Faith, Gratitude, Prayer, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Welfare Check

Originally Published March 30, 2011

welfare check“Why can’t You just give me this so I don’t have to ask anymore?”

I know.  It sounds like a pretty spiritually immature thing to pray.  But to be honest, I was weary of taking this ongoing problem to the Lord every time it reared its ugly head.  Why couldn’t He just fix it permanently so I didn’t have to deal with it anymore?

Because I don’t like dealing with problems.  They make me uncomfortable.  I don’t like being uncomfortable.  I’d rather God would just make the problems go away and then everything would be blue skies and rainbows for me all the time.  Just the way I like it.

Even the most liberal Liberal has heard a story or two about the welfare system that made him raise an eyebrow.  As a radical, right-wing, uptight, Bible-thumping, evangelical Conservative, I’ll admit I’ve groused about the problems with the system a time or two.  I think one of the things that tends to bother most people about some of the stories we hear is the sense of entitlement a few (certainly not all) welfare recipients can develop.  It’s as though they are owed a nice lifestyle without having to lift a finger.  They take what they receive for granted, and whatever they are given is never enough.  They always want more.  Nicer.  Better.  No gratitude, just gimme.

Hmmm…
That hits uncomfortably close to home.

You see, I’m living in God’s welfare system.

When was the last time I had to ask God for air to breathe?  Or to make my heart beat?  Or for clean water to drink, bathe, and do laundry in?  Or food for my table?

When was the last time I even thought about the fact that I can think clearly enough to thank Him that I don’t have a psychiatric disorder or a brain injury?  How often do I get down on my knees and praise God that I can get back up again?  I can walk.  I can talk.  I can see.  I can hear.

God has blessed my family with six beautiful, healthy children, four of whom I was able to conceive, carry, and bear, relatively complication free.

I have a wonderful, Godly husband and great father to my children who isn’t a drug addict or a gambling addict, or an alcoholic, or a workaholic, or unfaithful or abusive to me.  We live in a nice house, on a nice street, in a nice safe neighborhood.

God has blessed me with an extended family as well as a church family who both love me in spite of my numerous faults.  He’s even given me the humbling honor of being able to serve Him in ministry and as an author.

But I always want more.  Nicer.  Better.  No gratitude, just gimme.

Paul said in II Corinthians 12:7-9 that God gave him a thorn in the flesh to keep him from exalting himself.  Frequently our focus in that passage is on speculating as to what, exactly, the “thorn” was.  We fail to notice in the next verse that that thorn kept Paul coming back to the Lord, crying out to Him again and again.  And that’s right where Paul needed to be.

Sometimes that’s one of the purposes of our problems.  God has blessed us with so many things we can forget we need Him.  Until there’s a problem.  And that problem can drive us back to crying out to Him in dependence in a way that no blessing ever could.

So maybe it’s time for a little welfare check:

1. Have you thanked God lately–really thanked Him–for all the blessings we tend to take for granted– food, clothing, freedom, a vehicle, etc.?  Do you live as though God owes you these things?

2. In what ways do problems tend to drive you towards, or away from, God?

3. What does your prayer life look like when everything is going well in your life?  When problems arise?  How can you apply Philippians 4:6 in your prayer life?

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Jude

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Jude

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error andperished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Questions to Consider:

1. What is the overall theme of Jude?

2. According to verse 4, why did Jude feel it necessary to write on the topic of contending for the faith instead of the topic of salvation?

3. What are “the way of Cain” (Genesis 4:5-8), “Balaam’s error” (2 Peter 2:15), and “Korah’s rebellion” (Numbers 16), mentioned in verse 11? What led Jude to give the false teachers these labels?

4. According to verses 17-19, who is it that causes division in the church, the false teachers or those rebuking the false teachers?

5. How does the book of Jude apply to the church today?

Faith, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Back to the Basics, Part 3: “Himmed” In

Originally published: February 16, 2011

himmed in

Establish my footsteps in Your word,
And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me. 
Psalm 119:133

A few years ago, we had a little dog named Mathilda. She was cute, but to be honest, she was not one of my favorite dogs because she was completely disobedient. Maybe it was because she was rebellious. Maybe it was because she was dumb as a rock. I never did figure that one out.

