Witnessing

Attacking Messengers, Crucifying Dissenters, and Belittling Questioners

Over the past twenty years or so, I have experienced the vitriol of those blindly following a person or a cause. Social media is the mecca for such interactions and to post a dissenting comment has made anyone come to expect sarcasm, anger, and even hatred. I have talked with others who have experienced this, as well.

This dynamic takes place anywhere people are gathered online. It seems a lot worse right now, but perhaps that is because so many of us are relegated to online interaction. Somehow when people get online, they remove all inhibitions. They would never, ever talk to someone face-to-face the way they talk to someone online. At least, I hope they wouldn’t!

But there are a lot of debates and disagreements and controversies going on online right now and I wanted to make you aware of a few things to look for as you watch this all take place.

By the way, while this does take place in the secular world quite a bit, we understand that they are unbelievers and have rejected God’s ways. While it is interesting to observe, it is certainly not surprising. However, it borders on tragic that this is the same approach of many in the evangelical circles. People that you trust. I encourage you to look for these as you encounter quarrels and controversies in these current days.

It is a three-pronged approach, where one, two, or all of these prongs may be used to put down the “enemy”. I wanted to make you aware of them because it is critically important that we recognize them and then move them aside in order to look at the real issue at hand. They are a decoy. They are a smoke screen to draw your eyes away from the real issue. Don’t be deceived.

Here are the three prongs–

1. Attack the Messenger. Instead of answering the accusations, they will attack the messenger. They will call them all kinds of names, put them down, make them out to be unloving, unkind, divisive, and unintelligent. They will dredge up old sins. They will cast doubt on their integrity. This trick is as old as the books, but don’t let them fool you. And, hey, in some cases, maybe the person sharing the message is some of those things. This still doesn’t release us from investigating to see if what they are saying is true. Beware character assassination. It is a bright red flag and should lead you to mistrust, rather than to trust, the person conducting it.

2. Crucifying Dissenters. How dare you disagree? You are NOT allowed to disagree and so we will crucify you with our words. I am not sure when the world changed but I see leaders encouraging their followers to act like this. Secular and Christian alike, their followers are using words to spread venom and hatred and, rather than discouraging this type of thing, the leader seems to encourage it. This is because it is an important part of the three-pronged approach. They are counting on their followers to silence anyone who disagrees. Blind loyalty yields a passion that will stop at nothing to defend its subject.

3. Belittling Questioners. If someone simply asks a question, they are belittled and mocked. If an accusation is raised and an honest questioner simply wants to find out more, they find out very quickly that, this, too, is NOT allowed. No questions may be asked of someone who has been faithful to the Lord for fifty years. No questions can be asked of the governor. No questions can be asked of the singer or the author or the pastor. No questions can be asked of the government or the politician. No questions allowed. Period. If you dare to ask them, people will call you selfish and question your character. They will call you names and ridicule you. All this, for simply asking a question.

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As I write this, my heart is heavy. It is especially heavy because I see this being used in the Christian world as much, or even more, than in the secular world. It is a treacherous world we live in these days. Please be on the look-out for these things. They are signs that all may not be right. Not a guarantee, of course, but definitely worth some research.

Before I close, I want to add one more {very important} thing–

As believers, we are called to respond differently! People are watching us. They see what we post and they are reading it.

Everything we post, whether it be a tweet, a Facebook post, a comment on a post, a comment on a news article or blog post, and anything else should be carefully worded with LOVE. There should never be biting sarcasm, anger, or vitriol spewing forth from our keyboards. This is a dishonor to our heavenly Father.

Make no mistake about it: We are in a spiritual war.

As we fight it, let’s be an asset to our King through truthful, loving, and kind interaction with others. Satan wants nothing more than to create havoc and chaos within the church. We can’t fall for his bait.

I don’t know where all this is headed. Or rather, I think I do. The world and the church has gone off in a direction over these past twenty years or so that I find most disheartening. But, thankfully, we know God is still on the throne. As His servants, may we carefully discern and examine all things. As His witnesses, may we do all we can to be a bright and shining light in this increasingly darkening world.

 

There Are Only Two Roads

Let’s say you live in Arkansas and you are headed to California for a nice long beach vacation. You load your suitcase in the car trunk, you grab a travel mug full of hot coffee and get behind the wheel. You turn on your car and take a moment to plug your destination’s address in your vehicle or phone GPS. Soon you are on your way.

You are ten or twelve hours into your trip when you get a phone call. Your mom is deathly ill in Florida and needs you right away. There is a rest stop a few more miles up the road and you pull in to reset your GPS. Instead of going west, you are now going to go east. You have a total change of direction.

Unfortunately, all of the major highways going east are closed. You turn on to a dirt back road that is hard to travel. But you have to go home. That is your destination and you have to get there. Nothing will deter you.

Now think about this in light of our spiritual journey.

There are so many people who say with their mouths that they are headed home to heaven. And yet they appear, by all accounts, to be on the major highway that is headed in the opposite direction.

So here’s the thing: We can’t be on both roads.

It’s comforting and easier to think we can be on both roads. After all, there are many who have died that made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as a child and yet lived very unholy impure lives. If they can travel on both roads at the same time it will mean they are safely in heaven–a very comforting thought to a grieving spouse, parent, or friend. And, too, if we can be on both roads at the same time, then how we live matters not at all. We can live to please self, doing whatever want, and still end up in heaven. How easy is that? Heaven becomes like a fire insurance policy that we have tucked away in a safe somewhere.

