Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Why is Jesus a Problem?

Bear with me as I try to organize the thoughts I'm having today.  I've felt a real burden for the direction our nation is headed and it's sad to see that outside of a remnant of people who still hold to Biblical values, we are no longer a Christian nation in practice.

It's apparent that our current President and administration, as well as the candidates running for office in November, give lip-service to God when it makes them look good but in reality there is no real conviction behind the words as evidenced by everything else they say and do and how they conduct their personal lives.

If anything, our government, media, and even Hollywood seems bent on making Jesus a dirty word. Just say "Jesus" in a Biblical context in a classroom or public venue and people begin to hyperventilate at the audacity. But if it is said in the context of swearing, then it apparently is ok. There is an active movement to remove him and any reference to God and the Bible from anything other than church but even that is under fire now as some suggest that ministers should be monitored and "held accountable" for what they say from the pulpit.  To speak against sin is "hate language."

It makes me wonder what it is about Jesus that is so offensive to our leaders and others and why do they fear him and those who profess faith in him so?  What about him is so threatening?  Is it because the Bible lays down some rules that protect every single man, woman and child when they are followed?  How can something like the ten commandments do anything but protect us physically, emotionally and spiritually and which one are we willing to get rid of?  When God sets a foundation of guidelines for living that include things like marriage, living debt free, going the extra mile to help others, and avoiding things that will put us in a pit of addiction and bondage, why do some fight it so?  Which of God's laws are we willing to live without and expect to live a peaceful and secure life?  And when, ever, in history has man's ways turned out better than God's ways? 

It's a control thing.  If we are a nation that puts God and Biblical values above man's desire for power, then that means our leaders aren't in control. It means they have to answer to a higher authority.  They have to weigh decisions based on what God says instead of what feeds their egos or greed.  Instead, they rely on their own wisdom and as Isaiah 9:16 says, "Those who guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are led astray."

I don't know if what is happening in America and other countries with the economy and natural catastrophes are God's actual judgment or if He is giving us a wake-up call to change our ways and give us another chance to turn back to the Him. I tend to think it is the later. I don't think God has given up on us yet.  There is hope in scripture that God will heal our nation but it requires action on our part.

God says in His word: "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:13, 14)

It's important to understand that it doesn't matter what the rest of society does (those who do not believe in God.) Well, it matters, but it isn't a string attached to what God promises in this verse.  Believers in Christ are the ones accountable to God, of whom obedience is required, and the ones to whom the promise is given. He is speaking to believers - those who are called by His name.  There are things we must do to receive God's promise to heal our land.

First we must humble ourselves before God and acknowledge that He is in control. Taking things in our own hands is what creates our messes to begin with so we must be willing to admit that we need help and that our way hasn't worked. Had we lived according scripture, we wouldn't deal with debt, materialism, and all the other traps we fall into. The Lord never commands us to do anything because he wants to spoil our fun. It is always for our protection. When we go our own way, pridefully thinking we know better or can somehow avoid the consequences, we end up in a pit that we have to be rescued from.

Next, we must pray. Pray for help, pray for forgiveness (both for personal sin and our nation's sins), pray for the courage to make the tough choices that others may ridicule us for, pray in acknowledgment of who God is. Prayer that doesn't seek our will but His.

God says to seek his face but what does that mean? We are told to do that many times in scripture. The obvious meaning would be to simply turn from ourselves to him, but to take it further it would mean to seek his will instead of our own; to seek what is important to Him, where He is leading, to face the same direction He is facing instead of looking back at our own plan. It is to seek his wisdom, his guidance, instead of our own or that of our leaders.

The final instruction is probably the hardest: "turn from their wicked ways." This is where it really gets uncomfortable. We aren't responsible for the decisions or lifestyle choices others make. We each are accountable before God for our own choices and actions. It's easy to say "I don't murder, I don't cheat or steal. I'm nice to people."

But what about other things like what we watch on t.v. or at the movies? Where we go on the Internet? How we spend our time and money? What we do for ourselves instead of others? Times when we should speak up against what our leaders allow but don't? Things that we let pass as acceptable that God calls sin because we don't want to offend anyone?

Outside of the obvious "wicked ways" that we know God has clearly said "thou shall not", we each need to seek his face to know what else we are harboring in our lives that separate us from his blessing and healing. We cannot live under the assumption that God will ignore disobedience or that there aren't consequences to choices.

Doing these things aren't easy. Obedience never is. But, look what God promises if we do:

"I will hear from heaven."

"I will forgive their sins."

"I will heal their land."

If we will, He will.

"Don't put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. ... (The Lord) is the one who keeps every promise forever." - Psalm 146:3,6

Friday, August 26, 2016

"It is only when God looms hugely larger than anything you could ever face in this fallen world that your heart is able to experience peace even when you don't understand what is happening (and you don't have the power to solve it if you did). - Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Processing The Current Tensions and Violence in Our Country

Excellent article by Kevin DeYoung:

How Should I Process the Current Tensions and Violence in Our Country? 
By Kevin DeYoung

