Spiritual Warfare Prep

Spiritual Warfare Prep
We Are In The Lord's Army

Thursday, September 29, 2016

God Is The Great Physician

I am writing this because we really do need to know what God is like and what His characteristics are. So many times, we have some idea of what God is like, but we finish our belief system based upon what we think He is like or how we think He should respond to us. Then when the real times of testing come, which they will, our faith fails, or we just turn to another god to believe in. We do this without even realizing it.

So, it all started when I was a toddler. My parents and grandparents were big on going to the 'seashore' as they called it back then (today it is called the beach). Although I loved the beach, I hated the car ride that we had to take in order to get there. I would get sick to my stomach every time, and the car had to be stopped many times. The adults would try different things to make my stomach feel better such as orange juice, tea, and one time, spearmint.

Well, we didn't go too many places once we moved down to Florida, but after I got married, my husband and I would make trips to where his relatives lived, which was about 2 hours away. I don't remember what it was like at first, but then as I began to have children, I couldn't be in the car anymore, without getting sick to my stomach. I blamed it on being pregnant, but then after many trips to Georgia or other far away places, I had car sickness, even without being pregnant. Memories of having car sickness flashed back into my mind and after many of these trips, I gave into the fact that I still had motion sickness, for which no one yet had found a cure for.

About two years ago, I noticed that I was feeling sick to my stomach in the mornings. The stomach sickness became every morning, and it wasn't morning sickness this time! I am not sure what it was, but when we went on a long trip, it really was not fun.

When we were in Georgia that December, I was still feeling sick and having car sickness as usual. I prayed for God's help with all of this. The thought of going back in the car was sickening in itself. I prayed to get well from it all. I committed the situation to the Lord. If God were to not help me, this would be a trip most miserable!

I didn't have the car sickness on the way home. The sick stomach I had went away during the day. I have been on several trips since then and have not struggled with car sickness. It is great. I am thankful to God for taking it away!

The reason I want to write this is because I think that our faith is so small. We want to believe God is there and is for us, but we gauge our understanding of Him based upon our life's experiences instead of on His word. We pray for something and it doesn't come to pass, so we give up on praying. We need a bigger picture!

Here is what Jesus says about prayer:
"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples." John 15:7 ESV

Here is what James says about this:
"You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." James 4:2 and 3 ESV

And here is what the psalmist says about it:
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4 ESV

The key is to abide in Christ. Let His word dwell in us richly. Our hearts' desires will be in line with what God wants. If we aren't abiding in Christ, then we are acting independently of God. 

God still heals people today and brings glory to His Son by doing so. God still reveals Himself to people to and invites those who see their need for Him to come to Him. If you have not come to know Him yet, this is the time. If you are interested in responding to God's invitation, and if you would like more information on that, please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What Is A Racist?

There is a lot of talk on the Internet about racism, and many are being called, 'racist' due to the problems we are facing in our country today.

But what exactly is a racist, and why do people call others 'racists'?

Another word for racist would be 'bigot'. It has the connotation of superiority over another group or bias toward a group or race of people.

Here is the dictionary definition of racist:

rac·ist ˈrāsəst/ noun 1. a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another. synonyms: racial bigot, racialist, xenophobe, chauvinist, supremacist More adjective 1. having or showing the belief that a particular race is superior to another. "we are investigating complaints about racist abuse at the club"

What we are facing today has to do with the question of boundaries. Is it wrong to have boundaries? If one does have boundaries, is he or she a racist?

The implication is, if we have boundaries (which everyone should have and use properly) then it means we are separating ourselves from another group. By default, according to many, that means we are superior to the group we are placing boundaries around.

What I really think this means though, is that, if we don't have boundaries and if we don't use our God-given boundaries, then we can be 'tolerant' of others and they can take advantage of us, if they choose to do so. In other words, we have to give up our boundaries in order for us to be 'tolerant' of others. Does God want us to be a doormat and let others walk all over us? Did Jesus have boundaries while He was on earth?

