Spiritual Warfare Prep

Spiritual Warfare Prep
We Are In The Lord's Army

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Life is Only A Vapor - We Are Born And Suddenly We Are Not Here Any More

   I'm not sure which blog to write this in, but I just am pondering how fast life goes by. I am always asking for trouble when I listen to music I downloaded from I-Tunes that I have put into the playlist called 'Memories'. In the playlist, I have songs from when I was probably around 2 years old and then other songs that follow through the rest of my life. What a blessing technology is, but how sad of a reminder that we don't stay children forever, but we all grow up and then get old.
  I've been thinking of how fast my children have grown up. It seems like I was pregnant with my last one. That was 21 years ago, which is hard to believe!
    Some of the songs remind me of when my grandfather carted us places or played with us. He even build a sandbox and painted a picture of me on it! Other songs remind me of Saturdays when my dad was home. My dad was a gallivanter though, so we would make many trips to NYC or wherever he wanted to take us. One time, he took us to the lake at the end of the road, when the lake was solidly frozen and we went 'skating' in our socks! We would all go down there as a family during the summer, and go swimming.
   One song reminds me of when we lived in Whippany, NJ. Life was very strange there, and it was there that I almost drown in a small swimming pool. So grateful that, in God's sovereignty, I didn't drown. I recently found out that three of my school mates have passed away. One of them was my best friend when I lived there.
   Then we moved away to Florida, due to the snow up North, and an inner ear infection my mom had, but would only be cured if we moved south, at least that is what she was told. It was in Florida where I came to Christ, got married, had children, and will probably die, unless the rapture comes first.
  We were talking about how fast our lives go by, when my mom mentioned again that it wasn't that long ago when I was little. Sometimes, it seems like a long, long time ago, but other times, it doesn't. It really wasn't that long ago, when I was at my grandparent's house playing with all the colorful soaps Nanny used to buy, or, when I locked myself in our bathroom because I wanted to play with the soaps at our house, but couldn't open the door because my hands were too slippery. My parents were desperately trying to get the door unlocked and let me out, and my dad tried to get into the bathroom through the window! It wasn't big enough for him to get through, but I will always remember his trying to stick his head through and not being able to get all the way in.
   Life goes on and is going by fast. No more New York Pizzas or Chinese food from Uncle Willie's restaurant, but we continue on going forth. God has given me a great life, even with its many hardships, but I can't be stuck in the past. I miss the past, but God has many plans for the future, that will end up with eternal results, and I must keep on looking forward, not backward. Now I am a grandparent, and it won't be long before I will be a great grandparent, I'm sure.
   The Bible says that life is like a vapor. Even if we live to be 100, that is just a drop in the bucket compared to eternity. God had given me all the people in the past to help me become what He wants me to be today. Life will continue, if I live or even if I die. What counts is Who I live for today. Will I continue to walk with the Lord and grow spiritually, or will I live in my memories of yesterday? How will my short life count for God? How can I live out the rest of my days for His glory? Those are the questions I am asking myself today. I want to create a legacy for my family!
Johnson's Beach at Lake Parsippany. My dad took us skating
here in our socks. My grandparents brought their canoe here
and it capsized!
"Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." James 4:14 NIV

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An Ethical Question - See How You Answer

   I just overheard something on the news and a question formulated in my mind. I thought I heard the broadcaster talk about a woman's right to an abortion as being categorized as a religion. So, if a woman is not allowed to have an abortion, her freedom of religion has been violated. I have not heard this before, but it doesn't surprise me.
  Let's take that same presupposition and put it into another framework. Did you know that radical Islam requires those who do not turn to Islam to be killed. But that creates a problem for all. How would you like it if someone has a right to kill you because you don't turn to Islam? If he isn't allowed to kill you, then his religious freedom has been violated. He has to go against what his religion dictates. But if he is allowed to have religious freedom, you get killed.
   The whole problem with Islam and abortion is that they are categories that are not founded upon the true and living God, upon Scriptures. They are founded upon lies and murder. If being Pro-choice is categorized as a religion, then it is a religion founded upon convenience, and the action of it is murder.
   So, if you are Pro-choice ask yourself this question; Would you want someone to force you to become Islamic or kill you? Think about it. If you have the freedom to kill your baby, then someone else has the same freedom to kill you. There is no such thing as a 'woman's right to her body' just as there is no such thing as Allah being God. These things are figments of our imaginations and desires. God is higher and bigger than Islam and abortion, and we will give account to Him on That Day.

Should Culture Bow To Scripture or Should Scripture Bow To Culture?

  A couple of years ago, I was talking with some college age kids. Two of them were professing Christians. Maybe, I should say instead, they were talking to me. I allowed them to talk to me because I wanted to be a good listener and then challenge them with their thinking. They weren't happy that I was passing out tracts, and informed me that Jesus wouldn't have done that. One girl even had parents who weren't saved, and she told me that she wouldn't want me to meet her parents because I would turn them off to Christianity. We had a long, mostly one sided, conversation and at the end, the one girl informed me of some books I should read. One of them was by Rob Bell called, 'Velvet Elvis'. I also thought for sure that I heard her say something interesting. If I heard correctly, the words went something like this; "When the culture and the Scriptures don't agree, Scriptures must bow down to the culture." Did I hear this correctly? I'm not sure, but after I read a critique on Velvet Elvis, I could see why they would think this.
      Around 3am, I was on the internet doing a search for Amy Grant quotes. The reason I am doing this is because I am hearing more and more that people are saying things like, "God wants me happy." I see a lot of professing Christians believing they are entitled to certain things. As I take this Biblical Counseling class, I also see how secular psychology has crept into the church. Secular psychology is really just another religion. It is a category that belongs to the church, but for various reasons, it was taken away from the church and given over to the medical field. The medical field is totally frustrated by it because there are no resolutions for some of the problems for those who are suffering mentally and emotionally. You can't give a pill to a woman who was sexually abused as a child, and make her all better. It just doesn't work that way.
   Secular psychology seeks to find answers in man, not in Scriptures. There are some decent methodologies in secular psychology, but the starting point is different than Biblical Counseling. Biblical Counseling takes into consideration God's holiness, man's sinfulness due to the fall, man's responsibility to God and society, and the answer to man's sin being found only in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Secular psychology could swing from one end of the pendulum to the other. It could set men free from responsibility due to circumstances done to the person, or, it could blame the person or other people for why the person is the way he is. The goal of secular psychology is to solve the person's problem and to help the patient to be happy, but the goal of Biblical Counseling is to help a suffering person be able to come to the place where he or she can deal with the realities of life, specifically his or her relationship with a holy God.
  Back to the Amy Grant thing. I found more info on not only her situation with her divorce, but also what her counselor told her in regards to her marriage to Gary Chapman. I remember a quote by Amy Grant that had to do with marriage and part of it said something like this; "God created marriage so that we could enjoy one another to the fullest". The article I was reading during the night was written by a man who was criticizing another man who did not agree with the way Amy Grant handled her divorce. He did not want to promote her any more, and the man writing the article didn't agree. The man who didn't want to promote her because she violated Scripture in working through her divorce. But here is the whole thought of mine; The man who was criticizing the man who didn't want to promote Amy Grant anymore also said some interesting things. In his article, he gave some of his reasons why people should be divorced and one of them is because of having mismatched personalities. I don't know about you, but I don't see anywhere in Scriptures indicating the people should get a divorce because their personalities don't match. The man went further to explain that those marriages have already failed. In the above quote by Amy Grant concerning our enjoying one another to the fullest, I now know where that came from. It came from her counselor. That is what her counselor told her. If you are having marriage problems, and you go to a counselor, and she tells you that God created marriage so two people could enjoy each other to the fullest, what would you end up thinking? If you didn't know better, you would conclude from that statement that God wants His people happy. You might even think that if you aren't happy, then God isn't happy.
  Do you see how people can be harmed by having a low regard for the Scriptures? In the case above, the Scriptures were made to bow to the culture. Basically, the culture says, you should be happy. Reality is, life is hard. Jesus says, if anyone is to come after Him, he must leave everything he loves behind (not meaning he should not be responsible, but he shouldn't hang on to those things that he is trusting in to make him 'happy'). God promises to take care of us when we abandon all to follow Him. But He also promises that life will have challenges, and that we are not here to live for our own glory and lusts. We are to live for His glory alone. God wants to make us holy, not happy (I am not saying that God wants us unhappy either). The culture will not tell you that. So, with that in mind, will you trust in the Scriptures or will you go along with what the cultures believes?

