value truth, my friends. In this time of great deception, ask the Lord to protect you. He is so faithful and He will!

 

 

How Studying the Bible Changes You

I was so perplexed and started to grow angry. Was she kidding? No, there was an unpleasant glint in her eye that gave credence to her words.

My daughter had been given permission from the guy at the top of the bridge to have her baby’s car seat in the plane. When we arrived in the plane, the stewardess informed us in no uncertain terms that this would not be possible. She condescendingly told us it was a full flight and she highly doubted there would be room for his seat. But the plane was far from full. So not only was she rude but she lied. We did question why permission was given at the top, which seemed to set her against us. She continued her churlishness with us throughout the flight. This same stewardess was quite rude to the rest of family behind us as they made legitimate requests. It’s hard to believe that someone like that has a job working with people.

A few moments before the flight started, a man came and very kindly explained that, due to Covid, car seats were no longer allowed on the smaller planes. While this didn’t make any sense to us at all, his calm and kind manner as he explained was comforting after the stinging meanness of the stewardess. (They all seemed to be rather confused as to protocol regarding car seats and the rules about them. It was very disorganized. It does seem like we now live in a world where anything and everything can be blamed on Covid. It’s actually very strange.)

As we taxied on the runway and then took off, I could feel myself growing angrier and angrier at this woman. I wanted nothing more than to be rude back to her. But about fifteen or twenty minutes in, as I started to settle down, it dawned on me that she was very likely unsaved and that I had a Christian testimony to keep. While I (to my shame) did not go out of my way to “kill her with kindness”, I did manage to hold my tongue and to mumble a “thank you” a time or two as she brought things by.

I do long for the day that I can overcome my flesh in these situations and actually be extra kind when someone is so incredibly rude to me (or my child.) But Sunday was not that day.

The next morning, I was reading in Matthew and I came across these verses in chapter six–

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

I thought about this lady from the day before and remembered the danger of holding grudges. I thought of how anger and bitterness shatter all relationships–whether it be with a stranger, a customer, a person at church, a friend, or a family member.

Unforgiveness and bitterness destroy everything in their path. It can never be allowed to set up residence in our soul. Even over the small matter of an extra-ordinarily rude stewardess. At that moment, I chose to forgive her. I wished I had been able to do that on the plane so that I could have been a better testimony. I will probably never see her again and that chance is gone.

So, honestly, I am not a big one for flying. Flying with masks is far worse. But the thing that had me the most worried was that all of the women, save one, in our family were on the same plane for four different flights. About two weeks before we had left this hit me and I grew incredibly worried about something happening to all of us at the same time. Enter Matthew, chapter six again. It was from the end of that chapter that I drew much comfort and chose to trust the Lord.

You see, in the Growing4Life Bible Reading Challenge we have been reading Matthew 5-8, which contains the Sermon on the Mount. There have been so many times that what I have been reading and studying over this past month have been practically applied to my daily life. I gave just two examples above but there are so many more. The scriptures have exhorted, reminded, encouraged, and rebuked me. They truly are life-changing.

Any good in me, any right response, is the Holy Spirit working through the Word to transform me and make me look more like Christ. It has nothing whatsoever to do with me or my efforts to be a “better person”.

I wish I could get every single person who claims to love Jesus to actually study the Word. It would change the world because it changes the individual.

If you’d like to study the Bible but aren’t sure where to begin, I’d like to invite you to join this year’s Bible Reading Challenge. It’s a great time to join because we will begin the book of Ruth on April 1st. You can find the details here. I would love to have you join me in studying God’s Word.

But any study of God’s Word is life-changing. The key is to get started. Paul tells us in I Timothy 3:16-17–

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

If we want to be transformed by the Word, it will require study and meditation. Cursorily reading it isn’t a bad thing but it could be compared to a lollipop in its sustenance regarding our spiritual health.

