Trials

(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!

 

 

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.

 

 

Encouragement for the Fainthearted

A few weeks ago, we realized that we were going to have to say good-bye to our dog. She was growing thinner by the day and it was obvious something was really wrong with her. When I called the vet they asked me if we would stay with her during her final hour or just give her to them.

Oh, how my whole being wanted to just leave her, so I wouldn’t have to face the “hard”. So much easier to drop her off and walk away.

But it wasn’t that simple…

I have had two dogs in my life that have meant more to me than any others, and she was one of them. I just couldn’t leave her to die all alone.

The next few days dragged by as we spent our final moments with the treasured pet that had been with our family for fifteen years.

And then came the day when my 21 year old daughter and I got into the car with Belle for one last time. We drove to the vet, hearts heavy, and were taken to a little room. There, we said our final goodbye and Belle breathed her last. I still tear up, even as I am writing this.

Several times over the course of the week before, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Surely, it would be okay to just leave her? After all, she was just a dog. But as I left that room, even as I was dealing with the grief of losing this beloved pet, I was very much at peace that I had chosen the harder path.

She is just a dog. A dog without soul and without eternal significance. This is minor in light of many choices we face.

And yet, this incident reminded me of how, so often, the harder choice is the better choice.

We love easy roads. We all do. How much easier to traverse a smooth, wide road than a rocky, narrow path. And so often I make the choice that is easier. At least at the time.

I feel like I’ve come awake these past few months to how often I’ve chosen the easy path. I’ve been spoiled. I always knew this, but it has taken on even more significance recently. Most of us have been tremendously blessed materially and have rarely had to make choices that would bring negative consequences on ourselves or our families.

And I wonder: Do I even have what it takes to face the hard? Do I have the courage and strength and boldness I am going to need for whatever lies ahead?

This can make me feel downright fainthearted.

That’s when I am reminded of three very, very important principles from God’s Word (Don’t skip over the verses! They are amazingly relevant and oh, so comforting!)–

1. My strength comes from the Lord.

Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

Philippians 4:13  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

2. God will supply all of my needs.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

Philippians 4:19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

3. God’s grace will be sufficient.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

When we have doubts we must remember these three things! Whatever lies ahead, we have the Lord on our side. These words from scripture are not empty promises. They have been proven over and over again by those who have gone on before us. They are being proven every day by those who are already walking the difficult path of persecution in other lands.

We will not be left alone, as those without a Shepherd. We will not be left hopeless, as those without a Savior. We will not be left weak and powerless, as those without Almighty God on their side.

No matter what lies ahead, we must choose the righteous and holy path. No matter how arduous the trail ahead, we must take that first step. And when we do this, we can be assured that God will provide all we need to travel this hard road. He is walking with us. We are not alone!

 

 

Six Things to Consider Regarding the Upcoming Election

It has been a strange whirlwind of a year and it is culminating with perhaps the single most important election in American history. It seems as if the whole world is watching and waiting to see the outcome and what will happen afterwards. We who live in America know that change is brewing and we feel unsettled. We realize that we are probably never going back to the way things were, no matter who wins this election.

Most posts you read regarding the upcoming election express concern about the issues facing the culture and then encourage you to be sure and vote. I am actually not going to focus on that, as I am sure you have read plenty regarding these things. I do encourage you to search the scriptures before you cast your vote. Do not do so lightly or without prayer.

But let’s talk about the election beyond the obvious. Beyond the aspect of voting. Let’s consider some things that are even more important–

1. God’s plan may be (and, in fact, probably is) different than our plan.

Have you said the following words yet this year: “I just want my old life back” or “When will things just go back to normal?”

Oh, how many of us yearn to go back to the old America. She’s been going a very wrong direction for a long, long time now but, still, she was comfortable. She felt safe. She felt secure.