Above Everything Else - Is 'us'?

  I listened to a message by Bruce Ware and he was explaining that many Christians think about the death of Christ as something to be exchanged for our 'value'. In other words, Jesus' death was costly. He died for us. He died for us because we are valuable. If we put something in the shopping cart, it has a price on it that is equal to its worth. But the problem is, Jesus didn't die because of our value. He died because of our sin. There's a big difference between those two concepts. At the same time, it is subtle. We can easily be duped into thinking that we are valuable.
   Are we valuable? In one sense, yes, we are. We were made in God's image and are the highest of all creation on earth. We have dignity. In another sense, we really aren't. The world defines value a different way. It intends to make us something we were never intended to be. It has the connotation of entitlement. It leads to a wrong expectation. It leads to a false belief system, and ultimately idolatry.
  Because of our darkened minds, we want to be independent of God. We want to call the shots and be in control of things.
   This thinking must be more prevalent than what I had thought before. Today, in our churches, we have some strange, basic understandings of how life is supposed to work. We justify our sin, and make it ok, somehow. But how in the world does this happen?
  Probably a lot of different reasons are behind this thinking, but, I think a lot of it goes right back to this idea of our intrinsic value, or what we think our value really is. Take some of the words to popular Christian songs today. Listen to what they are saying.
God gives you grace
You can't earn it
Stop thinking you're not worth it
Because you are
He gave you His love and He's not leaving
Gave you His Son so you'd believe it
You're lovely even with your scars
Don't try so hard (1)

(This one is subtle)
Laid behind the stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone
Like a rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all (2)

We were the reason

That He gave His life

We were the reason

That He suffered and died

To a world that was lost

He gave all He could give

To show us the reason to live (3)

  Do you think there might be a connection between this kind of thinking and the fact that so many professing Christians are living in sin? By believing this, could we have made a god who we are comfortable with? How can so many Christians have affairs and not feel guilty? Maybe this is one reason why Christians believe that they should be happy. We are not interested in becoming holy. We are striving to be happy. How did this lie get into the church in the first place?
 This kind of thinking takes away the fear of God, and makes God 'comfortable' to us. Is this what we want? It goes back to the thinking that says 'God is not good' and 'God is not to be trusted'. Of course, these are the devil's lies to us. "You're not happy in this marriage. Go find someone else. God would want above everything else, for you to be happy." That is the devil talking. He is setting traps up for us to fall into. We don't see it because sin is so deceiving.
  Do we see the trick here? It is subtle. The wording sounds almost noble. Most people wouldn't even notice until their theology is challenged by life experiences.
  Does God want us to be happy? Does He want us to be selfish? I think you know the answer. In our eyes, being happy is really equal with being selfish. But the truth is that we are not really happy when we are selfish. We think we are. We will keep trying harder and harder to make ourselves happier. But it is fruitless.
  God wants us to be holy. We cannot become holy if we are trying to make ourselves happy. But knowing God is better than being happy. It is at a different level than happiness is. Only those who have repented of their sins, and turned to Christ can experience this. Only God can give us what we truly need. It comes with knowing Him, and getting to know Him better.

(1) Amy Grant
(2) Michael W. Smith
(3) Avalon

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Why Are We So Afraid Of The Cop But Don't Fear God Almighty?

   I find it interesting that people would go out and buy radar detectors. Why worry about the cops if you go the speed limit, right? It is also interesting how the rate of speed of cars goes down when a cop becomes visible.
  But what I find even more amazing is how we aren't concerned with the fact that God knows when we're speeding. Even if a cop isn't around, God knows when we are speeding. Everything we do goes onto our 'permanent record' so to speak.
  So, why do we fear cops when they become visible, yet we don't fear God, who we don't see but is more real? I don't have an answer for the, but I have a feeling that the way our country has turned away from the true and living God, to self-worship has something to do with it.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Why Some Christians Are Resistant To The Validity Of Spiritual Gifts Being Used Today

