Danger Signals

What if you learned that nothing you trusted was quite what it seemed?

What if you came across an old, dusty book that unmasked a close-knit web of intricate, cleverly masked lies.  What if it revealed to you that the people you trusted to guide you were misguided at best, and some, downright sinister.  What if it showed you that everything you believed in was 99% truth + 1% lie = 100% dangerous?

What if?

What if this is the reality right now?

Jesus gave His disciples a multitude of warnings throughout the Gospels, but there are certain ones that stick out like giant neon danger signs:

  1. “Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” – Matt. 24:4, 5.
  2. “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” – Matt. 24:11.
  3. “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  See, I have told you beforehand.  Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.  For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” – Matt. 24:23-27.

The first passage warns against deception from those who claim to be Christ.  The second is a warning against false teachers who will come claiming divine inspiration and lead many away from the truth.

The third is the one that should put us on the highest level of alert to security threats.  First it warns against false christs and false prophets using signs and miracles to deceive, and claiming that Jesus has come in secret places.  However the Bible is clear.  Everyone will see Jesus’ second coming (Matt. 24:27; Rev. 1:7).

But the strongest warning to be on your guard comes from verse 24: “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”  In other words, the deceptions will be so close to the truth that they would almost deceive God’s children who have been walking with Him and prayerfully studying His word.  These deceptions will be perpetrated by people we would trust.  They will use signs and miracles that cannot be ignored.  But they will not be from God.

All of this may sound rather frightening when you think about it, but God has not left us without hope.  Those who truly belong to God will not be led astray by these deceptions because they have obeyed His word and are actively watching and praying.  They will be able to recognize the 1% of error mixed in with the truth.  This is why He urgently calls us to beware, to watch and pray (Mark 14:38; Luke 21:36).  He warns us not to place our trust in people, but in Him alone (Psalm 146:3; John 14:1).  He admonishes us to study His word for ourselves and examine the influences surrounding us, so we may know if they are from God or not (2 Timothy 2:15; 1 John 4:1, Acts 17:11).

What a loving, merciful God!  He never leaves us floundering about hopelessly in the unknown, especially in such a dark and dismal world.  He makes sure we know the danger and seriousness of our situation, and then He promises His presence, His guidance, His protection, and hope for the future.

So let’s heed the warning.  Let’s make God’s word our guide, the standard by which all things are measured.  And let’s faithfully observe the words of His prophet:

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20.

True Religion

It’s more than a brand of jeans.  More than a social cause.  It’s a lifestyle.

These days many of us are very familiar with what the Bible says in James 1:27 about the essence of true religion.  It has been the preface to many a sermon, worship talk, or speech to rouse us from our self-absorbed slumber into action for the good of those who are hurting around the globe.

Yet in all the swarm of activity around our social causes, some of us have lost something.  Before I go any further, let me say that social causes are good.  God encourages, even requires us to take care of those who need help.  But there’s something else that’s good.  It is the balancing side to a scale that is growing fearfully unbalanced.

It’s the Mary perspective.

Jesus once visited his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany (Luke 10:38-42).  While Martha was busy doing the good thing of preparing a meal to serve Jesus, Mary was doing the good thing of sitting at His feet, listening to the words of truth.  Both were good things.  But one was commended as better: listening to the words of Jesus.

That practice of taking time to study and learn from Jesus is often neglected in favor of active service projects.  Neither side should be neglected.  Take a closer look at James 1:27:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

That last part often goes unmentioned.  But God puts the two together: service for others and remaining spiritually pure.  It’s the same thing in the great commandment: love for God first, with everything you are, and then a responsibility to love others as you love yourself.  One can never be separated from the other.  This concept is all throughout the Bible:

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice,
 correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” – Isaiah 1:16, 17, ESV.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” – Matthew 25:34-40, NLT.

There it is.  Care for others and love for God, shown in obedience to all His commands.  This is true religion.  It is not an unbalanced thing.  It does not take from one side only and believe that is enough.  It does not cloister itself away in a shack in the mountains, studying the Bible 24/7.  It does not overfill its plate with projects and causes until there’s no time for anything else and burnout sets in.

It balances actively seeking God in His word with serving Him by serving others.  Jesus Himself gave us the example.  He spent time teaching, healing, and preaching, but He also took time out for deep seasons of communion with His Father.  We’re definitely billions of light years from being on the same level as Jesus, so how much more do we need deep seasons of communion with God and time to study His word?

