The Darkness

Oh, the darkness, where all sorts of evil is wrought…

“There are those who rebel against the light,
who do not know its ways or stay in its paths.

“When daylight is gone, the murderer rises up,
kills the poor and needy,
and in the night steals forth like a thief.

“The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk;
he thinks, ‘No eye will see me,’
and he keeps his face concealed.

“In the dark, thieves break into houses,
but by day they shut themselves in;
they want nothing to do with the light.

“For all of them, midnight is their morning;
they make friends with the terrors of darkness.

“…But God drags away the mighty by his power;
though they may become established, they have no assurance of life.
He may let them rest in a feeling of security,
but his eyes are on their ways.

“For a little while they are exalted, and then they are gone;
they are brought low and gathered up like all others;
they are cut off like heads of grain.”
Job 24:13‭-‬17,22-24

And, I don’t read books like the following very often (since it’s generally considered in Protestant circles to be an /addition/ to the Bible), but nonetheless this quote is very fitting, tying right into the above:

“For he which is Lord over all shall fear no man’s person, neither shall he stand in awe of any man’s greatness: for he hath made the small and great, and careth for all alike.”
Wisdom of Solomon 6:7

God doesn’t care who you are – He doesn’t show favoritism (Romans 2:11); He is going to judge you for what /you’ve/ done (Matt 16:27, Jeremiah 17:10, Romans 2:6), and if you are one who loves the darkness and continues in evil, there will come a day when you will stand before your Maker and will perish (Revelation 20:12-15, Galatians 6:7-8). You will be thrown into unquenchable fire in which you will be tormented forever (Revelation 21:8, Matthew 13:49-50).

Don’t choose to die. Turn from your evil ways and live. (Ezekiel 33:11)

Even if you consider yourself a Christian, examine yourself (2 Corinthians 13:5). What does your life /really/ look like? Are you following Jesus, or have you forsaken Him to go your own way (Luke 9:23-26, Revelation 2:4-5)?

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
John 3:19-‬21

Jesus is the light. Turn away from your sinful ways and come to Him:

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”
John 8:12

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Testimony of Life-Change

I am so thankful for where God has continued to bring me in life. I was just reading over some of my journal entries from years past, and as I think back and remember, I am so glad I’m not where I was. I’m so glad that God let my path be shaped the way it’s been shaped; so glad at the failed relationships, the roads that came to nothing, the dreams that died; so glad at the worthless, sinful crap that’s been pruned right off of my life; so glad that He cared enough to have /His/ way in my life instead of my own.

And I’m glad I listened. I’m glad I listened to His gentle (and sometimes rebuking) voice as He told me I was on the wrong path, headed for destruction.

Man, I did some really dumb things. And I’ve been very selfish… Sensual, controlling, angry, petty… But God gets the glory for redeeming my life from the pit! I thank the Lord for really being my Lord, not just in name but in reality. I thank Him for getting my attention and steering me where I did not want to go, because He knew it would lead me to life – true, satisfying, eternal life.

Can I just say… Living for yourself is not worth it.

It’s not worth it to get upset when others don’t “meet your needs;” it’s not worth it to complain and talk about all the things that are going /wrong/ in life; it’s not worth it to hold bitterness in your heart or let life get you mad.

All those things can be dropped off at Jesus’ feet. As Todd White is fond of saying (paraphrasing), “When I became a Christian, God cancelled my lifetime subscription to Issues.” Or, as the apostle Paul says, in talking to believers who were literally suing each other, “Why not rather be wronged?” In other words, let people do as they will – people will do hurtful things – but you don’t need to /be/ hurt by them, and you certainly don’t need to retaliate.

All this to say, God is good. And we would really do ourselves some good to listen to Him. He really does know best. I am thankful that in spite of my shortcomings over the years, God has used me and helped me to grow, and I pray that we would all become more and more His servants and less and less of our own masters.

By His Spirit we can.
Amen.

Break Up With The Devil

When you become a Christian, “you break up with the devil, you give him back his stuff, and you quit hanging out with him and his friends.” (Dean Odle)

A good, strong picture of the level of repentance we ought to have in forsaking everything to follow Jesus. No longer are we to be tied to this world-system governed by Satan, no longer are we to live to please the flesh (doing all the things /we/ want to do), but instead we are to offer all that we are (spirit, soul, and body) to Jesus in worship and reverent service, trusting /Him/ to meet our every need.

A well-known, but simple and fitting verse that speaks to this end is Romans 12:1-2:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

As Jesus simply put it, “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33)

Speaking to being either a child of the devil or a child of God, John writes:

“Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.” (1 John 3:7-10)

So, let us /no longer/ walk in the ways of the devil, partnering with those who live lives of darkness and sin; but rather, let’s make sure to “break up with the devil, give him back his stuff, and quit hanging out with him and his friends.” (Dean Odle)

Deceptive Churches

It’s depressing seeing the condition of the church at large today… There’s a lot of deception, a lot of subtlety…

And, in some ways, it’s not all the church’s fault – they’re just helpless sheep following their misguided leaders.