  Over the years, I have seen many battles in the church. Not battles with the world, necessarily, but within the body of Christ. There have been sharp disagreements between pastors and other pastors or Bible teachers. With the development of new technologies and ways of communication, it seems like these disagreements are more visible, and everyone and their brother are now involved in taking sides for or against certain church issues.
      One of those issues concerns the use of spiritual gifts in the church today. Some would say that spiritual gifts are no longer needed because the canon is closed. Others would say that spiritual gifts were used by the original Apostles, but after the last one died, there was no more need for them since they were to validate Christ and His work while the original church was being established. Still others just don't see a need for them and they do not really talk about them. Others appear to be afraid of using them, for fear that they might make a mistake, or perhaps they are unsure of how to lead their flocks into the proper use of the gifts.
  But I think there is really a strong, underlying reason why many are opposed to using spiritual gifts. It is simply because we don't understand the purpose of the church. I can't tell you how many people I talk to, who are professing Christians, but are not part of a church. There could be a lot of different reasons for this, and I am not going to write about them here. But my thought is that, perhaps, we really don't understand what the church is, and what the church is supposed to be doing.
   Why do we go to church on Sunday? The answer actually is, we don't go to church on Sunday. We are the church. The church is the body of Christ, not a building.
   We are also extremists. We either go all the way to one side of an idea or we go directly opposite. We have 'churches' today who only meet on Sunday  morning or Wednesday evening, and no one really gets to know each other because whatever we learn from being there isn't applicable to our lives. I would like to describe these churches as 'no-depth'- churches. You will find generic messages coming from the pulpits of these kinds of churches. I'm sure that many 'non-depth' churches are run by people who don't even know the Lord. The underlying belief that we are saved by good works makes this kind of church conducive to many people. They go to a service and think they have done God a favor by being in 'His' house on Sunday morning. These churches are nominal, at best. But there is the other extreme as well. There are churches which are called, 'Emergent' which try every way to make their environment conducive so people will feel comfortable and will want to come back again. Everything that is done in these churches, including the messages, will be for the visitor's comfort. These churches have sofas and coffee shops available in them as well as messages that will pump you up for the rest of the week. They are also nominal churches, as well, if even that.
   But we can even find good, solid Bible teaching churches, and still not find the depth of what we need to hear. I don't know why this is, but this is the way it is, and I don't have an answer as to how to help this dilemma.
   I just don't think we are ready to understand the the level of depth God wants for us. We are too busy fighting each other over doctrine, or trying to put out fires in the church. But maybe if we read all the verses on the 'one anothers' we could begin to understand the heart of God and why the church exists. And perhaps we could begin to understand why the church needs to be operating in the spiritual gifts.
   The reason for the spiritual gifts is primarily for ministry. God doesn't give people supernatural insights just so they can have a better life. We use the spiritual gifts to edify and encourage others in the church. When the spiritual gifts are used, they are always used to point us back to God.
   When Paul talked about the spiritual gifts, it was in the context of ministering to one another. Read 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 for a good description of the gifts and how they should be used. But especially note 1 Corinthians 13, which is known as the 'love' chapter. It is sandwiched between chapters 12 and 14. Love has to do with relationship. We cannot love something or someone we don't know. Those who make up the body of Christ are related to one another spiritually. It is similar to a family, but in the spiritual realm.
   A family is made up of a dad and mom, and some children. Families change as children grow up and people die, but there are relatives in each family who take care of one another. It would be strange if children came home from school and there was no interaction between the children and the parents. If a child is sick, the parents take him to a doctor. Moms cook for their families. Dads work hard for their children and wives. Today, there are men and women doing the work of two parents because of a missing spouse. There is always interaction in families. That is how it should be in the church (the body of Christ).
   The body of Christ is made up of people who have been born into God's family (born again spiritually). Those who have been born again are spiritually related to one another. We are to care for one another. We are to love one another. We are to pray for one another. The list could go on.
  My point is, I don't think we use the spiritual gifts today, and have excuses for not using them simply because we don't understand the church. Unless we get this definition right, we will continue to fight one another over doctrine, and over petty issues, instead of banding together to fight the Enemy of our souls together. We will not use the spiritual gifts simply because we don't understand why we should. We see those on TV using the gifts in a wrong way and we further develop a distaste for the gifts.
  If we truly understood what the church is, why wouldn't we use the spiritual gifts? Something to think about.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Barbara and Nancy - A Very Sad Tale

     The story I am about to write is based on a true story. It is a very sad story, and I am writing it with the hopes that we will continue to fear the Lord, and not go astray from Him. The names are changed for obvious reasons. I hope this story will make us guard our hearts and be vigilant against temptation to sin  or make sinful choices.
   Barbara and Nancy were like best friends. Both were married and quite involved in the church. Both also had three young children.
   Barbara was tied into the church and worked there for a season. One day, she decided she wanted to date men again, and didn't want to stay married. She left her husband but took her kids with her and found a place to live. Nancy decided that she too, wanted to date other men. Nancy and Barbara lived in the same home with their children. I'm sure the husbands were devastated, but now they were out of the picture.
   Barbara found a man she liked. He was a former prisoner, but I guess that didn't matter. They had dated for a while when one evening, Barbara doesn't come home. No one knew where she was. A search went on to find her, but nothing turned up.
   Barbara's boyfriend, of course, was a suspect in the crime. He made a remark that gave a clue that he might have known where she was. Nothing more happened though, and Barbara never was found.
   At some point later, possibly years later, the boyfriend told what had happened. An argument erupted over who should pay for the abortion that Barbara had. Barbara thought the boyfriend should have paid. He said that he never wanted her to have an abortion, so he threw her out of the truck and ran over her body. That was the end of Barbara. What a sad story.
   Barbaras are all around us. In America today, we feel special and think we should be treated like royalty. We feel entitled to certain things. We forget that we have forsaken God and gone after idols. We have believed the lies Satan tells us, when he says that God is not good. The devil tells us that God wants to take our fun away, and that we will be happy if we have an affair with that co worker, or neighbor. Yeah, we will be happy alright, but for a short season.
   Do we think God will allow us to get away with sinning, especially if we have called upon His name? When we go off and live autonomously, we take ourselves out of God's protection and are vulnerable to danger. God wants us to live in a strong relationship with Him, not in rebellion against Him. We will either suffer the consequences now, or if not now, at the Judgment on That Day. We are not hiding anything from God. God knows everything you have done and everything you will do. We will give account of our lives to Him. Wouldn't it be wise to fear His name and live out our lives for His glory instead of our own?

Monday, March 17, 2014

How Do We Know If We Love God?

   There are two Commandments which are foundational for all the other Commandments. Sometimes, they are referred to as the 'Royal Law'. One of them says, 'Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The other one says, 'Love your neighbor as yourself'. Jesus says that all the other Commandments hinge on these two Commandments.
   I have asked several people about their ability to keep the 10 Commandments. Many think they do a pretty good job, but some know they have missed the mark. But I have noticed that when I ask people about the first Commandment, which God says, 'You shall have no other gods before Me.' people say they are obeying that one. I will ask them if they think about God 24/7, to which they respond saying that they do. It's interesting because in earlier parts of the conversation, I know they don't have a clue of what the Gospel is. So, why is it that we think we love God when we really don't love Him at all, or maybe just in a small way?
   Much of it has to do with the word, 'love'. People relate the word love, with good feelings or good thoughts. Many times, in America, we think of loving something as enjoying something like ice cream or Chinese food. Even if that were true, would we really love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths?
  I also think that people think of love as something passive.  We could think of love as something that it isn't. We don't love a person strictly because we don't hate them (We think). Many think that they love God because they are not actively going around trying to take God or the Bible out of schools. They don't hate Him, so by default, they think they love Him. They are not shaking their fists at Him, so that means they love Him, right?
  The Bible does tell us how we can know if we love Him. Our relationship with God is referred to as the 'vertical' relationship. Our relationship with others is the 'horizontal' relationships. If our relationship with God is correct, our relationships with others will be correct. If our relationship with God is broken, we will have broken relationships with others. It really is that simple to figure out.
  ' By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.' 1 John 3:10 ESV
 'We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.' 1 John 3:14 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 we spend time with God, we will grow spiritually, and this will affect our relationships with other people. God gives a new heart to those who humbly come to Him and are sorry about their sins and trust in Him. God's Commandment to us is to believe in His Son, Jesus Christ and to love others (1 John 3:23). 
   Another way to look at what love is, is found also in 1 John 3:16 and 17. Jesus gives us the greatest example of love when He laid down His life for us, and now we are to love others by laying down our lives for them. Obviously, he is not talking about us dying for other people's sins, but this kind of love involves sacrifice. It will cost us something. If we really love though, we will want to make that sacrifice. It will be hard, but it is an evidence of love. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Why Don't We Do Hard Things Anymore?

