Tidbits and Blessings Blog
by Jeanie Malone
I’d love for you to join the conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments section under each entry.
Jesus gave us two commandments—to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength and to love others as ourselves. The focus is not on loving ourselves well or putting our needs and wants first. Yet somehow, we have twisted His words into our own theology better termed as me-ology. Our thinking and decisions, our priorities, how we view and behave in our relationships, and how we steward our blessings is centered around what we want—our creature comforts that feed our fleshly desires.
Occasionally, I turn on our local contemporary Christian radio station in my car. Yesterday as I listened for the first time in a while, I remembered why it had been a while since I turned it on. My stomach turned and my soul sank as I listened to the words of the songs and advertisements.
Almost every song and mini encouragement from the DJs was steeped in me-ology. Apparently, we cannot even worship God simply for who He is without basing our worship on what we want or expect from Him in return. We act like God needs us and not the other way around.
Every commercial break featured a lengthy commercial from a plastic surgeon specializing in breast enhancement. The words of the ad get you to visualize swimsuit season and suggest that as a woman, you must be dreading summer because your breasts won’t look as you’d like in that swimsuit top. Oh my, do I even need to list all that’s wrong with this? I am all for a healthy body, but I am not all for body image focus or saturation. We should seek to be healthy as good stewards of the body God gives us which is the only one we will have to do His will as His hands and feet on earth.
With Mother’s Day just a few days away, there was an ad for a contest in which women were encouraged to nominate themselves as the most deserving mom of a goodie basket of beauty supplies to be given away. Yes, women were encouraged to write an essay on why they are the best mom and most deserving of the prize basket. I understand nominating someone else, which was also an option, but that women were encouraged to nominate and brag (and likely embellish) on their own mothering is nauseating. The next likely downfall in nominating a mother for a gift basket will be for men to nominate themselves as mothers.
Our society is way off track, and the only way to get on the right track is to focus on and continually seek God. As long as we focus on ourselves, we will fall farther into the pit of sin. Individuals can make a huge impact on society, and it’s time we look at what God says and do what will bring Him honor instead of glorifying ourselves. It’s time for us to learn and live by true theology instead of me-ology. If you need clarification on what is me-ology, this brief blog post written by concerned pastor, Harold J. Miller, is an excellent resource.
This Nigerian website gives ten scriptures about being humble. It includes 1 Peter 5:6 which says, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” Many people love this verse as they focus on being exalted by God. Sadly, those folks miss the point entirely. The entire chapter of 1 Peter 5 is about humility. Looking at this entire letter from Peter, we see that he was writing to Christians living as aliens in a land where they stood out and endured unjust persecution. He emphasized for them to exercise brotherly love, charity, hospitality, and perseverance. Their focus was the love of Christ, not what He could do for them. They lived the truth in submission and full belief. They lived the truth for its own sake, not for selfish gain.
I think our me-ology culture is in part shaped by our desire to be self-sufficient. It goes back to the garden of Eden. We won’t go in depth right now, but simply put Eve wanted to be like God. Adam and Eve depended on God for everything. If Eve was like God, she wouldn’t need to depend solely on God. We have inherited that god complex in our desire to be self-sufficient. As we seek to depend less on God, we seek to perfect ourselves. Ironically the more we focus on self-improvement, the worse mess we become as we drift farther away from the God who made and loves us and is the only One who can complete us.
You are enough—quite possibly the biggest lie known to man. We know deep down that we are not enough. That’s why we keep digging and seeking for more, because we know that alone, we are not enough.
It is finished—absolutely the powerful truth ignored by most. Jesus Christ said, “It is finished,” with His last breath as a man. It was so powerful that He ensured it was heard before He died on the cross where He laid our struggles to rest. He took our shame and bore our grief; He was beaten and mocked, willingly, that we would have hope. Often, we ignore that hope, and we ignore His sacrifice. We mock and abuse Him again and again as we live outside of the powerful truth of “It is finished.”
We desperately seek something to make us whole while we ignore the One who paid the price and made a way. Does it seem too far-fetched that God would or could come as a man to reconcile us to Himself? Does it seem too simple or maybe way too complicated? Do we find it hard to believe because we can’t quite grasp why anyone would do such a thing? Do we write it off as an ancient tale while we seek some other enlightenment? Do we think we will find the truth digging deep into our own sinful hearts? Do we think we will connect with God in some other way?
Jesus Christ is the only reconciliation between God and man; besides Him there is no way. He is the way, the truth, and the light. He is the peace we seek. He is the power over sin that we seek. He is the one true God. Without Him we are lost. With Him, we are at one with God.
He is the center of the Gospel, the good news of truth; we are not. We are made to worship Him and not ourselves or another. Each person who lives truth lives Christ-centered, not self-centered.
Here are some actions for you to move closer to God and away from me-ology:
Who doesn’t love a good love song? They move us and make us smile. Many of us are familiar with the 1973 hit song by Blue Swede, “Hooked on a Feeling” that says, “I’m hooked on a feeling; I’m high on believing that you’re in love with me.” Iconic love songs all seem to focus on and appeal to emotions. These songs speak to our hearts; that’s why they comprise a large part of the multi-billion dollar music industry each year.
If we aren’t careful, we will fall prey to the lie that love is a feeling. We hear it when we turn on the radio, we see it in our favorite shows and movies, and we even hear it from our best friends. We have been indoctrinated to believe that we deserve happiness and that if we aren’t happy with a particular person, then we should ditch them and their negativity and move on with our life, seeking our own happiness.
Few are inoculated from this self-serving love. The only chance for inoculation we have is in a close relationship with Christ. Every person has human nature as part of the very design of who we are. Even true Christians sometimes fail to let God lead and instead follow feelings to react out of hurt, fear, shame, disgust, greed, or self-preservation.
The only two commandments Christ taught were specifically about love. In Matthew 22 when responding to the Pharisee lawyer’s question meant to trap him regarding the law, Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (37-40).
Key to understanding what Jesus meant is knowing the original Greek word Jesus used and is translated to English as “love.” In Biblical Greek, four words were used to describe different types of love: storge—empathy bond, philia—friend bond, eros—romantic love, and agape—unconditional love. Jesus used forms of the Greek word agape in both commandments He presented, meaning we are to love God and others unconditionally.
Unconditional means no matter what. Unconditional means in good times and bad; it means when we are head over heels happy or head in hands heavy-hearted.
We aren’t commanded to be happy about every situation we are in or every choice a person makes. Sometimes we won’t be pleased with someone’s choices, but our emotional response is not meant to guide our love. On the contrary, our emotional response is supposed to be guided by our love.