See, all that subtlety and deception – that’s exactly how the Adversary has always worked. He likes taking part of the truth and mixing it with his own lies.

I see churches today who “preach” a lot of love, a lot of grace, and yet they completely miss the gospel. There’s no mention of sin, no mention of repentance, often no mention of Jesus’ cross and His blood’s atonement for our sin. Instead what we hear is how we were “born to live wild” and “free” and that God came to restore us to our created value.

And again, there’s some truth in that. But salvation is more than just an awakening of our true worth and value; it’s more than becoming alive and “jumping in the river.” Salvation is turning away from our old path of sin and selfishness and kneeling at the foot of the cross, where Jesus paid for our pardon with His own blood. It’s embracing the risen Savior who conquered death. And it’s choosing to live a new life by the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit.

It’s a broken man realizing he is broken and headed to destruction and acknowledging that hope can only be found in Jesus Christ.

See, these false, deceived churches speak a lot about love – but love is more than an experience; it’s more than the warm fuzzies you get from being “in Daddy’s presence.” Love isn’t afraid to speak up and tell you the truth, even when it hurts. And the truth is, this world, for the most part, is on the path to destruction, and no amount of positive experiences or spiritual encounters or even singing of worship songs with hands outstretched to heaven is going to save that person.

Only Jesus can save. As it is written, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

And don’t be deceived, not everyone who claims the name of Jesus is His. As Jesus Himself said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

Later on, the apostle Paul also testified:

“You know that wicked people will not inherit the kingdom of God, don’t you? Stop deceiving yourselves! Sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunks, slanderers, and robbers will not inherit the kingdom of God.

“That is what some of you were! But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus the Messiah and by the Spirit of our God.”
(1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

If you are living in sin, you might be well in the right to be concerned about your eternal fate. After all, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (1 Corinthians 5:17)

If you’re still living in the old way of life, what has really changed? What kind of gospel did you accept?

Friend, be careful:

“If, after escaping the world’s corruptions through a full knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Messiah, they are again entangled and conquered by those corruptions, then their last condition is worse than their former one.

“It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to know it and turn their backs on the holy commandment that was committed to them.

“The proverb is true that describes what has happened to them: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and ‘A pig that is washed goes back to wallow in the mud.'”
(2 Peter 2:20-22)

We simply cannot continue to live in sin as children of God. To do so is to spit in the face of our Savior, to return to our own vomit.

But these big churches don’t tell you anything about sin. Instead, they promise without reservation, as if speaking on God’s behalf, “Who said you were unworthy of My love? It wasn’t Me.” Yet how can you promise what you have not offered in the first place? When you have not even explained the gospel in real truth and clarity, how can you promise peace?

They are just like the false prophets and deceptive priests of old:

“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)

Hear me out, people… We live in evil times. There’s blatant evil all around, that’s for sure, but there’s also plenty of evil operating under the guise of righteousness:

“Such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14)

Keep a watchful eye and a vigilant spirit. Stay in the Word. Know it. Turn away from your sins and follow Jesus.

As it is written,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

And,

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8)

Let us not become entangled in strange teaching that promises life but delivers only emotional highs. Instead, let us hold true to “the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” (Jude 1:3)

May we do so in Jesus’ name and by His power. Amen.

Science Speaks; the Bible Speaks “Backwards”

Sometimes I feel like modern science says everything backwards compared to the Word of God…

For instance, scientists tell us the earth is spinning and orbiting the sun, but God’s Word says:

“He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.”
– Psalm 104

Scientists tell us the sun is older than the earth, but God’s Word tells us that the sun wasn’t made until the fourth day of creation, after the earth had already been made:

“God made two great lights–the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. … And there was evening, and there was morning–the fourth day.”
– Genesis 1:16,19

Scientists have told us that the “atmosphere becomes thinner and thinner with increasing altitude, with no definite boundary between the atmosphere and outer space” (Wikipedia), but God’s Word tells us there is a hard firmament above our heads, with waters above it:

“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.” – Genesis 1:6-7

“Can you join him [God] in spreading out the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze?” – Job 37:18

“Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.” – Psalm 148:4

Scientists tell us the sun, moon, and stars are inconceivably great distances away from us, but God tells us He placed these lights inside the firmament, which functions as a tent-like barrier:

“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:” – Genesis 1:14

“The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent” – Psalm 104:2

“In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.” – Psalm 19:4b

Scientists tell us the earth goes around the sun, but God’s Word tells us the sun circuits the earth (continuing from the verse I just quoted):