We’d tell her to come; she’d run away. We’d tell her to stay; she’d run away. Frankly, pretty much anything we told her to do, she’d ignore and run away. Which was all well and good as long as she stayed inside the confines of our fenced back yard. As long as she stayed in familiar territory, she knew where and how far she could run and still be safe.

The problem was that in order to get from our back door to our carport, we had to go through the gate that kept Mathilda in the back yard.

Did I mention she liked to run away?

pei_091One day, someone opened the gate, and Mathilda was off like a shot. My daughter was on search and rescue duty that day, so she took off after Mathilda. Unfortunately, Mathilda, with no boundaries to contain her and in unfamiliar territory, got confused and crossed the street at exactly the wrong time– just as a car was coming. And, sadly, this is where her story ends.

Have you ever heard someone say, “Children need boundaries”? Well, children aren’t the only ones. Just as Mathilda discovered, the world can be a big confusing place, fraught with unseen dangers. Even before the Fall, when there were only two people in the world and things were perfect, God didn’t just turn Adam and Eve loose to roam the planet indiscriminately. He placed them in the confines of Eden and gave them a one rule boundary. It was for their protection and their joy.

As Christians today, our confines are less visible than the borders of a garden. Our boundary is the Bible. For our protection and our joy, we must stay inside the walls of God’s Word. In order to do that, we must:

Know what the Word says:

I will meditate on Your statutes.
Psalm 119:48

Study God’s Word. Memorize it. Dig down deep into it. Listen to Biblical preaching and teaching.

Obey the Word:

So I will keep Your law continually,
Forever and ever. 
Psalm 119:44

Often, the problems we experience and the confusing situations in which we find ourselves are a direct result of sin. God’s commands are for our good, our joy, and His glory. When we stray from them, things get messed up. And after all He has done for us, is obedience too much to ask?

Go Back to what You Know:

For I trust in Your word.
Psalm 119:42

Sometimes, despite our obedience and our love for the Lord, he allows confusing, painful, awful situations into our lives. We don’t understand what’s happening or why God would allow this terrible thing to take place. It’s especially important at these times to stay inside the fence of God’s word, draw upon His truths we have memorized and studied, and trust Him. When we’re not sure what’s going on around us, we can go back and stand on what we can be certain of: God’s promises.

God is good, not evil. Psalm 100:5

God loves us. Romans 5:5,8

If we depend on Him and trust Him, God will strengthen us to walk through any situation He sends our way. Philippians 4:13

God can bring good out of any situation. Romans 8:28

Suffering can bring about invaluable spiritual growth. Psalm 119:67, 71, Philippians 3:10, Romans 5:3-4

God’s overall greater purpose is more important than an individual’s personal comfort. Genesis 50:20, John 3:16

God is faithful and will not abandon us. II Thessalonians 3:3, Deuteronomy 31:6,8

God’s comfort is available to us. II Corinthians 1:3-5, II Thessalonians 2:16-17

One day, all things will be set right. Romans 12:19, Revelation 21:3-4

Know the Word. Live it. Breathe it. Stay inside its good and protective boundaries. It’s for God’s glory and our joy.

Discernment, False Doctrine, False Teachers

Clinging to the Golden Calf: 7 Godly Responses When Someone Says You’re Following a False Teacher

false teacherEver heard of Jeroboam? If you’ve read your Old Testament, the name probably rings a bell, but, let’s face it, it’s hard to keep all those Jeroboams, Rehoboams, Ahinoams, and Abinoams straight, right? Well, let’s read a little bit about Jeroboam:

And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. 27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” 28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. 31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. 32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar.
1 Kings 12:26-32a