This whole idea of separating ourselves from others and being superior is quite interesting. I am not sure that separating ourselves from others means that we think we are superior to others. But that is exactly what our culture teaches. If we are inclusive, then we are bigoted. At least, according to the culture.

Why is this though? Well, could it be partly due to what the culture believes about truth? Our culture today will tell you that truth is what you want it to be. If you believe you are a dog, then, that is your truth and your truth tells you that you are a dog. If you are a male, who wants to be a female, then your truth is that you are a female. That is what culture believes. So, if Jesus says that He is the only way to heaven, people will say that that is His truth, and whoever want's to believe in Him, it is their truth. At the same time, the culture will say that Jesus is being bigoted because of His claim.

Listen, this goes on and on. Young adults who profess to believe in Jesus being the only way will say that that is true for themselves, but it might not be true for a Muslim, for example. They believe that when a Muslim dies, and if that Muslim never turned to Christ, that he or she will be ok before God because that is their truth. Do you see the dilemma here?

It goes back to having no absolutes. If there is nothing concrete, then we can believe whatever we want to. But what if something is concrete? What if God is concrete and His word is final? Whether that is truth to us or not, we will all stand before Him one day and give account of our lives. Now that is truth!

Back to the culture. Years ago, I helped out with a business phone book that was being put together. It was for Christian businessmen (or women). You would not believe the reaction of the world concerning this upcoming phone directory. We were looked at as bigoted and bias, and of course, inclusive. People assumed that because it was a phone book for Christians, that it was excluding everyone else, and they didn't think that was fair.

If a Muslim group were putting a business directory together for Muslim business men, I would have no desire to be listed in it. Why should I feel like they are bigoted against me because their phone directory was only for Muslims? I would have no right to complain about that. They have every right to put together a phone directory for their community.

So, why is it that a person who has standards and one who sees danger and warns others is called a bigot (or racist)? It's making a stretch out of something that doesn't necessarily exist. It's creating a 'straw man' or a false theory that is taken to be fact.

We can't judge what is in a person's heart. We don't have the right to say, so and so did that action because they were ............ (fill in the blank). That is why we have court systems. The judges try to figure out the motives of the person who did the crime. But we think we know people's hearts. Our hearts are so deceitful that even the person who does wrong doesn't necessarily understand why he did what he did.

We have a presidential candidate who is being called a 'bigot'. I wondered why, for a long time. But then I remembered, it was because he wants to put up a wall in our country, separating us from Mexico. I also remember that it is because he doesn't want to have tons of refugees pouring into our country with no accountability on them. But I have to ask, is that really bigotry?

Maybe the whole thing goes back way deeper into another belief system. Perhaps some really believe that people are good. Maybe some have overlooked the incident at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida. Maybe some have forgotten about 911. Could this be why people believe that the Holocaust never took place?

This may truly be the reason why people think those who have set boundaries around them are bigoted. Because, it is like saying, people really aren't that bad. You don't need to lock your doors at night. You are judging people. It's ok that pedophiles are in our neighborhoods. They probably don't mean to hurt our children. What are you so down on them? Most people are trying to be good and nice.

I like the Bible verse that talks about how Jesus did not entrust Himself to man, for He knew what was in man. There were times when Jesus hid Himself from people who were trying to kill Him. Was Jesus wrong in doing that? Wouldn't that be assuming that people are bad and dangerous? Hmmm.

Yes, we need boundaries around us. We need protection from other people. That doesn't mean that we can't get to know people and learn to trust them. Trust has to be earned. You wouldn't trust your newborn baby with someone walking down the street that you don't know, would you? You wouldn't trust your 10 year old with the car keys, and you wouldn't leave your children at the beach or an amusement park all day by themselves. We all know what could happen when we do such things.

Everything must be done with humility. When we point out a wrong or potential danger, if we have a superiority about it, then those who don't appreciate boundaries will accurately accuse us of being superior. We are to be like one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.