Last week was a hard week. Very hard. And sadly, there could be harder weeks to come.
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a mix of sadness, exhaustion, fear, and confusion. There is so much hurt, so much grief, so many layers, so many story lines, and so many different voices clamoring for our attention. How can we possibly process everything that’s going on in our world?
The short answer is: we can’t. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to think and respond wisely and Christianly. Here are a number of suggestions.
1. Pray. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). Cast all your cares on God, because he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7). Prayer is not what we do because we can’t do anything else. Prayer is what we do because we can do something.
2. Keep reading your Bibles. “May the mind of Christ my Savior, live in me from day to day. By his love and power controlling, all I do and say.” That’s not going to happen if we check social media more than we check the Scriptures.
3. Admit no one is a completely neutral interpreter. We all come from some place. If our interactions with police officers have been entirely good or often bad will surely shape how we view current events. Just like it will make a difference whether we grew up in the majority culture or as a minority. None of this condemns every viewpoint to the hermeneutical abyss, but it means we should understand we are all wearing some kind of lens. We would do well as Christians to try to understand how our brothers and sisters might see things differently.
4. Listen to African Americans. I grew up in a suburb of Grand Rapids surrounded by almost entirely white friends, churchgoers, and classmates. As far as I know my own heart, I’ve never had any animus toward others just because they weren’t white. I was pretty well drilled in the public school to lionize Civil Rights leaders and reject all forms of racism. But that doesn’t mean I was somehow magically “post-racial.” I’ve had a lot to learn, and am still learning—about African-American history, and pain, and how my culture is not the standard, and about a hundred things I never have to think about or face as a middle-class Anglo in America.
5. Listen to police officers. Believe it or not, I knew more African Americans growing up than I knew police officers (which doesn’t make me an expert in anything, only ignorant in more things than I realized). I happened to run into (not literally!) a police office a few days ago. I asked him how he was doing. He said the department was demoralized and afraid. It was a good for me to hear what last week had been like for him and his colleagues. Not incidentally, he said the same thing I’m hearing from many African-American brothers and sisters.
6. Don’t rush to judgment. It’s easy to think after a few minutes on the internet that we are experts on the Supreme Court, police training, what cops are really like, what Black Lives Matter is really about, why there are so many shootings in Chicago, and how each new tragedy could have been prevented. Let’s not be afraid to slow down and get as many facts as we can (Prov. 18:17). We must be people who pursue justice, which means defending our neighbor against every kind of unfair treatment and his good name against every kind of false reports (Exod. 23:1-3Micah 6:8).
7. Don’t catastrophize every catastrophe. At any given moment, the world is so much worse and so much better than we can imagine. On the one hand, if we could see every failed marriage, every abusive situation, and every dying person, let alone inside every sinful heart, the world would look unbelievably grim. But that’s not the only picture. Crime rates have actually been going down for several decades. Grinding poverty across the globe is much less than it used to be. There are, as we speak, wonderful stories we never hear about involving racial harmony, police kindness, and African Americans forgiving tremendous wrongs.
The news specializes in bad news. Chaos brings ratings. Normalcy doesn’t. Imagine life way back when before the internet. We would have heard about some of these incidents the next day in the paper or later that night on the news. People would talk about it at work for a few minutes and that would be it. Now, for better and for worse, we can’t escape bad news. We have national tragedies every week, not because bad stuff didn’t use to happen, but, in part, because we didn’t see it constantly like we do now.
8. Don’t politicize every tragedy. Think before your post or re-post. We are ambassadors for Christ, not for the Republicans or the Democrats. If every death always confirms whatever your narrative already was about gun control, terrorism, Black Lives Matter, or the cops, then we are looking for a way forward as much as we are looking for validation. Let’s keep learning and keep our hearts and our minds open. In the past week I saw some citing the Washington Post figures that of the 990 persons killed by police officers in 2015, 494 were White, 258 were Black, 172 were Hispanic, and only 93 of the 990 were unarmed. In three-fourths of the shootings, an attack was in progress. Meanwhile, others pointed to a Washington Post articlereferencing that police fatalities are fewer under Obama than during the previous four administrations. Do these numbers by themselves mean that there is never racial bias among law enforcement officers and that cops are obviously safer today than ever before? Of course not, but the numbers can help temper both sides from making sweeping generalizations.
9. Avoid Manicheaen interpretations of the past (or the present). News outlets aren’t looking to bring people together. Social media posts don’t go viral for being calm and measured. Everything around us pushes us to take sides and make every tragedy part of an us-versus-them, all-or-nothing, you-win-I-lose, good-against-evil cultural struggle. Sometimes the conflict is that clear-cut, but not usually, especially if we are thinking about fellow Christians who may vote differently or watch a different cable news channel. These are are complicated issues, with root problems that are long and tangled. If the solutions were simple we would have done them by now.
10. Consider that there might be more common ground than we think. If you ask ten Christians to summarize last week, you may get ten different responses, from “Racism is alive and well,” to “The men and women in blue are under attack,” to a more general “Our country is falling apart.” People in the church may not always agree on what we are seeing, but I think most of us agree on what we want to see. I think the vast majority of Christians in this country—Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, everyone—want to see all people treated fairly and humanely by the police. We also want to see police officers respected and come home each night. I think almost all of us agree, as I heard an African-American pastor say at the church I was visiting this Sunday, black lives matter and blue lives matter. I think there is a shared consensus, broad and deep (if not yet thick and thought through) that we deplore racial bias and violent retaliation, that traffic stops should not end in gunshots, and that cops need to protect themselves. We may not be as far apart as we fear.
11. Read a book. Blogs and tweets and Facebook updates are here today and gone tomorrow. Try picking up a book on the subject, maybe from two different perspectives. I just ordered Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and Heather MacDonald’s The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe. I’ve been helped in the past by Shelby Steele (Shame), Edward Gilbreath (Reconciliation Blues), and David Kennedy (Don’t Shoot).
12. Lament. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be confused. There are more Psalms of lamentation than there are fix-it Psalms. Show pity before you pontificate.
13. Repent. The problem in the world starts with your heart. And mine. Among other things, every tragedy is an opportunity for the Lord to show us our sin and lead us to the Savior (Luke 13:1-5).
14. Hope. The Church can show the world a better way. What do we have to offer the world? An insistence on truth, a commitment to grace, and a hope that does not disappoint (Rom. 5:5). We worship a God who created the world out of nothing, brought the slaves out of Egypt, and raised Jesus out of the grave. Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear (Isa. 59:1).
15. Remember God is sovereign. There is no chaos, no chance, and no spinning out of control with God. He upholds us with his hand, and so rules over heaven and earth and all creatures, that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty—all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10).

