Living IN the world but not OF the world…

1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.


Ephesians 2:1-3, 1 Peter 2:11, Colossians 2:8, 1 John 4:5, John 15:18-19, James 4:4, Colossians 3:2, Romans 12:2, John 17:14-16 are a few other passages that speak to this subject as well.

Living IN the world but not OF the world is an unusual concept but one that is frequently talked about in the Bible and seems to be a core concept or even foundation of the Christian faith although it’s not often discussed or examined in our ‘Christian’ culture and rarely seems to be a consideration in many Christian lives or groups.


There are a lot of references to this phenomenon in the New Testament (I mentioned a few already) but also the entire Old Testament seems to be a prime example of this calling.

You have the nation of Israel that God calls ‘out’ from the other nations and sets them ‘apart’ as it were, differentiating them with very different governing laws and ways of life compared to the cultures of their time. Over the course of the New Testament we then are shown how the Jewish people slowly became more and more like the cultures around them that they permitted to dwell in the land God had given the nation of Israel, despite God’s warning to them against doing so.
Eventually you see Israel demand a king to ‘be like the other nations’ and God allows this request but 1 Samuel 8:6-9 details how God told Samuel “…it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods…” Further in the Old Testament we see the culmination of Israel becoming like the cultures around them and intermarrying/intermingling, taking on the false gods of those cultures and ultimately causing God to remove his hand of blessing from them and leading them into captivity and very difficult times.

So I think it’s obvious as to why God instructs us to live ‘not OF’ the world, as “…friendship with the world is enmity with God…” (James 4:4), and the history of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament is a clear example of that.

 

One of the key differences of living IN the world but not OF the world which I think is also a core part of a heart genuinely following Christ, is the way a Christian is called to treat and serve others despite having various (worldy) excuses/reasons not to. And this is especially relevant to me because it’s what God used to change/save my life and brought me to my knees as it were, out of a time when I was walking in darkness and bitterness.
God used a simple act of kindness/love towards me by some Christian people to transform me. It was underserved; by all standards I was quite rude to this group of people and if they followed ‘worldly’ protocol they would have just been offended and ignored me and thought, “hope I never see that jerk again.”, or something along those lines, but instead they reached out and invited me into their lives. It wasn’t a disingenuous, I need to check my ‘Christian’ boxes here so I’m sanctified/justified to shun this person after this type thing, it was just a sincere gesture. It wasn’t a ‘grand’ gesture by any standard but as simple as it sounds God spoke to me though it and used it as a catalyst that changed my life.

These type of actions – kindness and love towards others whom the ‘world’ claims (and also many ‘Christian’ people it seems) we are excused/justified in ignoring/avoiding/ridiculing, etc. – are powerful and stand out from our culture and one of the big things that set us apart as followers of Christ.

I believe that this worldly mentality of offense/division/strife/etc. stems from (as most other issues do) pride and selfishness; although people do of course try to justify such actions by claiming they are following moral principles of some kind of another, or even spiritual ones.


We seem to SEEK ways to alienate ourselves and others and cause division and strife between one another, and a lot of the time it’s not even spiritual related issues we choose to take offense over…


A few examples come to mind of things we have heard people say in the past, such as: “You can’t call yourself a Christian if you support this political figurehead or party…” or things like that involving the ‘hot topics’ of our time such as vaccines, politics, firearms, etc. Things that aren’t spiritual at all.


Not that we don’t also use ‘spiritual’ related things to divide ourselves as we certainly do; arguments about baptisms, salvation, etc. The writer of Hebrews talks in chapter 6 verse 1-2 about these things being the ELEMENTARY things of Christ, and yet these basic things are what essentially all ‘denominations’ within God’s people use to further divide themselves and segregate themselves from one another and become points of pride and contention between the various groups… This certainly at least to me seems like the ‘way of the world’, and not how God calls us to live.

God has shown us endless mercy and grace and patience in our lives, how can we deny mercy and grace and not be patient with others even if they don’t agree with us on certain things, ESPECIALLY things not spiritual. There is of course a point on the spiritual side where God instructs us to disassociate from people who refuse to acknowledge sound doctrine, but that’s a different topic altogether.

If our focus is on SERVING others instead of serving ourselves-like the world claims we should (always look out for # 1!), it becomes VERY difficult to be offended by worldly issues or personal slights/insults and elementary theological differences become more or less irrelevant (at least in my view) in favor of unity in Christ and being a part of one-another’s lives.


A more subtle issue I think we have to be aware of as Christians is in our personal circles of family/friends where we often develop expectations for one another and get offended or hurt if the other person(s) fails to meet our expectations (which is inevitably going to occur). We start expecting certain amounts of time and/or attention and/or ‘respect’ from various people and take offense and hold grudges if we feel we aren’t ‘given our due’ as it were.


We’ve got to (or at least I have to it seems) continually renew that focus on ‘serving’ others or our vision becomes easily dimmed and changed to other things and those areas of pride and selfishness and entitlement and offense start to rise up again.
If we approach our spouse/children/parents/siblings/brothers & sisters in Christ with the same attitude of serving THEM rather than having expectations on how they should treat US, then anything they DO for us is a blessing we are thankful for, rather than them meeting (or in most cases failing to meet) an expectation or obligation.
The other (worldly) danger we fall into I think if we aren’t being careful is that we start to expect things in return for ‘serving’. And I think if that becomes part of our mentality that’s certainly also being ‘OF the world’


Luke 17:7-10 speaks directly to that issue –
But who is there among you, having a servant plowing or keeping sheep, that will say, when he comes in from the field, “Come immediately and sit down at the table,” and will not rather tell him, “Prepare my supper, clothe yourself properly, and serve me, while I eat and drink. Afterward you shall eat and drink”? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded? I think not. Even so you also, when you have done all the things that are commanded you, say, “We are unworthy servants. We have done our duty.”