  What is it about American people that makes us want to take the easy way out of difficult situations? If we lived in a third world country, I don't think we would have this mentality. Could it be, that we have too much? Is it a wrong expectancy from life?
   Throughout the Old Testament, we see a pattern of the people who were God's chosen people, the Israelites. God would bless them abundantly, then they would be full and satisfied. Then they would turn away from God and turn to idolatry. Then God's blessings were gone, and they would suffer and cry out to God once again. God would bless them. They would be satisfied. Then they became proud and self-sufficient and autonomous. Autonomous means they pulled away from God and became self-sufficient. Then they would suffer. They suffered greatly. Then they cried out to God once more and God, in His mercy, would provide for them. The Israelites never seemed to learn their lesson. Sadly, we haven't learned it either.
   I am aware that many different people actually started our nation, but there were groups of people who did trust in the Lord. Some of them were just God fearing people, and respected God and His rules. Whatever happened, and whatever resulted was purely God's mercy and blessing on our nation. And that blessing has continued for 200 + years now.
   The people in America have become satisfied though, and have pulled away from God. We are one of the most prosperous nations that ever existed in human history, yet, we are a most unhappy people now. We are at the stage, where we know what it is like to be blessed, yet, we are also experiencing difficulties because of our independence from God. Suffering and difficulties are all around us, yet we don't know how to respond to them.
   The philosophies of our culture which have come out of all this, would teach us that we are entitled to have good things. We expect good things to happen to us, and we expect life to be easy for us. We are surprised when difficulties come, and many of us faint during the times of testing. Basically, we have not be trained to do hard things. We are trained to take the easy way out, and when there is no easy way out, we just quit or run away from our problems, or worse, we commit suicide.
   My dad had a good, mature understanding of this. He was born in 1931 and saw his share of wartime. He was involved in the Korean War, and when he returned home, he married, got a job, and went to college as he couldn't do these things while away from home. Life was not very easy, but he was a happy man. But my dad could see danger coming. I was a teenager and he would make this remark often: 'He needs to go into the army. It will make a man out of him' Or, 'they need to go into the army'. What was it about going into the army that was supposed to help with this problem he was foreseeing? It was simply that children were growing up expecting life to be handed to them on a silver platter. There was the thought of 'entitlement'. Young people were demanding their 'rights' as American citizens. They were pursuing the American Dream and no one was going to interfere with it.
   Having a good economy has not always helped in equipping us for the demands of life. We become independent of God, for one thing. We become proud and self-sufficient. And we become weak when it comes to difficulties and hardships. If we have a problem, we can buy our way out of it, usually. But sadly, when we have difficulties, we usually just quit. We quit our jobs. We quit our marriages. We quit life.
   Sadly, those things that should be precious to us, are not. We do not hold our families in high regard. We sacrifice our families for convenience. Look at how far away we have gotten from the true and living God. A teenage girl gets pregnant and mom rushes her to the abortion clinic. Mom will find a way to pay for the abortion. God forbid that another mouth to feed would come into the family! So, let's pay a lot of money to have our grandchild murdered. It's worth it for our convenience. How sad. How many people are going to suffer through this, all because mom wants a convenient life! Or take the commonality of divorce. How many have said, 'I just don't love my spouse anymore'? Or they may have said, 'I am just not happy in this marriage'. How many have thought 'It is just too hard. I want out.'?
   We see people quitting their jobs, people getting divorces, people eating unhealthfully, and people suffering needlessly. Why? It is because we value convenience and our 'happiness' over everything else. If its not easy, we give up. That is not what God would have us do though.
   If we know God, and have a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, life will be hard. If we are non-believers, living for ourselves, life will be hard. Life is going to be hard, for both believers and non-believers. But what will make the difference is 1. the grace of God working in our lives, and 2. the love of God in our hearts providing the desire to make sacrifices for what is best.
    The Bible says that God's people perish for a lack of vision. When we aimlessly go through life, we will have no vision or incentive for living. We will have no choice but to be self-centered and self-seeking. We will be bored because there is nothing bigger than ourselves to live for. Living for self is an end in itself. It is fun for a while, but in the end it is no longer enjoyable. It is short lived.
   God created human beings to worship Him, and worship Him alone. When we have desires for other things and those desires are higher than our desire for God, we are not living for what we were created for. Our lives really will be empty. The devil tricks us into thinking that our lives can be fun. That's why entertainment is so popular. Amusement is big business in America. A life void of God has to be filled with something, but whatever it is filled with, won't fulfill for very long.
  We can only do hard things if we desire something greater. Only living our lives out for God will be the right motivation for us to live and it will be the only way we can see the need to do hard things. When we love God, we will love other people. When we love other people we will be willing to make the sacrifices necessary for those loved ones to succeed. When we love our spouses, we will be willing to make sacrifices for them, even at the expensive of our own happiness, when necessary. Basically, we can only love other people when our relationship with God is right. Either we will serve God or we will serve something else. We can't serve two things at the same time!
   God will give us the grace to do hard things. God will give us the desire to do hard things. Jesus did that hardest things of all time. He knew though, that there would be joy as a result of His dying on the Cross for our sins. The reward would be great. If His love is in our hearts, we will be able to do hard things, as God sovereignly puts us in places that will require persevering. The choice is ours. Do we want to live an empty, selfish life or do we want to live for something or Someone way higher than ourselves?

