Misplaced Gratitude

Have you every heard someone say they are blessed or that they are thankful for something?  This time of year, you probably are hearing that a lot.  There is something about the Thanksgiving holiday that makes people feel sentimental and think about what is right about their lives.  However, have you ever stopped to wonder if they know by whom they have been blessed or to whom they should be thankful? 

James 1:17 (New International Version) tells us that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  The good things in our lives were given to us by our Creator God.  If we are blessed, it is because God blessed us.  If we have things to be thankful for, it is because God gave us those things.

Sometimes I think that our gratitude is misplaced.  We feel blessed because we did a good job at something.  When things are going the way they should, we are thankful because of the circumstances.  What we do and our circumstances are not the true sources of gratitude.  If we leave God out of our thanksgiving, who is left to thank but ourselves?  That is misplaced gratitude.  It is a prideful, self-centered sort of thankfulness.  We have nothing that has not come from God.  We are nothing that is not enabled by God.   

To just be thankful without knowing to whom you should be thankful is meaningless.   We need to give credit where credit is due:  to God.  God deserves our gratitude.  He deserves the glory for every good and perfect give that has been given. 

What is God’s Will for My Life?

If you’ve ever wondered what God’s will for your life is, I have the answer.  Well, I don’t have the answer.  The answer comes from God’s Word, and it’s pretty clearly stated in Ephesians 1:4-6. 

Ready?  The answer is that you were chosen:

  • To be holy and blameless before God
  • To be adopted as God’s child
  • To the praise of his glorious grace

So what is God’s will for you life?  Let’s go over it again.  God’s will is that you be holy and blameless before Him because you’re His kid, and this brings Him glory. 

There is no great mystery.  It really is that simple.  Obey God, knowing He loves you as a Father, because it brings God glory for you to do this. 

Simply put: God’s will is that you bring Him glory as His child by how you live your life.

What is God Trying to Teach Me?!

Today, the springs on our garage door broke, incapacitating the garage door and opener.  Thank God that my car was not parked inside!  It wouldn’t be such a huge deal except that this is just another broken thing in a long line of breaking things!

First, my bathroom vanity lights went out.  We have yet to be able to figure out, without the help of an electrician at least, how to get those back on.  Then our front door light went out.  Apart from purchasing a new one, this fixture seems irrevocably broken. 

Next, the water softener began making very loud noises in the middle of the night.  Thankfully, that was replaced at no little expense. 

Next, the washing machine began sounding like a jet engine ready for take-off.  Yet another appliance to replace and more money out the door. 

My husband’s brother, who has Down Syndrome, put a plastic lid down our toilet causing it to plug and creating a plumbing issue. 

Then, our dishwasher, which we had actually just replaced under warranty due to the first one being a lemon, started leaking all over our carpet.  This less than a year old appliance had a seal that was broken.  Parts are on order with no ETA as to when that will get fixed.  There seems to be a parts shortage currently.  Something about a chip…

And now the garage door. 

My mom asked me what I thought God was trying to teach me. 

I replied, “Perhaps He wants me to learn how to be an appliance repairman?” 

It reminds me of a joke I heard Patsy Clairmont make once.  She said, “When Jesus said in this world you will have trouble, He wasn’t kidding.” 

I guess in the grand scheme of things, these many issues are not all that bad.  Events in my life could be a lot worse!  Being able to come up for air every now and again might be nice though, especially after the year that was 2020! 

What is God trying to teach me?  It’s not a hard lesson.  It’s something I know already and just need to be reminded of.  I need to turn my eyes on Him.  Look full into His face.  Then these crazy material issues “will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace” (Lemmel, 1922)! 

Oh, and maybe I should bookmark a few good DIY appliance repair websites. 

Reference

Lemmel, H. H. (1922).  Turn your eyes upon Jesus. https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Turn_Your_Eyes_upon_Jesus/

Law Boxes or Faith

Do you live in law boxes or in relationship with Christ? There is a huge difference. Once represents dead faith. The other represents life and freedom.

Let me explain. Many believers claim to have faith in Christ, yet they keep trying to go back to law to earn favor from God. Their focal point becomes doing things that give the appearance of being good. Life becomes a list of do’s and don’ts…rules upon rules. The more rules you follow, the more holy you become. Self-righteousness becomes the modus operandi for being right before God. Setting your hope on the flesh in this manner leads to death (cf. Romans 7, 8; Galatians 2:15-21).

The opposite is true when you put your faith in Christ, truly in Christ alone. When your focal point is Christ, the Holy Spirit does the work to grow and change you. The closer you grow to Christ, the more holy you become. God does the work to make you righteous. We are given life and peace…grace upon grace. If the Spirit of God dwells in you, you belong to Christ and are conferred His righteousness (cf. Romans 7, 8; Galatians 2:15-21).

One way is self-righteousness. The other is Christ’s righteousness. One way is living in law boxes. The other way is living in freedom. One way is death. The other is life.