Agape love is a choice, a commitment, and benevolent actions; it is not feelings. Agape love is only possible with Christ, and even then, it is our choice, not an automatic product of being a Christian. Being happy has nothing to do with agape love except the fact that we are commanded to love with no regard to happiness or displeasure.
Recently, I witnessed a relational catastrophe involving several church members including the pastor, deacons, their wives, the church treasurer, and several other members. The situation was neither handled nor resolved biblically. The key mistake was being led by emotions. I heard each hurt party air their grievances filled with statements beginning, “I am hurt…,” “I feel betrayed….,” “I feel unappreciated…,” “You disrespected me….,” and many similar statements. I wanted to say, “Folks, this ain’t about your feelings.”
Our heart is our emotional seat—where our feelings come from. We know by God’s Word that living by our emotions is unstable, misleading, and a hindrance to God’s work in us and through us. We are told in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
We are to be in control of our hearts, not to be controlled and led by them as pop culture would have us believe. A message from God through the prophet Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:9,10).
In his second letter to believers in Corinth, Paul encouraged and exemplified patience and humility in love for others. He emphasized that the war is not with other people; the war is spiritual and starts within our own thoughts and feelings.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's.” (2 Cor. 10:3-7)
Our hearts and emotions have a beautiful place in our lives, by God’s design. However, we have placed ourselves on a throne and seek to feed our ego by carefully filtering everything through our emotions instead of filtering our emotions through God’s Word. Living this way will never lead us to the abundant life Christ offers us.
We must deny ourselves and pick up our cross to understand and have joy in Jesus’ offer. Recorded in Luke 9:23-24, Jesus taught, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” By this we know that self-seeking, self-promoting, or self-preserving actions will cause us to lose the life we are offered by Christ.
Some real world applications of the love Christ teaches us to have are smiling, offering a kind word, pausing to listen intently, making time for our spouse, kids, aging parents, and others when we feel too busy.
Over the years, I have gone deep down trails I never wanted to travel; however, I know that my suffering will not end in tragedy or despair. Yesterday, I identified and thanked God for five specific beautiful blessings that have grown out of a deeply painful trial. Then I received more bad news pertaining to that trial. Despite the latest bad news, I am compelled to rejoice because God is still in control; He is still all-powerful, unchanging, loving, and compassionate, causing everything to work for my good because I love Him, live to honor and obey Him, and am called according to His purpose.
Faith is the cement in our spiritual foundation. Faith enables us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to the will of Christ Jesus who died for our sins and gives us hope. Faith enables us to not fret over bad news. It is faith that stirs our souls to wait for the good news, knowing that we already have the victory in Christ. It is faith that keeps us from despair. It is by faith that we have access to God’s grace through Jesus Christ.
Faith is powerful, and it is important to understand the power behind faith. Faith isn’t a distinctly separate force with power in and of itself. God is the origin, cause, anchor, and end of our faith.
Sometimes we want so badly to understand why something is happening to us—Did we do something wrong for which God is punishing us? Are we suffering unfairly? Self-reflection doesn’t typically give us a clear answer because we know that God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11-16), and it rains on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45).
And sometimes wondering can drive us berserk. It’s not meant to be our focus. Focusing on anything other than God allows fear to take root. Fear is the opposite of faith; they cannot coexist. They push apart like oil and water. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul reminded him, “according to the promise of life which is in Jesus Christ,” that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:1,7).
For more evidence that we are to focus on Jesus, we see immediately following the famous “Faith Chapter,” Hebrews 11, that Paul exhorts the Hebrew believers who are suffering persecution for their beliefs to focus on Christ. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” *Emphasis added.
Faith is important. Often people say, “Just have faith.” But what does that mean? Faith is important, and it’s important to understand why it’s important.
A couple of months ago, I heard a popular preacher telling people, “have faith in your faith.” He explained how important it is to have confidence in your own faith. Sadly, since becoming aware of this misconception, I have seen that it is widespread in cultural Christianity.
The problem with having faith in your faith, or confidence in your faith, is that there must be an object of faith—a person or something trusted and believed. In other words, having faith in your faith is as unfruitful as having faith in nothing at all. It’s equivalent to telling someone to trust their trust. And that makes no sense. We don’t trust our trust. We trust in someone or something, or we trust that something is or will be.
As Christians, we are to have faith in God alone. He is the author and finisher of our faith; He is to be the sole object of our faith. We cannot have faith in faith; that is empty faith. Having faith in anyone other than God is misplaced faith.
Sometimes we misplace our faith and depend on someone to not disappoint us, mess up, or sin. It’s important to love people but trust only God. All people are susceptible to human error and sin. We are imperfect creatures with limited knowledge and understanding, and we all have desires of the flesh. We aren’t the perfect anchor that God is. He is to be the only object of our faith. Faith in anyone or anything besides God is wishful thinking at best. When a person puts full trust, or faith, in another person, holding them to perfection, it ultimately leads to a crumbled relationship and broken lives.
God gives us peace when we truly trust Him. Parenting through the continual crisis that was my daughter’s teenage years, I could have had faith that everything would settle down, I could have had faith that my parenting and our family support would bring her back around, I could have had faith in her character that I hoped to influence as her mother, or I could have had faith in her simply as my daughter. I had faith that whatever happened, God was still in control and loved us immensely. I had faith that everything would work out. Not knowing the definite outcome, I still had peace.
Nothing holds the same anchoring power as having faith in God alone. During my parenting crisis, faith in God alone meant acknowledging that my daughter’s choices were uncertain and unpredictable. Faith in God alone meant trusting His character over my own or my daughter’s. Faith in God alone meant knowing His love is perfect and effectual.
For all of us, faith in God alone means seeking His wisdom for all aspects of life, especially relationships, including marriage and parenting. Faith in God alone means that we acknowledge our complete helplessness and the insufficiency of our own wisdom and skills. Faith in God alone means not predetermining the outcome as a basis for our faith. Faith in God alone means acknowledging His constant, unchanging goodness despite our uncertainties and circumstances.
We recognize that people can fail, but God can never fail. We have confidence in people every day, and while that’s a necessary part of life with others, having faith in God is different because He is the infallible, all-knowing, ever-present Creator of the universe.
As we navigate life—relationships, hardships, victories, and even the mundane, it takes conscious effort to live our lives focused on Christ. We must remind ourselves of truths such as that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, good, and just. When we take our eyes off what we can see and deliberately focus on Christ whom we cannot see, we have a peace that passes all understanding and wisdom that carries us into the right decisions. Even when things seem upside down, we can trust that God sees, cares, and is working all things for our good.
What makes Christianity truly unique? All major religions besides true Christianity are works-based, meaning your future or afterlife is determined by works, or what you do now. Obedience is a big tenet in every religion but in a very different way than it is in Christianity that believes in salvation by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone.