The Kingdom of Israel had just split into the southern kingdom of Judah and the Northern kingdom of Israel. Jerusalem, where the temple is located, is in Judah. Jeroboam (king of Israel) figures that if his people continue traveling to Jerusalem for feasts and sacrifices, they will eventually turn their loyalty back to the the kingly lineage of David (aka: Judah, 26-27) and he’ll lose both his kingdom and his head. So, in order to keep the people inside the borders of Israel and control them, he makes a couple of golden calves (which somebody should have remembered turned out badly the last time that was tried {Exodus 32}) for them to worship at either of two convenient locations, Bethel, in the southern part of Israel, and Dan in the northern part. Jeroboam, leading the way, had the Israelites simply transfer their feasts and sacrifices that they would have offered to God to these golden calves. It’s a fascinating story that you can read more about here if you’re interested.

So why am I going on and on about Jeroboam?

Because Jeroboam’s story is so similar to something that is happening in the visible church today. He was a well known personality who led God’s people to worship an idol which he told them was God. And God’s people went along with it, transferring their worship from the one true God to the golden calf called “God.”

There are a ton of Jeroboams out there today. Some of you reading this might be following one of them and worshiping the idol their false theology tells you is the God of the Bible. And in the same way that a man of God came along and rebuked Jeroboam for his blasphemy, a man or woman of God might come along and call out the Christian celebrity you’re following, or take you aside -out of love and concern- and let you know that person is a false teacher.

I hope you won’t respond like Jeroboam did. He was so angry, he tried to kill the prophet. But sadly, I have seen this type of response (at least verbally) many times, especially from women, when faced with the fact that their favorite Bible teacher or author is preaching a false gospel.

So, what’s a godly way to respond
when someone tells you you’re following a false teacher?

 

1. Consider the source and Listen.

If you know the person who’s telling you this, think about her godliness and character. Is she generally a godly person? Does she know her Bible well? Does she show love and concern for others? Is she trustworthy? A godly person of good character has no reason to toss out wild and unfounded accusations, especially if you’re her friend and it might offend you. In fact, she’s probably scared to tell you.

But even if it’s a stranger on a blog saying Celebrity Bible Woman is a false teacher, hear her out and make sure you understand what the issues are. Remember, what she’s saying might be true, but you’ll never know if you immediately write her off.

2. Listen for content, not tone.

There are some discerning people out there who will bring you flowers and candy and hold your hand as they gently tell you the person you’re following is a false teacher, and then there are discerning people whose tone or manner might rub you the wrong way as they’re delivering the news. Don’t let the way something is said turn you off to the content of what is being said. Don’t sacrifice truth on the altar of tone.

3. Keep your emotions in check.

It’s tempting to let our feelings take charge when we’re receiving bad news, but you aren’t going to be able to evaluate the content of what the person is saying if you’re consumed by rage or hurt. It might help to remind yourself of your relationship to the teacher/author in question. Do you even know her personally? It’s not like someone is leveling accusations against your child, spouse, or best friend. Put your emotions aside and let reason and clear thinking rule the day.

4. Don’t blindly believe the messenger.

You don’t have to -nor should you- believe everything you hear just because it quotes a Bible verse or wraps itself in the label “Christian”. That applies to both the person who tells you you’re following a false teacher and the alleged false teacher herself. Listen carefully to what the person has to say, make sure you understand it, then get out your Bible and get to work. Are the issues the person has raised biblical? What does God’s word have to say about these issues? Is the person you’re following violating Scripture? If so, choose to stop following the false teacher because the Bible -not a person- tells you to do so. People are fallible. God’s word is not.

5. Don’t shoot the messenger.

It’s been my experience that women who are loyal devotees of false teachers can be some of the most vicious people in the world if you dare to question their idol. I have had women verbally rip me to shreds, threaten me, call me names, accuse me of “judging,” and tell me I’m what’s wrong with Christianity for politely pointing out from Scripture that someone is teaching false doctrine. Ladies, we give Christian women as a whole a bad name when we act like that. More importantly, that kind of behavior is a reproach to Christ, and never appropriate for someone who calls herself a Christian.