Do you want to live in a box or in the freedom that comes in Christ? True holiness comes from grace not law keeping. Live a life with your faith in your own self-righteousness is a losing battle. You will never get there. The only thing you will become is really good at being a Pharisee.

Get out of your law boxes and live by faith in Christ. To live is Christ.

Acknowledgement: I’d like to thank Jesse Caro from United Baptist Church in part for inspiring these thoughts because of his faithful preaching of God’s Word!

Experience Life

Whispering in your ear, the evil one says, “Experience life.” 

You take that first hit thinking, “I know people have told me it’s dangerous, but I need to experience life.”

Seductive and cunning, the tempter says, “What’s it going to hurt.  Now this is living!”

And down the path of destruction you go. 

The wicked one calls the path to death life.  The father of all lies has been doing it from the beginning.  He started with, “Did God actually say…” Then he moved to, “You will be like God knowing everything…now that is really living!”  And we’ve been falling for those deceptions hook, line, and sinker ever since. 

When we “experience life” the way satan wants us to, we walk down the path that leads to destruction.  Destruction is not truly living life.  It is like walking a plank over shark infested waters and thinking, “I think I’ll go for a swim.”  The jump off may feel exhilarating, but the end result leads to certain death.

The age-old lie of the evil one is designed to take away your life.  John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  It is through Christ that we truly experience life.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

We all have crossroad moments.  Those moments where the tempter says, “Did God actually say?  Common man, experience life!”

Don’t buy the lies.  Choose truth.  Choose real life in Christ that you might live (Deuteronomy 30:19).

“My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live…” (Proverbs 7:1-2a). 

A Prayer for the United States of America

Lord, Deliver us from the evil that has taken over our country (Matthew 6:13).  Expose the unfruitful works of darkness that are so prevalent in our government officials (Ephesians 5:11).  Protect those in office who fear you and stand up for what is right (I Timothy 2:1-4).  Show us the truth and guide us in wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, 2:6; Psalm 111:10; James 1:5).  We come to You humbly in the name of Jesus, praying and seeking Your face.  Your children desire that this country will turn from its wicked ways knowing You will hear us and heal this land if this is what You have willed (2 Chronicles 7:14).  In Jesus’ holy name.  Amen. 

To Lie or Not to Lie: That is the Question

“Because the governor has mandated masks, we ask that if you conscientiously object to wearing masks, that you just don’t come to church.”

Many God-fearing followers of Christ are hearing these words, or words like them, coming from the lips of their pastors these days.  They are being told they are not welcome at their own church, in their own church families.  They are being excluded from fellowship and worship.  The justification?  Well of course, Romans 13 tells us to blindly obey the government no matter what.

What I hear these pastors saying is that it is okay for you to lie as long as you are obeying the government.  It is okay to give false pretense because you have been told to do it by a politician.  It is okay for you to bear false witness.  After all, it’s the kind thing to do for your neighbor.

You see, I’ve done a lot of research on this topic.  Medical experts (real experts, not politically motived experts) say, “Cloth masks will be ineffective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, whether worn as source control or as personal protective equipment (PPE)” (Singleton, 2020).  Furthermore, “Surgical masks are better than cloth but not very efficient at preventing emissions from infected patients” (Singleton, 2020).  Additionally, medical experts suggest that face masks can actually pose significant health risks to people who are not sick (Blaylock, 2020).

For me to wear a face mask knowing what I know is lying.  I know they do not work, especially not the little makeshift cloth masks that everyone is wearing.  You know, the masks you see nearly everyone wearing which they believe is providing protection against the “monster” virus.  I know these face masks can make people sick.  There are countless research studies that point to these concerns (cf. the source of scholarly research studies at Blaylock, 2020).  If I wear a face mask knowing these things, I am bearing false witness to my neighbors.

I’m not the kind of person that just blindly does what I’m told by whatever person allegedly in a position of authority over me tells me to do to.  Scripture tells us to test everything (cf. I Thessalonians 5:21), so I do.  This is why God gave us his Word.  Everything must hold up against the Word of God in context.  Passages of Scripture do not exist in a vacuum apart from other portions of Scripture.  If this were true, I could interpret a passage of Scripture to fit into the narrative I need it to at any given moment in time.  This is not rightly dividing the Word of Truth (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15).

I say this because while Romans 13 tells us to be subject to the governing authorities, Scripture also tells us not to lie (cf. Exodus 20:16; Proverbs 6:16-19, 12:19, 12:22, 19:5, 19:9; Psalm 101:7; John 8:44; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9-10; I John 2:4…need I go on?).