Obedience in most religions is necessary for salvation or other desired result but is evidence of salvation in true Christianity. Think of a person’s obedience to God’s Word as a result of his or her faith in God and as the evidence others need to believe. Obedience in faith is a testimony of the positive choice regarding the faith God gives each person. Salvation is the result of a choice to submit to God and own the truth of Christ’s sacrifice. Obedience is faithfulness in gratitude for the salvation given in grace through faith.
My most read devotional, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, reads the following for March 28: “Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything (see Matthew 14:29).” Chambers argues that faith is not “intellectual understanding” but is “a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.” He states that we can know when instructions come from God “because of their quiet persistence.” So while faith employs reason, the emphasis is put on the choice to surrender and commit.
Chambers continues, “When I begin to weigh the pros and cons, and doubt and debate enter into my mind, I am bringing in an element that is not of God. This will only result in my concluding that His instructions to me were not right. Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself?” Youch! That cut is deep and personal, convicting and fruitful.
We see Chambers’ point illustrated when Peter walked on water to Jesus as recorded in Matthew 14:29-31:
And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
Peter allowed questions and debate to enter his mind; these caused him to doubt reality because it didn’t make sense within his understanding of physics and more. Peter’s faithfulness was only as fruitful as his commitment to Jesus Himself. Once doubt entered Peter’s mind, his commitment lost strength and thereby fruitfulness. Peter was given by God a measure of faith. The fruitfulness of Peter’s faith was determined by Peter’s commitment, or choice to believe.
To have faithfulness, one must have faith. Pastor and preacher Alistair Begg says that it helps to understand what something is by understanding what it is not. He says in a sermon he preached July 22, 2020, titled “What Is Faith?” “Faith is not a subjective feeling that is divorced from the objective truth that God has made known.” He looks at Hebrews 11:1 for a definition of faith, which says in the King James Version, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In the English Standard Version, it says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It is the assurance even though there is not a physical, tangible confirmation. Interestingly, the word transliterated as faith is noted as Strong’s #4102 for this verse, meaning it is persuasion given by God alone.
It’s important to note that we use reason in conjunction with the faith God gives us to trust in Him, His love, and His plans, even when we don’t see the whole picture or we lack wisdom or understanding about a situation. However, just like Peter allowing doubt to stop his reciprocation of faith, we often do the same thing by looking at our circumstances instead of focusing on God and fully trusting Him personally regardless of what we can or cannot see or understand.
Looking at the words used concerning faith in the New Testament, when there is a preposition used with a form of pisteuo in the Greek, it is always noted in Strong’s Concordance as #4100, a verb meaning self-persuasion, personal belief, or human confidence. Often, Bible translations say believe or trust since this is a verb use and denotes the use of reason resulting in persuasion of self, rather than persuasion of God; however, only context dictates for certain if this faith, belief, or trust is self-serving or stems from persuasion of God.
Faith is not only activated by evidence but is also evidenced, or proven true, for others to believe, for them to have the evidence they also need to place their personal trust in God. In the Apostle Peter’s first letter, he encouraged wives whose husbands did not yet believe and obey God’s Word, saying that their husbands would be won over by the wives’ beliefs and resulting lifestyles and character.
Faith, as persuasion by God, is evidenced by works, as we see in James 2. This chapter says a lot about activity resulting from faith. Some Bible translations and added section titles may confuse people to think that works are necessary as part of salvation. However, the original intent of this passage seems to be that genuine faith, as persuasion by God, would lead to a determination by one to believe and trust, showing both sides of faith, if you will. Faith is said in James 2 to be evidenced by one’s activity and interactions. James 2:21 says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” The original Greek word translated as justified here has several meanings, and one of them means to show proof or evidence. Our works are evidence of our salvation.
In Galatians 5:22-23 we see the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
Each listed fruit of the Spirit is a unique quality of God and can only be bestowed by God. The fruit of the Spirit is the result of a close, trusting relationship with God. Besides being another argument for the triune nature of God, this reminds us that we cannot attain these qualities on our own; they are a gift of God.
Faith is listed among the fruit; some translations list it as faithfulness. The original Greek word used is transliterated as pistis, noted in Strong’s Concordance as #4102, which is only used to refer to the persuasion given by God, not something we can produce on our own. Strong’s #4103 is used as an adjective meaning faithful, “typically, of believing the faith God imparts” and seems to represent the other side of faith—our response.
To clarify, studying the uses of the words noted in Strong’s Concordance as #4100, #4102, and #4103, those noted as #4102, typically as a noun, represent the faith given by God. Those noted as #4100 and #4103 represent our response, typically as a verb and an adjective, respectively. God gives us faith and the option of what we do with it. He knows only by His design will faith be fruitful, but in His great love He gives us the choice to commit to Him with our faith or to ignore the fullness of His invitation.
I love Paul’s description and admonition to Timothy in his second letter. Many of us can quote 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” but what follows helps us understand the bigger picture: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
It is God who called us, God who saved us, God who by His purpose and grace gave us faith to believe in this grand plan that was in place long before we were born but that considers us in every aspect. I encourage you to read the entire letter, chapters 1 through 4, which is centered on faith as God gives and as we can choose to commit and live.
Without the faith that only God can give, there would be not fruit of the Spirit, no opportunity to commit and make a choice given by that faith. God provides us with what we need to live a life that successfully honors Him in all things. I credit a friend on Twitter with the following categorization of how the fruit works in our life:
He continues with the reason for adding these:
“For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1-11).
In 2 Peter 3:18 he says, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”
In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul emphasized the supremacy of Christ and outlined actions of a life lived through faith in Christ as a person of the triune God. That faith would be a choice to believe resulting from the persuasion by God.
Colossians 3:1-2, 10-17 says,
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all; Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
I encourage you to read the entire letter, or at least the third chapter. This passage shows clearly how our two-fold faith creates a life that is evidence of the God at work in us.
To recap what we learned:
This spring, two of our home’s window ledges became nesting spots for a couple of house wren families. The inhabitation of the wrens comes with much noise. While their song can be beautiful, it is annoying when sung repeatedly at a frenzied pace.
One of the nests just happens to be at our bedroom window where we awaken to the chattering of these wrens before the sun is up. While researching house wrens, I learned that it is against state and federal law to move their nest during their nesting, mating, and egg season. We cannot move the nests until after the baby birds leave.
To add to my mixed feelings about these window dwellers, I learned that they often destroy the eggs and nests of other native birds I love to have in our yard, such as the Eastern bluebird. The wrens aren’t acting out of malice because they don’t have the ability to reason. They are simply acting on instinct.
This reminds me that only humans possess reason. Only humans can look at the evidence and use reason and rationale to make decisions. All other species act solely out of instinct.