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The End of Christian America (Newsweek)

(This was a post from several years ago that I'm reposting because it's even more relevant today.)

The title caught my eye on my MSN homepage: The End of Christian America. It's an article that appeared in Newsweek magazine. Although it sounds troubling to those of us who are Christians, and although it is troubling to realize our nation probably has started to shift to "post-Christianity" more than the one nation under God we once were, we also know that God is not defeated.

Here's some of what the author of the Newsweek article wrote:

"There it was, an old term with new urgency: post-Christian. This is not to say that the Christian God is dead, but that he is less of a force in American politics and culture than at any other time in recent memory. To the surprise of liberals who fear the advent of an evangelical theocracy and to the dismay of religious conservatives who long to see their faith more fully expressed in public life, Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the American population."

"While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago."

"...in the new NEWSWEEK Poll, fewer people now think of the United States as a "Christian nation" than did so when George W. Bush was president (62 percent in 2009 versus 69 percent in 2008). Two thirds of the public (68 percent) now say religion is "losing influence" in American society, while just 19 percent say religion's influence is on the rise. The proportion of Americans who think religion "can answer all or most of today's problems" is now at a historic low of 48 percent. During the Bush 43 and Clinton years, that figure never dropped below 58 percent."

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Gift of Faith

"Faith so completely takes God at his word that it is willing to do what he says and stay inside his boundaries. Faith is a response of your heart to God that completely alters the way you live your life. You don't just think by faith; you live by faith. ...But putting your entire existence in the hands of One whom you cannot see, touch, or hear is far from natural. This is why faith is only ever a gift of divine grace. You and I have all the power in the world to doubt and no independent power at all to believe. So if you are living by faith, don't proudly pat yourself on the back as if you did something great. No, raise your eyes and hands toward heaven and thank God for gifting you with the desire and ability to believe" - Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Next Big Thing

"The Next Big Thing is not another Pentecost or another apostle or another political or social cause. It is Christ's return. In demanding an immediate satisfaction of our heart's longing, we replace this event with manufactured spectacles. Ironically, the most faithful Christian life is one that embraces a pilgrimage rather than a conquest. The ordinary life - sustainable discipleship and disciple-making - is the order of the day, as we live each moment in eager expectation of The Next Big Thing on God's schedule." - From "Ordinary" by Michael Horton

Monday, January 11, 2016

Boldly Speak Truth

"The Bible tells us to, boldly and humbly, and without fear or shame, proclaim the Word of Truth. The unchanging Word of God always overrules anything any man has ever said which contradicts it – no matter how brilliant it may sound. As 1 Peter 1:24-25 says, all men are like grass and their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and flowers fade…but the Word of the Lord endures forever. Every book we read, every sermon we hear, and every piece of advice we both give and receive must line up clearly and perfectly with the everlasting Word of God." (from a blog I read recently but I'm not sure who the author is)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sometimes Conflict is Necessary

From The Jesus You Can't Ignore by John MacArthur:

"Not every issue on which we might hold strong opinions and disagree is of primary importance. ...Anyone who is prepared to pick a fight over every minor difference of opinion is spiritually immature, sinfully belligerent - or worse. Scripture includes this clear command: "If it is possible, as much as depends onyou, live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18).

But sometimes - especially when a vitally important biblical truth is under assault; when the souls of people are at stake; or (above all) when the gospel message is being mangled by false teachers - sometimes, it is simply wrong to let a contrary opinion be aired without any challenge or correction.  One of the worst things a believer can do is show a kind of feigned academic respect or artificial cordiality to the purveyors of serious, soul-destroying error (Psalm 129:4-8; 1 Corinthians 16:22). The notion that an amiable conversation is always superior to open conflict is quite contrary to the example Christ Himself has given us."

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Christians Cannot Be Tolerant of All Things

"Christians cannot be tolerant of all things because God is not tolerant of all things. We can respect differing opinions and try to understand them, but we cannot give our unqualified, unconditional affirmation to every belief and behavior. Because God doesn’t." - Kevin DeYoung

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

In Times of Darkness, Do Nothing

"What should you do in times of darkness? Actually, the first thing to do is nothing. This is a difficult thing for our lowly human nature to do. When you are confused and do not know what to do, do nothing. When you find yourself in a spiritual fog, do not run ahead, but slow the pace of your life. And if necessary, keep your life's ship anchored or tied to the dock.