Life happens. Every day we face various trials and challenges. Big ones and small ones. We face rude stewardesses, customer service reps, and clerks. We find out a company scammed us or cheated us or didn’t receive our payment. We learn that our child or spouse or family member did something very disappointing. We find out that someone passed away, is getting divorced, or has been diagnosed with illness.

God has told us how to respond to these things and so much more in His Word. But if we don’t know it, we are missing out on the greatest strength and guidance God has offered us. Let us not ignore this wonderful gift God has given us for this life.

 

 

The Challenges of Being a “People-Pleaser”

The other day, my dad shared something he remembered about me as a child that surprised me. But then, as I thought about it further, I realized that it is absolutely true and it is what has caused me so much misery through these past years of blogging. God has been helping me understand this about myself recently and has also given me greater insight in how to deal with it. I am sharing here because I thought this might also be of benefit to other “people-pleasers”.

We were talking about the grandkids (my dad’s great grandkids) and their personalities when he suddenly mentioned how different my brother and I were. I was so sensitive and wanted to please people as opposed to my brother, who never really cared what people thought about him.

I am not sure why but a light bulb went on in my head. Finally.

You see, since I have been blogging and I guess for my whole life, I have had a great desire to adhere to God’s truth and to share it with others. Because the truth is so important to me, I can see often see when there is false doctrine afoot or when someone is twisting scripture. (I don’t do this perfectly, of course.)

However, this desire to share truth is in direct conflict with my innate desire to make people happy. Since people often don’t want to hear the truth, I find myself not always pleasing them. I’ve never thought about myself as a people-pleaser but as I have reflected on my dad’s words, I can see that this is what has caused me so much heartache throughout my life. Especially since I’ve been publicly blogging.

You see, I have often noticed people that I’ve counted as friends and even acquaintances take a step back from me. They start avoiding me. They won’t make eye contact. Or they just act like I’m no longer on the planet. Or blog readers just disappear. A fellow blogger became a friend (I thought) and then poof! Just like that she disappeared. I still have no idea why.

There’s been no conversation or discussion so I often surmise that it must have been something I wrote (or said). Since I am never given the opportunity to actually find out what it exactly is that I’ve said or wrote that offended them, I am at a loss to fix it.

This has caused me incredible turmoil through the years and I will tell you why. It is because I have absolutely no way of knowing if someone is upset with me because of some truth they read (or heard me say) OR if I have done something sinful.

The questions that I repeat over and over again to myself when this happens are: Did I do something wrong? Did I write something that wasn’t biblical? Did I say it in a way that was unloving? Did I make a big deal out of something that shouldn’t have been a big deal? Father, have I sinned against Thee?

These go round and round and round in my head whenever someone so obviously backs away from me. And, contrary to what many people think about me, I don’t enjoy this. I HATE conflict. I HATE making people unhappy. I HATE when people don’t like me.

So why do I keep doing what I do? It’s because I care about pleasing God more than I hate people not liking me. I care more about God’s Word than I do about offending people. And it’s because so many of you have reached out and told me how the Growing4Life posts have encouraged and helped you. It’s because, for whatever reason, God has given me this platform and I want to faithfully accomplish what He has given me to accomplish.

But there is this dreadful uncertainty in the midst of all of this. Do people disappear because I have sinned or do they disappear because they didn’t like a particular truth I mentioned? I have spent hours in agony over this question. I am not exaggerating.

If people don’t like me for speaking truth then so be it. Scripture makes it clear that this is the price we should expect to pay. But if they don’t like me because of something sinful I did, then I must fix something. But what is it? Because it’s just easier to disappear than to have a conversation, I am rarely given the opportunity to know just what is going on.

Sometimes God will reveal something to me and I will apologize to someone. Or I will go back and change a sentence or two in a blog post. But that question still haunts me. Because if I had my choice, everyone would like me.

As I thought about this yet again a few weeks ago and spent a morning in turmoil, I finally, by the grace of God, found peace. For the first time since I started writing publicly, I found peace regarding the disappearing readers and friends.