Of course, we know, both from experience and from scripture, that this can’t be. Just as we can’t set our gps for California and expect to end up in Florida, so we can’t travel on the broad road and expect to end up in heaven. Just as we can tell someone we are headed west when we are headed east, so we can say with our mouths that we are headed to heaven when our gps is actually set for hell.

When we are genuinely saved, the Holy Spirit stamps a new address on the gps of our heart. We immediately turn off that broad road and onto a rocky, difficult road that is going the other way.

There really are no exceptions for this.

We know this because of what God has said in His Word–

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and [d]difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

There are two different roads. And if we are a true Christian we are on the narrow one.

I say “true Christian” because, quite honestly, I tremble to think how many have been fooled into thinking that they have guaranteed a place in heaven because of a prayer they said in fifth grade (or at camp or at VBS). Genuine conversion is always evidenced by a changed life. The saved person always changes their direction (read I John and James to get a better understanding of this).

So if we realize there are two roads and we can only be on one of them, let’s think for a moment about what these roads look like, practically-speaking:

The broad road is quite full of people. It’s an easy path and it’s very comfortable. Many church members are on this path, as it encompasses not only the blatant sinners but the moral, self-righteous ones, as well. Anyone who has not repented of their sins and trusted Christ alone for their salvation is on this road, whether they be atheists or the very religious. There are generally few, if any, battles with self or with the enemy because both are very happy with the direction that is being taken. Oh, there is the occasional battle due to a sense of duty or perhaps the external rules of man, but no major battles with self or the enemy occur on this road.

The narrow road, on the other hand, is rugged and difficult. On this road we can expect the antagonism and jeers from those on the broad road. There are many skirmishes with our flesh and battles with the enemy because they are trying, often desperately, to turn us back to that broad road. We get so exhausted but God is so faithful and gives us strength for another day. It is on this road that we find such sweet fellowship and support. Because it is not a road well-traveled, we truly treasure the others we find traveling on this same road and often quickly count them as true friends. Not that there aren’t issues because the travelers are, after all, sinners. But love is the rule of this road. Even though the road can be extremely hard to travel, we travel with confidence. We have an incomparable Guide and we know our destination.

 

So which road are you on? Which road are those you love on?

Of course we can’t know about anyone else and it is important that we don’t make any judgments about this. We can’t know, for sure, if someone is on the broad road or the narrow road. But thinking through this honestly and according to scripture will lead us to pray differently and also change how we converse and discuss when given the opportunity.

This is scary stuff. Most of us have grown up in a world of easy-believism (where a prayer guarantees salvation and needs not be evidenced by a changed life). The ramifications of this insidious lie of Satan’s are horrible and so far-reaching.

For, after all, truth is truth, no matter what someone “believes”. As Christians, we must make sure that our beliefs line up with the truth of God’s Word! We must always ask: What does the Bible teach?

Even if it makes us uncomfortable and we don’t like it, we have to face the truth. And one truth that is not popular today but is still true nonetheless is this:

There are only two roads. And they are going opposite directions. 

 

 

The Domino Effect

Once upon a time there was a young man. He married his high school sweetheart and together they had a few kids. But one day, after several years of marriage, this man chose not to turn his eyes and his heart away when he looked at a woman who was not his wife. Eventually this choice led to a broken-hearted wife and devastated children who would struggle to heal from his rejection for years to come.

He made a choice for his “personal happiness” and, yet, his happiness wasn’t the only thing affected.

Stories like this have happened over and over again throughout history. Replace the pronouns. Sometimes it is wives who do this same thing. For personal happiness and gain, a choice is made that negatively affects the rest of someone’s life. Forever.

You may have been on the receiving end of something like this. And it’s not always an affair. But it is always sin.

Galatians 5:19-21 is a great list to reference for these “domino effect” sins–

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: [d]adultery, [e]fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, [f]murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Each one of these sins–when chosen–does not affect the sinner alone. It affects all those who surround the sinner.

As sin grows, it spills over on to those we love and on to all those that are in our circle.

We can change their day by an angry outburst or we can change their life by choosing adultery.

Thankfully we know through many examples (David, Peter, etc) in the Bible that we can choose repentance and we can be restored after we make sinful choices. But, after all is said and done, the consequences remain.

Better to not have made the sinful choice at all.

I don’t think we often give much thought to how our daily choices are affecting those around us.

The first example I gave was an extreme example, right? Kids from broken homes –especially homes with a parent who disappears or, maybe worse yet, uses them as a pawn in a battle–have some extra challenges to work through in life.

But let’s think further how our even our most mundane choices affect our kids, grandkids, and anyone who is watching us.

What are some of the things that have a domino effect on our families and circle of friends?

What about how we handle affliction and trials? Anger and discontentment often snake their way down family trees. Are we setting a godly example in how we respond when things don’t go our way?

What about choosing to live in an unhealthy way or being unwise in how we spend money? We set our kids up for failure because they are always watching. And, often, they will choose to live how we chose to live. Think about your life right at this moment. Would you want the children in your life to have your life? I am not talking about the things we can’t control–like diseases or unexpected financial setbacks. I am referring to being wise and godly in the choices we can control.

What about how we fill our minds (tv, movies, books, music)? Are these leading those who are watching us towards God and His Word or are they leading them away from Him?