The right thing is simply to trust God, for while we trust, He can work. ...Only the peace of God will quiet our minds and put our hearts at rest."

- L.B Cowman, Streams in the Desert

"Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God." - Isaiah 50:10

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Word of God Will Defend Itself

"The Word of God is like a lion. You don't have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose and the lion will defend itself." - Charles Spurgeon

Good reminder for me today. I tend to want to "prove" scripture with someone who disagrees but God doesn't need me to do that. It is not up to me to do the job of the Holy Spirit. The Lord only asks us to share the gospel and and He will do the rest. His Word alone is more powerful than anything we can say or do.

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." - Hebrews 4:12

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Holy Exchanges

From the book Choosing Joy by Angela Thomas:

"The heart falls into despair when we forget.  When we forget who we belong to and how very powerful God is.  When the ways of evil seem to be winning and we forget that the victory has already been won by the Son of God, Jesus Christ. 

In the book of Isaiah, the prophet says that God promises to make holy exchanges for those who belong to Him.  He takes mourning and gives comfort and gladness.  He exchanges a crown of beauty for ashes.  And for every one of us filled with a spirit of despair, God promises to exchange our despair for a garment of praise.  A garment is a whole new outfit, not just a tiny handkerchief or a new tie.  A garment is a complete covering.   Only God could replace despair with a praise that becomes our joy."

Friday, August 14, 2015

God Sees My Potential, Not My Past

"I realize that God is in control of the universe, that the mistakes in my past, while dramatic to me, did not ruin God's plan beyond repair. God is sovereign, and His plans cannot be thwarted by someone like me. He can fill in the blanks of my mistakes, teaching my children what I failed to teach, restoring what I destroyed, rebuilding what I tore down, redeeming what I sold away.

And He tells me to stop looking back, to press on toward the prize...He knew my mistakes before I ever made them, yet He still planned to use me anyway.  He didn't see me as The Great Loser, but as someone uniquely gifted with something to be used in His kingdom work. Where I see myself as a disappointment, He sees me as an asset. He already knows the fruit I will bear for Him, and my future is on His mind so much more than my past.

If He can see me that way, why wouldn't I want to press on toward that goal, and wave good-bye to my fragmented, imperfect past? The future is so much brighter in Christ, and I have so many sisters and brothers who need strengthening.

Thank you, Lord, for seeing my potential instead of my past."

- Terri Blackstock

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Way We Like it Doesn't Change the Truth

Retired Church of Uganda Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi said, "The moment you’re far away from your Bible and you are not making a difference with your Bible, then you are losing God’s wisdom to help you to walk righteously before Him." 

That is the source of the weakening of the church.  We rely less on personal study of scripture with the Holy Spirit guiding us to truth and more on questionable experiences and false signs and wonders, what the latest best-selling author or speaker is saying, or we rely on social media and form our opinions and even our theology based on what is going around on Twitter or Facebook.

As a result, we are lured into taking what God says is sin to not really mean that, and try to say scripture was misinterpreted, that it applied to a different people or time or circumstance and is irrelevant to us today, or that it isn't really what God meant.  We try to convince ourselves that if God really loves us that means he wants us to be happy even if it goes against his word. 

It sobers me because I know God is clear that not everyone who stands before him saying "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven.  He won't care what celebrity speakers on television told us, or what tens of thousands of people "tweeted".  He won't care what we read in best-selling books.  He won't care how human judges interpreted our rights in court. There will be no excuses, no debate we can give to convince him that we are the exception to what he told us in his word.

We can spin it any way we want but as Orombi says, "the way you like it doesn’t change the truth that is in the Scripture."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What's On Your Altar?

"Everybody has an altar. And every altar has a throne. So how do you know where and what you worship? It’s easy. You simply follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money, and your loyalty. At the end of that trail you’ll find a throne; and whatever, or whomever, is on that throne is what’s of highest value to you. On that throne is what you worship." - Louie Giglio

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Simple Truth

"It may sound boring or out-of-date, but it just happens to be true: the way to grow in your relationship with Jesus is to pray, read your Bible, and go to a church where you'll get good preaching, good fellowship, and receive the sacraments. I'm not suggesting Christianity can be boiled down to a few external requirements. I'm not saying that at all. I'm arguing that if you want to be Christlike you need to have communion with Christ, and if you want communion with Christ you need to do it on his terms with the channels of grace he's provided. And that means the only way to extraordinary holiness is through ordinary means."

- Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Hard Path of Discernment

"If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul." It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. ...If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to them or listen to them."  Deuteronomy 13:1-8

This scripture seems to warn against more than worshiping false gods or idols. Could it also be warning that the other "gods" we sometimes chase after come in the form of a popular book or teacher that seems sound on the surface but when tested against scripture reveals unbiblical teaching? Could the claim by some ministries that certain practices or supernatural experiences are from God actually have elements of the occult or other religions mixed in and we are to "turn away from them"?

I can't help but be reminded that the original temptation started with the serpent's words "didn't God say?" as he mixed in enough of God's exact words to make it sound credible so that the lie was hard to detect. Satan is crafty that way. He always wraps deception in enough truth to make it look and sound right so we won’t bother testing it, yet 1 John 4:1-6 instructs us to test everything to see whether it is from God and promises when we do so, we will be able to tell the difference.