God blessed humans to have dominion over all other species on earth. He gave us souls and a measure of faith. The faith He gives each person enables us to use reason.
Sometimes we think of faith as blind, but on the contrary, it is in conjunction with reason; therefore, it is not blind but employs reason to evaluate evidence and then choose what to believe. Millard J. Erickson states in Christian Theology, “Faith, once engaged in, enables us to reason and to recognize various supporting evidences. This means that faith is a form of knowledge; it works in concert with, not against, reason” (871).
It seems the two sides of faith are the ability to believe as one gift from God, and the choice to believe or dismiss, another gift from God to use our ability to reason. He gives us the ability to believe using the faith He gives us. He also gives us the choice to believe or not.
God gives us all a measure of faith to believe and have a personal conviction, but how we respond to that inborn faith is our choice. The God who created us all uniquely in His love knows that we are different in our ways of thinking and our context. The God who created us considers our context, giving us the evidence we need to act on the faith He gave us.
Remember Thomas, the disciple who wasn’t present with the others when the resurrected Jesus appeared and showed them his hands and his side. Thomas had the same measure of faith as the other disciples but needed to personally experience the evidence to believe. Eight days after stating his need for further personal experience as evidence, Thomas was with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them and invited Thomas to verify the truth by the evidence he sought.
We are told that Jesus did many more miracles than this after his resurrection, but this is told for the historical record that we might believe also (John 20). Though Thomas seemed to already have the evidence he needed to believe, his request for more evidence through personal experience was given by Jesus.
Not only do we have the persuasion by God necessary to place our faith and personal trust, but we are also given any further evidence we need to make our faith active. The end choice, however, is up to us.
Think about Judas Iscariot who also had what he needed to believe, having witnessed Jesus’ miracles and more for over three years. He had a soul, the measure of faith, the ability to reason, and the ability to choose, yet he chose wrong. Judas sought to betray Jesus; he had a choice. He guided his thinking with pride, desire, greed, and jealousy instead of by reason and faith. After recognizing more fully the ramifications to come of his sin, considering the evidence, he went to the chief priests and elders to return the silver he’d been given for betraying Jesus, but it was too late. You can read the account in Matthew 27.
By God’s design, He loves and cares for all His creation, but He made humans distinctly for a relationship with Him through the unique gift of the soul, faith, and the ability to reason. I am thankful we aren’t made to go through life merely on instinct or without a close, personal relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
We were clearly made for more by the perfect Creator of the universe. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He gives us all that we need to have a close, saving relationship with Him.
What we do with the faith, our ability to reason, and the evidence God graciously provides is up to us. We don’t have to go through life unsure or with doubt. By design, we cannot go through life solely by instinct. We have a soul, a measure of faith, and the ability to reason. We can choose poorly; we can choose to dull our ability to reason; we can choose to believe a lie over the truth. However, we can never undo the unique gift God gave humans for the opportunity, not the certainty, of a close, saving relationship with Him.
Our life now and eternally is up to us; it is a direct result of how we choose to use or ignore the unique gifts God gives only to us, a unique species, in His grand creation. We make our choices, and our choices make us. God gives us everything we need to choose Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, but He gives us the free will to make our own choice.
Erickson, M. J. (2013). Christian theology. Baker Publishing Group.
For many years, I grieved over something beyond my control. I grieved over my daughter continually searching in the wrong places for truth and meaning, her refusing to stop grasping at false control, and her refusing to submit to God and believe that life and all the things we desire are as simple as a close relationship with Christ as our Savior and Lord over all our life.
I realized that all that she was going through—all the torture she put upon herself in the form of eating disorders, cutting, multiple addictions, complete distrust and manipulation of all people yet wanting desperately to feel loved, a failed suicide attempt, more suicide threats, refusal to cooperate in all therapies, refusal to go to rehab, and twice running away—was not what I should focus on.
From my position as a mother desperately wanting to stop her baby from harming and endangering herself, I could not see beyond the storm I was in. I kept trying to help my daughter change her perspective. Finally, seven years into the storm, I realized that I could not change her perspective, but I could change my own.
I had to choose faith over experiences and feelings. I had to focus on God’s truth instead of her numb, emotionless interactions, lethargic mornings, heavy perfume to cover up her sins, unexplained absences, physical trauma, and other apparent irrational thinking. I had to focus on what I could not see instead of what was before my eyes.
This choice became so clear the second time she ran away and had no contact with family for over two months. I couldn’t hold her in my arms. I couldn’t tell her the truth of God’s love. I didn’t even have confirmation of where she was or her health status. I wanted desperately to help her, to rescue her, but all I could do at that point was pray.
Praying meant that I had to turn it over to God, even though I thought I had already done that. Praying meant that I would fix my eyes and my heart on the God who made my daughter, who put us together, who knew every fear she faced, who knew every way she hurt herself and others.
Praying meant focusing on the God who can save her, who can hold her in His arms, who can calm all her fears, who can unmuddy the waters, who can straighten her crooked thoughts, who can help her trust and abide in Him. Praying meant acknowledging the needs while maintaining 100% focus on the God who is in control.
The noun faith is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “complete trust” and “confidence.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives several definitions including allegiance, loyalty, and fidelity. In the second entry for the noun faith, Merriam-Webster gives the following:
a(1): belief and trust in and loyalty to God
(2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
b(1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof //clinging to the faith that her missing son would one day return
(2): complete trust
In the third entry for the noun faith, “complete trust” is included. Merriam-Webster defines the verb faith as “believe; trust.” Click here to see Merriam-Webster’s complete entry for “faith.”
For many well-known bible verses in the New Testament that discuss faith, the Greek word transliterated as pistis, or a form of that word (Strong’s Bible Concordance #4102) is used. The general definition of this Greek word is “faith, faithfulness” and is always used in the New Testament to describe faith as something received from God and never generated by a person. It is a persuasion given by God. The root of this Greek word is peitho (Strong’s Bible Concordance #3982) which means “to persuade, be persuaded.”
We must remember that faith is a gift from God, not something we can produce. In his letter to the Romans, Paul laid out how true Christians will live. In Romans 12:3, it is recorded, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Faith is clearly given by God, not something man can attain or produce on his own.
We are saved by grace through faith, not feelings. In his letter to the church at Ephasus, Paul said, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
If faith is something we can muster or produce, it makes salvation by our works, and this is not so. Romans 5:1,2 says, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (italics added). Notice that we are justified by faith; by faith we have access into grace. Faith is a gift to mankind through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Christ is the origin and object of our faith. I encourage you to read all of Romans 5. Here you can read it in the ESV. Or here you can read it in the KJV.