What about choosing to extol a false teacher? Giving credence to a false or heretical teacher puts our friends and family in grave spiritual danger. Deception often starts by a casual comment, such as “have you read the book…?”

You see, these choices aren’t ever just about us. And these choices have the potential to lead someone toward the broad way or the narrow way. Very few things are neutral. By our example, we lead those who are watching us towards a godly life or towards a carnal life. We encourage them to walk in the Spirit or to walk in the flesh.

So you think no one is watching you at home when you privately watch that terrible tv show?

Well, that might be true. Maybe only God knows that.

BUT…

You think that show isn’t affecting you?

All that goes into our brains–whether we will admit it or not–affects us. And this, in turn, affects others.

Our philosophies; our sensitivity to worldliness; our choice to follow human wisdom or God’s wisdom; our love for God–these are all affected by what we fill our minds with. And this mind-filling will, quite naturally, spill out on to others in our conversations and our discussions.

No sin is private.

Unless you are living on an island far far away with no one else on it, there is a domino effect.

We may feel this more acutely as a parent. (Oh, the weight of being a godly example when you are a parent!) But this doesn’t disappear as we move into our grandparent years. And it still exists, even if we never have kids or are a single adult living alone.

People watch us.

Choices may be made to abandon Christianity or to embrace it by someone watching how we live.

 

Interestingly enough….

This domino effect also works the other way around.

When we live lives that please God and we obey His commands, we find that this also affect others. As they watch us, they are emboldened to live for Christ or they are drawn to His Word. We can encourage them to live for Him by our choice to live for Him! We can encourage them to be courageous and stand for Truth by our choice to live courageously and stand for Truth!

We can have a good influence on others or we can have a negative influence.

But we will have an influence.

What kind of influence will you have? When you have left this earth what will have been your domino effect?

May we give this serious consideration before it’s too late.

 

 

Changed Lives: Cathy

Two or three years ago, I received an email from a reader named Cathy. She introduced herself as the pastor’s wife of a small church and wondered if I would consider speaking at their upcoming ladies’ retreat. While I was among the ladies at her church, I felt like I was among family (and I guess I was, spiritually speaking!) When they asked me to come back again this past fall, I gladly accepted. As we sat around the table, Cathy starting sharing just a bit of her testimony with me. As I listened to her, I knew I had to ask her if she would share this with my readers.

It’s been just over a year since I shared the story of a fellow Christian as part of the Changed Lives series. This ongoing series is here to serve as a reminder that God is working! He is changing and transforming lives–even through the most tragic of circumstances. Cathy’s testimony is a shining example of God transforming a life.

It is my hope that, from this particular testimony, some of you may be encouraged to know that you can be healed from horrible abuse if you go to the true Healer. I hope that you will learn that someone’s antagonistic, hostile response when you share the Gospel is not always a reflection of what’s going on in their heart. The other thing I hope you will reflect upon as you read this is that just because a family looks perfect does not necessarily mean it is. The post-war era of the 50s was a happy time–but it wasn’t a happy time for everyone. Not even for the perfect-looking family living in the cookie-cutter house on the tree-lined street.

And, finally, I hope you will consider the Christian who caught Cathy’s eye and that you will take a moment to examine yourself in light of her witness in Cathy’s life. Are you standing out like she did? Do co-workers, store clerks, parents at your kids’ school, etc see a difference when they view you in light of their worldly counterparts? Would the way you live your life give someone pause to consider the Gospel? This really made me think and I hope it will you, too.

So without further comment from me, I present to you Cathy’s testimony–

I was born not long after the end of WWII. I was born into a prosperous America, a time of peace. My mother, father, older sister and I lived in a classic, Norman Rockwell suburban neighborhood. Tree lined streets, lots of “baby boomer” kids to play with, being able to stay outside until “the street lights” came on, a dog to “love on”, a stay at home mom, home cooked meals…it was a good time to be a child in America. My father was agnostic, and my mother was Catholic, although not very observant. God was never discussed in our home. The only time I heard His name was when it was being blasphemed.

From the outside looking in, it all looked like a “Leave It to Beaver” life. But behind closed doors, things were VERY different. My earliest memory is of being restrained by my mother while my sister was abused by my father. The abuse, emotional, physical and sexual continued until I left home at 18 to get married. God blessed me with two wonderful children, but I continued to be haunted by the events of the past.

I continued over the next decade or so to be a very angry young woman. I never felt at peace, or even remotely content. My anger would bubble over and my mood swings were extreme. I did everything to the extreme.

Sadly, that marriage ended in divorce. My children and I went on to live in a small apartment. One night a man broke in and attempted to rape me. Blessedly, he was unsuccessful and was arrested and found guilty of his crime. Still, I ran from God and my past.

I joined the early feminist movement. I left that because, even as a lost woman, I recognized that abortion was murder and they asked me to support abortion or leave. God moved me off that destructive path.

One day I realized people were coming into my life and sharing the Gospel. (At the time, I didn’t know it was the Gospel). I would laugh at them and off-handedly dismiss them and their message. I continued to be angry. I made a promise to myself that I would be the one to break the cycle of abuse with my children and because I was successful, I became very prideful over what I perceived as “being a strong woman”. I continued to define myself and excuse my sin because I was a “victim”. I held strongly onto that “victim” identity. Without it, and my anger, I didn’t know who I was.

