I was on my way home this evening, listening to the local radio station, when the Casting Crowns’ song “Thrive” came on. As I listened to the chorus I thought to myself, “Yeah, that’s what we sing out loud, but inside we’re actually saying, ‘We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives. But just for now we’re glad to just survive. We’ll wait for Heaven to thrive.'” I follow a blog called “Fire Breathing Christian”. While I don’t agree with everything he says (he seems to have a bent towards Dominion Theology — the teaching that Church will grow and grow and overcome the powers of darkness here on earth and take dominion. Then Christ will return.), but he’s been talking recently about how the Church in America has wimped out on the Great Commission. We seem to limit it to just missions and we don’t realize that we are supposed to have an impact on not just “foreign fields”, but we should be fighting for our own culture as well; the arts, entertainment, politics, social welfare, etc… In my last posting I know I sounded like I was just throwing up my hands and saying, “There is no hope. We’re doomed.” And, if you look at the parallels between the United States today and the Roman Empire nearly 2000 years ago then, yeah…it doesn’t look good for us. But the song on the radio just jarred something in my brain. We don’t have to be like that! We don’t have to fade into the annals of history for generations to come to read about and say, “Wow, wish I’d been there.” In fact, I think we’re going to have a LOT to answer for if we do. I’ve heard that the Church in China is actually praying for the collapse of the United States and the persecution of Christians. NOT because they think we deserve to suffer because they’ve had to. No! They are hoping that maybe that is what it will take to get us to get out of our Western Religious stupor and stand up and say, “We’re mad at Hell and we’re NOT gonna take it anymore!” That we’ll stand up to our culture and say, “Not one more inch! You will not force us to stay silent! We will stand on the truth of the Word of God and we will NOT back down and kowtow to your political correctness! We will not sit in front of your electronic Colosseums and watch you destroy our children with the crap you broadcast! We will not attend your endless of orgies of ‘do whatever is right for you — your truth is your truth’ and applaud the ‘bravery’ of ‘Doogie’ and Ellen and Whoopi! We will bow to the false gods of Rob Bell and Oprah and Universalism! Your Caesars will not legislate us into accepting sin and removing us from the Public Square! Your Siren’s songs by Beyonce and Jay-Z and their ilk, who encourage our kids to dishonor their own bodies and kill cops and treat each other like objects rather than human beings will be called out for what they are…garbage! We don’t demand you believe what we do, but we will not let you be the only voice! And, the firmer we stand the quieter your voice will become!” There are millions of Christians in the world living under oppression and poverty and the threat of death! How dare we, here in America — the freest, most prosperous country in the world — cower in our closets with our copies of “Left Behind” just praying the Jesus returns soon to take us out of this horribly corrupt world! How dare we wring our hands and say, “There’s nothing we can do! ‘Be in the world not of the world.’ You can’t show the love and power of Christ in politics or in the work place or in Hollywood. You can only do small things!'” There is a whole world out there depending on us to stand up, even if it is just one last time, and live out the Great Commission. The Apostles didn’t stay in their churches and just let the world go on it’s merry way! They stood before the Religious and Political and Cultural establishment and said, “There is only ONE Way, ONE Truth, and ONE Life and NO ONE comes to the Father but through Him.” They risked ridicule and beatings and the loss of everything, including their lives, to fulfill their calling. The early Christians did the same thing! What makes us think we can do any less? This country may be heading for disaster, but will we give up in silence or go down swinging? When Christ returns for His Church will it a noticeable loss or great relief to the rest of the world? This world may be fading away, but will pass with a whimper or go out with a bang? It’s time to get off our collective duffs Church in America and start living more than ordinary lives! It’s time to Stand and to Thrive!
Despite what you think, this is not a post encouraging you to stockpile barrels of wheat and weapons. I’m not gonna suggest you start that bomb shelter project you’ve been meaning to get to since 1980. Nor should you run out and enroll in a course teaching self defense and tactical ground-fighting techniques. Unless you really want to, of course.
I’m talking about a whole other sort of prepping all together.
Here we are already at the end of the January. One twelfth of the year has past already. Maybe it’s me, but it does seem the older I get the faster the time goes. Events around the globe seem to be propelling us even faster to either some sort of historical transformation (or perhaps a sort of regression into an all too familiar pattern we’ve yet to learn how to avoid) or an ultimate conclusion.
Oh I know, every generation thinks theirs is either the last or on the precipice of a global metamorphosis that will bring the world to greater harmony. Why should we be any different.
Maybe we aren’t. But what if we are?