That has been swept away and we’d like nothing more than to just get all of that back again. But God may have a totally different plan for this country. Remember, His plan always supersedes our own plans. While there is nothing wrong with participation in human government whether it’s through voting or actually serving in government, we must remember that God’s plan is what is most important.

As Christians, our priority is not saving America. It is glorifying God and submitting to His will.

Not only is God’s plan different, but it’s also actually greater than our plan.

I am sure many Christians throughout history have wondered what in the world God was doing? Many were sent to gulags and concentration camps; they were imprisoned; they were displaced; they were separated from their families; they became sick and died; And many were even martyred for their faith. These things are not just from history. They are actually still happening all over the world today. Christians go through terrible trials.

This would not be our plan.

And yet, we are told in scripture that God’s ways are perfect (Psalm 18:30). This means that His plans are better and higher than our plans.

 

2. We aren’t here to fix the culture.

One of the things that has disturbed me about much of the talk that is going on in Christian circles today is this push to fix the culture. We are told by certain (trusted) men that our job as Christians is to make the world a better place. Many are saying that we are here to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. This idea seems to take on more and more steam almost every day.

But I challenge you to find that idea in scripture.

Oh, you may find a verse or two that could be stretched to fit if they are ripped out of context. But if you study God’s Kingdom from Genesis to Revelation using a consistent hermeneutic, you will find that there is no possible way this could be true. I hope to write more about this some day. It’s a pretty big deal.

For now, let’s just be clear: The Bible teaches that upon our salvation, our focus is taken off this world and turned to things above (Colossians 3:2). Rather than working to bring perfection here to earth, we are much more concerned with sharing the Gospel so that others can join us in heaven someday (Matthew 28:19-20). Nowhere does it say or even imply that Christians are here on this earth to fix the culture.

 

3. There is nothing new under the sun.

No matter what happens, we know that people have experienced something similar before us. Countries have been taken over by the likes of Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot. Communism has destroyed freedom all over the world. Real people like you and like me have lived under these regimes. They have struggled and they have suffered.

And, yet, somehow, Christians from the past and, even in these countries today, experience peace and joy. They were (and are) given the grace they need when they need it. And, so, we, too, will be given the grace to go through whatever is ahead (2 Corinthians 12:9). Another thing to remember is that, as the world grows darker, the light of Jesus Christ shines brighter. What abundant opportunities may lie ahead for us to share the Good News!

 

4. Don’t believe everything you hear.

I think it is clear that– whether we are discussing a virus, the riots, or the election– that there is a narrative that the world-at-large is determined we will believe. Those bringing us the news, the tech companies controlling social media, and the government would like nothing better than that you just eat what they feed you.

It is important that we have a healthy dose of skepticism regarding any story we hear. We must carefully think through and do some investigation before just swallowing–or, even worse yet, passing along–a story we’ve heard (no matter what side of the political fence it happens to be on).

We need to run all through the grid of scripture and test to see if these things are true, rather than simply believe what we are told. Why do I include this here? Because it is so important that we don’t let the power of the narrative to cause us to stop thinking. We have been given a brain to think and to reason. Don’t stop using it simply because the crowd has stopped using theirs.

Just because the majority believes something doesn’t make it true.

 

5.   Remember that we know how this ends.

We do not have a specific timeline of end time events. But we can see the signs.

And what we do know, according to Revelation 13, is that someday there will be a one-world government, one-world economy, and a one-world religion. Now think with me for a moment regarding what will have to take place before this scenario can happen?

We can make some fairly certain assumptions–

America will submit to a global government.

The world will be cashless.

The false Christianity of this age will join with the rest of the world in its worship of the antichrist.

As we watch and wait, we can see how these things are forming. Again, as I’ve said so often before, we can’t know a timeline. But we do know what’s coming and what is happening is certainly setting the stage for these things. We are living in very exciting times!

 

6. We can only control our actions and reactions.

We can’t control who our friend or family member votes for. We can’t control the outcome of the election. We can’t control what happens after the election. We can’t even control if our vote counts.