I went to nursing school and began my career as an RN. People continued to witness to me. I still scoffed at them (now I praise God for them). One day a Christian nurse joined our team. I watched her at work because she was SO different than all the other employees, including me. She had unbelievable compassion for the patients and other workers, she had a peace and a calm that I had never seen before. She was not embarrassed or ashamed of her love for Christ. She NEVER complained, even when we had to work Christmas. I didn’t know what it was, but I wanted what she had.

One day we had to go on an errand together. When we got in her car, I asked her to put on music. Her reply took me aback. She told me that all she had was “Christian music” and she didn’t think I “would like it”. That was the day that I really started to look at myself compared to her. God was beginning to humble me.

Our Lord continued to send people into my life who boldly shared what Christ had done for sinners. I remember the day like it was yesterday, I realized that I was a sinner, that I was separated from God, that I was headed for hell. I fell on my knees and sobbing, I begged God to forgive me of my sins and received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior! I couldn’t wait to tell the Christian nurse. She responded in a way that God would use many times over the years…she stated, “I have been praying that God would send a Christian nurse to work with me, I never thought it would be you!” 

Time and time again this simple statement has reminded me to pray for those who seem “very lost” and not responsive to the Gospel. It has reminded me to be bold in my faith and it has reminded me that living my faith out in front of people is one of the most important things that God has commanded me to do.

My life since my real “birthday” has been a wonderful testimony to our Lord’s grace. Immediately, my desires changed. I couldn’t learn enough or be around God’s people enough. Our home changed dramatically; the world was no longer welcomed there. My children repented and received Christ when they were pre-teens. I was blessed to be able to attend Bible college (with my Christian nurse friend who was diligent in discipling me).

Then the most amazing thing occurred, God sent a godly man into my life. He was a pastor and I found myself a pastor’s wife with four more wonderful children to love. As I grew in the Lord, I understood that God in His wonderful sovereignty allowed things in my life to prepare me to minister to other women who have experienced similar things. Over the years, my life before I was saved, my sweet friend’s words at the time of my conversion and all of the faithful who shared the Gospel with an angry, seemingly hopeless young woman have been used by God to serve the brethren and reach out to the lost.

I no longer was angry; I was able to forgive my parents and was able to have a relationship with them. My sister remained angry all her life. Praise God that I was able to share the Gospel with them. Sadly, my father, mother and sister all died lost; but I know that that too is under God’s sovereign control. I am at peace.

I pray my testimony will encourage those who read it to never give up on loved ones, co-workers, or others that may seem “too lost”, or will “never be saved”.  Live your lives boldly and totally for our Lord and Savior. Live to give Him glory and honor. Live to magnify Christ. I want to be able to say, as the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” 2 Timothy 4:7 and to the Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21

Our wonderful Lord saves and uses the most broken vessels in magnificent ways for His glory. I am undeserving and blessed!

Unlikely Lesson on Sharing the Gospel

Last week, the two administrative assistants in our business office, along with myself, spent a few ours watching the demos of two different software programs. We are being forced to discontinue using an outdated system that is being “put out to pasture”, so to speak, and the time has come to make a move.

Some of you know me well enough to know that this kind of thing stresses me out. It is such a huge decision with big ramifications for our company. A software that has a lot of bugs or doesn’t do what we need to do could really make running our office difficult. And so I have been delaying it for quite some time. However, it can be delayed no longer.

Our office is right next to our house, so I told the two women to come on over and I put the demo on the big screen in our family room. We settled into our comfie chairs to watch and listen as each of the two salesmen tried to tell us why their program was the best one for us to buy.

The ways the two men communicated and went about selling their companies was in such contrast that it startled me, quite frankly. After the two demos were over, the girls and I sat talking about the two men and the comparison to sharing the Gospel. It could not have been more appropriate. And it was so clear.

Let’s, for the sake of clarity, call the Companies A & B. We will call the sales reps Mr. One and Mr. Two.

Our first demo was scheduled for 10am with Mr. One of Company A. He sounded friendly enough as we got started but after only the third question he reminded us that we had “a lot to cover here”. In other words: Stop asking questions. Now keep in mind that this is a BIG change for us and he is trying to sell us on his company. Strike #1. He went on to explain the software, clicking through the different screens but we noticed that he always seemed a bit stymied when we asked a question (which we continued to do despite his best efforts to discourage them). Strike #2. And then we got to a deal breaker. A strange inability of the software to do something incredibly basic. All three of us tried to kindly ask in different ways if the program could do what we needed it to do. Mr. One got defensive and insisted it could. All three of us obviously knew that it couldn’t. He would say it could but he couldn’t show that it could. Strike #3. Usually you are out with strike three but the program still interested us–if only we could get around that one deal breaker. Mr. One called me about a half hour after the demo ended to say that he had talked to someone and that it most certainly could do what we needed it to do. As I listened to him describe a different screen, clicking here and filtering there, I realized that he was just explaining a different way that the program could not do what we needed it to do. When I kindly made the observation that we loved the software but were more than a little surprised that something this intrinsic to running an efficient office wasn’t included in the software, he grew almost belligerent with me. He was condescending and very offended. Strike #4. In a final effort to try to see if this could work, I asked if it would be possible for us to have a trial of the program where I could set up a few dummy customers and see if I could somehow figure out a different way for the program to do what it needs to do (sometimes it just takes some thinking outside the box!) He then informed me that no, that would not be possible. I was befuddled. Here is a company asking me to spend thousands of dollars on their program and they wouldn’t give me a trial run at it? Why not? And that was Strike #5. At this point, I was feeling pretty discouraged. After this guy’s arrogant attitude, I didn’t really want to work with this company but what if there wasn’t anything else out there?