It’s important to keep in mind that God calls us to serve other’s if we are indeed being a servant of His.

The other verse that comes to mind is Matthew 5:46 – “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” It’s very easy to be kind and ‘loving’ to people who are kind and ‘loving’ to you. It’s very easy to ‘serve’ people who ‘serve’ you as well and it becomes a difficult thing not to have expectations and start feeling entitled to being ‘served’ by others.


Of course genuine love and unconditional serving of other’s goes against our human nature and isn’t something we can achieve through our own strength. As with all other issues of the spirit and heart we need to take these things to God in prayer and supplication and ask God to strip away our pride and selfishness and create a humble and contrite heart that seeks to serve Him and by extension other’s despite how they treat us, and to teach us patience and to forgive others when they do not treat us as God instructs them to, and request forgiveness for ourselves when we fail to love/serve others as Christ has loved/served us.


John 13:35 – By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


The world seems to add to this: “unless the person disagrees with you about politics, laws, vaccines or anything else you decide to take offense too, or unless you just dislike them for whatever reason in general…”


The world also has it’s own definition of what ‘love’ is that differs quite drastically from what God’s definition is. According to worldly wisdom, love is ‘accepting’ other’s and making them ‘feel’ nice and comfortable… Anything that ‘offends’ or makes them uncomfortable is therefore not ‘loving’.


1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes love according to God – Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

People who choose to be offended are in fact not ‘loving’ as real love keeps no records of wrongs/offenses and will put aside any slights and insults in favor of the well-being of the other person.


The second thing that ties in with this is being intentional about the time we make to spend with God and with other believers.


I find when life gets really busy with work and whatnot and I’m not spending ‘quality’ time in prayer or in God’s Word and not getting together as much for fellowship with other Christiain’s my focus also starts to slowly move away from the things of God to worldly things.


I find myself getting angry or ‘offended’ about things that I know shouldn’t be bothering me and although subtle and ignorable at first, they eventually get to the point where I’m like… “Oh, something isn’t right in my heart I shouldn’t be like this.”


We live in a culture of busyness and ‘events’ and activities but very little actual ‘community’ if that makes sense. Typical ‘Church’ services are a prime (at least seem to be to me) example of this; they seem largely impersonal and more of a prepared event that you just ‘attend’ and exchange pleasantries with people and then leave.

I believe it is very important to make real time for God and for fellowship with believers, I think the Word backs up this statement as we see in Acts how the church operated and instructions like “Do not forsake meeting together…” etc. I don’t believe they were talking about forsaking ‘Synagogue service’ meeting once a week, I believe they were referring to spending time together in their daily lives as they demonstrate in accounts like “…And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart…”, etc.


Now again, I’m not saying lets all quit are jobs and just ‘hang out’ together. And I certainly appreciate we all have busy times in life which I feel like I personally am in currently for sure. What I am saying though is that we will ALWAYS ‘make’ time for things that are important to us regardless of how busy we are.


For example, someone who works 3 jobs, does a lot of activities outside of that, etc, etc. Arguably is VERY busy and has basically no ‘free’ time, if that person puts a HIGH importance on having a clean house, I guarantee you their house will practically always been clean.


Likewise, someone who works LESS, does LESS activities and arguably has a significantly higher amount of ‘free’ time but that puts a LOW importance on having a clean house, will practically never have a clean house EVEN though they will say the would ‘like’ to have a clean house. And the reason they will give will generally be ‘I just didn’t have the time this week or today or whatever’.

I think a more accurate statement would be ‘I just didn’t choose to MAKE the time this week or today.’


So the roundabout point I’m trying to make is that we will choose to ‘find’ or ‘make’ time for the things we decide are important in our lives. There are of course exceptions to the ‘rule’ and I’m not trying to discount anyone or any situation.
I do believe though that we are called to, and need to try to get into the habit of, ‘making time’ for God and for fellowship with other Christians.


First and foremost we need to be intentional about spending real time with God, to talk with Him and pray and to read His Word because that is necessary for a relationship to develop (communication with, and getting to know about, the other entity).


Secondly we need to be involved in fellowship with one another so that we can encourage and exhort and ‘sharpen’ each other in our Christian walks.
If we don’t make time for fellowship, not only are we starving ourselves of these important aspects but we are also denying others things that we may be able to encourage them on or exhort or sharpen. One brother or sister for example can see into things and speak into situations and minister in ways that I cannot. Likewise a different brother or sister can do the same in areas that the other nor I can, and so forth and so on.

You start reading about the diversity of the Spirit and the gifts that God has given His people and it is really hard to believe that we don’t need one another to function as Christ’s body or that we don’t have anything to offer or that “Ah, they don’t need me there or they don’t need me to be involved, etc.”


I think we have a responsibility to one another in Christ and it’s something that our culture seems to ignore a lot of the time.