"With over 35 million hits to their website TheRebelution.com, Alex and Brett Harris are leading the charge in a growing movement of Christian young people who are rebelling against the low expectations of their culture by choosing to “do hard things” for the glory of God.
Written when they were 18 years old, Do Hard Things is the Harris twins’ revolutionary message in its purest and most compelling form, giving readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential.
Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life and map a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Don't Be Surprised By Your Sin - But Don't Be Overcome By It Either

   An 80 year old Godly man comes out of the closet. A 35 year old pastor is arrested on charges of sexual battery on children. A 40 year old man who has had a great impact on the lives of people for the kingdom of God goes to prison for embezzlement. A 32 year old, Godly woman has been found committing adultery. What gives?
    You have heard stories like this, I'm sure. We all have. But then we start asking questions. How can someone who loves God so much, end up in prison? How could she do that to her children? Why was that wonderful Bible teacher defrauding people and being deceptive in his business affairs?
   The easy answer (and an incorrect one, probably) is to assume that the professing Christian was really a false convert. After all, if he were truly saved, he would not sin. Doesn't the Bible say that when a person is a Christian, he won't sin anymore (No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:9 ESV)?
    We also know, on the other hand, that many of those who have fallen, really did manifest evidences of God's grace in their lives. I know a man who, at this time, is living in serious sin. This man was one of the best Bible teachers I have listened to. He taught us well, and God mightily used him with his giftings and teachings. Yet, today, he is a 'Christian casualty' as he stews in anger and bitterness toward another pastor whom he worked with at one time. There is no question in my mind that this man had a solid relationship with God. We are always asking ourselves, 'What happened?'
   What happened really is simple. A couple of things are involved though. One is that we really don't understand the nature of sin. Another is that we have relegated the Gospel into a formula, rather than a relationship. But one of the main things is that a person who has fallen, has left an area of his life unguarded and the Enemy of our souls took advantage of it. 
   To start with, sin is not just breaking one of the commandments. This is kind of scary, because we do use the 10 Commandments as a mirror into our heart. Perhaps we aren't doing it properly though. For example, the sixth commandment says, 'You shall not murder'. Almost everyone who hears those words thinks they haven't broken that commandment because they haven't 'murdered' anyone. The same way with the commandment which says, 'You shall not commit adultery'. Some people will say that they are not married, so therefore they haven't committed adultery yet. Others have never had an affair and perhaps are happily married. They think they are exempt from breaking this commandment. But nothing could be further from the truth. Sin is the fabric of what we are made of. 
   There was a song out in the late 60s called, 'Evil Grows' (sung by the Poppy Family). It was an insightful song. Here are the words to the chorus:
Evil grows in the dark
Where the sun, it never shines.
Evil grows in cracks and holes
And lives in people's minds.
Evil grew, it's part of you.
And now it seems to be,
That everytime I look at you
Evil grows in me.

 Sin is like a disease of the soul. The Bible says, 'The wages of sin is death...". Sin kills us, spiritually speaking. But sin is not just the outward behavior, it is the working of our heart. Sin begins in our hearts, and results in our behaviors. We can still sin in our heart, and not act it out (lusting sexually, coveting, bitterness, pride, etc.). Sin is not necessarily what we do, but it is whatever our heart is craving. 
    I fear many of the evangelism methods we use, especially when the Gospel is explained by using steps. We are given 4 or 5 steps to teach us how to go to heaven. We are missing the concept of becoming reconciled to God and developing a relationship with Him. Yes, we do have to deal with our sin, and we do have to trust in Christ. But if it isn't presented right, it just ends up being a formula that people can obtain or follow in order to go to heaven after they die. God is a person, not a religion or a means to an end. God created all of us to have a relationship with Him. We can have that now, because He sent His Son to die in our place, to take our punishment. When we repent, turn to God, and trust in Christ, we are now in a relationship with our Creator. This is God's intention for us. And we will go to heaven after we die, if we truly know Him. 
   When a person comes to Christ, that person is now a target for the devil. Whether we like it or not, we enter into the war zone when we are born again. Satan will be looking for opportunities to tempt us to sin (the devil can never make you sin. But he knows where you are vulnerable to temptation. He also knows where you can be deceived.).
   A person is much like a house which has several windows. All the windows and doors need to be shut and locked. This is how we guard our hearts. The problem is, we don't know where all those windows and doors are, but as we grow in sanctification, God will show us more and more of our hearts, and we will begin closing more windows and locking more doors. 

   Christians fall, simply for these reasons. We can look at a fallen brother or sister and wonder how in the world they fell into sin. They are probably wondering the same thing. We can, so easily see the sins of other people. We assure ourselves (and others) that we would never do that. We probably don't want to do the types of sins people get into trouble for. But, we all have some open windows that the devil has access to, as far as tempting us to sin.We have to keep our hearts completely guarded, or else we will be surprised. 
   The Bible tells us to be sober and vigilant because our Enemy, the devil, prowls around like a lion, waiting for someone he can devour. We don't have to be afraid, but we do have to be vigilant. 
No, we don't have to be afraid of the devil, but we do need to guard our hearts, or he will find an entry and will tempt us to sin, in ways we never thought of. But, no one compares to God in power and might. God's Son, Jesus Christ, overcame sin. He is the 'Lion of Judah' and the 'Lamb of God'. He will give us the power to say 'no' to sin and 'yes' to righteousness.

Monday, March 10, 2014

What Would It Look And Be Like If The Entire World Were Communist Or Islamic?