At 1pm, we reconvened to watch the demo of Company B with Mr. Two. As we connected, we saw our website on his screen. He had taken the time to pull up our website and read our About Me page. He explained that he felt it was important to know our company and what we do, so he could best explain how the software program would work for us. Gold Star #1. As he started to explain the program and we peppered him with questions, he kindly answered them, often thanking us for asking such a good question. The contrast to Mr. One was startlingly remarkable at this point. And such a relief, if I am honest. I realize that Mr. Two is obviously a very good salesmen who wants to sell a program, but we all wanted to feel free to ask as many questions as we needed and Mr. Two really made us feel like we could do that. He never once made us feel stupid or small for asking any question. Gold Star #2. As we continued to watch, we found a real problem with the program. Instead of insisting that his program could do something it couldn’t, he assured us that he had already talked with the program engineers about fixing it and he hopes there will be a change soon. In the meantime, we could go about it in a different way and proceeded to explain the work-around. Gold Star #3. He was incredibly kind and warm throughout the entire interview and never once was he condescending or impatient. Again, such a great contrast to Mr. One. Gold Star #4. A few hours after the demo, I emailed Mr. Two some questions. Within minutes he had answered to my satisfaction. This email included his assurance that he surely did understand our desire to have a trial time and he would be happy to set that up for us at our convenience. Gold Star #5. Through the whole process Mr. Two was kind and real, making conversation easily to find out more about us and our company and yet maintaining professionalism throughout the whole demo.

As the women and I discussed the decided difference between Mr. One and Mr. Two, we were reminded how much this pertains to how we share the Gospel with others.

Some are like Mr. One. Condescending, self-important, not knowing the answers to basic questions. They are defensive and easily offended. Their arrogance puts lost souls at a distance and leaves their important questions unasked.

And then there are those like Mr. Two. Kind, open, interested in others. They are the ones that know a good many answers to the questions the lost ask, but if someone asks something they don’t know, they will smile and assure the person that they will find out an answer from the Bible. There is a warmth that exudes from this type of person that is hard to resist. Even if you don’t like what they are saying it is really hard to not like them.

I don’t know about you, but I so long to be like Mr. Two as I talk to people about the Gospel. But, much more importantly, I want to follow the example of Jesus. I want to genuinely show that I care about someone enough to tell them the truth about heaven and hell. I want to be kind, humble, loving, and authentic. And I want to know the answers to their questions (and be willing to do the work of looking for biblical answers when I don’t have them.)

I don’t know Mr. One and Mr. Two beyond those demos. I doubt either of them are believers (which is why it was so important for me to continue to be gracious with Mr. One, despite my frustrations. I hope I succeeded…). But the two demos really reminded me of how important it is to be genuinely interested in others, to be patient and kind, and to have a thorough knowledge of the Bible and its doctrines, as well as of the Gospel.

Not to “sell” something but so that we can be used by God to share the good news of the Gospel with the hopelessly and eternally lost who are wandering in this dark and dying world searching for answers.

What Does the Bible Say About…(Being Relevant)?

I am not sure I can remember when the church wasn’t caught up in relevance. I guess when I was a child it was only beginning, but, even then, the “Jesus Music” had already been birthed and the direction had been set to bring in worldly entertainment. Looking even further back, there was a move to wed the church to the world in philosophy. I am sure Satan places some of his greatest effort into wooing the church with the world, since this renders the church ineffective.

And that is exactly what we have seen. A church caught up in being like the world becomes the world. The true Gospel disappears in the frenzy to stay relevant.

And what a futile task. It is impossible to stay relevant in a world that changes constantly. At first, it was only music. What is wrong with that? Throw out the stuffy hymns and bring in something new! But new grows old rather quickly and, since we have become a people fixated on “new”, we always need something different, something greater, something better. And so we have seen a steady increase in bringing in the latest, greatest thing. I have even heard of a church that brought in a strip tease act! Can you even imagine?

But how can this be?

Because the church’s people aren’t hungering for the right thing. Because the church’s people are most likely goats and not sheep.

Funny how the Bible never, ever mentions relevance. The passage that is most often used to defend relevance is in I Corinthians 9, so let’s unpack that a bit here today–

verses 19-23–For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

There are three differences to Paul’s style of evangelism and that of the modern day church’s style (that uses this passage to back up their warped view of evangelism)–

1. Paul was not interested in pleasing the world or making sure he was good friends with someone before sharing Christ. He had only the Gospel in mind. Nothing else. All he did was for the sake of the Gospel. This is far different from what we see today, where there seems to be a race to see how much we can be like the world and still be a Christian. And what we can see is that with this style of living, the Gospel becomes irrelevant and old-fashioned and eventually disappears altogether.

