End Times – & All That Jazz


End-timers. You know the ones. They can be found around dinner tables, in their churches (with their pastors preaching about it!), and huddled in friendly groups, their voices high-pitched and their eyes casting anxiously about. For you. Many of them are looking for you.

You know the ones. The ones who aren’t saved. The ones who aren’t believers in the Word of God. OR – get this – the ones who are, but don’t agree with them.

I’m one of the latter. I have had this argument shoved in my face more times than I can count. It drives me batty, but I’ve come to realize that from people I know, it comes from a well-meaning place. Sort of.

Many times, I have tried to get my opinion – what I believe the Bible says – across to others. I don’t think I’ve ever actually been able to articulate it properly. Then, voila! Today I came across Acts 17: 30-31.

30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

Before you decide I’m trying to scare you just as much as radical end-timers, hear me out. I realized why I want you think about end times.

Because if you aren’t saved, if you don’t believe in Christ – guess what? You aren’t living right now. Right now – these are YOUR end times. You’re stuck, you’re in despair, you’re afraid of your own shadow – you are, in short, entirely miserable. And you don’t have to be!

Yes, the Bible tells us of signs that will occur when Christ comes back. And yes, I am one of those Christians who – personally – wants Him to come on! But on the other hand, what do end-timers miss?

The point – the entire point of Christ’s coming in the first place. To save. To heal. If the end times come quickly, how many lives will be lost to hell? Think about that, y’all. We still have time to usher others to Christ!

So here’s my take on end-times, if you’re still with me (and I hope you are). Nobody can tell when they’re coming. And pretending that we’re in them and you know it, especially if you’re a pastor, is a scare tactic. And thundering that opinion that we are in the face of other Christians is beyond rude. I’m sorry, but it is. We have enough petty, divisive issues we all need to get over, brothers and sisters. This is certainly one of them.

The Word says He will come “like a thief in the night.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). So there it is. If you can predict when a thief will target your home, then by all means – get in my face. Otherwise, keep your fears and your anger to yourselves. Please? Thank you.

I want y’all to experience the love of Christ. That’s my mission – my purpose. I know I have a ways to go! But I know I have been redeemed, my guilt and shame cast away, because of His love. That’s a wonderful thing! Blessings!

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The Lies of Satan


I am not about to tackle this topic in-depth because I do not have the knowledge to do it. But I came across an apportionment of Scripture to this effect and thought I’d share with you the following:

John 8: 42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. 43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. 44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. 45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.

Christ was speaking, at the time, to the men who wanted Him to stone an adulterous woman. Do you remember the story? He asked who should cast the first stone – because that person would have to be without sin. He was stooped, drawing in the sand, and was not looking at them. But when He did look up, He was all alone with the woman.

Apparently, these men sought Him out later and He had this to say to them – that they could not understand His message – the Gospel – because they were “of the devil.” Yes, satan is indeed the father of lies!

I’m not getting into the whys of it. You know why. It isn’t because you’re bad – it’s because he is! So why do we believe the lies of satan?

Because he attacks us at the most tender, hurtful, feeble places – our hearts and our minds. If you don’t know by now just how susceptible our minds are, you gotta do your research. Our minds can adjust to just about anything and when you couple that with a lack of faith, doubts about the Godhead, our own natural, human weaknesses, and the suffering and pain of life, voila! The slimy deeds of satan have fertile ground to take root.

Y’all, all the bad stuff we feel comes from the father of lies! Christ, God – the Spirit – they do not come to harm us. They come to heal us. There is a BIG difference between conviction – the goodness of God – and shame, guilt, and self-loathing – the freaking words of the damn devil. I’m not gonna apologize for that word – if it were up to me, God would send him straight back to hell where he belongs. So if I use a curse word, the one thing I’d used it against would be satan. He is damned! He has no place in the light. He is darkness.

Life is life. Bad things happen. Are every one of those instances of satan? Nope. Sometimes God puts us through trial to strengthen us. If you believe that we are here for the sole purpose of leading others to Christ, then how do you think you’re gonna do that if you’re not a pastor, say? Do you think your sheer example will always do the trick?  Or do you know that the suffering and pain you have endured has made you a creditable person to someone going through the same thing? A person who has zero hope?

