Monday, October 24, 2016

3 Little Lies: About God

We all know Satan is a liar. Jesus Himself tells us Satan invented lying.

But why do we still get caught up in his lies?

I think our main problem is we don't know how to spot them, or that they're so small, phrased just right, that we began not to notice they are contrary to what the Bible tells us (one of the reasons it is VITAL to have a daily time in the Word!).

And they tend to play on our emotions. Satan knows he can get to us easier through our feelings than our brains.

So for the next few weeks, let's take a look at some of the different lies we're told, and what the truth really is.

This week, let's take a look and see what three lies Satan wants us to believe about God.


1. If I mess up, God's done with me/I have to earn His approval.

"That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." ~Ephesians 2:7-9, NKJV

You see this a lot in false religions. Buddhism teaches that, in order to end our suffering (nirvana), we must be good. The Quran teaches that good works are the only path to acceptance. Roman Catholicism demands penance for sins. According to Hinduism, the way to end the reincarnation cycle includes being utterly selfless. Mormonism takes another tack at this by denying our sin nature in the first place. Jehovah's Witnesses try to slide it by you by claiming to believe that only God's grace saves, but tacking on the conditions of being baptized and completely transforming your life* to faith.

Of all the major world religions (and I would hazard to guess all the world religions), Biblical Christianity is the ONLY one which teaches that while we are hopeless sinners, unable to do anything to save ourselves, God loved us enough to provide a way for forgiveness through faith in Christ's sacrifice.

But for some reason, we keep falling into this trap. Even though it goes directly against what the Bible teaches, we're so tempted to believe that, if we are just good enough, God will be happy with us. That in order to please God, to truly be accepted by Him, we need to do a whole bunch of good stuff.

If we continue on to verse 10, we read that yes, we as Christians are supposed to do good works. God wants us to be perfect, to strive to be like Him. But we don't earn His approval that way. It is through admitting our sinfulness and letting Christ clothe us in His righteousness that we receive grace. We please God by serving Him through good works, but it has NOTHING to do with His acceptance of us.

Where a lot of people get mixed up is probably the idea of consequences. God forgives. But that doesn't mean you won't suffer the consequences of what you've done.

God removes our sin as far as the east is from the west, and Jesus has paid the final price for our sins. But there's still the earthly consequences to bear.

Take a look at David. God forgave him for murdering Uriah and sleeping with the guy's wife, but he still had to suffer the consequences.


2. God can't help me with my problem


"Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You." ~ Jeremiah 32:17 NKJV

We're talking about the God of the universe, right? The God Who made everything? The God Who the Bible tells us of, where time and time again He got His people out of the messes they created for themselves?

But it's so easy to think that the God Who sent water to flood the entire earth can't help with college tuition. Or that the One Who caused the sun to stand still at the plea of Joshua can't provide a godly husband.

I feel like with this one we often get caught up in our own thing, where we're convinced that it's God's will for us to do this or to attend that. Whereas the truth could be that God doesn't want us to go to college (crud, did I say that?) or that God wants us to get married later in life, or maybe not at all.

Nothing is too hard for God. He can help us with any problem we have. The problem is, it might not be in the way we'd hoped for, or He might want us to wait.


3.God doesn't really care about me.

On the surface, this seems like the most ridiculous, like we'd never believe this one. After all, almost all of us know John 3:16. God loved us enough to send Jesus to save us from our sins.

But we get caught up in the small day-to-day life stuff. Does God really love me enough to guide my path? Does He really love me enough to provide for my needs? Does He really know who I am, out of the billions of people on this earth?

He guided Ruth, a stranger in Israel, to the field of Boaz.

He provided food for the widow and her son during a famine, even though their supplies should've run out long ago.

He knew exactly who Gideon is, though he was the least of his father's house.

Are we really that different from them? If God could lead and provide for those women, why wouldn't He do the same for us? If He knew who Gideon was, why wouldn't He know who we are?

God always cares. He loves us more than we can imagine. But sometimes in the midst of our "small" problems, we forget that if God gave us a solution to our #1 really big "unsolvable" problem (our sin separating us from Him) then why wouldn't He care enough to help us solve our little problems we face in daily life?

God is merciful, though we may have to deal with consequences of our sins.

God is powerful enough to deal with all our problems, though His solution/timing may not be ours.

God is gracious enough to care about our problems, and has already solved our biggest one.

Satan lies about God, but he also lies about himself. We'll take a look at three of those lies next week.