The government is telling you to wear a mask to protect those around you…to be unselfish…to be kind…to stop the spread of a virus.  However, scientific research suggests mask wearing does just the opposite of what politicians are saying.  Therefore, if I wear a mask because the government tells me to, I am giving credence to the government’s narrative for wearing a mask which is a complete falsehood based on what is known by experts who actually practice medicine in the real world!   I am telling those around me to believe the lie.  I am telling my neighbor that I agree with the false narrative.  I am suggesting that I believe what I am doing is protecting others when it is in fact only giving them a false sense of security.  I am encouraging them to continue to live in fear.  God has not given us a spirit of fear (cf. 2 Timothy 1:7).

So no, pastor.  I am not going to lie to obey the government (not to even mention that these mandates are not laws, so they are not being established following the governing authority of the Constitution of the United States…but that is an entirely different story).  I am not going to bear false witness to others and call it the Christian thing to do.  And I can’t really believe the shepherds of the flock are letting the wolves dictate what goes on inside God’s holy church, although I am not surprised.  It has been done before.  “I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness; they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah” (Jeremiah 23:14 King James Version).

 

 

 

 

References

Blaylock, R. (2020).  Neurosurgeon: Face masks pose serious risks to healthy individuals.  Principia Scientific International.  Retrieved from https://principia-scientific.com/neurosurgeon-face-masks-pose-serious-risks-to-healthy-individuals/

Singleton, M. M. (2020).  Mask facts.  Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.  Retrieved from https://aapsonline.org/mask-facts/?fbclid=IwAR1kdBo4vFBlzLVfwGi8US7Mv0JV2ROPkBLcIEQOSjzYWO1ZKCclviq4hJw

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare”

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare…” (Proverbs 29:25a NIV)

I’ve never understood this passage more than at this very moment in history.  I see people walking around afraid of other people, terrified and freaked out that the human being in their line of vision is going to give them a “deadly” virus.  People have become the enemy.  People have become inhuman and immaterial to others.  The fear of man has indeed become a snare to common decency, human connectedness, and just general kindness and love for another human being.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” (Proverbs 1:7a NIV).

When I think about those two verses in comparison with one another, it leads me to several questions. If my fear of man is greater than my fear of the Lord, what does that say about me?  If I am living in anxiety that I might get a virus, am I living in the fear of the Lord?  If I’m not living in the fear of the Lord, what does that likely mean?

What is ruling your mortal body at this moment in time?  How are you looking at other people?  Are you looking at them as the enemy?  Are you looking at them as someone who might have the “monster virus who is looking for bodies to jump into” as Ohio’s governor termed it in one of his fear-mongering speeches?  Are you living on the emotional roller coaster that is fear and panic?

If the answer to any of these questions is in the affirmative, you might just need to redirect your fear!  In doing so, there is safety.  In doing so, knowledge, wisdom, and instruction will be found.

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25 NIV).

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7 NIV).

 

Systemic Evil

We need to stand up against systemic evil which has resulted in lawlessness, tyranny, and human brutality in this world.  This is not something that can be fixed by government intervention but by spiritual warfare using the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  “ For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV).

Isaiah 53

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

A Matter of Conviction

Last night I had a conversation with my husband.  You see, our church is opening back up on Sunday with a long list of state-imposed rules.

We have never been mask wearers, nor do we believe we should be forced to wear masks by anyone.  We believe there are all sorts of reasons, psychological and health-wise, not to wear a mask.  However, our pastor has indicated that even if we are not afraid, he recommends we wear a mask for others, especially when we sing.  It is not mandatory, but it is recommended.

So back to the conversation I had with my husband last night.  I told him that I was really nervous about going to church.

“Nervous about what?” he said.

“Confrontation.” I replied.

“What are you going to be confronted about?” he queried.

“Not wanting to wear a mask and being told it is because I am not being kind” was my reply.

Our conversation moved to other things.  Fast forward to this morning.  My husband opens the day as follows:

“Do you know how I know that Satan is involved in all of this?”

“How?” I responded.

“You are nervous about going to church because everyone is so divided.  Why should you be nervous at all about going to church?”  he responded.  “The devil is involved.”

So this got me to thinking back to the days when I was actively counseling clients.  So many times, I would have clients that came into my office feeling extreme guilt over things that were not sinful.  This guilt would keep them from doing all good things including reaching out to God, being around people, and going to church.  I would have to explain to them the difference between true guilt and false guilt.

This circumstance is no different.

You see, true guilt is when you stand before a holy God sinful because you have broken one of His Commandments.  We are all truly guilty before God because of our sin.

False guilt is when people tell you that you should feel guilty about something because of what they believe or think.

True guilt brings you to repentance and a restored relationship with God.

False guilt keeps you from God because it comes from emotional manipulation and not truth.  It keeps you from people because there is a part of you that almost believes the manipulation.  This is by design.

Ephesians 6:10-20 (English Standard Version) states, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

It is not wrong for me to not want to wear a mask anymore than it is wrong for you to want to wear a mask.  It is a matter of conviction not a matter of sin.

I am going to church today, and Satan is not going to separate me from other believers with emotional manipulation.

The battle belongs to the Lord!