And this is what I wanted to share with you. I hope it is an encouragement to those of you who have people-pleasing personalities like mine.

A week or two ago, as I once again sat agonizing over this, wondering if I have sinned against someone, it suddenly hit me. I can do nothing if people aren’t willing to share with me why they are offended.

My responsibility is to humbly surrender and change as God reveals things to me. But if someone is offended and they won’t share that with me, then there is really nothing I can do. I am helpless to make them happy or to be at peace with them, because they have found it easier just to walk away.

At that point I am not responsible. As long as I am living out Romans 12:18 (As much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men), there is nothing further I can do. The fact that Paul even wrote that verse shows that it is not always possible to be at peace with all men.

This is all compounded by the fact that, over the past few years, a rather strange new thing has entered our culture: We only like those with whom we agree. This change is extremely sad and causes so much division and heartache.

So I’d like to just go on record to say that I still like you even if we don’t agree about everything. I count you as a friend even if you and I differ on eschatology or how we view a specific Christian teacher. And if you can show me, from scripture, why I should change my view, I’ll change it. I am always open to discussion. I never want to be hard-headed or the kind that needs to prove I’m right. If scripture is clear that I am wrong, I am not too proud to admit it.

And, quite frankly, it is those of you that have kindly shared your disagreements with me who have led me to really dig deeper into the Word to clarify and confirm what I have said I believe. I am thankful for those of you with whom I can have candid and kind discussions. This is how we sharpen one another. This is how the family of God is supposed to work.

And, so, that is just a brief look into the window of my heart. I have made myself rather vulnerable with this post but I do so because I believe we are going to face this dilemma more and more as we stand for the truth of the Bible. It’s growing increasingly unpopular and I believe we are going to please people less and less as we cling tenaciously to God and His Word. We people-pleasers will have to come to grips with this.

So may we stand firm. May we unapologetically proclaim the truth of God’s Word–all of it! The pleasant parts and the not-so-pleasant parts. And may we humbly acknowledge when we have sinned, repent, brush ourselves off, and begin again.

 

When It’s Time to Turn Off a Sermon

Do you know we get “preached at” every day? Articles, news, songs, shows, movies, blog posts, and commercials are all telling us what we should believe and how we should live. Some are more subtle than others. Then there are the ones that are really obvious.

A few weeks ago, I decided to try a new fitness program. I was excited about it because it looked to be an excellent workout in only thirty minutes. That’s my kind of workout! ;)

I put on my workout clothing, got my weights, and turned on the TV.

“Our word for today is limitless. You are limitless.”

I think I laughed out loud. Anyone with even half a brain recognizes that all humans have limits. Right? Uh, wrong…

Through the course of the next thirty minutes I was told that I have no limits. That I can do anything. And all kinds of other things that were not only false, but totally nonsensical. I was listening to a sermon of the New Age religion, where we can all be divine and become gods.

I listened that first day but I liked the workout and so I made a choice to just ignore what the instructor was saying. But by about the fourth day, two things were really bothering me.

First, something the instructor had said came to my mind as I was doing something later that day. I actually had to consciously tell myself: No, that’s wrong. So I realized that, without a doubt, I was hearing and remembering what she was saying each morning, even in my efforts to ignore her.

And, second, I felt a check in my spirit. Something wasn’t right. I was convicted that these New Age “sermons” did not belong in the home of a believer. Staying true to God and His Word was far more important than being “fit”. There are ways to be fit that don’t compromise me spiritually.

Please don’t hear me saying any “thou shalt nots” here. We all have to make our choices before God about what we are going to listen to and watch every day. I am not your judge. But this experience reminded me that we are being preached at every day. The majority of what we hear is not neutral. It is either for God and goes along with His Word or it is against God and what His Word says (and, if we are honest, we recognize that it is mostly against Him).