*Of course, true faith in God will produce a transformed life, but it is not a condition of salvation. Faith alone saves, but changed lives are a result of salvation and one of the most powerful witnesses to unsaved friends and family!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

We're the Problem

This coming election is a mess. That's no secret. I've yet to find anyone who is strongly for Trump or Clinton who isn't delusional. I mean, we're talking about the presidency of the U.S.A., a position which used to be reserved for the most qualified, most able candidate. Here in 2016, we have two candidates who are neither qualified or able, who have committed deeds and made statements that past generations wouldn't have allowed of town mayors, let alone the president of the United States. The only chance we have of having a decent president may be if a write-in or third party candidate gets elected, and even then it's probably a long-shot.

It doesn't end there. Just looking at the direction this country has been heading is kind of scary. We started out as a country where most of the founding fathers at least acknowledged God's existence and power. How did we end up as one where for a Christian to express his or her beliefs is now labeled "intolerant" or some type of phobia?

But the U.S.A.'s problem isn't so much keeping one of these candidates out of the White House. After all, if God could harden Pharaoh's heart, I'm pretty sure He can deal with whichever of these "wonderful" choices get in there. And though as we head nearer to the Tribulation we're going to see greater and greater evil, God's power hasn't slacked where He can't shield His own and bring the lost to Himself.

If we're honest, most of the problem with this country is us.

We who claim Christ's Name, but resemble the devil more than Jesus.
We who claim to be servants of God, but follow very few of His commands.

Here's what I mean:


1. We treat marriage as worthless.

I've seen conflicting results as to what percentage of Christian couples end up divorced. Some reports say the percentage is high, others not so high.

But our view of marriage is reflected in our view of sex and its proper place in a relationship. If we're willing to "go all the way" before the vows are exchanged, we really have a poor view of marriage and its sacredness. Living and sleeping together before marriage, common even among those claiming to be Christians, takes that precious gift and throws it in the manure pile.


2. We don't seek His Face.

Supposedly, 72% of pastors don't crack open the Word unless they're preparing to preach from it. Of course, technically you could say that all Bible reading is lesson planning, but this implies that only about a quarter of pastors actually have daily devotions. This is pastors we're talking about, men who are supposed to shepherd God's people. How many Christians are actually opening their Bibles?

We complain about how messed up the U.S. is, but what about how messed up we are, that we aren't seeking out a better relationship with the One Who gives us life?


3. We disregard our leaders.

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he urges prayer for our leaders. How many of us are praying for Obama, Biden, and our governors? How many of us pray for Hillary and Donald?

We fail to pray that God would work in their hearts so they would do good and not evil in this nation. We who have God dwelling in us know how hard it is to do the right thing. How much harder for those who don't have Jesus? We have the Source of Wisdom indwelling us, and yet we fail to pray that God would give our leaders wisdom, leaving them wide open for Satan.

Instead, too many of us are claiming the name of Christ while blatantly breaking as many laws as we can (which laws, FYI, we are commanded by God to obey unless they go against His commands). Stealing, pillaging, tax evasion, destroying/defacing public or private property: you name it, someone who claims Christ is doing it. I did a quick search, and found a graffiti artist who claims to be a Christian, whose art is found in "various restaurant bathrooms (LOL)" (artistsforchrist.net). Of course, he could be getting permission, but I don't think God approves of vandalizing no matter what you spray paint on there.


4. We don't give a fruitcake about the poor and lost.

Regardless of whether you believe in a solid 10% tithe or just free giving out of what God has given you, we'll failing at both. We're arguably one if not the richest nation in the world, and yet we're giving less than 5%? That's shameful. What on earth are we doing with all of God's money?

Sadly, I'd hazard to guess that most of it we're spending on ourselves. We've been caught up in the craze for the latest and greatest, seeking out material goods at a rate our unsaved neighbors would be proud of.

Things aren't bad. But we're starting to shove God out with them. And it has to stop.


5. We don't speak the truth.

We as a people have become cowards for Christ. Instead of speaking out against what the Bible teaches as sin (such as homosexuality, adultery, women pastors, welfare abusers*, covetousness, etc.), we are too busy swilling out a watered-down version of something that might've been the Gospel at one time.

Truth is, the truth isn't popular. The truth won't get us many friends. But denying the truth is a sure way to help people down the road to Hell.


6. We don't speak it in love.

On the flip side, some of us are very good at speaking the truth, but terrible at speaking it in love. Jesus didn't call us to bomb Planned Parenthood clinics, or to bully gay kids. The only people we ever read about Jesus even using a harsh word against were the religious leaders, who claimed to know God while they denied Him in their actions and attitudes. Only once that I could find does the Bible make mention of Jesus using violence. So why are we taking that 1% and utilizing it 99% of the time?

People who are living in sin are hurting, broken people desperately in need of the forgiveness and love of our just and merciful God. We need to speak the truth, but we also need to pray for their eyes to be opened, that Satan wouldn't be able to deceive them anymore, that God would work in their hearts to draw them to Him. We need to call sin what it is, and we need to show the love of God. Why, when Jesus regularly ate with sinners, are we disparaging them? Especially when it's only by the grace of God that we're any different?