It's hard to not follow the crowd - especially when other Christians are doing so - but as this scripture points out, even if our family and friends are inviting us to follow something that isn't biblical, we are to turn away from them. That is a hard thing to do. Choosing the narrow path is lonely and difficult, but it's the path we are told to follow and it’s the path that leads to life instead of destruction (Matthew 7:13, 14). God doesn't ask us to take the less chosen path or to question everything so we can become targets for those who think we're just being judgmental, close-minded, or intolerant. He simply wants to protect us from the lies that can derail our faith. 

Discernment isn't always a fun companion because she asks us to stop and seek truth when we don't want to. She sometimes asks us to confront the wolves in the flock (Matthew 7:15) when we'd rather just look the other way. We are always to test and listen with a discerning heart and true teachers of God's word will welcome that and not be offended, just as Paul commended the Bereans when they wanted to verify what he taught with the truth of scripture (Acts 17).

Part of discernment is to determine if it is really false teaching or simply needing to clarify whether differences in denominational wording of doctrine can sound different than our own yet remain truth. That is sometimes a tricky thing to do but seeking discernment from the Holy Spirit and checking everything against what scripture says helps us separate one from the other so that we can embrace truth and turn away from lies.


 “Among the gifts of the Spirit scarcely one is of greater practical usefulness than the gift of discernment. This gift should be highly valued and frankly sought as being almost indispensable in these critical times. This gift will enable us to distinguish the chaff from the wheat and to divide the manifestations of the flesh from the operations of the Spirit.” - A.W. Tozer
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."  James 1:5
"Beware of interpreting Scripture in order to make it suit a pre-arranged doctrine of your own." - Oswald Chambers

"Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness." - Luke 11:35

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Kind of Fear We Should Seek

From Note to Self by Joe Thorn:

"You don't need to be afraid of anything, but you do need to fear your God with a holy reverence. Such "fear" is an aspect of faith that responds to God's holiness, sovereignty, and transcendence. This higher form of fear is that which leads to awe, adoration, and carefulness of life because of the intimate knowledge of your Maker and Redeemer. What should you fear in life above a holy God who forgives the sins of unholy men like yourself? What can be taken from you? Your possessions can go up in flames, but you have treasure in heaven and stand to inherit the kingdom. Your reputation may be sullied, but you are justified in Jesus. You may be rejected by those you admire, but you are accepted by God. You may be hated, but your Father in heaven loves you with an undying love. What is there in this life to fear?

The fear you need to maintain and cultivate is a fear of God, for in it you will discover wisdom and develop strength that enables you to persevere in faith to the end."

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
Psalm 111:10

Sunday, February 8, 2015


In my Bible study these days a thought keeps resonating: Remember.

It's a significant theme that appears many times in scripture as we are instructed to remember days, events, places, people, and teachings that speak to God's holiness, power, character, and sovereignty.

Without remembrance, we are in danger of listening to other voices that tickle our ears with promises of another Jesus who is more politically correct and gives us a pass on sin, a salvation where "love wins" and the cross doesn't matter, and special revelations and mystical experiences that aren't biblical no matter how spiritual they seem. Before we know it we have forgotten who God is, what He has done for us, and what He promises with protection and blessing when we obey...and dire consequences when we choose our own way over His.

He is a jealous God who will not share our affections for other things more than Him. He is a holy God who will not overlook our deciding to ride the fence on issues that He has declared sin. And He will not tolerate being mocked when we we ascribe to Him through the Holy Spirit words and manifestations He did not say or do.

But ultimately, I think what what we are in danger of forgetting is that the whole of scripture is one huge love story with the bright scarlet thread of redemption woven into the drab fabric of our fall from grace, leading to His perfect plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. I think that is what He wants us to remember most of all and it is the message being lost in the church.

Remember the cross and the empty tomb and why we need a Savior. Remember who you are in Christ. Remember what God has done and will do. Remember His holiness.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Resting in God's Sovereignty

From When You Are Weak by Brian Cosby:

"The sovereignty of God is one of God's attributes that speaks of his complete control over all things, all people, and all time. Nothing happens apart from his providential governing, not even the death of a sparrow (Matt. 10:29).

Because God is sovereign, wise, and works all things for our good and his glory, and if he sees fit to give us many earthly possessions or very little earthly possessions, we can rest in the knowledge that he is in control. Whether we find ourselves in plenty or in want, the sovereignty of God should comfort us, humble us, and grant us a steady contentment in the outworking of his eternal plan." (p. 78)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Be Careful in Your Theology

This excerpt from Note to Self by Joe Thorn says well what's been on my mind lately.

Be Careful in Your Theology

"Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." 1 Timothy 4:16

"Dear Self,

Your views of God and self are not small ideas of little consequence. You must carefully do the hard work of building a theology that reflects truth. Do not merely settle for the study you have already done. This is more than laziness; it is carelessness with the truth of God. What you have already accomplished is not sufficient to have arrived at a perfect "body of divinity." You need to continue to study and articulate the truth throughout your life. As one who believes that sin has corrupted every faculty of a man, you must acknowledge that if there is corruption in your heart and mind, there is probably some error in your doctrine as well.

Don't settle for the teaching of one teacher or system because you like the leadership there. And do not blindly embrace a tradition because you believe it is simply the closest option out there to what the apostles gave us. While you will do well to listen carefully to those teachers who have gone before you, especially those teachers who consistently preached and taught the whole counsel of God, you must remain careful.