“This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. I want you to remember and understand what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles. First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. This will be their argument: ‘Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created.’ They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth up from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the world with a mighty flood. And God has also commanded that the heavens and the earth will be consumed by fire on the day of judgment, when ungodly people will perish. But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and everything in them will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be exposed to judgment. Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living! You should look forward to that day and hurry it along — the day when God will set the heavens on fire and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world where everyone is right with God. And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to live a pure and blameless life. And be at peace with God. And remember, the Lord is waiting so that people have time to be saved. This is just as our beloved brother Paul wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him — speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters around to mean something quite different from what he meant, just as they do the other parts of Scripture — and the result is disaster for them. I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends, so that you can watch out and not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people. I don’t want you to lose your own secure footing. But grow in the special favor and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.To him be all glory and honor, both now and forevermore. Amen.” (2 Peter 3 NLT)
Corrie Ten Boom in her book “The Hiding Place” said, “This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”
What have you been prepared for? Do you even know? Chances are we won’t fully understand till a challenge arises and we are forced to draw from our past to deal with the present.
Perhaps you look at your past as misspent waste of life. Yes, now you’re redeemed and you have a glorious eternity ahead of you with Christ, but your past? What could God possibly do with the mess you made? You’re not a speaker who travels around from Megachurch to Megachurch giving your testimony, watching hundreds stream forward at the altar call. There’s no blockbuster movie coming out in February staring Angelina Jolie or Bradley Cooper about your life. People aren’t attending your seminars, telling you what an inspiration you are.
Maybe you’ve had such a normal past that the most exciting thing that ever happened to you was the night you won the Spa Weekend Getaway at the Ramada Inn or you got Employee of the Month when you worked at Tony’s Big Burger.
But God sees what you don’t.
He sees how you’ve learned to manage to get your teenager to basketball practice with ALL her gear, dropped off your ten year old at his best friends birthday party after wrapping the gift he forgot to get but you remembered in the car in front of the house, took the dog to the vet for it’s ear infection, picked up the box of ladies devotionals ordered from the Christian book store, stopped at the hospital to visit your neighbor who’s in for a hip replacement, and made it home in time to put the coffee on for your couples Bible Study group that evening. God is going to need your organizational skills pretty soon and you’re prepped for that task.
He saw when you went on the camping weekend with your Boy Scout troop when you were 16. You were hiking along a narrow ridge line with a couple of other scouts when one of the older boys lost his footing and went tumbling 50 feet, breaking his ankle and possibly suffering a concussion. Immediately you ordered one boy to go back and get the scout leader. You organized the remaining boys to rappel down to the injured youth. You used the tools in your backpack to stabilize his ankle, wrapped him in the space blanket you had to keep him warm and stave off shock, and waited for help to arrive. God saw how calmly and deliberately you dealt with a crisis and He has a plan for those “nerves of steel”.
Maybe you’re a good listener and can calm people’s fears, or at least let them know they’re not alone. God has a plan for your sensitive heart in the days to come.
You know how to sew. You can garden. You are strong. You know carpentry. You’ve been canning since you were a little girl. You know what mushrooms are edible and which aren’t. You know the Word of God.
Throughout your life God has been quietly and diligently preparing you for “such a time as this”. Your personality, your hobbies, your skills…all have been preparation for His use and to His glory. The people you’ve had to deal with, both the gracious and the irritating, have helped to hone your talents and abilities. God is asking you to offer them to Him for the time to come. The bad you’ve endured, the joy you’ve experienced, the evil you’ve seen, and the peace you’ve known…all have brought you to this point in time.
Or, while perusing Facebook you seen memes they’ve posted that seems to espouse some silly New-Age-One-With-The-Universe-All-Paths-Lead-To-The-Same-Place philosophy and you’re scratching your head going, “Did they not read John 14:6?”
At times I am in utter amazement at how little Christians know or understand scripture. I’ve even heard some say, “Well, I really don’t read the Bible because it’s just too difficult to understand. But I think if we all just love each other and do good things that everything is going to be okay in the end. Plus, people just get too caught up in the ‘This is Truth’ argument and that’s how fights and wars get started. I just don’t wanna be a part of that. I know that ‘God so loved the world’ and that’s enough.”
By the time I’ve collected the brain matter from my head exploding the person has usually gone blithely on their way, unencumbered with theological cares. I can hear Luther, Calvin, Edwards and the Apostolic Fathers turning in their graves.
So the question is, Is it important to spend time studying the Word of God if you proclaim yourself a Christian? My answer would be “Yes! Most emphatically.” Now, before anyone goes flying off their yoga mat screaming “What about the natives in the Amazon who don’t have Bibles”, I am not saying your salvation depends on it. But your spiritual maturity certainly does.