The truth is, all of us are on the same plane. We are in the same boat (excuse the puns!). There is a God who is way bigger than we are, to whom we will all give account of our lives. We are small and flawed. We all need Someone to rescue us from our sins. There is no race or group that is an exception to this. To believe in the One who can rescue us is not an act of bigotry. God is inviting all to come to Him. When someone rejects the invitation, he is excluding himself from the kingdom of God. He or she will have no one to blame but himself/herself on that Day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

False Teachers Or Ignorant Teachers?

I was reading an article by one of my favorite Bible teachers and example. I liked what I read, but there was something troubling in this article.

In much of my reading on Facebook, I see a lot of posts that lead to articles describing false teachers. It is an interesting dynamic, however, I personally think this has gotten way out of hand. For example, CARM wrote an article on a woman Bible teacher, and the evaluation was that she was a weak Bible teacher (for reasons I am not going to cover here). Well, because so many trust and respect the ministry of CARM, this object of evaluation ended up being a false teacher on the websites of many who are hunting down false teachers. Many have ripped her to shreds and the poor woman may not even have any idea of all those new haters of hers that she has out there now.

Back to the article, the person who wrote the article that I am explaining about, I greatly respect. However, any of us can be wrong. Not just that we are not perfect, but we live in a darkened world and we see through a glass dimly. We are all (hopefully) growing together in love and truth.

The article mentioned a well known Bible teacher who has said that regeneration precedes faith. In other words, there is no faith available until regeneration has taken place in the person. When I read the quote, I did not agree with it. The person who wrote the article did not agree with it either. Up to this point, it is not a big deal. That is, until I read the next paragraph.

The following paragraph made a reference to the well known Bible teacher and others who were teaching error in some form. But it also made a reference to those people as 'false teachers'. You have to understand what a false teacher is.

First of all, a false teacher, or heretic, is one who appears to be on the same page as everyone else, but secretly has an agenda that will pull people away from God. A false teacher is not one who is preaching a watered down Gospel, necessarily (although a false teacher may indeed preach a watered down Gospel). There is a lot of ignorance in the body of Christ. Some really think they are serving the Lord with their teaching. But they haven't been discipled properly or they haven't learned correct doctrine.

We have to ask ourselves, what is the goal of the person preaching something erroneous. Is the goal to win the people over to another cause or is it just basic stupidity or ignorance on the part of the speaker? Could it be that the person sees something in the Bible in a way that we don't see?

We are not all going to agree on everything in the Bible. We need to be on the same page when it comes to the Gospel, salvation, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit and the authority of Scriptures, but when it comes to other things that are not the main issues, we aren't going to see eye to eye. That is ok.

Sometimes, people miscommunicate, or even worse, they are bad communicators. They might even say things that sound heretical, without realizing the seriousness of what their words sound like! Yes, they need to be confronted and helped. That is where good relationships come into play. But that doesn't mean that they are in there to bewitch people into believing another Gospel. This happens a lot and we need to be gracious. It is not wrong to let the person know that they are communicating in a bad way.

So, how do we treat people we disagree with? Should we call them false teachers? Have we judged them and decided that they are definitely in there to lead people astray?

Here is a link to a message taught by Ligon Duncan concerning whether the church fathers got the Gospel right. The early fathers had many different views on things, but the one thing they did agree on was the message of the Gospel. That is much like us today. We have a lot of different views on things, even in the Bible, but all who know the Lord will agree on the Gospel message.

So, I have to disagree with my respected Bible teacher on calling this well known Bible teacher a 'false teacher' because he said that regeneration precedes faith.

How do you handle well known Bible teachers who teach things that you don't agree with? Do you call them a heretic or false teacher, or, do you see them as men who have been enlightened by the Lord, but are in the process of growing and changing continually in the ways and knowledge of the Lord?

Here is an article I wrote yesterday on this subject. It goes a little deeper concerning how to treat those whom we do not agree with.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How Are We To Treat People We Disagree With Or Who Have Wronged Us?