   Fear of being controlled by a group or an authoritarian figure has always been a threat to societies. Since the fall of mankind (recorded in Genesis 3) people have always been struggling for power and control, and controlling others through manipulation or bribery. Throughout History, people have been in bondages to tyrannical governmental leaders who were power hungry or greedy, and used greedy people at the citizen's expenses.
  In more recent History, we saw where Fascism destroyed millions of people, and where Communism sought to take the rights of people away, except where there was agreement among the governmental figures. These people too became rich at the expense of those under their rules. They lived in luxury while their people starved to death. (Research North Korea, for example).
  I find it interesting that our public schools took out Americanism vs. Communism. The authorities said that it wasn't necessary anymore since we aren't fighting Communism. Wasn't that around the same time the Madeline Murray O'Hare got her way by getting prayer taken out of the schools? And isn't it interesting that, God forbid, if a teacher wears a pin to school saying, 'I love Jesus', he or she gets reprimanded, but, some of our textbooks that are being printed recently are subtly bringing Islamic topics into the picture? How about the subject of the Theory of Evolution being mandatory in teaching student in our science classes?
   Communism, Islam, Fascism, and a few others are basically forms of tyranny. The leaders of governments defined by these groups are using their power to lessen the power of the people. That is why big government is a bad idea. The original intention of the government in America was to give more power to the people, and less to the government. If we were able to be people who have developed self-government, there would be less need for more government. But, people today, for a variety of reasons, need the government to take care of them, because they are not able to care for themselves. That makes a government grow.
   Let's say that the whole world became Communist. Let's say that every country had its Communistic leader. What would that look like? People would depend upon the government for everything. People would not be allowed to worship the true and living God, nor would they be allowed to live out their lives for His glory, because they would be put to death. The Communistic leaders, because they have a fallen nature, would become more and more greedy, and the citizens would lose out. Many would faint because of the hardships that would be required from them. Homeless people would suffer. But, pay attention. Those who are lazy and looking for a governmental handout are going to suffer too. In order to fit into a Communist country, you have to fit into their mold for citizenship. Because Communism is based upon deceptive principles and philosophies, you would be led to believe that a Communistic or Socialistic leader would be good to have. Before the country becomes Communist, you will be lied to. You will be promised nice toys (like free cell phones and food stamps), but once the Communist leader is in place, the government is going to turn on you and make you work hard. If you can't look past today, you are pragmatic and don't have an eternal or futuristic perspective on life. What you get for free today, you will be paying for your life for, tomorrow.
   If the world turned Islamic, there would be similarities to Communism. Islamic people believe they worship Allah, but in reality, they don't know Allah personally, because there isn't much revealed about him in the Koran. Islamic people do want to control the whole world. When I say this though, I want to explain that most people who are Muslims are not radical. Many of them are just simple people who want to get along with their neighbors. Many are identified with Islam because they were born in Muslim families. When I talk about Islam taking over the world, those I am referring to are the Radicals. Islam is not only a religion. It is also a political platform with the goal of destroying those who will not 'submit' to Islam. Again, fear is used and once control is in place, those who do not submit to Islam will be killed. Many will 'submit' but only to spare their lives and those of their families.
   Whatever the whole world would turn to, whether Islam, Communism, or other tyrannical form of government, it would take away the freedom of the people to choose what they want to believe in, who they would marry, where they would live, what they would be able to own, and a host of other situations that would be created in this kind of setting. Those who led North Korea actually created situations that led to worshiping the leaders. The leaders' pictures were in every storefront. One leader actually claimed to be the provider of food for the people in North Korea and they were to look to him as their provider. One of them rewrote the 10 Commandments, but put his name in the place of God's name.
   While these leaders, whether they realize it or not, are looking for worship of themselves, the tables are going to turn on them. You see, the ultimate goal of all this is not about them. It is the devil who has given them power, but the devil has deceived these leaders into thinking that they will rule the world, and how cool that will be when they are the ultimate. But, the devil will pull the rug from under their feet one day, and instead of worshiping Kim Jong, or Mao Zedong, Satan himself will rise up and demand everyone alive on earth to worship him. Maybe this is what is going to happen in the world, according to the book of Revelation? The devil is using these leaders as puppets for his glory. When he is done using them, he will dump them and exalt himself and demand worship from human beings everywhere. Satan uses manipulation, bribery, and deceit to get his way. Sadly, we listen to him. We give him what he wants when we don't trust in the true and living God. Satan promises us that we can control our lives and he lies by telling us that God is not to be trusted. He would love for us to believe that God is not good, and that God is tricking us into obeying Him. That was the lie he gave to Eve in the Garden, and he is using the same trick today on us.
   What would the world look like under Communistic or Islamic rule? At first, some people would be really happy, while others would begin to feel the oppression set in. But after a while, when everyone is deceived or trapped, Satan will rise up and demand all to worship him. We think that we are fighting against people groups, but in reality, we are ultimately fighting against Satan. Unless he can deceive and control the whole world, he will not get the worship he desires.
   The devil would love nothing more than to have every human being killed. He hates human beings with a fervent passion. You might wonder why this is. One reason, is due to the fact that human beings are created in God's image. Another reason is that Satan knows that he was defeated by God's Son, Jesus Christ, when Jesus died on the Cross. Satan is filled with pride and the desire to control. God's word tells us how we can conquer or overcome the Enemy. That's why there is such an attack on God's word. Satan knows it is a weapon that can be used against him, if God's people are wise enough to know how to use it.
Can you see that the issues of government are more than
physical battles? We are fighting against spiritual forces.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Rainbow - God's Judgment is Over - Or Is It?

   We like rainbows. They make a nice decoration. They are colorful. They also are an interesting scientific topic. But what does the rainbow mean?
   When God first created people, He announced that His creation was good. Everything was beautiful. But then the devil came along and tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. She took some, and gave some to Adam. Adam knew better than to eat the fruit, but he ate anyway. Ever since that time, the world has been in chaos and was not the same world that was there at the beginning of creation.
   The first murder took place. Many more followed. In Genesis 6, the people became so wicked that the Bible says they were even making new ways of being evil! But there was a man named Noah who feared God and believed that God would do what He said.
   God was obviously not happy with the human race at this point. He chose Noah to build an ark and gave Noah specific instructions on how to build the ark. Noah's family was to go on this ark, along with a certain number of animals that they were to care for during the journey on the ark. God was going to destroy anyone who was not on this ark by means of a global flood.
   The ark took several years to build, yet, no one wanted to repent of their sin and turn to God for help. I'm sure many laughed at Noah and joked about God's judgment that was about to come. God was patient though, and the time finally did come for Noah and his family to go into the ark, with the animals.
   The ark was pretty big, despite the fact that we have toys depicting a very small ark with animals sticking their heads out as if they were bigger than the ark! But the toys are not accurate. Noah and his family lived on this ark for many, many days, while the rain poured down. Day and night it was raining. Noah and his family were not familiar with rain until now.  After Noah and his family got onto the ark, God closed the door and no one else was able to get on after that point. They were safely in the ark now, and would be on for many days, until the rain stopped and the water subsided. Sadly, it took the people by surprise and they weren't able to survive this kind of flood.
   I can't imagine what a horrible scene that must have been while the rain was coming down relentlessly. People were taken by surprise and there was no place of refuge for them to go to. It was now too late. Their opportunity to repent was over. The could have chosen to turn away from sin, while there was time, but they didn't.
   The time did come for Noah and his family to get out of the ark. They were in the ark for at least 150 days and when the waters were subsided enough for them to get out, Noah, his family, and all the animals exited the ark.
   God made a promise to Noah. He promised that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood like that one. God gave the sign of a rainbow to Noah of His covenant.
    "I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” Genesis 9:13-16 ESV
   So when we see a rainbow, it reminds us of the time God judged the earth through a global flood. We also remember God's promise to us that He will never again destroy the earth by means of a flood. 
   Will the earth ever have a judgment though, again? In Genesis, God says He will not destroy the earth again by creating a flood, but it doesn't say that He won't use something else.
   When Noah and his family got off the ark, they were the only ones left on earth. The problem of sin would still continue, because Noah was a descendent of Adam, and all of Adam's offspring were going to be sinners. That included Noah and his family. 
   It didn't take long for sin to start up again, for sinful activities started occurring not too long after the flood was over. We can see throughout the Old Testament that people continued to sin. God made a promise to the devil, when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, the He would send someone who was going to defeat the devil. Throughout the Old Testament, people sinned, but they offered bloody lamb sacrifices to cover their sin. This was to happen until the true Lamb of God would come and permanently take people's sins away. This happened around 2,000 years ago when God sent His son, Jesus, the Messiah, to live a perfect life without sin, then die in our place to pay for our sins. After Jesus died for our sins, He was buried, but arose from the dead on the third day and later on ascended back to heaven.
   People sinned grievously in Noah's day. People still sin grievously today. That's why we need a Savior from sin. We need someone to rescue us from our sins. We need someone qualified to take our sins away, but also to give us new life and a new heart that doesn't want to sin, along with the power to overcome sin.
   God will never destroy the world again with a flood. But, God has warned us that He will again destroy the earth, but it will be with fire instead of with water. Everything that is not cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ will be destroyed. "They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 2 Peter 3:4-7 ESV
    There will be 2 major judgments on earth. One was done by water, but the next will be done by fire. Both prejudgment scenes had or will have scoffers and those who want to hold onto their sins, while denying reality. 
   Are we hopeless? Not at all. We can't hold onto our sins and escape God's judgment, yet, we can let go of our sins and not fall under God's judgment. We can be covered with Christ's blood and will not have to face the horrible judgment that the world will face One Day. The choice is up to us on how we will respond.
For more information on the Gospel, go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