7. We trample on Jesus' sacrifice.

We do lip service to Jesus' death on the cross. But we spit at it heedlessly.

Could someone look at the way we live and honestly believe there's something different about us? That the merciful God and Lord of all saved us from our sins, and is making us new? If not, we need to pray for God to fix our lives.

Jesus died to set us free from our sins, but all too often we don't want to be free from them, we just want to be free from the consequences of them. We say a quick sorry but go right back to rolling in the muck Jesus has cleansed us from.


The U.S. is a mess, and it will continue to grow worse and worse until Jesus returns. But we shouldn't be growing worse with it. We should be going in the opposite direction, getting better and better through the renewing of God's Spirit in us. So what's happening? What on earth are we doing?

This country is only going to see Christ through us. What are we showing them? Are we showing them a righteous and loving God, just and merciful, Who hates sin but loves the sinner in spite of their actions? Or are we showing that God really doesn't give a circus peanut about anybody, that He's no better than those Roman myths of lecherous gods, that He commands one thing while doing the opposite?


*Not those who are unable to work or can't find a job, but those who refuse to work even though they are perfectly able to and jobs are spewing into their paths.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Faith and a Gray Cat

She was just supposed to go in for a checkup and blood draw before she got a dental done. No big deal, routine for a 14-year-old cat (that's an old fogie cat FYI).

She was little, but she is a runt, she's always been little. Only when she was rather fat was she more than 8 pounds. 6-7 was a good weight for her.

My little babe
I sat in the waiting room, my fur baby in her carrier beside me, giving me her signature stink eye glare. She'd ignore me the rest of the day when we got home, but I was just over the flu, and gave more thought to how much longer we'd be waiting than what mood my cat would be in when we got back home.

When we were called back and the tech weighed her, she was a little light. Closer to 5 pounds than 6. But she was old, and cats tend to lean out when they get old.

The vet was a little concerned, but thought it might be a thyroid issue. They drew blood, and sent me on my way after scheduling MeMe's dental.

The blood work showed high liver enzymes. The vet thought it better to wait, to get MeMe's liver issue fixed before we proceeded with the dental. They gave me a box of medicine, and hope that this issue would be resolved in a month.

That appointment was January 15.

My fur baby still has not been cleared for the dental.

My little cat has been on round after round of the liver medication, has been back for weight checks at least monthly, and is on steroids to help her eat.

She has had days where she gobbles up whatever I put in front of her, and days where even eating her favorite food is too much for her stomach.

She went from being the bully* of my other cats to being easily pushed out of the way by them at dinnertime. I feed her by herself, but she struggles to eat when I'm not around.**

Now her teeth bother her, she needs a dental, but the vet isn't sure she's healthy enough to have it.

And it tears me up inside.

I can't possibly imagine the pain parents go through watching their sick child struggle to get well. But this is the closest I can come. Call me a crazy cat lady, but my little girl is the closest thing I can imagine to having a child. And it hurts like crazy, watching her struggle, seeing her start to get better, and then slip backwards.

And sometimes, it's hard to believe God hears my pleas, that He sees this little gray cat, and that His heart breaks even more than mine does over her, over the pain I'm going through watching her suffer.

But He does.

Why then hasn't He healed her? Why hasn't He taken her, so she (and I) don't have to go through this any more? Will I have to make that choice, when the vet says there's no more hope?

I don't know.

My only answer is that He must be teaching me about faith.

Faith is defined as being "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV). Right now, I can't see what on earth good it is for my little gray fur baby to suffer. I don't understand, and if I'm completely honest, part of me is too busy throwing a little hissy fit to care about understanding. But faith is believing anyway, even though we have no shred of proof beyond what God has promised in the Bible.

Faith is believing that He knows about my pain, and that He won't leave me to bear it alone.

Faith is trusting that He's working this out for my good, even though I can't see it right now.

So when you hear the devilish whispers, telling you that God doesn't care, that He's left you to sink or swim on your own, have them "talk to the hand." Dare to believe that God, Who was mighty enough to create the world, Who loved you enough to die on a cross, is also faithful enough to keep His promises. We can't see it now. We might never see it on earth. But you can bet your paychecks for life that He will keep each and every one of them.

I pray that, whatever you're going through, that God would remind you that He is faithful. That He would help you have faith in Him. And I ask that you pray for me, that I would remember that as well.

How has God been teaching you about faith?

*All the other cats had at least a pound on her when she weighed 7, now most of them have 2 or more.
**She could be locked in a room all day by herself with food, but she doesn't eat well unless I personally sit with her and feed her. Yes, she probably is spoiled (I can almost guarantee it).