The thing that makes this all rather confusing is that much that is being taught in the New Age religion is labeled “Christian”. The fitness instructor wasn’t pretending to be a Christian. She was right out there with her false religion and she wasn’t using Christian lingo. But there are many preaching the false religion of “self glory” and they are using Christianese to do it. And so we have to pay attention.

There are times to turn off sermons, radios, and tvs. There are times to walk away from churches and movies theaters. Here are some things to look for–

Self takes center stage and God is relegated to either the background or rather, oftentimes, takes the role of “genie” who will make your dreams come true.

Self gets the glory.

Self is defined in glowing terms, rather than as an undeserving sinner in need of God’s grace.

• How self feels and what self experiences is more important than what the Bible teaches.

The thing that makes this extra tricky and tempting is that what the New Age religion is teaching us is extremely appealing to our flesh. It is a very pleasant message to hear. It tells us our dreams and self-fulfillment matter. It tells us that we can accomplish anything. It tells us that we are limitless creatures that are able to create our own destinies. It tells us that we are divine within. It tells us that denying ourselves and picking up our cross daily is an archaic command of an old-fashioned religion.

Who doesn’t want that kind of religion?

Only a true believer who is spending time in the Word can see past how good that sounds to the destruction and havoc it actually wreaks both eternally and here on earth.

How important that we Christians pay attention to the sermons we hear every day. What are we being taught that goes against what God teaches in His Word? It is time we got intentional about what we are ingesting into our minds each and every day. Satan has some very powerful tools and he is using them to reach into the hearts and minds of both Christians and non-Christians to sway and move them towards that one world religion that is coming.

We have a responsibility to keep ourselves pure from false religion. And we should have a desire to keep ourselves pure and wholly devoted to God alone. We can only do this by being very consciously aware of the battle that is going on for our hearts and minds and then actually doing something about it to stand firm, hold fast, and prove our undying loyalty to the true King alone.

 

 

 

PLEASE NOTE:

Facebook is not my friend. I have a suspicion that the crackdown on biblical content may be affecting me. I have no way to prove this, of course, but I have noticed that, over the past few weeks, the number “reached” has been radically reduced (which can only mean it’s not being put on the news feed by Facebook). This is confirmed by the dearth of responses that most posts are receiving as compared to just a few weeks ago. If you are on Facebook and appreciate any post I share then your liking, commenting, and sharing it will help get the posts on the news feed. I appreciate any help you give. However, with that being said, I want to assure you that I am at peace with all of this. I am not ever going to market myself. This is all in God’s hands and I am completely content to let it there. Or at least my desire is to be content, however this turns out. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it is a bit discouraging…

As social media cracks down on things, I do wonder how long biblical content will be allowed on any platform. Even the service I use to send out posts to Growing4Life subscribers has changed their policy to open the door for censorship. I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but thought perhaps I should just mention it again, in case anyone missed it: If you appreciate the Growing4Life posts and want to stay in touch with me, should I be censored, please reply to this email (or message me if you are reading this on social media) with your name and email address. I will add your name to a list of contacts, should I need to find a new way to reach you.  If you’ve already contacted me, there is no need to do so again. I thank you and your name and email address are already in a file I am keeping should such a day come.

 

The Antidote to Insanity

If someone would have told us last year at this time what would happen in the next year, we may have actually laughed at the ridiculousness of it. But here we are. I don’t think I need to review the insane and irrational things we’ve been hearing and watching. But, just for fun (?), I’ll mention a few. (I am avoiding certain words due to censorship, but I think you’ll be able to figure out what I am trying to say.)

–Parents allowing their children to decide if they will be a boy or a girl (and Christians are accused of denying science? It would be comical if it wasn’t so tragic.)

–Abortion at nine months and, in some cases, a few minutes after birth, because, after all, it’s not really a human being until a few minutes after it’s born. (How sick and disturbing is that??)

–A v___cine  that has a death rate pretty similar to the actual vi__s it is designed to stop? Only they don’t really know if it’s effective, so we still need to wear masks and social distance, even after we get the v__cine. In fact, we might need to get this shot every year. Or even twice a year.