“It [the sun] is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.”
– Psalm 19:5-6

I could go on, but in sum, it seems like if you take the Bible literally, there’s quite a difference of opinion on these things…

And certainly, you can feel free to believe as you like. I’m more than aware that going against the grain of scientific thought isn’t exactly popular, but personally, I’m trying to be true to what I believe God has said. And I know many people will interpret these verses that I’ve quoted figuratively, saying that they don’t literally mean what they say, but inasmuch as I’m able, I’m trying to take what God says at face value, because I don’t want to fall into the doubt that Satan is so fond of introducing (“Did God really say…?” – Genesis 3:1)

Just some food for thought… Feel free to disagree. What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Persecution, One Christian To Another

I thought this had a lot of truth in it, especially relevant to those of us who live in the West — a good call to consider how we treat our brothers and sisters in the Lord…

Brother Yun, a Christian from China, after being attacked in an article by someone he’d never met who was saying all kinds of false and negative things about him, said this:

“In China I had been used to beatings, torture with electric batons, and all kinds of humiliation. I guess that deep in my heart I had presumed that now I was in the West my days of persecution had ended.

“I couldn’t understand how someone who had never met me could write such a nasty article. I complained to my Christian friends, ‘Why don’t these people call us and read the documents? I don’t understand! Why don’t they find the truth out for themselves? It’s right here for them to see!’

“My translator told me, ‘Brother Yun, these people don’t want to know the truth. That’s why they’re not calling you or wanting to meet you. In China, Christians are persecuted with beatings and imprisonment. In the West, Christians are persecuted by the words of other Christians.'”

Dang…

And that’s the sad state of our world today — we would rather strike down our own and openly slander them or gossip about them than choose to suspend judgement and talk to that person directly.

As James tells us, “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.” (James 4:11)

Instead, if we really think a brother or sister is in the wrong, we need to speak to them personally:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matthew 18:15)

It’s only after they personally refuse to listen to you that we have any right to get other people involved:

“But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:16-17)

If you look for it, you can find bad things about anyone. But that should not be our goal. We need to be willing to /love/ others and give them the benefit of the doubt. For,

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7)

Do you see that? “Always trusts.”

So may that be the attitude of our hearts — to trust that our brothers and sisters are in the right. And if we have any reason to doubt their walk or doctrine, may we come to them personally and seek out the truth for ourselves, knowing that we will all be judged someday:

“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” (Romans 14:10)

Following God is Serious Business

You know, walking with Jesus is serious business… A lot more serious than we make it out to be. I believe now is a good time to acknowledge (myself included) the weight of this calling.

As Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Or, a little further on, “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (vs. 33)

That’s /everything/, y’all. Nothing can take precedence above Jesus. If Jesus isn’t your everything, then you’re missing the point.

In another place, Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

There are a lot of people who are walking around, deceived. They may be religious, they may even claim to know Jesus, but when it comes down to it, if they don’t come to God on His terms, they will perish.

Jesus puts it rather plainly, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Seriously, think about it, if you saw someone who was operating in the power of God — prophesying, casting out demons, performing miracles, and doing so “in Jesus’ name” — what would you think of that person? Perhaps, depending on your denomination, you may be skeptical about what they’re doing, but nonetheless you would probably not think them a bad person — after all, they’re doing it all in the name of Jesus. Yet Jesus Himself tells us that they can do all these things… and still not be right with God. Without a real commitment to God, they would literally die and go to hell.

It’s serious business.

As it is written elsewhere, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)

See, Jesus doesn’t just want our lip-service (1 John 3:18). He wants our hearts. He wants our life.

For, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

And, “You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

God owns us. Don’t you think that means we ought to serve Him?

Think even of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They were well-regarded and highly-esteemed. Just about everyone thought they were the pinnacle of right-living. But what did Jesus say about them?

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-28)

It’s time for people to wake up! It’s not about merely professing to know God; it’s about actually knowing Him and living and abiding with Him in true fellowship and obedience.

As Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:1-4)

And, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

We need to remain in God. Do you see it? “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (vs. 4b)

So, let’s remain in Him, and we’ll see Him produce in us all kinds of fruit for the glory of His Name.

Hear this final word from the Scriptures:

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,

“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”

And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:35-39)

May it be so! Come, Lord Jesus, and find us as your spotless bride (Ephesians 5:27), unpolluted by the world (2 Peter 1:4). And help us, Father, to remain in the love of Jesus, even as Jesus Himself remains in Your love (John 15:10) and lives in perfect harmony with You (John 10:30). Unite us also in harmony with You (John 17:21) that we may live the life that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:19) and not be deceived (Galatians 6:7) by all the enticement of the world (1 John 2:15-17) and the deception of our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). Amen!