"Tolerance isn't about not having beliefs. It's about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you." Tim Keller.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:43-45a ESV

"Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." Romans 12:10 ESV

"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." Romans 12:16-18 ESV

"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." Romans 13:8 ESV

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34, 35 ESV

"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:" 1 Peter 4:10 ESV

Each of these verses tells us how we should treat one another. We are told to love our enemies. We are told to live in harmony with one another. We are commanded to love one another. God's word tells us to serve others. 

How do we treat people who we disagree with? We can have all knowledge of what we know to be true, but does it lead us to treat others properly? Do we slander other Christians who we don't agree with? Do we tear down those who hate us and misrepresent us? The way we treat others indicates how we ourselves have been affected by God's word. Is God's word something just stored in our memories, or is it alive and working in us to change us so we can become conformed to the image of Christ?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

God Is Love - But - His Love Has Boundaries We Might Not Like

We hear about how much God loves us, and that is true. But God's love is not a love that allows us to stay in our sins.

People today use God's love as an excuse for not repenting from sin and turning to God. But is that what God's love is all about? The Bible says that 'God is love' but it also talks about turning from our sins. Is there a contradiction?

People love ice cream. Some love Chinese food. There are people who love big, beautiful houses. But is that kind of love the same as loving a person? When we are infatuated with someone, we say that we love them. But if we truly love them, then we would be willing to make sacrifices for their good. Can we make sacrifices for the well being of ice cream, Chinese food, or big beautiful houses? The sacrifices we would make would be for our enjoyment and benefit, not for the sake of ice cream, Chinese food, and big houses.

Here is a description of love that comes right out of the Bible:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV

Love involves sacrifice. It involves sacrifice for the sake of the object of love. Love is not allowing people to do whatever they want in order to be happy. 

I once remember my mom explaining discipline to me. I was probably between the ages of 5 and 7, and I hated being disciplined. I thought my mom was too strict. I wanted to explore, so I would do things with the door locked or somehow I would be out of her sight so I could 'explore' and learn. It 'seemed' like to everything I wanted, she would say 'no' to. My mom tried to explain boundaries to me. It made sense but I did not agree with it. She said that children feel safe with boundaries around them. When children break those boundaries, they need to be disciplined. It was an act of love on the part of the parent. 

There was a true incident that happened in a school yard. There was no fence around the school yard and when children went out for recess, they always stayed close to the building. A fence was put up around the school yard and after that, children played in the school yard. The only explanation was that children felt safe because there was now a fence around the school yard. 

I did not want to stay inside the boundaries my mom set for me and I certainly did not see how it could be loving of parents to discipline their children. Of course, I was immature and thought that I could do things to make myself happy, and that Mom was getting in the way of that!

In my opinion, it seems like many people see God this way. God has boundaries. Inside His boundaries, there is no sin. We think that by being allowed to sin, we will be happy, and we think that if we are inside God's boundaries, we will not be happy because we can't do what we want to. So, alternatively, people come up with the idea that God loves us and that means we can do whatever we want. That makes sense to people, but it is just the opposite of what Scripture teaches. 

"The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Psalm 16:6 NIV

We will never experience God's peace until we know Him. We will not know Him until we repent of our sins, and trust in what Jesus did on the Cross to pay for the penalty of our sins. When we do come to Him in repentance and faith, then we will have the insight to see that God does know what is best. God is not out there to make us unhappy. But the devil lies to us in order to get us to not trust in God. We all have a distrust in God because we do not know what the Scriptures say about who He is. Because we are ignorant of what Scripture teaches us about God, we will fall into the trap of the Enemy of our souls, and listen to his lies instead of listening to the truth about God. And we will not trust in God because we have fallen prey to the lies of the devil. 

Yes, God does love us. He loves those who do not know Him yet. He loves those who have trusted in Him and turned from their sins. But God's love will not keep people from going to hell if they do not repent of their sins and turn to Him. God's love provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him. He provided a way for us to be free from having to be captivated by sin. We all have struggles with sinful issues, and now, because of the Cross, we can be set free from sin. 