Good things happen, too. They happen a whole lot more frequently when we get out of our own way. That’s not possible when we are letting the lies of satan determine our choices. Our lives. You can’t be a blessing to others – you can’t gain their consistent trust – if you aren’t living in the light of God. HE IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

Minding Your Own Beeswax & Whatnot


Oooooh, goody goody! I found a passage in Thessalonians that just made my heart sing! Some very simple verses caught my attention, and I promise I have done my due diligence in finding out what Bible commentator Matthew Henry says, but I can’t wait to add my own thoughts!

1 Thessalonians 4: Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

It’s actually verses 11-12 that I wish to have you consider this morning. So here we go!

  1. “To aspire to live quietly.” Henry’s observations coincided quite nicely with mine on this one. If you, like me, are not quiet by nature, this portion can be disheartening. But Henry and I agree that it means to have “a calm and quiet temper, and to be of a peaceable and quiet behavior.”

Whoops. He got me there at the end. Well, we can all agree that peace is of the utmost importance in this life when it comes to living a godly life. We aren’t to seek strife. We aren’t even to be striving all the time! Being calm and peaceful in a tense or negative situation is our aim. But Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for war and for peace (chapter three, verse eight) – basically a time for every purposed under heaven. So it’s the learning when to stay quiet and when to talk that’s difficult.

I think an excellent point about living a quiet life is akin to living a simple life. Complications steal our joy and peace, and while we all have to cope with complications every now and then, we don’t have to go looking for them – bringing them on ourselves!

For instance, as a mom, I have a choice: to employ my kids’ time in activities non-stop or to halt all the nonsense. It is nonsense! If your child has some ah-mazing athletic or musical gift, that’s one thing. But if you’re using sports and other extracurricular activities as babysitting or just because everyone else does i, you’re missing the point of a quiet life! SO many people complain about their time being sucked up by myriad events each week – even missing church on a regular basis! Well, y’all, you’re doing it to yourself.

2. “To mind your own affairs.” Well, this couldn’t be more clear! Henry explains why this causes a problem in our lives by stating the following: “Those who are busy-bodies, meddling in other men’s matters, generally have but little quiet in their own minds and cause great disturbances among their neighbors; at least they seldom mind the other exhortation, to be diligent in their own calling.”

Wow, Mr. Henry. Don’t sugarcoat it or anything! You see, he points out what we already know from personal experience – meddling in others’ problems just creates disquiet – angst – in our hearts!

3. “To work with your own hands” – this exhortation is two-fold, so let’s take the first. Does this mean that a businessman in a suit and tie, in a nicely temperature-controlled office, is doing something wrong?

No, it doesn’t. Works is work. Is physical labor more difficult than mental labor? Having done both, I’d have to answer in the affirmative. But that’s not what Paul is writing to the Thessalonians about!

What he meant was the work that God has called you to do. And that’s not necessarily your job. A pastor is working with his or her hands every moment, pretty much. Their work and their calling are the same. But what if, like my own husband, you have an office job and talent working on cars?

He’s in luck because twice a year, our church hosts a car-care service project. But if my husband only put those skills in serving others to use twice a year, he’d be wasting one of the gifts God gave him to help others! Instead, when he sees a need he pitches in, often spending his own money to do so. I could resent the time that occasionally takes away from his own family, but it clearly is a talent that he’s using to serve others. The work of his hands! Quite literally!

The work of your hands may be tutoring, singing in the church choir, teaching at school or at church – the things that come naturally to you are the things that God uses as your work. Now, when I typed the word “naturally” I had to remind myself of Moses.

Moses had zero desire to speak before Pharoah about God. Heck, he wasn’t too keen on going back to Egypt at all, seeing as how he murdered an Egyptian and that’s why we was out in the blasted desert in the first place! Not only did he have a fear of public speaking, but also he had a fear of being punished for murder!

Sometimes God takes our fears and erases them. Others He works with our natural abilities. In Moses’ case, He used his brother Aaron as the speaker. But Moses was the true leader! What might not seem natural to you at first can quite quickly become a natural talent.

Avoiding using these talents to serve God doesn’t just do Him a disservice!