I’ll finish (finally) with just a mention about the letters to the seven churches in Revalations. To each church God says “…To those that overcome…” It seems to me that this ‘overcoming’ is referring to stepping out of their particular cultural and societal practices and norms and pursuing God’s kingdom instead even and especially when it goes against what the culture/world around claims is true and correct and acceptable.


Let’s not lose sight of our call in Christ and be diligent to keep our focus on Him and His kingdom and on the things that really matter. Let’s remind ourselves we are called to live IN the world, but not OF the world, because without that focus/realization/perspective, I don’t think we will ever be able to walk in what God has called us to and has planned for us… And I want each and every one of us (myself especially) to walk in what God has planned for me, not what I ‘think’ God has planned for me or what the ‘world’ or our culture (even our ‘Christian’ culture) might suggest that God has planned for me.

Overcoming Our Goliath’s

How do we as followers of Christ overcome the seemingly invincible giant’s that spring up in our lives?

If I were to ask something like, “Think of a couple things in your life you know you shouldn’t be doing from a Christian perspective, or things you believe or at least suspect might be taking up too much of your time and drawing you away from God.” If we are being honest with ourselves, I believe almost any follower of Christ who reads that would immediately think of several things.

For some it might be just the business of life and not making time to read God’s Word or talk with God. For others it will be more direct and obvious, such as an addiction to pornography or alcohol, having anger management issues, unforgiveness/hatred, etc. Yet still for others it will be a more insidious and perhaps a less obvious issue, such as pursuing a career or political causes, etc.

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with pursuing a career, or being involved in political causes, or being busy, etc.

Matthew 6:21 says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,”, what I AM saying, is that if our heart and the focus of our lives are on something other than Christ, that is a problem and we are going to miss out on the life that God has planned for us, a life that is FAR more rewarding and purposeful than anything we ourselves can dream up and attempt to pursue.

Shame and guilt over indwelling sin will hinder our relationship with God, and if there are things in our lives we know are separating us from God we are called to war against them and overcome them. This might be a bit counter-cultural for today’s ‘Christianity’ which focuses on the: “God loves you and has forgiven you so you don’t need to really do anything just try to be ‘good’.” message. Now, it is very true that God loves us and has forgiven us, but we are ALSO called to righteousness and purpose and development in Christ, not to stagnate or remain ‘unchanged’. The transformation that takes place as the result of following Christ is one of the more prevalent themes in the New Testament and simply can’t be ignored.

If you are not aware of anything in your life, I encourage you to ask God to reveal the hidden things of the heart and I can guarantee He will bring something to your attention. I also encourage you not to make the mistake that you have ‘arrived’ and have more or less no more development in Christ to do, as I think that’s essentially an impossibility. Once we overcome one giant, if we are pressing into Christ we will I am confident be confronted with another, victory over each one leading us into a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God.

If you read the letters to the Churches in Revelation, every single one talks about overcoming. Overcoming the culture of the day, overcoming our pride, selfishness, ambitions, complacency, tolerance of sin, etc. There are no shortage of giant’s in our lives today just as there wasn’t in their lives back then…

One man’s Goliath as it were will be dramatically different from the next person’s. We all have our struggles and things in our lives that need work, I think anyone who claims that isn’t the case is only fooling themselves.

Pornography is a huge issue especially in men, but while one person might have that struggle constantly haunting and looming over their life, the next will have no issue with pornography whatsoever, and for them it might be the pursuit of money that is their giant they need to face and overcome.

I also urge you to not think that just because you don’t struggle with something that means are you are more ‘spiritual’ or disciplined or a ‘better’ Christian than the next person who does struggle with that issue. It’s easy to look at another person’s Goliath and say “That’s simple to overcome.” and just dismiss the person as being weak-willed, not a good Christian, etc. if it has never been an issue for you. We are called to support and encourage and exhort our brother’s and sisters in Christ, regardless of where they are in their walks or what they are struggling with.

But anyway, back to the main point, how are we as Christian’s to overcome these things in our lives?

Now, I’m not saying I have a 5 step process to overcoming your giants, or some ‘surefire method’ to get the devil on the run or anything…

All I have is some advise on what has helped and is continuing to help me overcome these things and I am sharing it in hopes that perhaps it will help others.

I’ll use a personal example, I used to be addicted to video games. While this might sound relatively harmless, when you are addicted to something (as any addict can attest), it takes over your whole thought process and life. If the focus of my life is on video games and not on Christ, then that’s a big problem! I was living to play games, not living for Christ…

I recognized it was a problem and WANTED to change, but was absolutely incapable of doing so. This state seems to be pretty common in people from what I have observed.

I asked God time and time again for the strength and will to ‘resist’ the urges to play games and think about games and dream about games, etc. But it seemed no matter what I did it would still be the focus of my life, even if I wasn’t actually playing them.

What seems to have helped me and I hope might be useful to someone else as well, is I changed the way I prayed about this issue and how I approached the ‘war’ against this giant in my life.

Rather than asking God to give ME the strength to change, I starting asking God to simply take away my desire for video games, to give me a desire to do His will instead, and walk in His ways.

This may seem arbitrary but I think it changed the way I viewed my relationship with God and how I engaged in warfare against this Goliath in my life that I couldn’t overcome which is I think the real message here I’m trying to convey.

If we approach our giants in our own strength and pride (even if we are asking for God’s ‘help’) and attempt to overcome them the way the world and our culture claims we should be able to (just by ‘trying’ really hard), we are going to fail every time (at least from the experiences that I’ve had and the examples I see Biblically).