Sin is our enemy. Satan uses sinful temptations to cause us to fall and to be under God's wrath. The devil cannot make anyone sin, but he can reason with people about sin and make it look plausible. 

For more information on how to be made right before God, please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Is Our Tragedy Due To God's Judgment On Us Or Is It Due To A Consequence Of Our Actions?

Although suffering consequences for things done and suffering God's judgment because of bad decisions we have made appear to be very much alike, they are two different things.

For example, if I drink something poisonous, I will get sick or die. The result is a consequence for my action. But if I choose to rebel against God and reject His authority in my life, I will be under His judgment (see John 3:36).

We are in a time when God is extending His mercy. Many times, we can get away with doing sinful activities, and seemingly we can get away with it. But in doing so, we are storing up wrath for the Day of Judgment. God is merciful in order for us to repent.

Sometimes, we think that someone is experiencing God's judgment when the person or group of people is suffering a consequence for their wrongdoing. We have to be careful and discern whether the result is a consequence or is God's judgment on him or her for their actions.

In the Old Testament, there were acts of judgment that God allowed to be done to His own people. Other nations were also destroyed under God's judgment as well. Remember, these Pagan nations did have the truth at one time, but turned away and received God's judgment on them. The world-wide Flood in Noah's Day was an act of God's Judgment on the people who rejected Him.

The point of what I am saying is this; we have to be careful in how we interpret a person's suffering. Is he or she experiencing tragedy or pain because God is judging him or her? Or could it be that the person is suffering the consequences of bad decisions that were made?

One other thought; Could it be that when we choose to pull away from God that we suffer the consequences of not being under His umbrella of safety? I am not saying that anyone who is a victim of being harmed by accident or danger of any kind is not under God's safety net. But, what about those who do not know the Lord? How can they be under the safety net of the Lord if God is not their Strong Tower?

What about those who have been part of a church, who have left the church because they want to go back into sin? Or those who have chosen to believe that God is ok with His people continuing in sin, because of the belief that says that God is all-loving and all-forgiving? When we choose to sin, no matter what excuse we give, we are opening the door to Satan in our lives, and we give the Enemy a foothold which could turn into a stronghold that will keep us in bondage to sin. How can we think we are under God's safety net if we regard some kind of sin in our lives? We can't live in the kingdom of Light and the kingdom of Darkness at the same time? If we continue living in sin, then we will suffer the consequences of not living under God's safety net. If we don't repent in this life, we will experience God's judgment after we die.

Those who trust in the Lord are under God's safety net. Everything that happens to them is under God's sovereign control. But the promises of God to His people of safety and protection do not apply to those who do not know Him. It is a dangerous thing to be outside of God's safety net.

God promises to take care of His people. He gives the invitation to all to come to Him. We must let go of our sinful paths and ways, and we must turn to Him in repentance and faith. God sent His Son to take the punishment for our sins so we can be forgiven. The death of Jesus Christ also provided the way to have victory over sin and the Enemy of our souls. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead shows the power of God that we can have to be forgiven of sin and to be free from the hold of sin.

For more information on this, please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Apologetics Is Not Evangelism

I love to do both evangelism and apologetics, and many times, they go hand in hand.

But are they the same thing and do they have the same end? The answer is 'no'.

The Bible tells us to preach the Gospel to every creature and make disciples of all nations. The Bible also tells us that we are to defend the faith, and give an answer to every person who asks a reason of the hope that is in us.

Don't get me wrong. We can use apologetics in evangelism, and some times we need to do so. But here is the problem; we tend to think of them as the same thing. Let me explain in more detail.

I am in a lot of different circles on the Internet. I am in several apologetic groups and at the same time, am also involved in evangelism groups. I have friends who are also in these same groups. It is like one big fellowship on the Internet. But there is a  problem.