4. “So that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” Henry wrote that the command to use the work of our hands “is enforced with a double argument; namely, So we shall live creditably. Thus we shall walk honestly, or decently and creditably, towards those that are without.”

God is clear – it’s not honest living to keep our gifts to ourselves. My husband could use his talent of working on cars to only serve our own family. That wouldn’t cost him as much money as it would to give that service away to someone else – even a stranger!

We once gave an old car away to a single mother. When we did, we put in the most expensive battery we could buy, knowing she wouldn’t have the money to replace it. At the very least, it bought her some time.

Does that make us super-special Christians? NOT AT ALL! Following God’s commands – obeying what He tells us to do – doesn’t make anyone super-special. It’s just what we’re expected to do.

Go be a blessing with your talents and gifts today!

 

The Work of Faith


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John 6: 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

The Bible passage above is quite a revelation! I think it means that when we think of “work” and how it relates to our salvation, we think of “works” instead. Good works. Living a godly life. The phrase that easily convinces us that good works get us into heaven far more believably than simply believing in Christ does.

So, we spend most of our lives trying to “be good,” and if you’re like me, failing miserably at it. Which then leads to confusion over our own salvation. And because no one wants to talk about their own sin, we believe we’re the only ones who are such miserable failures. Even when someone prominent, like a transparent pastor, admits to his or her own sins, we think – nah. It’s just a story. It doesn’t count because surely this person is so amazing and Spirit-filled that he/she is going to heaven no matter what.

John makes it clear, y’all. The “work” of faith is simply faith.

If you think that sounds easy, then you haven’t had your faith sorely tested yet! Mine is on a regular basis. But then, I’m a cynical, distrustful person. So faith is super-hard for me. Even those of you who see the best in people – who are so darn optimistic – there will come times in your lives when your faith is put into question, and Jesus is telling us that it is those times when the “work” comes into play.

 

Change of Plans


When I got married the second time around, I had a job. I rather liked it. It required definite use of brain cells. Being a mom, much of the job is menial, tedious, mind-numbing work. It doesn’t take a genius to wash clothes and wipe booties.

Well, six months later I was laid off. A second baby was well on the way. Did I ever picture that as my life? Of course not! I had big dreams, like most people. As a teenager, I read The Lost City.  Never again did I want to be an ordinary journalist. I wanted to some day work at a foreign news desk. For The Washington Post!  I never made it out of middle-sized small town papers. Thank God. I would have sucked at being a reporter at a bigger place. I just wasn’t meant to do it, I guess.

So not one of those big dreams came true. Because it’s just not what my life is supposed to be, and you know what? I’m ok with that. Because my big dreams are different now. Maybe not as exciting in the world’s eyes, but they’re pretty major to me.

I’m reading Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. Today’s quote that sent me hurrying to blog is this: “If we don’t prepare to modify our plans, we will end up more and frustrated and overwhelmed.”

As women who marry and intend to – one day – have children, inevitably, we are surprised when they come. We aren’t just “not ready” – we don’t always want one right then. We have jobs. A social life. Spontaneity. And then we rearrange our lives for a period of time – forever or just six weeks or so – and change course. That’s our new direction.

Maybe we want a second child – in theory. I did. Guess what day I decided maybe I didn’t? Yep. The same day I found out I was pregnant with said second child. I am not kidding. It was probably an hour before I took the pregnancy test.

Wowza. Change course again. New life begins. Life gets more complicated.

I admit I have been adrift for years. It’s very unpleasant. It’s only been about six months since things really began to look up. Prior to that, I did not know what the plan was, so I kept doing what I was doing. Being a wife and mom. A writer. A nose-wiper. A daughter, friend, and neighbor.

It isn’t that now I see some deep plan unfolding in a vision. It’s an energy I feel. I know something different is on the way!

If your life is stuck, pray. If your life is moving forward and you aren’t sure exactly where God is taking it, pray! He might not reveal all just yet. But Shirer is right – you don’t want to be frustrated and overwhelmed when you suddenly wake up and realize your entire life plan has changed and you somehow forgot!

The Golden Tumors


Today’s blog post concerns the words of the Philistines in 1 Samuel 6. I have read this passage many times, and not once did it occur to me how absolutely ridiculous the pagans were in response to God’s wrath against them. Check this out!