If we come to God in genuine humility, with an understanding that it’s only Him that can change us and remove our desire for those things rather than just asking for the ‘power’ to overcome them or ‘resist’ them ourselves as it were, it really changes the dynamic of the warfare.

Now one other thing I recognized is the pride in my life, and I felt disingenuous toward God as a result, which I think we can all relate too (again if we are being honest), and that spurred on prayer asking God to create a genuine and humble heart in me (still praying for this continually and I encourage you to do the same), which I believe is essential to see any victories in our lives.

2 Chronicles 26:5 “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The dilemma (at least for me) was I also seemed incapable of genuine humility before God… Again as with the gaming addiction, there really wasn’t anything I could do to ‘get’ humility no matter how hard I tried… Which brings us back to that place of vulnerability and powerlessness before God, asking that in His grace he would change us to be like Christ despite our inability to change ourselves.

The interesting thing that resulted is I didn’t even really ‘fight’ against that addiction any longer in the sense that it didn’t feel like a struggle anymore. It wasn’t a immediate ‘boom’ I no longer had a desire to play video games thing, I still played them, but gradually I found they no longer controlled my life or my thought process, and I didn’t really care whether or not I got to play. They no longer held any power over me.

Now don’t get me wrong here I’m not saying I still didn’t recognize it was a problem or that I just said to myself: “I’m just gonna play games as much as I want now and not worry about it.” type thing, but the battle was no longer ‘mine’ if that makes sense, it became God’s.

I think the common thing that happens is after we’ve struggled against one of these giants for a while, we just start to concede or accept them and say to ourselves “I’m only human, if God wants to fix this in my life He can fix it but if He doesn’t I’ll just continue doing it, after all God can’t really fault me for doing something I don’t have the capability to overcome!”

The reality is I think though that its more often than not our own arrogance and unwillingness to submit to God that is the problem, not the Giant itself whatever it may be. There is no Goliath that God cannot overcome I am convinced of that!

If we surrender these struggles to God and ask Him to transform our hearts and minds instead of conceding to the giants that we don’t possess the capability to overcome, I think we will see a lot more battles won… At least I have in my own life.

 

 

 

Dreams

Typically not what I normally write, but I feel like this needs to be shared so here it is:
 
I had an interesting/unusual dream the other night, followed by a second immediately after. As the dream began it was impressed upon me that I needed to remember what I see as it was important and God was telling me something. I typically do not remember my dreams so I was at first concerned that I would forget it, but I figured if it was indeed something God was telling me that He would cause me to remember and that seems to have been the case.
 
So in the first dream I was looking out at a field that had a number of sheep grazing. As I watched some of the sheep slowly changed into wolves, the remaining sheep didn’t seem aware of the change and just continued to graze, oddly the wolves also didn’t change behavior. As I continued to watch, a few of the wolves slowly changed back to sheep, which seemed quite strange. The dream ended with both sheep and wolves in the pasture, the sheep continued to be oblivious to the wolves, likewise the wolves didn’t seem to behave any differently than before, but continued to act like sheep.
 
The second dream followed immediately after, and I believe are related as I will explain further. 
 
In the second dream I found myself in a clearing by a lake (I think) in the wilderness, there was no civilization of any kind I could see or anyone else there. Before me was the stump of a tree, freshly cut. On the stump was a mailer envelope (one of those padded yellow larger ones). I approached the stump and picked up the envelope, written on the address section was my name. Seemed acceptable to open it so I did so and dumped the contents out onto the stump. In the envelope was nothing but some fishing line and plain hooks. As I looked at them and thought about what I should try to do with them, concerned that it was going to be difficult to catch anything with only a line and hook (no bait, lures or even rod) the words Jesus spoke to the fishermen came immediately to my mind: “I will make you fishers of men.”. I then woke up.
 
I contemplated the dreams for the next few days and I believe they are both a warning and encouragement to myself and all God’s children who are living through this day and age. Several verses of scripture have come to mind regarding these and I’ll share a few of them that I feel are very relevant:
 
Phillipians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Jude 1:4 “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Proverbs 4:23-27 “23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. 24 Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. 25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. 26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”
Matthew 7:15-18 “15 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”
2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions…”
Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Galatians 1:6-8 “6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
 
2 Timothy 3:1-17 “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
 
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In the time when the Christian Church was new, the apostles were already warning God’s people that there was and would be ‘wolves’ among them, seeking to corrupt and change the Gospel which was delivered to them. It seems to me that we have ‘progressed’ to a day and age where there are just as many ‘wolves’ in ‘Christianity’ as there are sheep and shepherds. Many of which believe they are doing the work of God, oblivious to the fact they are indeed at enmity with Him. I believe we have been instructed to ‘guard our hearts and minds’, and not only our own but we have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters as well in this area. We live in a culture/society that avoids accountability of any kind, and this seems to be reflected in the Christian culture of our time as well, and I don’t believe that is how God says we should live as a Church.
 