2. Paul was not willing to sin in order to share the Gospel. When Paul says that he will be like certain groups of people, he did not mean he would participate in their sinful activities. How do we know this? We know this because that would conflict with a hundred other passages Paul wrote to us about the Christian life. That means Paul wouldn’t have hung out at a bar drinking with his buddies and getting tipsy. He wouldn’t have sat down at a poker table and gambled away his day’s wages. He wouldn’t have joined his friends at the movie theater to watch a film filled with sex and violence. And he certainly wouldn’t have sanctioned bringing in worldly entertainment into God’s holy church. Paul would never advocate compromise with sin. Thinking that this is what that passage means is taking it completely out of the context of the rest of Paul’s writings.

3. Paul was a servant. Paul did what he did with a servant’s heart and not a selfish heart. He did so with a humble heart and not a prideful heart. This is very different than what we see today as people talk about what they can do or don’t have to do under the banner of the freedom that’s found in Christ. While there may be a pretense of service, when the veneer is stripped away, we find it’s really about feeding one’s appetite for the world and justifying it.

Darby sums up this passage very nicely in his commentary–

“It was the power of charity which denied itself in all things, in order to be the servant of all, and not the selfishness which indulged itself under the pretence of gaining others. He did so in every respect for the sake of the gospel, desiring, as he said, to be a partaker with it, for he personifies it as doing the work of God’s love in the world.”

So what did Paul mean with those verses? I think a comparable example in today’s society would be something like this–

If I am going to minister to the homeless on the street, I am not going to wear high heels and diamonds. If I am going to minister to the wealthy, I am not going to dress in rags. I will do all I can do–without sinning–to be like the group I am with, in order to gain an audience in which to share the Gospel.

This is a far cry from what we are hearing and seeing today. And, honestly, the church that brings in the world is so far gone as to have separated herself from the true church now. The true colors are finally showing. But there are still some walking the fence and it is to those that I address this post.

God never sanctions fence-walking. He demands we clearly pick a side. I John 2:15 makes it clear–

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

As does James 4:4–

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

We cannot be friends with God and be friends with the world. The two are mutually exclusive. And because of this, we know that the mainstream church has swallowed a lie that has led to her demise.

But what saddens me beyond measure are the many, many true churches that have swallowed this lie and have made or are making this final compromise that will lead to their death. It is tragic. And it is everywhere.

While there is probably little most of us can do to change the wrong direction of the churches, there is much we can do personally. Let’s keep ourselves from falling prey to the lie that we need to be “like the world in order to win the world”. In our personal Christian life and evangelism, may we be like Paul: Doing all out of a heart of charity, with a passion to live a holy life, and all for the sake of the Gospel.

 

Is Being Nice Enough?

Do you believe that others will know you are a genuine Christian because you are a nice person? It is tempting to think this sometimes. We think that somehow because we are a nice and kind person, people will see that we are different and ask us about Jesus Christ.

But how often does this really happen? How often has someone asked you about your “niceness” and about what drives it?

I would say it’s pretty rare for a number of reasons.

First, there are many, many wonderfully kind unbelievers. Being nice and kind does not really set you apart. In fact, my daughter who used to work at a local restaurant said that the wait staff used to hate when “Christian” concerts and speakers came to town because their fans were often the cheapest and the rudest. What a testimony, huh?

So being nice is not something that describes just Christians and, in fact, many who call themselves Christians make a pretty bad name for the rest of us by not being nice at all.

Second, I would say that while nice people are a joy to be around and to work with, they don’t generally ruffle any feathers or cause conflict (often out of their own self-interest). And, while this may be a good thing in some circumstances, when it comes to someone’s eternal destiny, we sometimes have to risk a few ruffled feathers by speaking the truth of God’s Word.

Third, if we are honest, we have to admit that most people don’t really care about the God of the Bible. They have been blinded by the lie that they can create a being of their own wishes and desires and call it god and they are content to with this. They really aren’t searching because they think they are okay. Welcome to the postmodern world.

So is being nice enough?

I think we can safely say that it is not. Being nice will neither set us apart or give us extra opportunities to share the Gospel.

Does that mean we shouldn’t be nice? Of course not. All of us, as believers, should be very kind to others. We do this because it’s commanded (I Corinthians 13) and not as some evangelistic method.

So how do we set ourselves apart? What will draw people to us when they are hurting or have questions? What will cause them to direct their questions to us if the Holy Spirit starts to work on their heart?

If we are faithful to God and His Word, this will naturally show up in our lives. Not only in our kindness but in many other ways, as well. Someone who loves the Lord sets themselves apart in the workplace by not participating in the off-color conversations and raunchy jokes (Colossians 3:8). Someone serious about their faith doesn’t choose to be entertained at bars, strip clubs, or casinos like their worldly co-workers (James 4:4). Someone who is obedient to the Bible’s commands doesn’t cheat or lie or steal when they could do so without the boss or the spouse or the friend knowing (Colossians 3:9). Someone who loves others will speak the truth with love and grace as God gives opportunity (Proverbs 8:7). They control their tempers and do not hold grudges (Colossians 3:8). Someone who is a genuine believer has the courage to stand up for what’s right and to tell others the truth of the whole Gospel–including the part about sin and repentance (Mark 1:15). And they also have a generous and cheerful spirit (2 Corinthians 9:7). Integrity, honesty, grace, courage, generosity, patience, and, yes, kindness, should be the words that people use to describe us. Of course, we aren’t perfect and we don’t get them right all the time. Some of these are easier for us than others. But we should be different in a myriad of ways–not just by the fact that we are “nice”.

