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

Remember...

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.

Remember.

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