But we can control how we treat others who do not agree with us. We can control our words. Our behavior. Our attitudes.

And so that is what we must do.

This means showing the lost and dying world that we are transformed because of Christ. This means not complaining if things don’t go as we desire. It means not heatedly arguing with people who don’t agree with us. It means trusting God and showing the world the peace and joy that He gives, despite our fears for the future. It means loving our enemies.

And, in responding in these humanly unnatural ways, we will point people to Christ and give Him the honor and glory. For it is He who has changed us and made these responses possible.

________________________________________

So pray and then vote. But let us not feel defeated if the outcome doesn’t go our way–nor feel too victorious if it does. The bottom line is that the nations are in the hands of the Lord (Psalm 47:8) and He’s controlling the world’s stage.

God is our refuge and strength. He’s a stronghold in time of trouble. And he’s not going to let us go now. We are His. So hang on to the anchor of His Word and be strong and courageous.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

The Nature of the Promises of God

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

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

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

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

When it says in Matthew 21:22–

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

or in John 14:13–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 40:31 says it so beautifully–

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

_______________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Where’s Your Home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

What Do We Know? And What Should We Do?

You may not realize that I am actually rather rebellious. I always laugh inside when someone calls me legalistic. This actually couldn’t be further from the truth. I hate stupid rules. If something isn’t firmly grounded in scripture, I am not going to be doing it anytime soon.

This is making it a bit difficult for me right now. Mandate after mandate is being thrown down by the government. These mandates are eroding or outright removing the rights of every law-abiding citizen that we were given by the constitution of the United States upon its inception.

I don’t want to obey. I am angry and I don’t want to obey. This is for a number of reasons, but the greatest is that the statistics do not match the mandates. The fear that has been instilled in people by the media doesn’t match the actual facts. The damage that is being done by the mandates is astronomical! The ramifications will be felt by some families for generations, as they lose businesses or loved ones commit suicide or die because they are afraid to go to the ER.

Something much deeper is going on here. There are a million theories out there and analyzing them isn’t the point of this post. However, I think that those of us who have studied eschatology to any degree quickly recognize that this is part of the end game. We can see how these events are moving the world in the direction it needs to go for the one world economy and government prophesied in Revelation. (Actually, in this way it is encouraging because it is so incredibly confirming of scripture! )

Okay, so it’s clear that I don’t really buy the story we’re being told. This makes it even harder to obey rules that don’t make any sense.

I’ve had lots of conversations about this part of the quarantine with my family. We are supposed to obey the law. But when does obeying the law become wrong? At what point should we obey and at what point do we protest and even fight?

I am sure many of you are hoping I have an answer to these questions. But I don’t. I am sorry to disappoint you but I haven’t done a thorough enough study on this yet to give any kind of biblical answer.

But these are big questions. And we have to find our footing and remember our foundation in the midst of them. Any search for answers must be done through the lens of scripture.

At first, the novelty of all of this kind of filled us with that adrenalin that takes you through times of shock. None of the people on earth had ever faced anything like this before and we were reeling. After four or five weeks, however, we started to chafe against the restrictions. We became aware of families that were hurting, companies going bankrupt, depression and people committing suicide, people dying without their loved ones close by and with no funerals. Postponed weddings, canceled trips-of-a-lifetime, and high school and college seniors losing their final precious months that they can never get back again.

Some of us trust what we are being told by the health officials. And some of us don’t. But, no matter, where we find ourselves on that scale, I think I can safely assume that almost all of us are deeply saddened by what is going around us and feel pretty hopeless to change anything.

And, no matter how this ends, we all have to face the reality that our freedom was only an illusion. Our freedom dissipated in the face of fear like the early morning fog dissipates when the sun rises. We thought we were free but now we know we aren’t. Not even a bit. And this is something we need to live with, no matter how this turns out.

At any moment in the future, this could happen again. We could be ordered to do things we don’t want to do and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

Doesn’t that make you feel so powerless? We thought we were so independent and find out we aren’t at all.