When 'Warning' Becomes Wrong

    The Bible teaches us to expose false teachings. This is very important to do, for if you want people to understand the Gospel in order to respond to the Gospel, they will have to have correct information first. It doesn't take too long before we see someone preaching something that is off. It doesn't even take too long before we hear someone teaching something that is outright wrong.
   First of all, we need to be learners of the word. We need to learn how to be discerning as well. We need to be able to separate the truth from the lies. This is a skill for every believer to have to learn well. We also should be teaching others to become discerning as well, so that when we are not with them, they will be able to discern for themselves what is right and what is wrong. This is of key importance.
   Secondly, the Bible gives directions on how to handle a person who has done wrong. This is not the kind of wrong such as forgetting to feed the cat or saying a bad word. This kind of action is when a believer has done harm to another believer. A common example of this would be when one commits adultery. The adulterer gets caught and a fellow believer confronts him or her and urges the person to repent. If the person doesn't repent, then more people get involved. Finally, the church is involved, and if the person doesn't repent, he or she is no longer part of that fellowship. Of course, the goal is restoration, not destruction. Many, who have reached this point actually do repent and are restored to their families and church. Should the person not repent, they are simply excluded from the fellowship. End of story.
  I recall a situation in the church I am at, in which a person who was not a member, but was somewhat involved, would borrow things from people and never return the items. These items were large, expensive items, and the owners never received their items back. This was a continuing process, and an announcement was made about this person, that no one should lend anything to him. This was a kind way of warning the church. Nothing more was said about it. The Huffington Post was not alerted to it. There was no more discussion about it, ever.
   Another situation came to our church's attention. Many from the church were visiting a particular home church. Whatever this home church was, it seemed to be very popular. Some had even left our church to be part of this home church. There were no problems at this point until we listened to the messages from the man who was running this home church. He believed in God's grace to be so great and vast, that a person could do whatever he wanted and still be saved. It sounded like Universalism to me. Some of the men listened to this man's teachings on tape, and decided he wasn't teaching sound doctrine, and what he was teaching was harmful. Again, our pastor brought the issue to our attention one Sunday morning. I believe that was necessary for us to hear. It protected the sheep that were part of our flock. Again, the Huffington Post was not contacted. No one slandered that home church, but we were warned against it in a gracious way.
   The internet is a blessing and a curse. We can share the Gospel with people around the world. We can meet other Christians in different cities, states, and countries. We can do Bible studies and pray for one another. But, we can also use the Internet to slander our brothers and sisters. I believe this breaks God's heart. We can destroy a person's credibility in two seconds. If I were mean and clever, I could take a story that has a little bit of truth to it, and embellish it, add some pictures to it, and use it to destroy a ministry. It's that easy to do. Something in our flesh loves doing that. We love putting others down. The problem is, Jesus tells us to 'love one another'. He also tells us to love our enemies.
    One of the biggest schemes of the devil is to break apart the body of Christ. Now that we have the Internet, and the ability to contact the media, we can easily do that. We can take a story that has some truth and embellish it, and circulate it on FB. If it gets enough attention, the media is right there to get involved too.
   When do we 'warn' people about a dangerous doctrine or false teacher? I think we can spend a lot of time warning people about false doctrines by teaching whatever is truth. We should be doing that anyway. Our students will become more and more familiar with the truth and will be able to discern truth for themselves. But when it comes to false teachers, we need to check our motives. It is easy to pick a person apart. The world does it all the time.The root is pride. We all have pride. We need to stop pride from developing in our lives. God will only use humble people to bring Him glory. Humble people do not rip other people apart. I have seen professing Christians tear other profession Christians apart. I see name calling on Facebook all the time. I see people calling out others and labeling them 'heretics'. They might really be heretics, but wouldn't it be more effective if we were to say, 'So and So believes Such and Such'?. 'Here is what the Bible says. Here is what So and So says', instead of saying, 'So and So is a heretic'. What makes So and So a heretic? Do we have So and So's side of the story, or are we only hearing what we want to hear and post to present So and So as a heretic and make our case presentable for all to see? Whenever we present only part truth mixed with some untruth, the whole becomes a lie. That is what the devil did in the beginning, and he is known as the 'Father of Lies'.
   Sometimes, I think we convince ourselves that we really are 'warning' people about the dangers of a particular person or ministry, but, if we really look at our hearts, we're not doing that at all. I think of this in a similar way as 'joining a bandwagon'. We see posts from Christians who we like and respect, and those posts tell us that a Christian figure is either dangerous or a heretic. We assume that is true and we pass the information along. Someone else is thinking the same thing and takes that information and before you know it, the Christian figure has lost his reputation because someone had a twisted idea of the person and decided to make his opinion public.
   This not only happens in Christian circles, it happens anywhere there are people. At least, people who are identified with groups. In the 1970s, there were farmers who grew coconuts. Coconuts were being studying and many valuable properties were found in coconuts, and the coconut industry started doing very well. That is, until the farmers who grew soy realized what was going on. They weren't happy because now people were buying more coconuts and less soy products, and they were beginning to lose money. So, they decided, to have some valid testing done on the properties of coconuts, but what they really did was to have some faux testing done that ended up with results in their favor. The took their false information stating the lack of nourishment coconuts have, and started exalting the benefits of soybeans. For a couple of decades, they did very well. But someone caught onto their game, and more research was done on coconuts, this time by an unbiased groups, and coconuts were now in demand once again.
   When is it right to warn people about danger? It is right, when they could be endangered. But it is only proper when all factors have been considered, not just one side of the story. We have to remember that for every story, there are two sides. We have to know what is going on, on both sides. And we need to get our information from other sources than the one side, because it will be biased.
   If a man is having an affair, and he belongs to a particular church, only those who know him in the church are to be involved. Now if he has a pattern of flirting and picking up women, and goes to another church, it is only fair that the pastor of that church be made aware of his behavior. This pastor will have to keep an eye on this man and protect the women in the church from being entangled in this man's sinful pattern. No one needs to call the newspapers or the newscasters on television. It doesn't involve them, unless they are part of that church. And if they are, they are not to broadcast this information. Again, the goal is to work with the wayward person in order for him to completely repent.
   In apologetics, some debate skills are needed. In evangelism, tactical skills are necessary to communicate with lost people. When debating, one important rule is to never attack the other person. Take apart what he is saying, but do not attack him personally. That is called, Ad hominem. It is unacceptable in debates. It should be unacceptable in churches as well.
  The bottom line is this; Our hearts are so deceitful, and we believe we are intending to 'warn' people of the dangers of a false teacher or professing Christian who is accused of doing something wrong. I think, many time, our idea of 'warning' the flock is really a mask for wanting to tear someone apart. Something in our flesh really loves putting people down and tearing people apart. You can detect this by the names of some of the groups on Facebook (Heresy Hunter, 'We shred wolves to pieces', etc) There is no need to hunt down heresy or to shred wolves apart. We don't have to look to hard to find heresy or wolves in sheep's clothing. What do we do with them though, when we find them? Do we rip them apart, or do we take apart what they believe in, and rebuttal that with truth from the Bible? If we truly love God, and we truly love people, we will take care in how we handle heretics and false teachings. Name calling and joke making are not God honoring ways to combat heresy. We always combat false teachings with the truth. The truth is a spiritual weapon. Can we trust God in helping people to see what is truth and what is false? Or are we more powerful than God, and do we have to take the problems of false teachings into our own hands?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Race To Be First - Who Will Win?