God-given faith is only valuable to have faith in the One who gave it. It is not valuable to have faith in our own plans and understanding or thinking things will work out because we bravely jump in or move forward without having a guaranteed outcome.
To know if we misunderstand faith, distinction must be made whether our focus is 100% on Christ or even 1% on what we want. We often say, “I am stepping out on faith” or “I am moving forward in faith” when what we really mean is that we hope things work out for our best. Naturally, we want our plans to succeed, and sometimes we think that by making this declaration we prove to God that we are being faithful and brave, and we hope He rewards us for that. This is a gross distortion of the truth that God gives us faith to focus on Him. The importance of focusing on Christ is so we see clearly and have wisdom for what we are to do and not to do.
God is a rewarder of all those who diligently seek Him, not all those who seek themselves or elsewhere for understanding. Hebrews 11, commonly known as the faith chapter, says in verse 6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
The action of faith is diligently seeking God, drawing near to God, focusing on God, and not taking our eyes off to see the storm around us. When we take our eyes off Jesus Christ, our vision is distorted, and our understanding is dulled.
When we keep our eyes and our heart fixed on Jesus Christ, we are productive for Him; we serve others in His love; we share His truth in love; we plant seeds of truth for others to grow in Christ. As fallible humans, it is easy to let our focus shift ever so slightly to the work we do for Christ or even to our own fleshly desires such as the modern understanding of and push for abundance and success. God doesn’t even define those words the same as we do today, so shifting our focus to them is simply wasting time we should be focusing on and seeking God.
It’s hard to trust and not waver when you look around at the storm. In fact, when Peter walked on water toward Jesus, it was when he took his eyes off Jesus and looked around him that he failed. He noticed the wind and then began to sink. Here you can read the full account.
When we are 100% focused on Christ as we should be, we will maneuver life successfully. We will only be blind to those things we shouldn’t focus on anyway. I fully believe that if we focus 100% on Christ, we will not be ignorant but will have wisdom for everything that we need to understand.
We are to live by faith, not feelings. In Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, he said, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Notice that we walk not sit, not stand, and certainly not lie down, but we walk by faith. We are to move forward in faith seeking God, not move forward in plans we imagine and think up.
Faith in Christ enables us to live faithfully, regardless of our current circumstances. Because of Jesus Christ and the faith He gives us, we can live without becoming weary and faint; in hope we are able to remain faithful. In Hebrews, we see that Jesus is the “the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:2-4).
Faith, not feelings, gives victory. 1 John 5:4 says, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” The ESV translation says it this way— “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” Faith is the victory. Faith is our victory to overcome the world. Faith is our victory over evil, sin, and even faithlessness. None of these have authority over us.
We have the choice to live in faith designed and given by God through Jesus Christ. Jesus rebuked Peter when he began to sink on the water within arm’s reach of Jesus. “When [Peter] saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:30,31). While he focused on Jesus and walked toward Jesus in faith, Peter was successful in walking on the water. It was when Peter took his focus off Jesus and noticed his circumstances that he switched to living in his feelings—fear. The immediate result of this transition from faith to feelings was failure.
We are to love by faith, not feelings. As hard as it was to put away my personal hurt that resulted from my daughter’s choices, I knew I had to do so to effectively point her to God’s redemptive love. She was a habitual liar and master manipulator who turned many close loved ones and several others in professional settings and casual circles against me.
These fiery darts were well-aimed because I had always held a very credible reputation for living a God-honoring, God-seeking life. Having folks turn against me, and all the gossip and hate that came with it, was very disheartening—just what satan wanted to use to distract me from praying for my daughter. He wanted to use this to sever my relationship with my daughter. Satan would have loved for me to focus more on my broken reputation than on praying for and leading my daughter in truth.
Love is not feelings. Love is a choice. Love as defined by the gospel is self-sacrifice. Actively loving someone who seems to hate and despise you is very challenging to say the least. I had to make a choice to love my daughter and not give satan a foothold in any of his attempts to disrupt my prayers for her. Think about the parable of the good Samaritan: did he help the man because he received any benefit from him? He helped knowing that he was likely hated by the man he helped; social lines were deeply divisive between Jews and Samaritans (half-Jews). Read the full parable here.
Faith produces faithfulness. As a result of focusing on and living through Christ, we will have certain qualities as outlined in Galatians 5:22,23—"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” The Greek word used here for “faith” is transliterated the same as every other scripture mentioned in this article, pistis. This means that the faith given to us is how we live by faith and live faithfully to the truth, regardless of how opposite everything else appears.
Faith means pressing on because of your trust and understanding of the Author and Finisher of your faith. Many pray for years, even decades, for loved ones to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We don’t pray focused on what we see in our loved ones’ lives. Instead, we pray focused on the One we know can change it all. As we focus on God, He directs our words and actions to show His love for our loved ones. Let us pray to get our own selfish desires out of the way. Let us pray for God to bridle our tongue when we step aside. Let us pray for God to be glorified.
It is important for us to never stop praying for and showing God’s love to our lost family. Trust that the Author and Finisher of faith will cause His will to be done. I’ve witnessed too many miracles of salvation after decades of dedicated prayer to ever give up. From conception until now, I have loved my daughter with a heavenly perspective because I know that God has great things for her. Though she is still struggling to find her way, I continue to pray for this precious one and also her husband. They are precious in His sight, and He anticipates their seeking Him with their whole hearts even more than I can. He has a life of peace, joy, purpose, strength and wisdom for them and all who will turn to Him and seek Him in the faith that He gave them for that purpose.
God gave you faith to believe in Him, trust Him, and seek Him with your whole heart. By faith in Him we are more than conquerors.
Here’s a quick recap:
As Christians, we are to be about the Father’s business. I realize that balance is something we struggle with in our modern society because we have layered on so many things our ancestors didn’t have to juggle. But then again, we aren’t hiking to a spring to scrub laundry over a washboard or having to milk the cow before breakfast. Regardless, we have no excuse to misplace our priorities or idolize anything or anyone, including ourselves.
We tell ourselves that we are worthy, that we are enough, that we deserve more. This is part of hell’s campaign to misguide our thinking. We are not worthy, only God is worthy. Our righteousness comes from Christ, not ourselves. We are not enough; we need Christ. And we don’t deserve anything but hell.
Thankfully, we have a loving Father who gives us, by His mercy, absolutely the opposite of what we deserve, and is patient with our progress and attentive to our every need.
Somehow, we have become our own gods. We worship ourselves because society says we should feel like a god/goddess and deserve to be happy. Our focus should be on sharing the love of Christ, sharing the truth that has the power to set people free from the bondage of sin. Yes, bondage of sin. Often as Christians, we let sin creep in and control us and prevent us from living God’s will for our lives.