Notice Matthew 7:21-13:

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”

My good works cannot save me.  But they will be important.  Through them, my obedience to God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself will be shown.  Similarly, a pure life, washed clean from sin through His blood and kept unspotted by following His words, shows my love for Him above all others.  Both sides working together show whether or not I have truly done the will of my Father.  Love for God with everything in us first, and then love for others as for ourselves.  This is the essence of true religion.

The Date: Getting Ready

Ladies, take a moment to envision a few scenarios with me.  Suppose there’s this guy that you really care about.  In fact, you love him!  You’re getting ready to go see him, so you take a little extra special care getting ready.  You style your hair attractively and pick out an outfit you think he’ll like, probably in his favorite color.  You may even put on those cute pumps he said looked very nice on you, even if they do get a little uncomfortable after a while.

Suddenly it’s not about you anymore.  You love him and you want to look your best for him.  You want to please him.

How do you think that makes him feel?

Now imagine another picture.  You’re still going to spend some time with this guy you love and his friends.  But instead, of wearing the pretty blue dress he really liked, you wear the enticing one his friend liked.  It’s his friend’s favorite color, and your guy has told you before he really doesn’t like that dress.  But you wear it anyway, even putting your hair up in a way his friend likes, when you know your guy likes your hair down.

Now, it’s all about your true love’s friend?

How do you think your guy will feel when he sees you dressing for someone else?

Now just bear with me for one more mental image.

You’re going to meet your guy.  You love him, yes, but you’re feeling lazy, so you just run a comb through your hair and grab the nearest, comfiest clothes from the floor of your closet and pull them on.  No matter that their a little old and wrinkly or that they make you look like a lazy slob.

It’s about you, what makes you most comfortable, and you just don’t feel like going to the extra trouble of dressing up.

How do you think your guy will feel when he realizes that you didn’t care enough to make at least a little effort to look nice for him?

Consider this: Jesus is your Love.  He is the one you care about and love so much that you want to please Him and look nice for Him.  Which of the three images do you think would be most pleasing to Him?  What response does your appearance present to His awesome character and tender compassion when you go to meet with Him?

The Accident

Today I was in my first real car accident.  Thank the Lord, the only injury was an orange-shaped, swollen bruise on the elbow of the lady in the passenger’s seat of the car.  We were in our motor home, and they were in a car.  They didn’t realize they were running a red light.  We had the right of way.

The moment it happened, we were all ready to get out, Mom, Reuel and I with our cameras, ready to document what had happened.  First questions between the man and his wife in the car and us were, “Are you all ok?”  Then we began checking the damage on each other’s vehicles.

This is probably the thing that impressed me the most.  The attitudes all around were so Christ-like, so caring for the other person and so humble and honest.  That can only be Jesus working in hearts!  A lot of times when you see an accident like that, someone starts casting blame on someone else, people may show little care for each other’s wellbeing, and a spirit of anger and coldness.

But here, the man was honest about what happened and humbly took responsibility.  We were all trying to make sure the woman, who had bruised her arm, had ice to bring down the swelling and was feeling fine.  She was asking us if we were sure we were ok.

My friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what our Heavenly Father asks of us in difficult, stressful, horrible situations.  Actually, in every situation.  No matter what bad things happen, whether it’s our fault or not, our defenses should not fly up.  Anger, a blaming attitude, and pride in your own “rightness” should not instantly flare up.  The first thing should be care for the other’s wellbeing.  As the Bible tells us, each of us should not spend our time looking after our own concerns, but looking after those of others (Philippians 2:4).  This isn’t a license to nosiness.  It’s genuine, Christ-like love for our neighbors.  As Jesus said, the commandments are summed up in loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as we love ourselves (Luke 10:27). In another text, we’re admonished to prefer each other in honor above ourselves (Romans 12:10).

This is God’s will for His children.  This is His character, and this is how it must be lived out in the lives of all who take His name.

After the accident, while we waited for the police, my brother and I talked about the parables or spiritual lessons we could draw from this experience.  Several came to mind.

One is to always be alert in the present, instead of living in the past on automatic.  You see, the driver of the car explained that a little ways back up the road, they had come to an intersection just like the one where the accident took place, where construction work was being done on the other side.  The light was red and he stopped.  But one of the construction workers on the other side of the intersection was holding one of those “Slow/Stop” signs, and he had just turned it to slow.  So he waved at him to come through the red light.  So he went.  A little while later, they came to this intersection, where another construction crew was working.  The driver came to a stop, but then he saw the guy with the sign turn his sign to slow.  The guy didn’t wave him through, but remembering the previous situation, he started across the intersection.  But we were already crossing.