I’m not advocating every new believer be shipped off to Seminary for 2 years after conversion. I don’t think it’s necessary. But when I see postings from or engage in conversations with people who I know have a good 5 years of serving in the Church under their belt spouting on about “Visualize Peace” or “I had a conversation with my dead uncle the other day”, it’s clear to me that knickknacks aren’t the only thing gathering dust in someone’s home.
Some say to me, “Well, I just listen to my Joyce Meyer’s CDs” or “I watch one of those preachers on t.v./internet and they seem to know what they’re talking about.” While there is some good teaching in books, CDs, t.v., and internet, there’s also a LOT of bad. And if you don’t have a solid foundation in the Word of God in the first place you won’t know the difference.
In Acts 17:11, Luke (see if you knew you’re Bible you’d know that the Book of Acts was written by Luke who was a companion of Paul’s) talks about Paul and Silas going to Berea, a city in Macedonia near Thessalonica, to preach. He says of the Bereans, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
Jamieson, Brown, & Fausset, authors of “Commentary Critical & Explanatory on the Whole Bible” wrote “From this it is undeniable, (1) that the people, no less than the ministers of the Church, are entitled and bound to search the Scriptures; (2) that they are entitled and bound to judge, on their own responsibility, whether the teaching they receive from the ministers of the Church is according to the word of God; (3) that no faith but such as results from personal conviction ought to be demanded, or is of any avail. “
Well, that’s great that some “egg-headed theologians” said you should study the Bible, but what does the Bible itself say about the importance of studying? Well, let me give you a few verses since you asked:
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17.
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. ” Psalm 119:11.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ” Romans 12:2.
“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” John 13:17.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ” Hebrews 4:12.
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” John 6:63.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”‘ Matthew 4:1-4.
The title of my blog is “Confronting Galatians”. I chose that because of what Paul wrote to them in chapter one verses 6-8, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. “
More and more I find in the Church a lack of knowledge of the Word of God, a stunting in the maturity of believers, and a willingness of many to believe, and repeat, every little aphorism that wanders across their paths. “If it sounds good, it must be good.” This shouldn’t be!
Leadership holds some responsibility for this “mess”. While they often preach from the pulpit (or stage or what-have-you) about the importance of daily devotions and Bible reading, there is either a lack emphasis on actually studying (which means more than just reading a few verses) or a lack of assistance to do so. The Pastor’s time is already stretched 3 ways to Sunday in most cases, but creating a core group of men and women whose “job” it is to help facilitate Bible Study is sorely needed.
What we’ve done with many of our Small Groups or Women’s/Men’s Bible Study Groups is turned them into almost “Theme Parties”. We’ll take a devotional or topic and spend that weekly get together going through and discussing it without much actual opening of the Bible except to look at some verses. While it’s not necessary to do a thorough etymology on the Greek or Hebrew or to understand the historical or geographical context of a verse or chapter (unless you have a bent towards Hermeneutics and can find a group of fellow geeks to join up with in Blissful Exegetical Titillation…pardon me while I collect myself for a moment), we’ve almost lost the ability to go deeper into the Word. We repeat the same themes over and over…Finances, Family, Parenting, Marriage, Singleness, 50+, Young Adult…but there’s no depth. No looking at the weightier matters. What does the Bible say about our obligation to reach the lost? What if someone you know is getting involved in false doctrine? What do we say to those who think everyone goes to Heaven when they die? How do we respond to the changing cultural norms of our society?
But the heaviest onus is on US! We have a personal obligation to go deeper, to wrestle with the weightier matters, to study to show ourselves approved, to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15. God Himself made sure that we had His Word to be our guide and our source. And He’s given us His Holy Spirit to teach us. There are Pastors and fellow Christians we can avail ourselves of when we get stuck or don’t understand. And, since I can safely assume that you have access to the Internet because you’re reading this blog, there are a myriad of online tools to help you:
to name just a few.
We are facing perilous times spiritually. The assault on Faith grows daily and it’s not always overt. There is a subtle whittling away at Foundational Truth. There are many who claim to be Christ followers but what they say they believe is anything but biblical.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
It’s our responsibility to make sure we aren’t one of those people. And the only way to do that is to firmly ground ourselves in the Word of God. It’s also our responsibility, when we present ourselves in public…when we make a statement of what we believe whether it’s an innocent Facebook meme or before a large group…that it’s not simply what sounds good or what we think others want to hear.
For those of us who are more mature in Christ, we are obligated to help those who aren’t. There’s no need to shame someone by pointing out for all to see when they’ve said or done something that contradicts their Christian faith. But gently, privately discuss it with them and offer to spend time with them in studying scripture. “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Jude 22-23.
Above all, be a Berean! Receive the Message with great eagerness and examine the Scriptures every day to see if these things were so.