It is about so much more than being nice. It’s about being wholly dedicated to the Lord so that when people are searching they come and find you. Anyone can be nice. But it takes a genuine believer to point people to Christ with both their words and their actions.

 

Christians and Politics

There are a lot of really big political issues going on right now with really strong opinions coming from both sides. But I guess this is nothing new. Throughout history, there have always been enormous issues in every nation and people who have had strong and opposing opinions about them.

This can lead to arguments, debates, and even mean comments on social media. Whether it’s at work, on the sidelines, at family gatherings, or on our social media account, we all hear opinions about political matters.

So today I want to take a look at how we deal with those who are coming from the opposite world view than we are. What should be our protocol as believers when a “Big Issue” comes up?

1. Remember that, as a believer, we are not here to push a political agenda. I can’t think of anywhere in scripture that God gives instructions to believers to moralize their country. Now–don’t get me wrong–there isn’t anything wrong with working in government or helping a ministry that is working towards this, but this is not our main purpose. Our purpose is to share the Gospel. We are here as instruments of God to share His Good News. If we can remember that this is our purpose, rather than pushing a political agenda we feel strongly about, it naturally changes our attitude, doesn’t it? Matthew 28:19-20 reminds us of our greatest calling as believers–

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

2. Remember that any issue involves real people. Whether it is our President and his family, immigration, the LGBT agenda, or any other hot button topic, they involve real people who have feelings. Any opinion we choose to give, no matter what it is, should be respectful and kind. We’d best stick to the issue at hand rather than lashing out in attacks towards the people involved. There is no room in a Christian’s life for mean, ugly words about others, no matter what the issue. Matthew 7:12 makes this clear–

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

3. Remember that debates and arguments are generally useless. If someone has a really strong opinion, no amount of debate is going to change their mind. Thoughtful and intelligent conversations about the issues can be useful in understanding the opposition’s point of reference but vehement debates and angry attacks only make things worse. Proverbs 18:13 encourages us to hear before we talk–

If one gives an answer before he hears,
    it is his folly and shame.

4. Remember that everything is in God’s Hands. Sometimes we may be tempted to panic as we watch things take place in this world that we never could have imagined. But God knows exactly what is going on. He is completely sovereign over all that is taking place and we do not need to panic if we can’t change our culture. Proverbs 21:1 says it this way–

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
    He turns it wherever He will.

5. Remember that our opinion will be part of a shrinking minority. Why are we so surprised about this? We are not part of this world. We don’t belong here and never have–even though we have made ourselves pretty comfortable in the Christianized nations most of us found ourselves living in for awhile. With nations that are no longer “Christianized”, we find ourselves a bit distraught. But we shouldn’t be confused or dismayed by this turn of events, as we are told to expect this throughout scripture–

John 15:18-19If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Acts 14:21-22 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

I John 3:13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

And these words by Jesus describe the end of the age in Matthew 24:9-14

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away[a] and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

So, you see, we are not, as a general rule, going to land on the “politically-correct” side of these big, political issues if we are standing with biblical conviction. There isn’t anything wrong with speaking our opinion in a respectful and kind way, but don’t expect to be lauded for it. Unless you are with a group of like-minded Christians, you will most likely be mocked and ridiculed. We must expect this instead of being so hurt and troubled by it.

But guess what? So many who have gone on before us have had to stand against popular opinion, as well. We can look back at so many–the Roman Christians, the Huguenots, the Reformers, the Puritans, the Christians under Hitler’s regime, and so many more–who stood strong in the face of adversity. We have a long history of standing strong behind us. May we follow their examples.

—————————————————————————-

These big issues can be overwhelming but it is my hope this morning to help us remember that our main purpose in life is not pushing some political agenda. Instead, it is sharing the Gospel and encouraging others towards a biblical walk with Christ. Doing the work of God is our main priority and it is incredibly important that we do not let political agendas build walls between us and the lost.  Or even us and other believers. We must remember what is our main purpose.

 

Salvation is not a Moment

Does one prayer give us fire insurance from hell for the rest of our lives? Does it secure our place in heaven forever? Well, it might. But it might not.

You see, salvation is not a moment. And since we can’t know someone’s heart when they say that prayer it takes time to figure out if they truly were serious.

We learned this many years ago when one of our young employees was really struggling in life. My husband talked with him about the Lord and connected him with our pastor. He “got saved” and things seemed to change. We saw him around church for the next few months. And then, gradually, he stopped coming. A year or two went by and he ended up cheating our company by using our machines to do his own work on the side while he was supposed to be working for us. That was the end of his employment with our company and the last thing we ever heard about him was that he died in a motorcycle accident, leaving a wife and two young children.

Do I know he wasn’t genuinely saved? No, I can’t possibly know that. We lost touch and he could have changed. And, honestly, we can’t possibly declare if anyone is or isn’t saved. Only God knows the heart.

But what we can see are the repenting person’s transformation, or lack thereof. This young man, in desperation, called out to the Lord. But when things started to get better, the things of the Lord grew uninteresting and unnecessary.

It reminds me of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-9–

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

I believe this passage teaches that there is only one type of prayer that leads to genuine salvation and that is the prayer that comes from the good soil of a repentant and humble heart and then produces a crop of spiritual fruit. Just because someone says a prayer doesn’t necessarily mean they are saved. We honestly can’t find it anywhere in the Bible. While Jesus tells us that to be saved we just need to believe in Him (John 3:16), we also know that true belief gives us a hatred for wickedness and evil by reading verses 19-21 of that same chapter–

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

So you see it is impossible to claim Christ as your Savior if you don’t love the light. While believers are not perfect and never will be on this side of eternity, we do love the light. We do desire to walk like and be like our Savior. We hate sin and yearn for righteousness.