So how do we, as believers, reconcile all this with what we know from scripture? This is where we must turn, isn’t it? What do we know, for sure??

We know that God is still in control. No matter what goes on or how awful it gets, He is still on the throne. (Jeremiah 10:10)

God did not abdicate his throne during Nero’s persecution of Christians. He didn’t disappear during the Black Death of the Middle Ages, the French Revolution, the reign of Pol Pot, or during World War II. And He has not abdicated His throne during this time. God is still on the throne.

We know that God wants us to obey our government as long as it doesn’t require us to disobey Him. (Romans 13:1-2)

We are told in scripture to obey our governments. There is no caveat there for rules we don’t like. This can be hard for independent Americans to swallow particularly. But it is there. We can, of course, agree that when the government tells us to do something that is in opposition of scripture, we can and must disobey. Where that line is drawn is something all of us are probably increasingly thinking about.

We know that there is a plan spelled out in the books of Daniel and Revelation, that must come to pass at some point.

Could this be a part of that? I think it is very, very likely. If you’ve done any study of end time prophecy then this makes so much sense. Whether the rapture is tomorrow or in a hundred years, we can see how the events of the past few weeks will most certainly be used to further a one world economy and a one world government. We can also see how this will break America–something that must be done in order for globalism to succeed. We can make no predictions of when, but I do believe we can say with certainty that this event took us an exponential step forward towards the New World Order.

We know that, through all of this, God can and will grow us to look more like Christ. (Romans 8:28-29)

Romans 8:28 uses that tiny word “all” to remind us that everything that happens to us–whether small or large–is being used to make us look more like Christ. We are to glorify God in this process, drawing men to Him through our godly attitudes and actions. This can be a bit eye-opening if you’ve been deceived by the “name it and claim it” kind of faith or believe that Jesus exists to make your life easier and to fulfill your big dreams. But when we finally understand that our goal as a believer is to glorify God and to look more like Christ, then the trials and hardships make so much more sense.

We know that God loves us and will give us grace to endure whatever comes. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

One of the most horrifying things about all that’s going on is the fact that it is being used to further ungodly agendas. I have seen terrifying articles on the unfair treatment of churches and pastors, on the necessity of the state to raise children, and on the promotion of abortion. One can only wonder how this is all going to end up for us as Christians. It is almost like the pandemic gave a burst of speed to Satan’s evil agenda for the world.

I was feeling a bit discouraged and frustrated the other day and so I read a bit in the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs to remind myself how much worse life could be. It is truly hard to comprehend the torture and persecution sanctioned by the Catholic Church during the Reformation. Thousands died at the hands of wicked, wicked men who delighted in torturing their fellow human beings. And yet, to read of the believers’ fortitude and commitment to the truth was astounding. They stood strong in the face of the threat of horrible torture, refusing to be bullied into the Catholic faith. In fact, many of them sang hymns as they burned at the stake. We know that only God can give this kind of strength. If God gave that kind of strength hundreds of years ago, then He will surely do the same for us, if and when the time comes that we need it.

And, finally, we know that we are not the center of the Universe. (Philippians 2:9-11)

We can get a little confused about this one. Many pastors preach like we, personally, are the center of the universe. Kids are raised to believe they are the center of the universe. We hear it everywhere. We need to help others and be kind, but at the end of the day, it’s about you. Take care of you.

Well, that isn’t the message of the Bible. While we most certainly need to care for ourselves as any normal human being would, we must recognize that God is the center of the universe. That all is about Him and His sovereign plan.

This can be a hard place to get to, because we have such big dreams and hopes for our lives. This current situation leaves most of those up in the air at best and has dashed them at worst. Surrendering our dreams and hopes may be one of the hardest things we have to do as Christians. Recognizing that perhaps it is not God’s will for us to do that thing we most longed for is a hard pill to swallow. But we are just a speck. A flower that blooms for a short time and then fades away.