1.The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months.And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us with what we shall send it to its place.” They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why his hand does not turn away from you.” And they said, “What is the guilt offering that we shall return to him?” They answered, “Five golden tumors and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for the same plague was on all of you and on your lords. So you must make images of your tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand from off you and your gods and your land. Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed? Now then, take and prepare a new cart and two milk cows on which there has never come a yoke, and yoke the cows to the cart, but take their calves home, away from them. And take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt offering. Then send it off and let it go its way and watch. If it goes up on the way to its own land, to Beth-shemesh, then it is he who has done us this great harm, but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us; it happened to us by coincidence.” (ESV)

As it turns out, as soon as they set the cows free, the animals plodded along to Beth-Shemesh, and what a rejoicing it was to the people of that region!

But…why all the protocol in the first place, when all the Philistines had to do was hook up a wagon or whatnot and send it on its way?

So so easy to make fun of those stupid Philistines. What neanderthals. But y’all, if we don’t stop and consider how we do the same thing, then what is the point of this chapter in the Good Book?

Don’t believe me? Then think about how we all ritualize our lives! It doesn’t even have to apply to our relationship with God. What is a ritual if not a series of steps achieved to arrive at a certain goal? For example – we can’t relax if we don’t first complete A,B, and C. Our child isn’t properly Christian if it’s not christened. Our child isn’t properly Christian if it is.

God didn’t make up these rules – man did. And yet we accuse one another of blaspheming the Lord if people don’t do things our way. And yet all this posturing, this false hoping, this process – is putting a golden tumor on a slab of wood and sending it off with desperate prayers to one god or idol or another in hopes of success.

The only success we can possibly have is with God, and He doesn’t require elaborate reinventions of the wheel, y’all! He just wants us.

We don’t have to make Him complicated. He is already so far out of our reach it’s not funny. We will never be able to understand Who and What He is. He just is, and as A.W. Tozer wrote, we should spend time contemplating that. How big and wide and deep His love – His very being, which is love – is. Tozer went on to write that we are secularizing our religion.

By including these tumors, and the elaborate steps the Philistines took to try to please a god they did not know, all they did was add unnecessary work! What were the Philistines, if not Gentiles? And had they stopped for a moment to ponder the implications, they could have found the True God – the Truth – and let go of their pagan ways. But they didn’t, and y’all, even us Christians don’t really do that.

Tozer was SO right when he wrote that we try to compartmentalize God so that we bring Him down to our level. By believing in and worshiping pagan gods, people are able to bring “order” to their lives. But they simply complicate it! There is no order! God is HUGE. He doesn’t operate in a way that we can box in. A way that we can fully understand, and that’s the beautiful mystery of it all!

Making a Wrong Thing Right


While reading Numbers 5, I came across something I found interesting. See the verses:

Numbers 5: And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed.[b] And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. But if the man has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the Lord for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for him.

I was surprised recently during a church Bible study to find that people do not understand the Biblical need to apologize when they have done something wrong, or have hurt someone without meaning to.

But Numbers tells us that the Bible’s instructions on making amends goes deeper than that. Not only must you first apologize to man, but you must also apologize to God.

No, there is no need for sacrifice. Numbers is in OT territory. However, read those verses again. For those of you who “hate to apologize” think of it this way – you don’t have to seek out the family of the injured party.

Someone once said something to me I will never forget: “I never apologize, and I won’t apologize to you!”

Of course it made me angry, but y’all, more than that, it made me sad. The relationships around this person have rippled out into people who think that when they do something wrong, they have no accountability for it. They don’t seem to care how much it hurts others to avoid responsibility and in fact are rather prideful about it. You see, our actions – good or bad – affect everyone around us.

No one likes to apologize, especially if we didn’t do something wrong on purpose or we did something with good intentions that just went wrong. But God instructs us to do it. Why?

Matthew Henry’s Commentary states it like this: “If a man overreach or defraud his brother in any matter, it is to be looked upon as a trespass against the Lord, who is the protector of right, the punisher of wrong, and who strictly charges and commands us to do justly.”

You see, as God’s people, when you commit a sin of wrongdoing against your fellow man, you commit a wrongdoing against God.