To be careful in your theological development is to be ultimately persuaded of the authority and the sufficiency of Scripture, as well as the worthiness of God. If Scripture is the only perfect and certain word from God, which alone is the flawless revelation of God, then read it, study it, and then articulate the truths it teaches carefully, so as not to misrepresent God or lead people away from the truth.

You do not get to rest just because you believe you chose the right theological tribe. You must continue to exercise due diligence in your investigation and articulation of the truth. By it you will both know God and make him known, or you will misunderstand God and lead others into error."

From Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn, page 121.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Glorifying God Instead of Self

People who know me well know how I feel about the "prosperity gospel" movement with its promises of health, wealth, prosperity, and power - usually guaranteed when you give a financial contribution ("seed offering") to their ministries. My main issue, besides the blatant false teaching that comes out of this movement, is with the lack of humility shown by many of its leaders with their focus on self-gratification, self-fulfillment, self-empowerment, and entitlement - what's in it for self instead of glorifying the Lord, and even elevating oneself to god-status.

One look at the bookshelves in a Christian bookstore gives witness to this with titles like 5 Steps to Release God's Power for Promotion and Increase in Your Life, Your Best Life Now, You're Supposed to be Wealthy, Become a Better You, 8 Steps to Create the Life You Want, How to Succeed at Being Yourself, Power Thoughts, Imagine Yourself Successful, Speak What You Want and Receive it Supernaturally, Release Your Destiny, and so many others.

It's more about what God is supposedly obligated to do for us or what we are supposedly entitled to in tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit than how we can serve God as the message of self-fulfillment and seeking experiences overshadows the gospel of Christ. It's more about how we can command and manipulate the Holy Spirit like a genie in a bottle to give us whatever power, experience, or material thing we want than it is about living a life in humble obedience and surrender to Jesus.

The thing is, our requests are not promised to be granted just because we ask. What IS promised is that God will give us whatever we pray for that is in agreement with his will: "And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him." (1John 5:14-15)

He delights in giving us what will bring the evidence of his Holy Spirit into our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), but he will not say yes to requests that come from a wrong motive (James 4:3: "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."), or when we ask out of pride (James 4:6: "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.").

If we are genuinely seeking God's will then our motives will be pure, our hearts will be humble, and our desires will line up with His. Even Jesus, who asked to be spared from being crucified prayed "not my will but yours be done" (Luke 22:42), then responded in humility and obedience.

The Lord invites us to come to him with boldness and confidence (Hebrews 4:16) and to bring him our petitions (Philippians 4:6), but we must also make sure our hearts are in the right place; that we are coming before the throne of grace with an attitude of submission and glorifying God instead of elevating ourselves. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Significance of God's Affection

"Don't lose sight of God's holiness and power. Those very qualities make his love significant. Without a healthy respect for God's greatness, his affection loses value. ...The affection of a familiar, buddy deity is one thing; the love of the Lord of heaven and earth, the one who dwells in unapproachable light, is something else entirely. As Francis Chan wrote, 'The fact that a holy, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, merciful, fair, and just God loves you is nothing short of astonishing.'" - Drew Dyck, Yawning at Tigers

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Resting in God

"When we are afraid, the least we can do is pray to God. But our Lord has a right to expect that those who name His name have an underlying confidence in Him. God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in any crisis they are the ones who are reliable. Yet our trust is only in God up to a certain point, then we turn back to the elementary panic-stricken prayers of those people who do not even know God. We come to our wits’ end, showing that we don’t have even the slightest amount of confidence in Him or in His sovereign control of the world. To us He seems to be asleep, and we can see nothing but giant, breaking waves on the sea ahead of us.

“. . . O you of little faith!” What a stinging pain must have shot through the disciples as they surely thought to themselves, “We missed the mark again!” And what a sharp pain will go through us when we suddenly realize that we could have produced complete and utter joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely confident in Him, in spite of what we were facing.

There are times when there is no storm or crisis in our lives, and we do all that is humanly possible. But it is when a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely. If we have been learning to worship God and to place our trust in Him, the crisis will reveal that we can go to the point of breaking, yet without breaking our confidence in Him.

We have been talking quite a lot about sanctification, but what will be the result in our lives? It will be expressed in our lives as a peaceful resting in God, which means a total oneness with Him. And this oneness will make us not only blameless in His sight, but also a profound joy to Him."

By Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Monday, February 3, 2014

Embracing a Manna Mentality

One thing I'm learning as I downsize and simplify home and life is to let God provide what I need when I need it instead of feeling I have to cover all the bases myself or prepare for every possible scenario.  I'm learning to live with a "manna" mentality.  The Bible tells of God's provision for the children of Israel in the wilderness after they left Egypt.  Each day he provided something called manna for them to eat.  It was fresh every day and in fact, except for taking extra for the Sabbath, it would spoil if they tried to take more than they needed for one day.   

I think it is wise to plan ahead and do things like stock a pantry, put money away in savings, buy extra when things we use regularly are on sale, etc., and I do those things.  But what I'm seeing in myself is a shift from fear and "what-if" thinking to one of common sense and balance where I trust God for my daily bread, both figuratively and literally, instead of feeling I have to provide for myself on every level.  There will always be what I need for the day.  I don't have to worry about tomorrow.  There's enough to go around.  They will make more.  God is already there.