Of course, the other side is that we know how much God loves us! He cares and gives strength and peace and joy, as we trust in Him. It’s a beautiful thing when we can surrender our lives and trust in God. But, of course, this is not easy. Releasing our grip can be very painful.

_______________________________

So these are some things we know. And these are the things we must remember as we continue to inch forward into the unknown. Many of us were on autopilot in our lives. We may not have even realized it. And now we are dealing with big questions. Some are dealing with really big problems. I think it’s safe to say that autopilot is now turned off for all of us at this point.

The circumstances are different for all. The spiritual and emotional dynamics are different. This new world is bringing to light different sins and weaknesses in all of us. To some it is overwhelming and to others it is not.

So, I’d like to encourage one final thing before I close today.

Let’s be so kind to one another. Let us have so much grace for the responses and outbursts and frustrations of others. Let’s humbly point fellow believers to the Word and share the Gospel with the lost.

I think we can all agree that the world should be a better place because Christians are in it. There is no better time than now to make sure that is true!

 

 

Changed Lives: Becky

About a year and a half ago, my dear friend, Becky, messaged me that she had been taken to the ER with stomach pain. By the time all the tests were run, she was given the news that she had stage 4 colon cancer. There was no cure. They would simply be working to prolong her life. As you can imagine–this rocked her world. This was not the only thing going on in her life and was simply added to another heavy, heavy burden that she was already bearing.

And, yet, every time I would stop for a visit to cheer her up…well, she’d end up cheering me up! Here she was–going through all of these things– and she was not only smiling (anyone can fake a smile) but she was full of that deep, abiding joy and amazing peace that is a true gift of God to those who have surrendered and submitted their lives to His holy will.

Becky could write a whole book about her life (in fact, I told her she should and that I’ll help her!). It is full of fascinating and interesting adventures. It is also full of the love and care of her Heavenly Father. She has spent a lifetime loving and serving God and He has been there for her time and time again. But a stage 4 cancer diagnosis will tend to test all you have said that you believe, and Becky was no different.

The last couple of times I was there to visit, I asked her how she could have so much joy amidst such dark times? I told her that if she’d ever want to write about it to encourage others, I’d love to post it here on the blog. Smiling, she’d be noncommital but did say she’d think about it.

And then one day, there it was in my email box. She couldn’t sleep the night before so she had written a bit about her cancer and her journey to joy.

I know you will appreciate this and that it will encourage you greatly as you seek to find joy in your own circumstances. Now here are Becky’s own words about her experience–

___________________________________________________________

It is easy to be happy and have joy when things in life are falling into place the way we want them to. But what happens when things go “wrong” in our perspective? Can we still have joy? What do we do with the verse in Philippians 4:4 that says, “Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS; and again I say, Rejoice.” When I say joy, I am talking about the deep joy in our hearts that is there, no matter what comes our way.

So often we like to think that we can handle the turmoils of life when they come our way; but when it does happen, we find out otherwise. What happens when we are going through the major throes of life finding out we have cancer, a child has rejected what you have taught him/her and walked away from the faith, you are having major financial difficulty, or you have lost some one dear to your heart?

That time came for me when I had to do some intense soul searching a little over a year ago when I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. The doctors said that there wasn’t much they could do except try to prolong my life some. This really threw us into shock, and all plans and goals came to a screeching halt. I did not ask God why but how. How was I going to get through this? How was I supposed to deal with this and have the right attitude? How could I glorify the Lord and not fail Him?

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

Then and there is when I made up my mind that I do believe God, and Who He claims to be in His Word. That is when I found peace, His peace the passes all our understanding! And along with that came the deep seated joy! Satan wants to steal our joy and make us ineffectual as followers of Christ. If we start concentrating on the “What if’s”, it is easy to fall into depression or get angry. God, in His perfect will and wisdom, has a plan for each one of us, and it’s up to us to accept it with the right attitudes and allow Him to work in our lives and through us, to draw us to Him and show us Who He is and what He can do! In trying to be an encouragement, many say that God will not give us more than we can handle. However, many times He does give us more than we can handle so that we can get to know Him and experience that peace and joy from Him.