True Christianity is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, know that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was the atonement for our sins and by accepting this by faith we are saved by His grace, and we are to love others as ourselves.
If we truly love ourselves, we want to know the truth. If we love others as we should, we are bound to help them know truth.
The world is going to throw a lot of incorrect thinking your way. It’s your responsibility to be wise in Christ to know what to do with all that comes your way. We have discernment by studying to know God’s Word. If we don’t, we easily get sucked into the world of wasted time and energy spent on the wrong things. If we truly love God, let us seek to know Him through His Word. Let us treasure His Word as the cornerstone it is. Let us build our values and structure our lives and individual days based on a right understanding of God’s Word.
There are a lot of “Christian” teachers and churches out there that don’t teach you to study God’s Word for yourself, but doing so is critical to your faith. Don’t just believe what your pastor says. God’s Word says in 2 Timothy 2:15-16, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”
Just a bit further in 2 Timothy 3:1-9 we can see an accurate description of our present society as a whole—not a new phenomenon but one which was around even before Christ: that men are lovers of themselves. But I wonder if in our modern society, as told will be in the last days, the intensity of our self-love and self-absorption has increased in general.
Here’s what Paul warns in his second letter to Timothy about self-love in the last days:
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men” (2 Timothy 3:1-9 ESV).
Every listed descriptor is easily identified in our society and pushed on social media as healthy and good. Though recognizing this can be alarming and even a bit disheartening, we have hope because Jesus gave the antidote to all these sins in His response to the lawyer in Luke 10:25-37 when the lawyer asked how to inherit eternal life. Instead of a direct answer, Jesus asked what the Word/Law said on this.
After responding correctly that we are to love God with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourself, the lawyer asked Jesus who he should identify as his neighbor. Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan (a half breed Jew generally shunned by Jews) who showed compassion to a man passed by and ignored by a Jewish priest and Levite. If we think about the Samaritan’s actions, we can see that he sacrificed his time, money, and energy and risked ridicule and abuse. He did all this for a total stranger.
If we look after the wellbeing of others and seek to point them to Christ, we will by default be less self-absorbed and will have a healthier, broader perspective outside of ourselves and our own limited comprehension.
Many gurus and even “Christian” leaders teach us to look within ourselves for the answers, that we must know, understand, and deeply love ourselves before we are of any use to others, but Jesus teaches us the opposite of this lie.
I have lived the self-hate. I have lived disgusted and miserable wanting to know and live my purpose. In my darkest season, I considered suicide many times. I did so not truly hating myself but hating my experience. I hated that I was so sick I was not useful to others. I hated that I had to spend my time researching, desperate to improve my health so I could benefit others. I wanted to be serving others in Christ’s name. I wanted to return to my former activities of service where I helped others and gave God the glory for it. I didn’t understand why God would take away this part of my life and replace it with incompetence and isolation. So, in reality I didn’t hate myself; I hated my position and life experience. Obviously, I never committed suicide, and I am so thankful. Each time, I felt the Holy Spirit strengthen me, even if it was only enough strength to be so weak that I was unable to take my life.
Though I still live in sickness and weakness, I am not tormented by feeling thrown away. I don’t understand the pain and suffering but know it is allowed by the God who made me with love and will not let me face one thing outside of His great love and His overarching purpose. I miss the ways I used to serve others in Christ’s name but seek daily how I may best honor and glorify my Lord.
He gives me love for myself enough to preserve and improve my life, so I am the best possible steward of His blessings to me. Even those who go through with suicide do not truly hate themselves, but instead abhor the anguish, confusion, and the tormenting emotions that make them feel separated from God, forgotten, or forsaken.
I recall wanting to end my life because I couldn't figure out how to improve it; that is proof that I had some measure of love for myself because I wanted my life to matter.
We all want our lives to matter. If we didn’t have this desire, no one would ever feel that his or her life didn’t matter. It is desperation, not lack of self-love that is responsible for suicide.
Ultimately, we find the answers and the purpose of life outside ourselves instead of by deep reflection and deeper/higher consciousness. The deeper we dive in ourselves and our psyche, the more confused and deceived we are.
Look to God and His holy Word for your understanding. Love others with self-sacrifice as Jesus taught in the parable of the good Samaritan. That is where you will find contentment, peace, and purpose.
It is important to be an aware Christian. We best know a counterfeit by knowing the real thing. That said, as a seasoned Christian who daily studied God’s Word, I have let many of the things listed below slip by the safety net and into my life and the lives of my loved ones. I am definitely not proud of this, but I mention it because it happens, even when we study and know God’s Word.
At the time of these items presenting in my life, the Holy Spirit gave me hesitancy and an opportunity to block them from our lives. Sadly, on many occasions I let busyness and laziness have the final say, letting these things creep in. On occasions when I didn’t sense the hesitancy from the Holy Spirit regarding the sins, I have no doubt that I was not in the Word as much as I needed to be and was therefore not as in tune with God and what He approves and disapproves.
Many of us have questions such as these:
At the end of this article, you will find links to excellent websites and YouTube channels with more information, including scriptures that command us to avoid these snares. My goal is to make you aware of some of these practices and items, so you can clear them from your life and home.
Some things may seem obvious, and others may surprise you. The real danger is in those things we allow into our lives and our thinking that we deem safe, neutral, or of God. Sometimes we base our personal standards on our own experiences, so if we try decreeing and declaring and then we get what we declared and decreed, we think God is in it and for it.
Sometimes we allow things because we see other “Christians” doing it. Especially if we see it frequently in “Christian” circles, we think it must be okay. This is very dangerous. We invite evil into our lives with our ignorance.
Please understand that anything with any spiritual connection cannot be neutral; it is either of God and for God or from the enemy and against God. Things like a football game can be neutral, but participating in yoga, thinking you are only exercising and stretching is an invitation for evil to pull you away from God.
Jessica Smith, a former Yoga instructor and Reiki healer, had world-renowned training and certifications but left that world and now spends her time educating others on the dangers of spiritual practices that invite evil. Please read her in-depth writings on these subjects and reference the studies she shares. Studies show that 60% of those who begin yoga only for physical health, continue after one year for spiritual reasons. Yoga is only one way we open ourselves up to evil. Again, I strongly urge you to please read her writings and even watch her testimony on YouTube with Doreen Virtue.
The best way for us to have spiritual discernment is to ask God earnestly for it and seek it in His Word, in a credible Bible, not a paraphrase like The Message or the Passion “Translation,” but in a legitimate translation such as KJV, ESV, CSB, HCSB, NET, NKJV, or even the NLT.
Also, understand that in a person born again because he/she trusts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit will give wisdom and discernment and even impress things upon our hearts. For example, when we commit to praying for someone daily, we may feel impressed to begin fasting also for that person. This is biblical and God-honoring; this is of God and for God.