    Many years ago, my husband took our family to get ice cream. As we were going around the parking lot, we found an empty parking space which was just a few feet from our car. As we were getting ready to turn into it, lo and behold, a car from the opposite angle, from the other end of the parking lot came flying down and intercepted our plans.
   What would you do? How would you respond in a situation like that? It was quite a maneuver to watch how skillfully the other car came down the road. Here is what my husband did:
   As he was turning into the space, the other car was also turning in. My husband graciously reversed our car and allowed the other car to take the space. It was amazing how ungrateful these people were. I wonder if they remember that evening in the 1980s when we went to get ice cream. What would have happened if my husband demanded the space, since he was so much closer to it than the other car was?
   We can respond to people who offend us in many different ways. Most people will become angry. Some will have a pity party. Some may even take legal action. There will be those who will use obscene language. How would God have us respond?
   I remember another time, I pulled into a parking place at a store. As I got out, there was an older man and woman who were going toward the car next to mine. The man started complaining to me. He said I was parked too close to his car. I looked at my car and saw the my tires were on the line or inside the line, but my car didn't appear to be too close to his car. He was kind of angry and I was starting to get defensive. But then I remembered that my defensiveness is not going to resolve this problem. So, I softened up and asked the man if I should repark my car, to which he replied, 'no'.
 A lot of people have this idea of entitlement and other people get in the way of what they want and violate their desires, to which these people react in anger. The Bible has a lot to say about anger. Read the book of Proverbs. A quiet answer can turn away someone's anger. None of us has a right to be defensive or vengeful. It is like pouring gasoline on a fire.
  Next time someone is angry with you, whether their reason for being angry is valid or not, think about the way to respond to it. Keep in mind that a man's anger does not work the righteousness of God. When we fight fire with fire, nobody wins.

The Subtlety and Danger of Pride in our Lives

   Sometimes, I am overflowing with ideas to write my blogs on, but, time prevents me from writing all my ideas, along with a memory that is very short. But, I think a lot of what I want to write can be covered under the category of 'Pride' and what it does to us.
   I don't know about you, but, when I used to read about 'pride' in the Bible, I automatically, without even realizing it, excluded myself from any relationship with it. I assumed, falsely, that I wasn't proud and didn't have any desire to be prideful, so, those verses really didn't apply to me. I was the deceived one though, for we had a series of classes where the subject of pride was going to be covered in one class, but the class ended up continuing week after week. As I sat through the classes, I still was convinced that I didn't have any 'pride' to deal with. It took some time before I saw the light.
   The Bible explains pride as something that opposes God. 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble...' James 4:6.  If that were the only verse on how pride affects our relationship with God, that would be enough for me to want to get rid of any pride I might have. The Bible tells us in another place, 'Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and He will exalt you in due time....' (1 Peter 5:6). So, if we want God to work through us, it would seem like we should want to cultivate humility. God will indeed work through us, but He will not share His glory with us if we give ourselves the credit for what He is doing, and rightly so.
   There are places in the Bible where the actual word 'pride' is not used, but you can understand the concept at work. Think of Goliath and his arrogance against the Israelites, and what God did to him through David, a little shepherd boy at the time. Or think of Jezebel who painted herself to look sexy and manipulated people. Her end came and there was no beauty in that at all.
   Pride is like a trap for us to fall into, set up by the Enemy of our souls. He wants us to fall, and he wants us to bring dishonor to the name of the True and Living God. Pride manifests itself in many different ways, mostly subtle.
   One way we show others that pride is in our hearts, is when we hate one another. It can happen when we hate lost people, or really anyone. When we compare ourselves with others favorably, and we publicize someone else's faults, that is evidence of pride in our hearts. Thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to is pride. John the Baptist was so accurate in saying about Jesus, 'He must increase, but I must decrease.' (John 3:30 ESV) Our lives are given to us in order to make His name known and to bring glory to God, not ourselves.
   By default, we all have pride and we all will be dealing with pride for the rest of our earthly lives. But we can ask God to show us where pride is, in our hearts, and we can put it to death daily. It is hard for us to see pride because pride is deceptive.
   Not only do we need to put pride to death, but we need to cultivate humility. We have to intentionally work with humility and embrace it. God promises to work with us when we are humble.
    Here are a couple of ways to look to see where pride is in our hearts (though this list is not exhaustive, by any means):
    1. Am I happy for others when they succeed in areas where I am gifted in?
    2. Do I find myself gossiping about others?
    3. When someone is being slandered, do I join in with the slander, or do I check both sides of the  
        situation to find out what the real story is?
    4. When I make a mistake, can I admit to others that I was wrong and ask forgiveness?
    5. When I see a professing Christian teaching something wrong or off, can I critique that person  
         without attacking him or her personally?
    6. Do I enjoy it when my opponent loses or gets hurt?
    7. Can I trust God to work through a situation where there is disagreement, or do I feel like I have to
        take charge and tell everyone I know about it and try to get them on my side?
    8. When I go to a church meeting or fellowship, am I more concerned with what others think of me,
        or am I more concerned with what God thinks of me?
    9. Can I disagree with someone else and not look down on him or her, but agree to disagree instead
        of dividing against that person?
    10. Is our understanding of Christianity  'God making much of us', rather than our making 'much of
          Him'? Do we think God exists to make us happy?
        The list could continue, but I will stop here. You can come up with your own questions to ask yourself. God does not want us to be humble in order to bully us around and humiliate us, but, if we truly understand how great and majestic God is, and how much we need Him, we would begin to understand why pride is dangerous to us. It promotes a false understanding of who we really are, before others. It promotes a false understanding of ourselves to ourselves. God will resist that, but the verses go on to say that the person who humbles himself before God, will be exalted by God.
   I haven't read these articles on pride by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, but I have listened to her teachings and they are excellent. I skimmed over the page and looked at the topics on pride that she is teaching on here. Feel free to look at them as well.
I don't know where this picture came from, but it is a
great illustration of the subtlety of pride in our lives.