Since my diagnosis, my Heavenly Father has been by my side, holding my hand and helping me to learn of Him. My days are not always perfect. There are times when I have to ask God just to hold me in His arms as a child and show me He is there. I have been learning so much and, although I wouldn’t have chosen to go through these hardships, I am thankful for the opportunities. He is my steady anchor and the reason I can have joy no matter what He deems necessary to allow into my life. A favorite verse of mine that is a great picture of our help and safety in God’s character is in Proverbs 18:10 –

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe!”

 

 

An Unmistakable Mirror

I think I’ve been over-using the word “unprecedented”. I’ve said it more times in the past two weeks than I’ve said it in my entire life. We are facing unprecedented times.

I find it extremely hard to function in my “normal” way currently. I find it hard to think about “normal” things. I find it hard to do “normal” activities.

That’s pretty much because it’s so not normal right now.

I generally try to write posts that are not closely connected to current events so that, no matter when they are read, they are applicable to one’s life.

However, it seems like a good time to break my own rule (I broke it last week, too) since we are all facing this virus and the government’s subsequent restrictions and mandates that have completely swept away our freedoms. Literally.

So there are all kinds of theories and opinions out there as to just what is going on, but no matter what is happening, there is one thing we do know: It IS happening and very few of us are unaffected by it all.

Whether we have had our lives grind to a halt or we have been overwhelmed with work duties because we work in an “essential life-sustaining” field, this has affected most all of us.

As I was reading John this morning, I was thinking about Peter and his promise to the Lord that he would never leave his side–

Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” (John 13:27)

In the very next verse, Jesus predicts that Peter would very surely deny that he even knew the Lord!

Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times. (John 13:28)

If we read on, we find out that, yes, Peter most certainly did deny he knew the Lord, even though he loved him dearly.

This account always has a way of both disturbing and comforting me. If Peter, who was one of the great apostles, could be so cowardly, what can I expect from myself?? But, it’s also comforting. If Peter could do that awful thing and yet still go on to live and die for Christ as a martyr in the early church, then perhaps there is hope for all of us to be of use in God’s Kingdom.

What’s going on in these days is not really a situation like Peter’s, so you may be wondering where I am headed.

And I guess it’s here: We have a choice, just like Peter. We can make the intentional choice to do the right thing or we can very easily slide into the wrong thing. The wrong choice is always the easier choice in the moment. (It’s NEVER the easier choice regarding long-term consequences.) It was easier for Peter to deny Christ than to take the heat for knowing Him. It is easier for us to sin than to not sin.

A pandemic like this (or any other trial, for that matter) shows us our true selves in ways we’d probably rather not see. What has come rearing up in the past few weeks in my own heart has not been good. Anxiety and fear; discontentment; self-centeredness; self-pity; laziness; even gluttony are real challenges for many of us in this situation. With close quarters, tempers flare, selfishness abounds, and we may be easily irritated as we are unable to leave our homes. With the incredible stress and long hours so many of you are facing at work, things come to the surface about yourself that you’d probably rather not know. With our favorite activities and the abundance in our stores taken away, we are faced with who we really are.

 

When our normal ordinary life is stripped away, we see ourselves as we really are.

 

A trial like this is a giant mirror into the state of our soul.

So what do we do about it?

As believers, it is important that we examine our hearts using the Word and then let this be an opportunity to grow.

So easy to write.

So hard to do.

As we look into the mirror and examine our hearts in the midst of an unprecedented time of uncertainty and craziness throughout the entire world, may we trust God to do a real work in our lives and grow us up spiritually in a way we couldn’t have otherwise.

May we come out of this strange, unprecedented time stronger, purer, and holier than when it started!

 

 

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