We cannot live our lives by what happened in the past.  True, we must know the past so we will not repeat its mistakes and will learn from its victories, but we have to live within the present, making new victories and continued progress.  And we must remain alert!  We should never go into automatic mode!  That’s when we become too relaxed and comfortable that we’re certain to fall right into the enemy’s carefully camouflaged traps.  Driving on cruise control may be alright in a car on a long road trip, but it’s absolutely deadly in your spiritual life!   “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Another valuable parable from this experience is about focus.  My brother loves to come up with witty one-liners, so he came up with one that goes something like this:

Keep your eyes on the Light, and not on the man.

Fitting advice.  Too much of our time is spent focused on humans and what they’re doing or not doing.  We say to ourselves, “She wears those things and she’s a Christian, so I should be able to do the same.”  Or, “He goes there, and he’s always speaking in church, so I can go there, too.”

Never a thought for what Jesus would have us do, or say, or wear, or be. We compare ourselves to faulty, frail humans, who sometimes aren’t even walking with God, instead of to the only spotless Example, Jesus, the Son of God Himself, who lived out the life that He wants to live out in us.

So let’s look at Jesus, contemplate Him and His character and His way of living.  Let’s look to Perfection and walk in His footsteps.

Eye Candy Gives You Cavities

A few months ago, I was reading about how many of us girls, whether naively or consciously, sometimes dress in ways that make guys see us as nothing more than sexual objects.  Then we get upset and complain about how they are objectifying us, when we are actually the ones who made ourselves eye candy to them.  The use of the term “eye candy” got me thinking about how I view eye candy.

I always considered it an innocent thing to see an attractive guy and consider him as nothing more than a handsome face, with no interest in his character, personality, or spirituality.  But this time I had to give it a second thought.  Is it really so harmless?

Suddenly I had a vision of myself sitting next to my wonderful future husband…gazing across the room at my eye candy.  How would my future husband feel about that?  Here I am, sitting next to him, while staring at another man who I claim to have no interest in and know nothing about.  Staring is not accomplished without simultaneous thought processes, and I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t want to have to tell my future husband what I was thinking about my this other guy.

The world says, “If all you did was think about it for awhile, it’s no harm.  You didn’t do anything.”

Our Lord says that the dwelling on the thought is already sin (Matthew 5:28).  Harboring inappropriate thoughts about someone else’s man is not a God-approved passtime.  And yes, let’s face it, he’s someone else’s man.  Don’t lie to yourself and say, “He could be my future husband.”  Because when you stop and count all the eye candy you’ve indulged in, it’s clear that all those guys were not your future husband.

Furthermore, that eye candy does nothing but ruin my appetite for a healthy dinner.  It takes away my appreciation for the real attractiveness in the character, personality, and, yes, even the looks of the person my Savior has chosen for me.

Like real candy, eye candy is void of nutritive value.  All it does is create an addictive feeling of pleasure, a high that feels great but doesn’t last.  And when it’s gone, I’m left feeling empty, and sometimes, a little sick.

God knew what He was talking about when He told us the first thing we should be seeking: His kingdom and His righteousness.  Instead of seeking temporary highs, He invites us to everlasting joy and contentment in Him, whether we are in a relationship or not.

Seek Him first, and let Him give you the healthy dinner and dessert that won’t make you fat, won’t make you sick, but will completely satisfy because you’re surrendered to Him.

Being Me

This is something I’ve thought about for a while.  I’d love to hear your reactions!

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As a Christian, what does it mean to be yourself?  Is it even a God-sanctioned pursuit?  Consider a person who has cultivated a personality that keeps huge barriers between her and others, to the extent that her actions show no care for anyone other than herself.  If she should try to change these tendencies once God reveals their sinfulness to her, she is going to have a very uncomfortable, painful task ahead of her.  Being any other way will seem entirely unnatural and exhausting.  Does God really expect her to be someone she’s not?

God does ask us to be people we are not.  He asks us to be emptied of self and allow Him to fill us with His spirit.  We learn to walk in His steps, to live set-apart (holy) lives in which He is the center, and everything we do is all for love of Him.

When Jesus is the Lover of my soul, the One I love first and best, it makes a completely new person out of me.  My priorities change.  My desires, pasttimes, interests, hopes, dreams, and plans change.  Now, the only thing that matters is making Him happy.  I wantto be wherever He is.  I want to do whatever He’s doing.  And I’m fiercely loyal to my Love.

The old self, with all its less than beautiful traits, dies, giving way to the new self, carefully, thoughtfully molded by the hands of Jesus Himself.  This new self may be a radical change from who I was previously, but it’s still completely unique.  It’s a transformation that actually does turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.