We live in a time when we can pick and choose literally any ‘gospel’ or doctrine that claims to be Christian that suits our own personal views, morals, ideals, etc. If we don’t like the teachings or doctrine of one group we can just go to a different one, one that suits our own passions as it were. I hear many teachers and preachers talking about things that at first seem like great things, things that I want to stand behind and things that I am naturally drawn too because they appeal, often very inconspicuously and seemingly innocently to my personal morals and views on various situations like governments/politics, lifestyles, rights and freedoms, etc. I am constantly finding I have to examine those things carefully, trying to figure out the real message behind those words, comparing it with God’s Word, looking at what kind of fruit is produced by that doctrine and by those speaking it, etc. and to guard my heart against such things if they turn out to be different from the Gospel of the Bible and/or just unprofitable in my walk with God.
 
We live in a day and age where many of our spiritual ‘teachers’ and ‘elders’ and ‘leaders’ are highly skilled public speakers who are very charismatic and charming, speaking nice things that often sound profound and ‘good’ but in reality are spiritually empty and rooted in all kinds of evil; pride, selfishness, love of money, etc. Things that sound ‘loving’ and ‘kind’ but in reality spark division and dissension and draw people away from God into their own teachings/doctrines and steal the joy of Christ from those who listen, replacing it with the cares of the world; taking our focus away from God and His kingdom.
 
I think it is incredibly important we are not ignorant of these designs, and train our hearts and minds to search out the things of God and differentiate the things of God from the things of this world. The lines between what is of this world and what is of God have been increasingly blurred over the past years, to the point where, as a horrifying example, we live in a culture/society that not only encourages the murder of unborn children but actually condemns anyone who doesn’t support such an atrocity. This type of thing should be unthinkable, yet as disturbing as it is, this is a ‘normal’ part of our culture, something we rarely think twice about even if we ‘disagree’ with it. That in itself speaks to how far we have fallen from God, and people wonder why God would ‘allow’ things like disease or natural disasters or wars, etc. that affect ‘innocent’ and ‘basically good’ people… I cannot fathom the depths of God’s patience and mercy with us and our foolishness/wickedness, and I’m thankful and amazed that God maintains and preserves a remnant throughout the various ages and stages of civilization/life.
 
I was encouraged by the last part of the first dream, in that some of the wolves were changing back to sheep, eluding that there are some who will abandon the doctrine of the world they have become entangled with and take up the Gospel of Christ. I am confident we all know people who have fallen into such doctrine, and am exceedingly thankful and hopeful that by God’s grace and mercy they can yet be saved.
 
 
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The second dream really struck home the simplicity of Christ’s gospel and I think is a critical reminder and warning to us as well.
 
As I contemplated it I realized that when men try to ‘beautify’ or make the Gospel more ‘palatable’ or ‘appealing’ to others, they are simply adding their own bait, lures, equipment, etc. in an effort to ‘attract’ more fish. The conclusion I came to is that, while in theory this sounds ‘good’, I mean, the more people that are ‘saved’ the better right so it makes perfect sense to try and appeal to the widest audience possible, the fact is however that the fish/people which are attracted to a different gospel, one they have been drawn too with shiny and glittering lures, with sweet smelling and tasting bait, a gospel taught by men with modern and fancy fishing equipment, preached from the decks of expensive and impressive fishing boats… These are not the people/fish God is interested in catching, and the state of the countless churches and ‘Christian’ organizations I think is a resounding testament to this. I think that men often begin this deviation from Christ with the best of intentions and desires, and it seems that, like the wolves who didn’t know they had become or were becoming wolves, many believe they are serving God still and doing what is right.
 
The Gospel of Christ is one preached by the poor and humble in spirit, with bare or poorly shod feet on harsh, often desolate beaches, in waters that more often than not seem to be devoid of life and futile to fish in. A Gospel whose workers fish with calloused hands, throwing bare lines and hooks into waters time and time again with no illusions that there is anything they have or can create or offer to get a precious fish to bite, but trusting that Christ in His mercy will provide His body and blood to draw in those He has called. It is a Gospel that does not attract many people, and one that is contrary to culture/society, and one that many will hate and take offense too. It is the Gospel of a cross and nothing more or less. Foolishness to those who are perishing, but life to those who are being saved.
 
If we are devoting our thoughts and time and energy and opening our hearts to any other Gospel except this Gospel of Christ, we are working in vain. Guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, keep your focus on the Kingdom of God and not on the things of this world, which are passing away, love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you, be wise as serpents, innocent as doves, do everything in faith, avoid foolish arguments and dissensions, love your neighbor as yourself, love the Lord your God and obey His commandments. Take up your cross, deny yourself, follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.
 
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Lately I have been feeling like I am in a state of mourning and despair regarding our culture/society and the Church which seems more divided and petty and foolish/misled than ever. While I think it’s certainly valid to mourn/lament for the very obvious and clear departure from God’s plan and our continued straying as a culture/society/Church, it’s crucial we don’t lose hope. This verse also has been impressed upon me as a result of these dreams and I hope it will encourage yourself and others too:
 
Galatians 6:9 “9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
 
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The Issues With ‘Liberal Christianity’ And Why It Doesn’t Work

So the term ‘Liberal’ Christianity describes a movement growing in popularity in North America that basis their faith on the assumption that the Bible isn’t ‘really’ God’s Word per say, it’s simply a collection of (possibly) ‘inspired’ writings ABOUT God that, while they might be ‘inspired’ they still have errors/fallacies/misunderstandings/bias/etc., and additionally were not designed or written for our time period or advanced/civilized culture/society, etc.

