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Jacob Have I Loved: God’s Choice and Ours

Jacob wrestles with an angel during his travels. This shows salvation is both God's choice and ours.

Jacob was chosen by God. Before he was even born, God told his mother Rebecca that He loved him. When we look at his life, we see a life marked by the blessings of God. He was the father of the twelve tribes of people God would call His own, and it was through his line that the Messiah would come. Jacob is Israel. We, as blood-bought Christians of today, are spiritual Israel, grafted into the olive tree and also chosen by God. In reading Genesis this week, I saw an amazing similarity between Jacob’s life and the lives of those of us who know Jesus as our Lord. Our salvation is both God’s choice and ours.

We Started As Sinners

When we first meet up with Jacob in Genesis 25, we see that he is the second born of a set of twins. He came out grabbing his brother Esau’s heel, so his mother named him Jacob, meaning heel-grabber or even supplanter. He lived up to his name when he convinced his brother to sell his birthright for a meal (Genesis 25:31) and later deceived his father into giving him his brother’s blessing (Genesis 27:19).

God didn’t pick Jacob because he was good. He chose him before he was born according to God’s sovereign purposes. Romans 9:11-13 “…(for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, ‘The older shall serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.’”

There isn’t a single one of us who names the name of Christ who was good enough to be chosen for salvation. There is no magic formula. No certain words we could say that could compel God to give us His Spirit outside of His sovereign choice. It is a supernatural work of God. Ephesians 1:4 says, “…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love…” We were all sinners saved by God’s sovereign grace. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

God Draws Us to Himself, Despite Us

When his brother Esau realizes that he has stolen his blessing, he vows to kill him for his treachery. For his own safety, his mother sends Jacob to her relative’s house to find a wife. On the trip, God comes to him in a dream. Jacob sees a ladder with angels ascending and descending. God speaks to him there. He introduces Himself as the God of his father and grandfather and lays out His plan for Jacob’s life, promising to give the land to him and his decedents. He also promises to keep him on his travels and bring him back to the land (Genesis 28:13-15).

As amazing as this promise from God is, Jacob’s reaction is far from gracious.

“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If  God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.”

Genesis 28:20-21

John 6:44 says that no one can come to God unless the Father draws him/her. God initiated contact with each one of us. His grace softened our hearts to show us our desperate need for a Savior. Some believers listened immediately, giving their lives to Christ. Others of us, like Jacob, seem to have set up conditions in our hearts, with some “ifs” and “thens,” giving God a “trial run” to see if He is really God. How many believers had parents and grandparents praying for them just like Jacob did? How many of us “heard” God calling us days, months, or even years before we submitted to His plan for our lives?

God Doesn’t Give Up On Us

God knows the end from the beginning, so even while Jacob still doesn’t seem convinced, God blesses him and even those around him. Jacob the deceiver is tricked by his uncle Laban into working double the years for the wife of his choice. When the years are completed, and his wives had borne him many children, he asks Laban to allow him to return to the land of his father. Laban begs him to stay because of the blessings he has received for Jacob’s sake. But Laban hasn’t been playing fair, altering his wages again and again. So Jacob changes breeding tactics in response. He continues to prosper so much that Laban’s sons start to get concerned about their own inheritance.

Tensions rise, and God tells him to go home to the land of his father. He tells him that He will be with Him and says, “Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you” (Genesis 31:12).

Like Jacob, God watches over us, His children, all of our days. He has a purpose and plan for each of us. And, even before we realized it in some cases, He was there, guiding us to make the choices that brought us the character, skills, and relationships that He would later use for Kingdom purposes. Everything we are is because He has made us. Everything we have, we have been given by Him.

God Protects Us Even When We Don’t Realize It

Afraid that Laban will try to take away his possessions and even his own wives and children, he escapes without telling anyone. He gets a three day head start before Laban heads out after him. While on the trip, Laban gets a visit from God Himself, warning him not to mess with Jacob. He realizes that he can’t hurt him, so he makes a covenant with him that Jacob may take no other wives or do anything to hurt his daughters. They depart in peace, and Jacob continues toward his father’s land and the angry brother that he is sure to find there. God sends His angels to guard him (Genesis 32:1-2).

While God doesn’t send warning messages to our enemies on the daily, every one of us can point to times in our lives when God has intervened on our behalf. Psalm 91:11-12 promises, “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” We are protected by God, and nothing happens to us unless He allows it.

We All Had to Make the Choice To Make Him Our God

About to meet his brother twenty years after taking his blessing, Jacob isn’t sure what to expect. He sends a messenger ahead to promise gifts to his brother, but he receives word that Esau is advancing with 400 men. Jacob is distressed. He splits his company in two to try to preserve at least some of his family and resources. He then prays to God in Genesis 32:9, saying, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac…” He reminds God of His promises and begs for His help. Jacob then sends three waves of servants with gifts to appease his brother. Then he sends his wives and children over the river and is alone with God.

“Then Jacob was left alone, and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.’ But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’

Genesis 32:24-26

God’s response to Jacob’s request for help was a wrestling match. Jacob’s physical tussle is symbolic to believers. We all have the same internal struggle about who will rule our lives. Will we be our own masters, or will we submit to God? Jacob refuses to submit. In response, God humbles him with an injury to his thigh. God then renames him Israel, which means “God contends” or literally “one who struggles with God.” Jacob had a limp from that day forward.

Then Jacob realizes that his blessing is his very own life. “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved’” (Genesis 32:30).