–A “Christian” apologist who spent his lifetime defending God and the Bible who not only proved to be a false teacher over the past few years, but actually did horrible, unmentionable immoral things–with no sign that there was any repentance even until the day he died (none of us can know what happened on his deathbed. We can only hope there was last-minute repentance.)

–Pastors claiming we need to apologize for being white and pay reparations for the sins of our ancestors.

–The unbelievable paradox in response from certain government representatives to the r____ts  from last summer as compared to the r___t   from last month. Last summer they were praising and encouraging those who would destroy the lives of so many–which, let’s not forget, included many of the people they were supposedly fighting for. But the other, they are labeling and destroying the lives of not only the people involved but even people who were not anywhere near the vicinity of the second or took any part in it at all. It’s really beyond absurd.

–And, finally, the censorship, peer pressure, and persecution that is ensuring that there is only one allowed opinion. Freedom of speech has all but disappeared in the last six months. People are removed from publicly traded social media companies without notice. Their lives are destroyed without a care. There is zero tolerance for an opinion that does not go along with the mainstream media’s narrative. And NO ONE IS DOING ANYTHING TO STOP IT. (If you don’t find this disturbing, no matter which side you are on, I beg you to consider that you will be next. Censorship such as this is an all-consuming fire.)

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And that’s just a drop in the bucket, isn’t it? There are a million more things. I’ve talked about some of them already here on the blog. And you probably have heard stories that I haven’t heard. I think we can all agree that it is beyond belief and can be quite overwhelming.

In the midst of this are arguments among Christians about masks and vaccines and politics. We are called to have grace for one another in areas that are not biblical and, yet, that grace has all but disappeared in the heat of these issues. Satan is not only causing chaos in the world, but he is actively causing it in the church, as well.

2020 was strange. 2021 may end up even stranger. In the midst of all of this it is important that we have something to anchor ourselves to. An antidote, per se, for the insanity around us.

When someone is bitten by a poisonous snake, the poison will seep into the body, slowing down and petrifying the systems of the body. The only thing that will save that person is the antidote–a counteracting agent that works against the poison.

Antidote (according to Merriam-Webster)–

1 : a remedy to counteract the effects of poison

2 : something that relieves, prevents, or counteracts

 

As believers, we have but one antidote in the midst of all of this insanity and that is THE BIBLE. I don’t think we can overstate the importance of this. You see, it is only the Bible we can turn to for absolute truth. It is only the Bible that can provide peace and joy in the midst of the chaos. It is only the Bible that can help us understand what’s going on. It’s only the Bible that actually has prophesied in precise detail about what we are seeing.

Only the Bible can keep us anchored and grounded during these tumultuous times.

It is literally the only thing that can relieve the confusion, anxiety, and fear; it is the only thing that can prevent deception; and it is the only thing that can counteract both the lies and the chaos.

The Bible has brought much comfort and peace over this time. It as also confirmed itself over and over again as we are watching things get set in place for those things prophesied in Revelation. There is a convergence of signs that really should fill us with awe. The Lord told us these things would happen and they are happening!

This antidote will not work, however, if you don’t approach it properly. Just as an antidote for a snakebite won’t work if you don’t administer it correctly, so, too, the Bible must be approached rightly if it is going to have an antidotal effect on us.

First, we actually spend time in the Word. More time than just a cursory reading of a verse or two. We can’t expect to know the Bible and have it affect us in any way if we never actually study and meditate on it.

Second, we humble ourselves and yield our desires and opinions to the Lord as we search the scripture. We even yield our “dislikes” to Him. If we don’t like something we read there, we choose to believe it in faith.