So this in itself presents a bit of a conundrum or oxymoron from what I can see… And that is, what exactly is their ‘faith’ based in then? If it’s not the Word of God that lays the foundation for the Christian faith, where are they getting that foundation from or what is exactly that foundation? Or, IF the Bible IS the foundation, however parts of it are not true/not applicable, etc. how do they expect that to work? If the foundation of faith is simply in ‘God’ who is it then that defines who God is, what God’s purpose is, what God’s morals are, etc.? But that’s sort of a different topic altogether I think…

The gist of it as it has been explained to me and I understand it, is that basically the only real thing of importance is that God commands us to ‘love’ one another, and if we are doing that, we are following God, aka being ‘Christian’. Now, this statement I’d generally agree with, although I’d preface it with saying that the FIRST and greatest commandment from God is to love GOD, the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40).

However typically when I’ve brought that up to people subscribing to this philosophy they immediately brush off this ‘first’ commandment and just say, “Well yes of course, but loving others IS obeying the first commandment, so they are basically the same.” and they avoid any discussion on it…

Now, again I could concede to a point that YES, they are similar and closely related so sure we can sort of lump them together, HOWEVER, the main issue with liberal Christianity from what I can see is that because they don’t use God’s Word to define what ‘love’ actually means, they can essentially say ANYTHING is permissible/acceptable in God’s sight as long as they can pass it off as ‘loving’. Likewise, they can say basically anything is ‘sin’ or not permissible in God’s sight as long as they can reconcile it as ‘not loving’, again using whatever measurement they have decided for themselves that love is.

And this I think is the basis of why liberal Christianity doesn’t work and it is just another man-made ‘religion’. IF God’s Word, aka the Bible, was not recorded according to God’s will, and is filled with human error/evil/bias/misunderstanding, etc. etc. etc. then we really know essentially NOTHING about God or His will or His plans or what is real truth or right or wrong or any of that. Therefore, we can ‘decide’ for ourselves which parts are true, which aren’t, what is ‘good’ what is ‘bad’, and so forth.

Here is a article describing the ‘authority’ of the Scripture as God’s Word that I thought was pertinent to the subject, and a number of verses that talk about this as well:

What Does the Bible Have to Say about Its Own Authority? by Don Stewart (blueletterbible.org)

Isaiah 40:8, John 10:34-36, Matthew 5:17-19, Luke 21:21-23, Luke 16:17, 1 Thessalonians 2:13 are a few that speak to this.

Now, obviously the argument that will be made is that the writings themselves cannot confirm themselves that they are true/right. However if you read through the Bible it seems to me that God has/does confirm His Word as true/right through the signs/wonders He performs through His people/servants, and that’s more than enough for me. This also kind of comes back to this article here: How do we know the Bible is from God? – The Frequently Asked Christians

But anyway, back to the matter at hand, as to the dangerous and slippery slope of claiming we know what is ‘good’ and ‘right’ according to God with no foundation (God’s Word) with which to base our ideals from, there are many examples in the Bible that would contradict directly the liberal Christianity view of that is right/wrong in God’s sight… Which makes sense as to why the liberal Christian theology must, by necessity, find a way to discount God’s Words as ‘not really true’ or at least the parts that contradict our culture’s ‘evolving’ morality it seems.

Just as an example, in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 5 you have Paul addressing a report of the Corinthian church group that one of their members ‘had’ his father’s wife. Now, there isn’t much detail here as to the circumstances as to what happened, nor does Paul ask. It might be that the father mistreated her and divorced her and very obviously didn’t ‘love’ her and perhaps the son developed a ‘loving’ relationship with her. Who knows what happened? BUT, liberal Christianity would say: “Well, if they ‘love’ each other, then it’s ok.”. However clearly Paul, a man filled with the Spirit of God, says otherwise. He didn’t ask for more details or try to ‘tip toe’ around people’s feelings to avoid any type of ‘offense’, he just stated plainly, this goes against God’s commandments and therefore should not be done.

In a similar aspect, liberal Christianity can and does condone virtually anything God says to stay away from: homosexuality, infidelity, divorce, fornication, etc. Likewise it can condemn virtually anything God says TO do: exhorting fellow believers, holding spiritual leader’s accountable for their teachings, rebuking other’s, etc. Luke 17:3-4, Galatians 6:1-3, Proverbs 27:5-6 are a few verses that come to mind on that topic.

Anything that a liberal Christian ‘feels’ offended at they consider to be unloving and therefore un-Christian. This in itself mimics our culture’s shift to a hyper-sensitive, offense oriented society where people’s feelings are considered of higher priority/importance than truth, justice, etc. But it also closes doors for any useful discussion or discourse, isolating/segregating anyone who disagrees, as ‘disagreement’ in itself is considered to be ‘offensive’ in almost all cases I’ve experienced.

Jesus’s own words to the Pharisees and Scribes throughout the Gospels would be condemned by liberal Christianity as ‘offensive’ and ‘hateful’. Now the response I’ve gotten on that topic is: “Well yes but Jesus had the spirit of God so He, being in the ‘know’ as it were is able to say those things to those people as He knows their real hearts and motives, etc.”. However God’s Word says we also have the same spirit of God in us (John 14:26, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Acts 4:31, etc.), and Jesus himself even says we will go on to do greater things than he (John 14:12)…

Like many other things this mindset also go against God’s Word/instruction. God doesn’t say: “…seek unity/peace with your brethren UNLESS they ‘feel’ offended by you.” He says: “…seek unity/peace with your brethren.” 1 Corinthians 1:10, Ephesians 4:3, Romans 15:5-7 are a few verses on that subject, and Correcting Other Christians – The Frequently Asked Christians discusses God’s direction for exhorting and rebuking other Christians. So, from the Biblical perspective, when you see another brother or sister going against what God instructs, trying to bring it to their attention and correct them is part of what it means to truly ‘love’ them. Whereas, liberal Christianity will say the opposite, that if you make someone ‘feel’ like they are doing something wrong or you ‘offend’ them that you are in fact not showing them love.