The problem appears to be that we use apologetic skills when we should be preaching the Gospel. For example, there are people who want to defend the faith (or at least their theology) when they should be presenting the Gospel message.

I am not sure I agree with this apologetic tactic, but there is a large apologetic group that explains Catholicism as a false religion. In fact, those who head up this group will go to Catholic churches and give out tracts which explain what Catholicism is wrong. If they believe that Catholicism is wrong (and I am not making a case here for whether or not Catholicism is right or wrong at this time), then wouldn't it be better to actually do evangelism with these Catholics instead of giving them literature telling them why they are wrong?

There are certain instances where I believe that apologetics can lead to evangelism. For example, if a Jehovah's Witness comes to your door, explaining why you should become a Jehovah's Witness, this is a perfect time to explain what the Bible says about salvation, God, Jesus, etc. One can use the Bible to help the Jehovah's Witness to see where he or she is in error. This is the time to defend the faith. The true faith which was delivered once to the saints, is being challenged in this case. The conversations we have with Jehovah's Witnesses could lead to sharing the Gospel, if the Jehovah's Witness is open to hearing the Gospel message.

Put yourself in the other person's place. If you were coming out of a non-mainstream Christian church, would you want someone handing you literature telling you that you are wrong? Does this show humility to the lost person? Yes, at some point if the Gospel is shared and received, the person will know that the doctrine he or she believes in (or thinks they believe in) is wrong. Many people just go to church for the sake of going to church. They are not really aware of the depths of whatever the church holds to in their doctrine. They typically go to some kind of church to earn a brownie point with God. And then imagine if someone who really does know the Lord, gives them a tract telling them that they are wrong? Do you think they will have the humility and grace to receive the message of the tract? Wouldn't it be better to share the Gospel with them instead of pointing out where they are wrong, doctrinally?

With anything we do for the kingdom of God, we must demonstrate as well as declare, the Gospel. People will look at our lives and how we live them out determines how people interpret who God is and what He is like. The Bible says that 'God is love', and if that is true (which we know it is) are we showing God's love by serving others and ministering to them, or do we think we are showing people God's love by telling them that they are wrong in what they believe in?

Some of the early church fathers had to stand up for the truth. They had to defend the faith, and we are glad that they did. They stood up for what was true, in spite of the cost they would have to pay for defending the truth. They did apologetics and God used them to make sure that the church continued in truth. What they did was not necessarily evangelism though, so we can't mix the two and blend them into one. There were vicious attacks against the truth, from various people who took their stand for what was false. Someone was needed to fight for the truth. The truth did prevail. It was a good thing that they stood up for what was true, when the truth was being challenged.

Throughout church history, there were those who did evangelism as well. One good example was St. Patrick, who converted many in Ireland, to the Christian faith. Others were Saint Nicholas of Myra (although he also was an apologist) and in later years, George Whitefield. They had love for people in their hearts.

The bottom line is, when sharing the Gospel, we don't tell them that they are 'wrong'. At some point, if they understand the Gospel message, they will know that they are wrong. It is not up to us to do the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. God will help make the connections for them as He works in their hearts.

We have to see those who we are doing apologetics with as lost souls. We can't have an 'I'm right, You're wrong' mentality. That is not showing kindness to anyone. We must show the grace of God and pray for the recipients to be able to receive God's grace. It's God's loving-kindness that draws people to repentance, not His displeasure. And remember, we are sharing Someone with them. We are not sharing our 'theologically correct belief system'. There is a difference.

So, how do we know the difference? When do we use apologetics and when do we do evangelism? If the message of the Gospel is being attacked, we use apologetics. If people attend a church where something other than the Gospel is being preached, then we use evangelism. However, if this church is aggressively attacking the truth, use apologetics. Apologetics are used to defend the faith. People who are sitting in a dead church are not attacking the Gospel. They need evangelism. If someone is knocking on your door to try to convert you to their religion, then use apologetics. Hope this makes sense!