However, many people confuse feelings they have and even words whispered to them by the enemy, thinking it is a special message or revelation from God. This is human error the enemy thrives on; it is a way he moves us away from God. If we value spiritual revelation or experience over what God’s Word says, we open ourselves up for much erroneous thinking.
Below you’ll see lists for common things, sayings, and practices to avoid. Our American society is saturated with these doors to evil. They are presented as helpful and certainly harmless, things to be sought after and attained. Remember that God’s Word warns in Matthew 7:13-14, “ Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Things to Avoid:
Though I may not agree with everything a pastor or preacher believes, I can glean much solid teaching on the most critical doctrine and life application questions from these sources.
I know to stay away from such teachings as those of the Word of Faith Movement, charismatic, New Apostolic Reformation, and more. However, there are many teachings and teachers who avoid these labels but teach erroneous doctrine. It is dangerous to buy into what they are selling. It weakens one’s own previous knowledge of important issues. There is much heresy and blasphemy taught in mainstream churches today. It is important to know what a church claims to believe, and it is even more important for you to know correct doctrine so you may easily identify right and wrong beliefs and teachings.
For example, I went to a few local church websites. When I saw that one church had nowhere stated their doctrinal beliefs but only repeated the importance of emulating the first century church, I instantly marked that church off my list of those who possibly are sturdy in the Word of God.
Although much of "progressive Christianity" isn't exactly labeled as such, I went to the official website for those who do identify as such to see what are their basic beliefs. Not only was I alarmed at their basic beliefs, I noticed their teaching is centered around their 8 points and not the Bible itself. That is a red flag in any church or denomination--when their emphasis is on their own interpretations instead of God's Word for each believer to learn and grow directly in truth.
Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ screams their "progressive" beliefs and practices with much pride. In fact "pride" is a general theme on every page from the homepage showing a picture of the church flying a large rainbow colored banner saying, "All Are Welcome" to their automatic slide show with LGBTQ+ rainbow painted hands and social activism showing congregants protesting for Black Lives Matter. The following statement is from the top of their webpage explaining the origin of the Progressive movement. *All bold type is as they have it on their page.
"The leaders of Progressive Christianity had grown weary of defining their Christian faith in negative terms: “We aren’t fundamentalists. We don’t believe the Bible is the inerrant or infallible word of God. We don’t agree that Creationism should replace the science of evolution in public schools. We don’t believe that God hates gays. We don’t believe that people of other faiths are going to hell unless they convert to Christianity. We don’t deny the right of women to choose what happens to their bodies.”
Not only have they twisted the true Christian beliefs and practices, but they have contrasted themselves in a way to cause confusion, disrespect, and even disgust for true Christianity in which God does not hate the sinner, but he hates the sin. Sinners choose to sin and thereby choose the consequences thereof. I could argue a lot here, but I will just stop at the first belief: "we don't believe the Bible is the inerrant or infallible word of God." Some may not understand what is wrong with this belief, but the danger is in placing value and credit on subjective personal experience more than the objective Word of Truth which will never change. The one, true God never changes. He is not surprised or ill-equipped to handle the issues of this generation, nor does He have different rules of operation for us than He did the first church.
Many mainstream Protestant Evangelical denominations, including Pentacostal, Assembly of God, charismatic, Open Bible Churches, and even many non-denominational churches place emphasis on experience over education in scripture. They emphasize apostolic gifts, such as speaking in tongues as proof of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. There is much danger in this. For one, if you watch a Pentacostal service and then watch a Kundalini Hindu awakening, you'll see the exact same things. It's not God that is present causing people to convulse and speak gibberish. Two, again notice the danger of valuing personal experience over the Word of God. There becomes doubt if you are saved if you don't have the convulsions, pass out, or speak nonsense gibberish. You doubt, others doubt, and then there's the temptation to "fake it" to fit in. Many people mistake emotional experiences for God-experiences. God is not the author of confusion. He is not present in any form in those worship "services." Third, read in Acts 2 about the signed, or apostolic, gifts. Read the specifics about how speaking in tongues was done. For an excellent teaching about this, see Justin Peters' teach in the 2nd episode of Clouds Without Water: "Mangled Manifestations" on YouTube.
Scripture teaches us to not place our love and devotion to anything before God:
Exodus 20:3-5— “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them”
Matthew 6:24— “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
Scripture warns to not be interested in or allow for yourself the false gods of other religions:
Deuteronomy 12:2-4— “Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place. Ye shall not do so unto the Lord your God.”
Judges 6:25—God told Gideon to destroy the altar to Baal. Doing so made the entire community seek to kill Gideon, but God had the final say and used Gideon to prove Himself to many. God said for Gideon to “throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it”
1 Kings 18:20-40—I love this account of the overwhelming number of prophets for the false god Baal who get shown up when the one, true God responds to Elijah’s act to show that He truly is the only real, living God.--
"So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.”
Scripture shows us the history of false prophets from the beginning of time and to expect false teachings in the name of Christ:
Jeremiah 14:14— “Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.”
Jeremiah 23:16-17— “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.”
Matthew 7:15-16— “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”
Matthew 24:11,24— “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”
Mark 7:6-9— “He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”
Acts 20:29-30— “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”
Romans 16:18— “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
2 Cor 11:13-15—In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he expressed his concern that they would be deceived by false prophets teaching a different gospel because there “are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
2 Timothy 4:3-4— “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
2 Peter 2:1-3— “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”
Jude 3-4— “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Scripture makes us aware that evil does have some power, but we are to remain with God and not be led astray:
Deuteronomy 13:1-3— “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Scripture warns against the love of money and value of personal wealth, which are in opposition to God:
Luke 12:15— “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”
1 Timothy 4:7-8— “But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
Scripture warns us against trusting our hearts, our emotions and experiences over God’s Word:
Jeremiah 17:9— “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
Proverbs 28:26— “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.”
Matthew 15:19— “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies”
Mark 7:21-23— “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”
Ephesians 4:17-18— “ This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart”
Scripture makes us aware that the natural man cannot understand the things of God:
1 Corinthians 2:14— “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
God’s Design for Filling Your Mind versus Meditation (Eastern or New Age emptying of the mind):
Philippians 4:6-9— “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6— “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”
Admonition to all Christians:
John 14:6— “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Matthew 7:13-23— “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
2 Corinthians 6:14-17— “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”
2 Peter 3:14-18— “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”
Bible Verses About Idols
doreenvirtue.com/Doreen Virtue, former best selling creator of New Age materials exposes the lies and shares the hope of truth
Why is prayer so important? Prayer is the foundation for your intimacy with God. Dr. Charles Stanley said, "It’s your intimacy with God that determines the impact of your life.” Prayer is getting done in the natural life what is already ordained in the supernatural. Ravi Zacharias said, “What Is Prayer?” Prayer is not seeking to change the will of God; it is communion with the living God such that He will change you to have the ability to receive what it is that He has for you.”