Liberal Christianity at least from what I can see/understand, fails to address numerous key cornerstones of the Christian faith as laid out in God’s Word, such as our need for a savior (aka our incapability of reforming ourselves), repentance, recognizing a need for change/transformation in our lives, accountability for our actions/thoughts/life, etc.

It avoids any of the ‘tough’ issues of morals and good/evil and negates the need for people to really ‘change’ anything about their lives or even recognize the need for change. Best of all (I say this sarcastically) it allows it’s followers the ability to essentially condone any action/lifestyle/choices they wish to make as long as they can relate it to being ‘loving’ (according to their definition of ‘love’).

Socialism is very appealing to the younger generations typically because in theory it works in a society that functions based on the ‘goodness’ of people, which sounds great and it would be fantastic if that worked… In practice however it always fails, as human nature ruins it…

In a similar way, this type of ‘Christianity’ appeals to people with a doctrine of: “we are all generally ‘good’ people, lets ‘love’ one another and get along and God will do the rest” type thing, which in theory again is great, but in practice it just simply collapses on itself as one group’s ‘idea’ of love will differ enough from another group’s that they become so ‘offended’ by one another that they split and form their own sects, etc. We end up with just more man-made religions based on various people’s perceptions of morality and ideas of how God ‘should’ be in their minds. That is why God’s word is essential in giving us as Christian’s THE (not just ‘a’) moral compass to differentiate between what is right and wrong.

Granted, this causes some difficult questions/issues to come up regarding God’s Word and the account of his interactions with mankind, but at the end of the day, I chose to trust that God knows what is ‘good’ and ‘right’ vs. blanketing anything I don’t understand or ‘like’ about His Word as ‘not applicable’ or ‘not for our culture’ or a ‘mistake’ by the writer, and adopting some other human’s view of what is right or wrong based on how they think God should be… Historically speaking, we all (should) know how things turn out when human’s decide they know what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ instead of God.

I am of the belief that one cannot adapt the Bible to their perception of morality and come out on the other side with anything ‘real’ or truthful.

 

 

The Problems With Denominations & Divisions

I’ve written before in the ‘finding a church group’ article HERE about how the various ‘Christian’ denominations shouldn’t have much relevance in who you choose to fellowship with, but I believe that in the past several months God has really laid on my heart the truth of the matter regarding denominations and divisions, and as such I’m going to try to get all my thoughts down on proverbial paper as it were for this subject…

Continue reading The Problems With Denominations & Divisions

Why would God require his own son to die?

The Question: Why would God require his own son to die? Why would God create a system of salvation which required His own son to be tortured and die a horrible death? He is God after all, He can make whatever system He wants or just forgive sins for that matter with no sacrifice, right?

Continue reading Why would God require his own son to die?

How am I supposed to live as a Christian?

The Question: How am I supposed to live as a Christian? I’ve given my life to God, but now what? What am I supposed to do? This is supposed to change my life after all…

Continue reading How am I supposed to live as a Christian?

How can I recognize sin or evil?

The Question: How do I recognize sin or evil? There seems to be many grey areas. Some ‘Christian’ groups say essentially anything that makes you happy or feel good is ‘sin’, while others say anything/everything is okay… Where is the line?

Continue reading How can I recognize sin or evil?

Why hasn’t God healed me?

The Question: Why hasn’t God healed me? If God really loves me and cares for me, He would heal me, so why hasn’t He? Why do I suffer with my conditions day after day when there is supposedly a God who loves me and has the power to heal me but doesn’t.

Continue reading Why hasn’t God healed me?

What makes Christianity the true or right religion?

The Question: What makes Christianity the true or right religion? Or why should or would someone choose Christianity over all the other religions?

Continue reading What makes Christianity the true or right religion?

Before I die, I can just ask God to forgive me and I’ll get into heaven, right?

The Question: Before I die, I can just ask God to forgive me and I’ll get into heaven, right? I don’t NEED to live a ‘good’ life really as long as I ask God to forgive me at the end of it. He is merciful and will forgive those who ask Him as the Bible says.

Continue reading Before I die, I can just ask God to forgive me and I’ll get into heaven, right?

What does the Bible actually say about Hell and eternal punishment?

The Question: What does the Bible actually say about Hell and eternal punishment? Would God really send someone to Hell for an eternity of torture, because that just seems the absolute opposite of goodness and love regardless of what those people did to ‘deserve’ punishment in their lifetimes.

Continue reading What does the Bible actually say about Hell and eternal punishment?

How can God be good or loving?

The Question: How do we know the Bible is from God? How do we know the Bible hasn’t been influenced or directed by the Devil? Is it possible the great deceiver wrote a hand book to separate the children of God? I know the biblical texts can be verified historically, but I am not questioning it’s validity. I am however, confused as to how a God who is love and good is capable of condoning segregation, stoning, wars, etc. The Bible is every Christian’s reference to God. What if God is not inside of the book? What if the devil saw an opportunity to mimic God, all the while teaching us little loop holes to separate, justify and ultimately deceive?