What I'm finding is a renewed sense of peace and gratitude when I don't worry so much about provision and instead trust that the Lord will give what my family needs when we need it and often in more abundance than we expect.  When I focus on just today I'm able to be thankful for all that it holds without being distracted with what is around the corner whether real or imagined.

"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!

Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." - Matthew 6:25-34

Friday, November 22, 2013

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How Should We Pray For Our Leaders?

"Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses.” Joshua 1:16, 17

The Israelites lost their beloved leader Moses just when they were arriving at the border of the land promised to them by God after decades of wandering in the wilderness. They might have been overwhelmed with uncertainty had the Lord not already chosen Moses’ successor Joshua, someone they knew and trusted. The people unanimously accepted his leadership and swore unconditional obedience to him. More importantly, they prayed that the Lord would be with him just as he had been with Moses.

It seems an easy task to ask the Lord to be with leaders who are trusted and have proven themselves godly men and women. The challenge comes when they are not, yet 1 Timothy 2:1-4 instructs us to pray for all men, including (maybe especially) our leaders: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

The reason we are to pray is not to bend them to our political will but rather that they will be saved and know truth. We pray because when they (and we) are obedient to God, it goes well for us as a nation as God promises in Deuteronomy 28:1-3: “If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.”

It's sobering to read through portions of 2 Kings to see what happened when a king turned away from God, and the blessings the nation received when he was obedient. When those in authority do what is right in their own eyes, refusing to recognize the holiness and sovereignty of God, the nation will suffer. Likewise, when a leader is obedient to the Lord the people are at peace, much like the children of Israel were as they prepared to enter the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership.

When we pray for God to be with our leaders we acknowledge that the Lord is ultimately in control and can follow in obedience. This is a prayer that pleases Him.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Faith Over Feeling

"Because of practices invading both the culture and the church that promote experience over doctrine and feeling over faith, Christians might get the idea that they are missing out on something and need "deeper" experiences with God. Although we have a Savior who died for us and we have the scriptures, which are "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3.16, 17), it is being suggested or implied that this is not enough.

Could it be that Christians are not immersing themselves in the study and learning of God's word, and therefore are trying to fill that void with ways to have spiritual experiences? We should remember the power of God's word, and that it is our spiritual nourishment. "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12)."

- Marcia Montenegro

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Test of Faith

"Our loving Father does not wish any child of his to have one moment's anxiety or one unsatisfied need. No matter how great our need may be, no matter how numerous our requirements, if we only "prove him" in the manner he bids us, we shall never have room enough to receive all the blessing he will give (Malachi 3:10).

...Why is it we find it so hard to trust him? Has he ever failed us? Has he not said over and over and over again that he will grant all petitions offered out of a pure heart, "in his name"? "Ask of me"; "Pray"; "Prove me"; "Try me." The Bible is full of answers to prayer - wonderful answers, miraculous answers - and yet somehow our faith fails us, and we dishonour God by distrusting him!"

From The Kneeling Christian by An Unknown Christian

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Treasure of a Different Kind

One of my favorite devotionals is Peace For the Journey by Elaine Olsen. Here is an excerpt that spoke to my heart today:

"Jesus speaks to the pull that exists between temporal wants and eternal fulfillment.  He charges his followers with the "letting go" of the fleeting and with the "cloaking" of the lasting - an enduring purse filled with the unfailing, untouchable, and the indestructible treasures that await our arrival in our final rest.  Indeed, we may not be able to take "it" with us when we go, but we can be certain that "it" is waiting for us when we reach our final destination.

...We may not see the fullness of that inheritance in this day.  Rarely do we feel it and, even less likely, do we ever understand it.  We simply live in the certainty of it, knowing that our faith will soon be made sight.  And when it is, when faith gives way to the glorious rewards of a long and mostly unseen obedience, we will witness the bounty of our deliberate storing.  Only heaven is strong enough, deep enough, wide and completely vast enough to bank that kind of faith.

We may not "count it all joy" now, but we will then, after we make one faithful choice after another, until we realize that every current, spirit-spoken "yes" in our hearts has reaped for us an eternal and resolute "yes" in our Father's." (p. 154-155)

Friday, October 26, 2012

What Joy Is

From The 4:8 Principle: The Secret to a Joy-Filled Life by Tommy Newberry:

"Being joy filled does not mean that your life is perfect.  Who could claim that? It doesn't even mean that your life is great.  What it does mean is that you emphatically trust God and believe that he has great plans for your life, regardless of what is happening right now.  Joy is the infectious and uncontainable fruit of divinely inspired growth.  It's a deeply entrenched, unshakeable belief, the result of sustained right thinking and dwelling on the nature and character of God.  Joy is an outward sign of inward faith in the promises of God.  It is a way of acting and it is evidence of spiritual maturity.  Joy is not a distant destination at which you arrive; rather, it is a path you choose to travel each day."

As I continue to read this book that definition of joy has convicted my heart. Joy is an outward sign of inward faith in the promises of God. 

Either I believe that God is who he says he is and can do all he says he can and will do, or I don't.  If I truly believe, peace and optimism despite any circumstance will be my companions.  If I don't, then hope for my welfare will fade.  It all depends upon what (or rather, who) I choose to set my thoughts on.


"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."
2 Corinthians 10:5

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Values Matter

"In many ways our culture has lost its sense of values; I worry about a generation that's been brought up afraid to make choices for fear of offending someone. 