Third, we must approach the Bible with the correct hermeneutic (a big word to describe how we interpret the scriptures). I believe that the literal-grammatical-historical approach is the correct one, as it purports that we read the Bible literally, as it is written, unless the passage demands otherwise and clearly shows itself as allegorical or symbolic. This type of interpretation means that we concern ourselves with authorial intent. What did the author intend to say? It means that we take scripture passages in the context that they are given, reviewing the passages that are before it and after it. There is so much more, but these three specific things have really helped me in my own study. (I will put some more about this after the post for further study if you are interested.)

 

In many ways, I feel like I’ve been a broken record these past few years. The world is getting crazier. We need to cling to the Bible and only the Bible. That pretty much sums up the over-arching purpose of this blog.

There is one antidote to all of the insanity. And that antidote is the Bible. It is not a blogger, a pastor, an eloquent speaker, an author, a family member, or a teacher. All of these people can and will let you down. While these people can be of great encouragement as we strive to grow, may we keep our focus on the Bible and our loyalty reserved for it alone.

As we all live in the midst of all of this and wonder what is ahead, may we cling to the anchor the Lord has so graciously provided for us. For such a time as this.

 

 

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More regarding Hermeneutics:

From an interview with Dr. Abner Chou (find the rest of it here)–

How do we know we are studying the Bible rightly?

Sometimes people talk about a “literal-grammatical-historical” method. This examines a text with a view to authorial intent (literal) through the text’s wording and in light of the facts of history. How can we be sure this is the way God wanted us to view a text? After all, the Bible is a supernatural text. Perhaps a different method is warranted.

Initially, we could make an argument based upon the nature of language and communication. In other situations, we do not think twice about reading something this way. We do this with our contracts, emails, and our bank statements! God used human language in writing the Bible and arguably it operates along the same line. An even better approach is to see how the biblical writers themselves read and write. When they use Scripture, they claim it is “according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:1-5), “as it is written,” or “what the prophets have spoken.” They insist their interpretation is not contradicting the language of Scripture but based upon authorial intent. Upon closer examination, the biblical writers read the Bible contextually and with an eye to detail. They link related passages together (Rom 9:25-29), showing they are aware of how the Bible contextually fits together. They also make a theological point based upon a single word (Heb 3-4) or grammatical observation (Gal 3:16).

This demonstrates that the biblical writers themselves believed the Bible is based upon authorial intent and that, because of inspiration (2 Tim 3:16), it is good down to the finest detail. Moreover, they read the text highlighting pertinent historical background (Mark 7:3-4), being sensitive to chronology (Gal 3:17), and even discussing history outright. They believed history helped to explain what they meant. The biblical writers themselves reveal the way they read and wrote Scripture. This then is the way the Bible works and grounds our reading of the biblical text. We read the Bible with a view to authorial intent through grammar and history because the biblical writers first did so for us.

In sum, the Bible comes with “hermeneutics included” and that gives us assurance that we did not make up our approach. Rather, the Bible invites us to read this way.

 

Finding the “Whys” to our “Whats”

In reading the first four chapters of Matthew yesterday, I came across something that I had never really considered before. In those first four chapters alone, there were seven fulfilled prophecies from the Old Testament. Seven very specific prophecies. I encourage you to go look at them for yourself.

So you may be thinking “what’s the big deal”?

Well, as I was reading these I realized that if God fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament very specifically in the first coming of Jesus, why wouldn’t He do so again in the second coming? And if He filled the prophecies of the Old Testament so specifically, why wouldn’t He do the same for the New Testament prophecies?

I think it is always good to really consider why we believe what we believe. If we believe Revelation will be fulfilled literally, then why do we believe that? If we don’t believe that, then why don’t we believe that?

If we are honest, most of us our beliefs go back to what we were taught at home, what we were taught in our church denominations, or what we were taught by a favorite celebrity pastor or teacher.

It’s so important that we know not only what we believe but why we believe it. Without the “why”, the “what” will be flimsy, weak, and vulnerable to change and to false doctrine.