Continue reading How can God be good or loving?

How do we know the Bible is from God?

The Question: How do we know the Bible is from God? How do we know the Bible hasn’t been influenced or directed by the Devil? Is it possible the great deceiver wrote a hand book to separate the children of God? I know the biblical texts can be verified historically, but I am not questioning it’s validity. I am however, confused as to how a God who is love and good is capable of condoning segregation, stoning, wars, etc. The Bible is every Christian’s reference to God. What if God is not inside of the book? What if the devil saw an opportunity to mimic God, all the while teaching us little loop holes to separate, justify and ultimately deceive?

Continue reading How do we know the Bible is from God?

I don’t need to follow Biblical laws because the sacrifice of Jesus did away with them.

The Argument: I don’t need to follow Biblical laws or instructions because the sacrifice of Jesus did away with them. Christians who claim we are supposed to follow certain things are effectively saying that the sacrifice of Jesus wasn’t good enough for them.

Continue reading I don’t need to follow Biblical laws because the sacrifice of Jesus did away with them.

Science has proven that creation theory and intelligent design are false.

The Argument: Science has proven that creation theory and intelligent design are false.

Continue reading Science has proven that creation theory and intelligent design are false.

Does the Bible teach to punish rape victims?

The Question: Does the Bible teach to punish rape victims? In Deuteronomy 22:20-21 it says: “…and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.”

Continue reading Does the Bible teach to punish rape victims?

How can the Bible condone slavery and the abuse of slaves?

The Question: How can the Bible condone slavery and the abuse of slaves? Exodus 21:20-21 clearly shows the law allowing a man to kill or abuse his slave…

Continue reading How can the Bible condone slavery and the abuse of slaves?

Does 2 Chronicles 15:13 tell Christians to kill non-believers?

The Question: Does 2 Chronicles 15:13 tell Christians to kill non-believers? It says: “All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death…”

Continue reading Does 2 Chronicles 15:13 tell Christians to kill non-believers?

How can God harden people against Him and then condemn them?

The Question: The Bible says God hardens people’s heart against Him. How can God harden people against Him and then condemn and judge them? That is unfair, if God is truly good and just he cannot do that.

Continue reading How can God harden people against Him and then condemn them?

How can God love and tell us to love evil people?

The Question: How can God love evil people like Hitler or people who abuse or murder children for example? How can he tell us to love those people? It just isn’t possible.

Continue reading How can God love and tell us to love evil people?

Half the Bible teaches against fighting yet half is full of wars?

The Question: How come the New Testament part of the Bible teaches against fighting and violence yet the Old Testament is full of wars? The ‘Old Testament’ God seems to be bloodthirsty and violent but the ‘New Testament’ God is all about peace and love… It doesn’t make sense.

Continue reading Half the Bible teaches against fighting yet half is full of wars?

How can God condemn homosexuality if people are born that way?

The Question/Argument: How can God condemn homosexuality if people don’t have a choice and are just born that way? If he is fair and just like the Bible says, he cannot condemn gay or lesbian people because they have no choice. God cannot be ‘good’ because he condemns people that have no choice.

Continue reading How can God condemn homosexuality if people are born that way?

I’m not ready to give up things I like doing that I shouldn’t do if I’m a Christian.

The Argument: I’m not ready to give up things I like doing but I know I shouldn’t be doing if I was a Christian. I don’t want to be a hypocrite, if I’m going to be a Christian I want to be good, I’m just not quite ready yet.

Continue reading I’m not ready to give up things I like doing that I shouldn’t do if I’m a Christian.

Christianity is just based off of several other ancient religions, therefore it’s not true.

The Argument: Christianity is just based of a number of other ancient religions, therefore it’s not true.

Continue reading Christianity is just based off of several other ancient religions, therefore it’s not true.

How can the Bible be historically accurate?

The Question/Argument: How can the Bible be historically accurate? It was written so long ago, and many years after the actual life of Jesus, by so many different people and translated multiple times, etc. It’s just impossible for it to contain accurate information. How can you base your faith off of that book?

Continue reading How can the Bible be historically accurate?

How could God condone genocide or extermination?

The Question: In the Old Testament, God commands Israel to wipe out various nations, including women and children. How can a ‘good’ God condone genocide or extermination, much less order his followers to kill innocent women and children?

Continue reading How could God condone genocide or extermination?

How can there be discrepancies in the Bible?

The Question/Argument: How can you base your faith in a book with discrepancies? For example, one book says Judas hung himself, another that he fell in a field and split open… Only one can be true, so that means there is something untrue, if something is untrue in it, what else is untrue? How can we put faith in anything it says when there are discrepancies in the Bible?

Continue reading How can there be discrepancies in the Bible?

Why would God create people knowing they would sin?

The Question: Why would God, who knows everything past, present and future, bother creating people when he knew they would sin? Why let Satan into the Garden of Eden to tempt them? Why put a tree there they were not ‘allowed’ to eat out of in easy reach? He set humans up for failure did he not?

Continue reading Why would God create people knowing they would sin?

Christianity and religion is just about judging others.

The Argument/Compaint: So now that you’re a ‘Christian’ you think you are better than everyone and get to judge everyone else. Religion is all the same, people just use it to pretend they are superior.

Continue reading Christianity and religion is just about judging others.