Multiculturalism teaches us that all cultures should be valued at the same level.  Society teaches us that there's no such thing as evil, it all depends on your environment.  School leaders try to tell us that boys and girls are the same, when any parent knows better.  We've become a culture afraid to make judgments and proscribe values to anything because of our overwhelming fear of offending. 

But something inside knows that's not true.  Some choices are better than others.  Some decisions make sense and others don't.

Values matter."

From One Big Thing by Phil Cooke (p. 69)


Right is still right even if no one else is doing it; wrong is still wrong even if everyone else is doing it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What Home Reflects

"It comes down to this.  Your home is a reflection of who you are.  I don't mean this in the sense that you need a showy home to prove to the world how great you are.  Your home reflects your inner life.  How content you are.  How fulfilled you are.  How loving and loved you are.  Your home is the outward expression of what you value, what you enjoy, and what is important to you."  - Peter Walsh, It's All Too Much

Thinking about what my home says about me.  I think it says I'm someone who likes doing things other than housework.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Kind of Person God Uses

From Eyes Wide Open by Jud Wilhite:

"Here's a bit of reality. When we become believers, many of us think, Well, yeah, I have certain gifts and abilities. But then we begin to stall. We start thinking like this: You know, I don't have my life all together yet. I still have bad habits. I still have issues. If the people at church knew what they were, they just wouldn't believe how I keep messing up. I need a little time because right now God isn't ready to use me.  Or we think, After I get my life together, once I get perfect, then God will use me. Good luck with that!

That's not the way God works. Look through the Bible - God uses imperfect, broken, hurting people everywhere. Being broken and hurting and imperfect is the human condition. It's what being human means in a fallen world. Who else is God going to use?"

This is good news because it means God can use me now instead of waiting until I become perfect, something that won't happen until my life here on earth ends.  With that in mind, I need to get out of my own way and become more available for Him to use me.  I need to let go of my insecurities and rest in the confidence that He created me for a specific purpose and will give me what I need, when I need it, to accomplish that purpose.  I need to let go of my weaknesses and understand that in those weaknesses He is strong and will suppply what is needed for any assignment He sends my way so that He is glorified in it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Following With Consistency and Confidence

One of my struggles in my faith is feeling that I'm not consistent in my walk with the Lord and I think that comes from my lack of confidence in who he is at times.  I've been focusing on the names of God because through them, I discover more about his character, and as I discover more of who he is, I am able to respond in faith.

I like how Renee Swope says it in her book, A Confident Heart:
"God's names are a promise of who He is.  We learn to trust Him as we come to know Him in the way He is described in the Bible, based on His character.  We will not know God as Jehovah Rapha, our Healer, until we experience and recognize His healing in our lives, whether spiritually, emotionally, mentally, or physically.  We cannot know Him as Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, if we are not in need.  We will not know Him as Jehovah Nissi, our Banner, unless we need Him for victory."

As I seek to follow God more consistently, my confidence to do so will come from knowing who He is.  My prayer needs to be, "Lord show me who you are as I seek to know you better."  I do desire to know him better because after all, he already knows me intimately and not only that, he also sees me as who I am becoming instead of who I am now.  When he looks down at me, he doesn't see me as just one of millions but rather as someone he already knows, and in a good way.  It's like recognizing a loved one across the way in a room full of people.  Just as we seek out those we love, so does the Lord seek me out.  The better I know him, the quicker I'll recognize His presence in every situation.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Submitting Self to God

"Submitting self to God is the only real freedom - because the deepest slavery is self-dependence, self-reliance.  When you live your life believing that everything (family, finances, relationships, career) depends primarily on you, you're enslaved to your strenghs and weaknesses.  You're trying to be your own savior.  Freedom comes when we start trusting in God's abilities and wisdom instead of our own.  Real life begins when we transfer our trust from our own efforts to the efforts of Christ." - Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels by Tullian Tchividjian

Monday, October 3, 2011

No Fear

"The biblical writers were all on the same page when it came to believing that God is in control of all things and that nothing can happen that he doesn't first review and allow. He's never in a position of wringing his hands in confusion; he's never surprised at what occurs on earth; he's never wondering what to do next." - From Your 100 Day Prayer by John Snyder.

This gives me hope because it means God is taking into account every detail and working things out for the outcome that he already sees. In fact, I have nothing to fear because whatever the future holds, God is already there. His plan is for my good and for His glory whether I cooperate or not; whether I think getting from here to there is how I would like to do it or not. How much better to rest in peace knowing that he is in control and everything will work out. It takes the burden of worry off of me and that's how God wants it all along.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What Have We Become?

Excerpt from an article by Paul Proctor:

"I continue to be both saddened and disturbed by how many professional Christians there are today that are more interested in advancing their own ministries and agendas than they are the Word of God – and frankly, it shows because far too many spend their time and effort talking about we, me and mine – promoting and defending themselves, their feelings, their visions and their experiences with one another, week in and week out, rather than contending for the faith with Bible in heart and hand. (Jude 1:3)

...The Great Commission has not changed since it was given even though the so-called “church” and its hirelings have. What would the Old Testament prophets say to us today if we could hear them? What would the Apostles from the New Testament say if they were still with us?

More importantly – what is our Just and Holy God saying to us right now?

Look around – look in the mirror – and then look in your Bible for answers – that is, if you really want to know what they are. They’ve been there all along."

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” – Matthew 28:19-20