(And, actually, I do believe this is one of the major reasons you see much of the younger generation leaving the biblical churches. They were never given a “why” and the “what” without the “why” is like a personal invitation to deception. It’s up to us parents to make sure our children know why we believe what we do. And, actually, many children don’t even know the what. How important that we be discussing the stuff that matters with our kids, grandkids, and anyone else that we come into contact with. It might feel strange at first, but if we intentionally work at this, there will be much fruit. But I digress…!)

As we intentionally start working to find out our “whys” to the “whats” of our biblical beliefs, there are a few very important steps we must take before we get started.

First, we must humble ourselves. Psalm 25:29 explains why:

He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

As does Proverbs 11:2:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

Pride is the opposite of humility and it is the one great sin of all mankind. We all struggle with it, whether we would admit it or not. In fact, often in our public shows of “humility”, we are most prideful!

Pride is what keeps people from God, plain and simple. They pridefully think they are a “good enough” person that God will accept them. It is only with humility that we can first see ourselves as we really are–a sinner in need of a Savior. But, Christians, we need to keep growing in this area of humility even after we are saved. We need to be examining ourselves and our actions to see if we truly have a humble heart or if we have just fooled ourselves.

God has convicted me over and over again regarding this area of my life. Even a simple argument with my husband shows me just how prideful I really am. Our responses to criticism and praise, our “teachability”, our willingness to admit flaws and failures–these all can show us just how humble we truly are.

Second, we must be willing to embrace what we don’t like or care for. A few years back, a ministry came out with a book that claimed that Calvinism was a heretical doctrine and that people who believed in it weren’t saved. I was quite taken aback by such a claim and re-evaluated why I believe what I believe, in relation to this whole Calvinism/Arminianism debate (and just for the record, I landed exactly where I had been before that book came out, which is staunchly in the area of biblical truth where we learn that we are chosen by God but that it runs parallel with free will in a way we could never possibly understand. I highly recommend the sermon titled Twin Truths: God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility by John MacArthur if you, too, are struggling with this debate that never seems to go away.)But to get to my point: Something that this ministry wrote in their email introducing this book with its unbiblical conclusion really spoke volumes as to why their premise was all wrong. As they explained why they wrote the book, there was a sentence that began like this: “We cannot believe in a God who…”

Whoah. Wait just a minute. We don’t have that right! We don’t get to say what we can or cannot believe about God. We must read and study the Bible with a heart willing to accept even the doctrines we don’t like.

This is not a popular concept these days, is it? Election (Ephesians 1:4-6), eternal hell (Matthew 10:29), salvation without evidence of a changed life isn’t salvation at all (Matthew 7:20) and many other “unpleasant” doctrines are being eliminated because people just don’t like them (I might add that I offer only one verse of many that prove these unpopular doctrines are true.)

And, let’s be honest, no one really likes these doctrines. They are difficult to understand and come with ramifications that make us so very heavy-hearted.

And so, as a result of this, we see so many people doing literary back flips and cartwheels in their efforts to change what the Word really says. In contrast, we need to approach God’s Word with a heart willing to believe and obey even when what we read is abhorrent to us.

Third, we must be outfitted in the complete Christian Armor. The truth has never really been popular, but perhaps that has never been so true than right now. If we choose to humbly and willingly trust, obey, and proclaim all of God’s Word (and not just the parts that are pleasant), we must be ready for the darts and arrows of the enemy. These will come not only from antagonistic, angry people, but they will come from the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). We cannot fight or even continue to stand on our own strength. No human courage can withstand these deadly attacks. We must put on our full armor so that we are able to stand strong and firm. Find the complete armor we have been given to wear in Ephesians 6:10-20.

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It’s funny, this post ended up being nothing like I planned. At all. But I do hope it was an encouragement and challenge to all of us as we strive to live whole-heartedly for Jesus. May we give great efforts to grow in humility, yield wholly to God, and to be protected by the armor God has given us, all while recognizing that it is the Holy Spirit that works in us for God’s glory and our good.

 

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