It is purposeful—Prayer aligns us with God’s will, shows us what to do, gives us inspiration to do it, and finally gives us peace and patience to wait on God.
Psalm 5:3—"My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.”
Acts 4:31—"And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
It prepares us—to live confidently in our relationship with God.
John 17:26—"And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Psalm 19:14—"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18—"Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
It is the promise of God’s Love—God loves us so much that He works everything to our good; and through prayer, He gives us the connection, strength, and wisdom we need to best maneuver in this life.
Luke 11:13—"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
Psalm 89:11—" The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them.”
It is about perspective—gives us a heavenly perspective, The Holy Spirit helps us pray in accordance with God’s will, changes our thinking, and aligns our attitudes and actions to God.
It is about enjoying God’s Presence--
Psalm 145:18—"The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.”
It is about practicing Our Faith--
Psalm 143:1—"Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.”
It is about parting ways with sin—Empowers us to walk away from personal wants and personal conflicts.
1 John 1:9—"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
It is about divine protection—God gives us special protection when we are aligned with Him through prayer.
Psalm 18:6—"In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.”
Psalm 118:5—"I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.”
Matthew 26:41—"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
It is trusting God for provision--
Matthew 6:11—"Give us this day our daily bread.”
It is the invitation to present your needs--
Hebrews 4:16—"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
It is personal—It is between you and God, but also as you intercede for others, even when they are unaware of your prayers for them, your personal relationship with them is strengthened and focused in the right direction.
It is a partnership with the Holy Spirit--
Romans 8:26—"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
It is a partnership with other believers--
Matthew 18:20—"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
The power of praying for others--
James 5:14-15—"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
Matthew 5:44—"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Job 42:10—"And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
There are many reasons to get serious in your prayer life this year. Number one being your relationship with God. Remember that it is only when we are aligned with God through prayer that we have the power of heaven on our side.
We all have a favorite season, and for many of us, our favorite is not winter. Many of us are drawn to the life, activity, and excitement of summer, the new growth and new life of spring, or the gentle stillness of autumn. Regardless of whether you are a winter fan or not, winter is essential to many life cycles and ecosystems around the world.
Typically, when thinking of our lives in seasons, we think of birth and the first few years as spring, childhood and early adulthood as summer, our decades of parenting and getting well established as autumn, and our later years as our winter. But that represents only one year over the span of a lifetime.
Lately, I have been trying my best to kick off a flare in some chronic illnesses I battle. Last night while lying in bed exhausted in another night of little sleep, I thought about how we have seasons of dormancy in life meant for us to slow down, change activity, and rest for the coming season of intense growth and change.
Our lives often repeat seasons that we can compare to the seasons of weather. Like being drawn to the sunshine of summer, we crave the productivity of our own summers. Winters of rest can feel depressing with their lack of activity and felt productivity.
Many plants of all types, from fragile flowers to towering trees, enter a state of rest and reduced activity during winter as critical preparation for their coming spring when new buds will break forth in new life and a massive increase in activity. This dormancy is like when animals hibernate to reduce energy use during winter when energy sources are less accessible. These correlating seasonal habits are essential to survival for the plants and animals through harsh winters and for maximum productivity in the spring.
The animals and plants prepare to face their winters. The gist of their plan is quite opposite to mine. They have no control over the coming winter. They simply prepare. God gives them innate knowledge of how to survive this harsh season beyond their control.
God gives us similar innate knowledge, but our pride gets in the way. Humans are the only creatures with a soul and rationality. With rationality and the ability to reason comes the flip-side—pride. Other creatures simply obey their innate knowledge to prepare for winter.
As far as winters in our lives are concerned, we fight tooth and nail, trying our best to exhibit control over anything concerning us. We crave normalcy. We try to maintain a homeostasis in life, not just our bodies. Ultimately, our desperate attempt to achieve and display normalcy kicks our body, mind, and spirit out of a healthy balance, further exacerbating any problems already present in our oncoming winter. Instead of accepting the season as it comes, we try to change the season, something typically beyond our control.
What if we recognized the necessity, usefulness, and beauty of winters in our lives? Would we then embrace and lean into them to learn what we can during such seasons instead of kicking and screaming in a tantrum-like attempt to make them change?
Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). He didn’t say this applied some of the time or most of the time. Since He gave no such specifics, we can understand His statement as a constant, as God is the only constant.
Whether it is a harsh winter, hot summer, or just the changing of the seasons, I need God’s constancy in my life. I need His constant love, His constant presence, His constant peace. This reminds me of the perfect peace, or shalom shalom mentioned only in Isaiah 26:3, my motto verse, which says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee.” The following verse applies to every season we face: Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength (Isaiah 26:4). Do you see the constancy?
We are to trust God and keep our minds on Him in every season because He is everlasting strength. Remember, He designed the seasons in nature and in our lives, so He knows our needs change, and He is already there ready with what we need. We need to trust Him, lean in, and know that He has us and our seasons in the palm of His constant-loving hand.
Jesus also said that in this world we will have tribulations, but to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). This tells us that we can expect ups and downs, ebbs and flows, and changing seasons, but in these we are to be of good cheer—the constant gift only the constant God can give.
Being of good cheer sometimes gets twisted into our thinking that we need to deny or defy our situation. God doesn’t tell us to do this, and we are given example after example of embracing, not rejecting, the various seasons in the nature God designed.
The heroes we look to in God’s Word had to embrace their different seasons to be effective. Look at Joseph’s many seasons as a hated brother, a prisoner, being in charge, and then helping and reuniting with his family. Look at Esther’s life: she went from being an exile and orphan to being a queen God used to save the Jewish people. We have plenty of examples from God’s Word and God’s design in nature to help us understand that our life will have different seasons, and there is a unique purpose even in the most painful seasons. Those seasons are necessary to prepare us for what is ahead.
Lean in and learn from your seasons; don’t fight against something you cannot control. Know that like the trees and the plants, your buds are bound up tight for the present moment but will burst through in new life in a season just around the corner.
If you are going through a winter right now, know that God is allowing it for your benefit. Lean into Him and the season you are in. Be present; don’t miss a moment, blessing, or lesson. Remember that winters are a season of less activity and seemingly less productivity, but they are necessary for the amazing spring and summer to come.
*Note: Seasons in life as discussed in this post refer to a natural order of life. I in no way advocate someone staying in a dangerous or life-threatening situation such as an abusive relationship.
I'm tired of running from God and am trying to learn to run to Him instead.