6. Defend from Scripture, not opinion, emotion, or personal preferences.

It is downright embarrassing when a person is shown that Celebrity Bible Woman is violating a certain Scripture, and her only argument is, “But I just LOVE her! She’s such a great teacher and helps me understand the Bible so well!” If it were really true that Celebrity Bible Woman is such a great Bible teacher, her followers ought to be able to  prove -from Scripture- that what Celebrity Bible Woman is doing isn’t unbiblical. The bottom line is that Scripture is our ultimate authority, not our opinions, not our personal preferences, not how much we love a certain teacher. For a Christian, if something comes up against the Bible, the Bible wins. Period. So, if you’re going to defend Celebrity Bible Woman, defend her from Scripture. And if you can’t, why are you still following her?

7. Love Christ more than you love your favorite teacher.

If someone shows you from Scripture that your favorite teacher, author, or pastor is teaching false doctrine and you ignore that warning because you are so enamored with that teacher, then what you’re saying is that you love that teacher more than you love Christ and His word. Jesus said:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:37

Your parents. Your children. They’re the people you love most in the world. If Jesus says you can’t love them more than you love Him, do you think it’s going to be OK with Him if you love your favorite Bible teacher more than you love Him? It’s not. Love Christ above all else, and cut that false teacher out of your life.

 

It can be difficult to hear that you’re following a false teacher. You like her. She makes you feel good. You think you’re doing great in your walk with the Lord. It’s hard to give all that up. But we must be careful that we never put our feelings for a person above Christ and His word. If someone tells you you’re following a false teacher, don’t brush her off or attack her. She’s most likely coming to you out of love and concern for you and for the body of Christ. Check out what she’s saying against the Bible. And if she turns out to be right, stop following that false teacher and thank her. Because a person who rescues you from an enemy of Christ is truly your friend.


Check out my friend Pamela’s great article on this same topic called The Christian Woman’s Guide to Conversing with Bereans.

Faith, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Back to the Basics, Part 2– Sit at His Feet

Originally Published January 16, 2011

sit at his feet

Luke 10:

38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.
39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.
martha140 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”
41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;
42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” 

I enjoy staging productions and events when I have time and the occasion calls for it. I put together business events when I worked a “real” job. I staged musicals when I directed children’s choirs. But the production I enjoyed staging the most was my wedding.

I didn’t have a wedding planner. Hardly anyone did back then, and, besides, I wanted to do it myself. I had a ball picking out flowers, shopping for the cake, and taking care of all the other arrangements. But even though I enjoyed those things, on my wedding day, I wasn’t immersed in taking care of little details. I was focused on my husband. It would have been silly of me to neglect him in favor of rearranging centerpieces or something like that. And, today, my marriage would be a pretty cold place if all I ever did was fold my husband’s laundry and serve him meals without us spending any time just enjoying each other’s company.

It’s easy to see how those kinds of scenarios would be detrimental to a marriage. But as members of the bride of Christ, we do things like this all the time. We get wrapped up in serving God and substitute that we forget about sitting at His feet and loving Him. It’s like having a birthday party without the guest of honor. Or a marriage without a husband.

Serving God in ministry is important– after all, if no one put his hand to the plow and served, we’d have no pastors, teachers, missionaries, etc. –but our one on One relationship with God should take precedence over everything else. We get the cart before the horse when our relationship with the Lord is completely tied up in ministry and its results and effectiveness rather than in our own individual relationship with a Person– Jesus Christ.

I’ve always jokingly said that God needs Marthas like me, because without us, nothing in the Kingdom would get done. But I’m discovering that’s not true. God doesn’t need the efforts of any human being in order to get Kingdom work accomplished. He’s quite capable of getting the work done on His own. And, frequently, the tasks on my list that I think need to be done are not the same as the items on His agenda.

Therefore they said to Him,
“What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”

Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is
 the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
John 6:28-29

God isn’t my boss; He’s my bridegroom.

He doesn’t need my work; He wants my heart.

It’s my job to love Him, to know Him, to have an intimate relationship with Him.

‘Scuse me, I’ve got some work to catch up on.