If there isn’t even a smidgen of these new desires in someone you love who claims they are a Christian because they said a prayer, you have cause for concern. Pray for them. And talk with them as God gives opportunities (but never, ever saying they aren’t saved, because we can’t possibly know, but, instead, taking them to the scriptures and showing them what the Word says about genuine salvation).

I get why we like to think salvation is a moment. It is a comfort to us, isn’t it? It assures us that we will spend eternity together with those we love. But the Bible clearly shows us that this is a false belief. Oh, how I wish it wasn’t so, but it’s there. All through the scriptures. Not just at one, vague place but all through them. True salvation yields change.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

So what does this mean for those of us that are genuinely saved? It should give us a more passionate prayer life and compel us to speak the truth in love and grace. For what could possibly be sadder than believing that a sentence you prayed as a kid saved you for eternity and then finding out too late that you have believed a horrible lie?

It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills. (Adrian Rogers)

Yes! a thousand times, yes! May we be kind. And may we be filled with God’s love. But may we speak the truth that heals rather than comfort people with lies that lead to their eternal damnation.

Salvation is not a moment.

 

The Love and Compassion that Swallows Fear

I heard someone ask Ray Comfort the other day if he stills gets scared when he witnesses to people. If you don’t know who Ray Comfort is, you will find him at Living Waters teaching people how to share the Gospel and doing a lot of that himself. After all these years you would think he’d be super comfortable sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others, but he actually said he is still terrified. And then he said he has learned how to hold that terror and gave a little analogy that I wanted to share here–

If you had a pool filled with floating ice cubes and the coldest water you could imagine, you wouldn’t think about jumping in. But if a three year old fell in that pool, you wouldn’t think about it for a second. You’d just jump in and save him. There is a love and compassion that swallows fear.

That is true love, isn’t it? The kind that swallows fear?

And this isn’t just relevant to witnessing. It’s relevant to being a godly parent, being a godly leader, and encouraging Christians away from false teaching. These all take a love that will swallow that consuming fear that comes when we think about any confrontation.

What kind of fears do we fight?

There are so many but they all have one thing in common–

 

fear that people won’t like me

fear people will think I’m weird

fear that people will think I’m a fanatic

fear that people will think I’m divisive

fear that my comfortable circumstances will change

fear that someone won’t be my friend anymore

fear that people will be mean to me

fear that people will gang up on me

 

Do you see the main thing listed in these fears? Me and I. I am sure there are so many more fears but can you think of one fear you have in regards to telling others the truth about the Bible that isn’t wrapped up in you?

So this is a natural thing, isn’t it? We naturally want to live pleasant, happy, carefree lives. Of course, we don’t want to rock any boats or upset anyone because that means we have to deal with the unpleasant consequences that follow. The easiest thing to do is to just stay quiet. And so we don’t tell unbelievers about Jesus Christ–or if we do, we conveniently leave out the part about them being a sinner and needing to repent. All of that unpleasant stuff that no one wants to hear. And we don’t love our Christian brothers and sisters enough to call out sin or to mention that the author or the preacher they love so much is a false teacher.

Because our fear is bigger than our love.

You’d think–with my blog and all–that I wouldn’t struggle with this, right? I mean, let’s face it, when you do this kind of blogging there isn’t really any question of where I stand. But I still struggle with this. Somehow talking with someone one-on-one seems a lot more frightening than writing a blog post. I would imagine most bloggers and writers feel that way. In fact, you may feel that way even with social media, feeling much freer to share there (although that’s probably worth a blog post in and of itself–social media is not the place for these conversations, as a rule. If we wouldn’t say it to someone in person, we shouldn’t write it on a Facebook wall or tweet it).

Now, I must add one thing and this seems to be the perfect place to add it. “Jumping in that pool” to save someone is always the right thing to do. And because we do not know when someone is going to die, there is an urgency to witnessing that we cannot deny. However, while this isn’t really the topic of this post, I do think we need to remember to be wise. If we broach the subject of salvation or of a false teacher or of their own sin with someone and they grow angry and defensive, then we must know when to back away. We are not bulls in a china closet. We don’t just keep going, ramming Bible verses down their throats. There is a grace and love that must accompany speaking the truth.

But most of us never even get to the point where we are willing to speak the truth. To anyone. About anything. Because of that terrifying fear. But we have the power to overcome that fear. I John 4 tells us that God’s perfect love casts out that fear–

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

I think we must ask this question: At what point does our fear become a sin? At what point does it move from being a natural human response to an actual sin? Anger and envy are natural human responses but we don’t give them the same pass as fear, do we? Why is that?

Of course, this is compounded greatly by the fact that we are literally becoming the great enemy of the western world more and more each day. The agenda to demonize biblical Christians is vigorous and influential and so this intensifies our fears. And there is much to fear these days. The days of freely sharing biblical truth are slipping away into the twilight.

But there is a love and compassion that swallows our fear! And if we are born again, we have access to it. Right now. Today. Why are we allowing ourselves to be controlled by fear when we should be controlled by love?

 

 

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