Did you catch that? In Genesis 32:9, he called Him the God of his father and grandfather. In Genesis 32:30, He is simply “God.” He had become his own. His fears that God would not live up to His promises are gone, and his conditions for “if” and “then” evaporated. His encounter with the living God had changed him forever.

Each one of us who has been converted, born again by God’s Holy Spirit, has had a personal experience with our Savior. We were engaged by God and felt the struggle between flesh and spirit. There was a moment when we realized that God is our God. He gave us His Spirit, changed us forever, and one day will even give us a new name. Revelation 2:17 says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”

Israel and Spiritual Israel

Israel’s life is a mirror to the lives of all who are grafted into the family tree of God’s people. We were chosen, called, blessed, guided, and protected. Every one of us who is walking with God had to come to a moment when we decided that God is our God. There are many believers out there who have mentally agreed that Jesus is the only way to God. They believe in Him and have even said the prayer of salvation once or twice in their lives. But they have never fully submitted to Him. They have never been changed into a new creation. If you have heard God calling, leading you to do something for Him, now is the time to submit. If you have been living for yourself, now is the time to make Him your God.

Interested in the topic of Jacob and Esau? Here is a super sermon by Charles Spurgeon called Jacob and Esau. In it, he delves into the tricky territory between predestination and free will.

If you to look closely at scripture, try Three Simple Instructions From God to Us. In it, we look at Hebrews 3-4. Or, try Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job 28. Please do not forget to sign up to receive email notifications at the top right of this page. Or, check out my YouTube channel where I read my blogs to you so you can multitask. I also have a super playlist of hymns led by the talented, anointed 16-year old at my church called Hymns from Hannah.

Impressions from God

A Dream of Correction and Warning for the Church

This is a triangular sign with an exclamation mark inside to represent the warning.

John 20:27 says that God’s people hear His voice. One of the ways God speaks in these last days is through dreams. Of course, not every dream is from God. The key is confirmation. First, does the Holy Spirit within you bear witness? Second, does the message agree with Bible? And, finally, are other Christians hearing the same things when God speaks to them? Last Sunday, I had a dream that was confirmed in all three ways. It is a correction and a warning for the church that we must heed, both for our own safety and to be pleasing to God.

I had the dream last Sunday, January 5, 2020. First, I woke up around 7:30 AM with a terrible feeling that something was just not right. I asked the Lord to speak to me, and I went right back to sleep and had a dream.

The Dream

In my dream, we were all waiting for the baby to poop. We knew that when it happened, it would be massive. There would be so much that it could even explode out of the diaper and get onto the walls. The baby was lying on the bed, completely naked. We hadn’t even put on the diaper yet. I leaned over to its face and kissed and snuggled it. I pulled back, and the baby said, “Too much.” Again, I leaned over and kissed and snuggled it. Again, the baby said, “Too much.” This happened two or three times. 

Then the baby started to poop. There was just a little at first, and it got on the bedspread. I picked it up and held it over a nearby towel to try to lessen the damage. The poop just kept coming and coming. Just then, I remembered that someone else was with me. It was a female family member whom I know to be unsaved. I wondered, not without annoyance, why this person wasn’t doing more to help me. It was her baby more than it was mine. End of Dream.

The First Confirmation

When I woke up the second time, about an hour later, I wondered if the dream might be from God. First of all, I had asked for Him to speak, and then right after I went into REM sleep. Second, any time something happens more than once in a dream, it’s s signal to pay attention. I prayed and asked God if it was from Him. Almost immediately, I had the thought that the baby represented the world. Then I went to church.

When I got to church, the pastor started first thing by letting us know that he had had that same feeling that morning, very heavily, that something was NOT RIGHT. He preached a message about how we needed to get closer to God than we ever have before and keep our focus on Him.

Interpretation: the Set Up

After church, I was still praying about the interpretation, and I came up with most of it at that time.

Most Christians in the Remnant community are well aware that danger is coming. Modern watchmen take Ezekiel 33:6 very seriously, and they have been warning for years that the end time Beast is about to rise. Before that new system can come up, however, the old system must come down. That means wars, economic collapse, general chaos, and even Christian persecution. People know and speak about it as the time when the “poop” hits the fan (SHTF).

In my dream we were waiting for said “poop.” We were afraid of it getting on the walls even with a diaper on. I believe this speaks to the many Christians who feel that even if they DO prepare as best they can – whether physically with food, water, and even precious metals or mentally by learning skills for doing things without electricity, etc. – their preparations will simply not be “enough.” They feel overwhelmed at the whole idea of “prepping” for disaster.

Interpretation: The Baby

The baby was naked on a bed.The baby is this current world. In the Bible, “nakedness” is connected to sin and shame. When nakedness is revealed, that indicates a time of judgement. Ezekiel 16:36 speaks about Israel being uncovered before God. Because of idolatry and child sacrifice, Israel was judged, but it sure sounds a lot like the whole world right now.

“Thus says the Lord God: ‘Because your filthiness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotry with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children which you gave to them…”

Ezekiel 16:36

I hadn’t even put on the baby’s diaper. Christians are told to be clothed with Christ in Galatians 3:27. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” And, those who are associated with Him in the Bible are always found clothed in pure white linen. Before modern plastic diapers, babies were covered with sections of cloth made from white cotton or linen. I believe this represents the idea that some Christians today are living lives like the world. Sin and shame are evident, but the covering of Jesus Christ is missing. In my dream, I was worried that even WITH the diaper, the poop could explode out and get onto the walls. This speaks to the worry/fear that some Christians experience when they think about the coming hard times. But the Bible tells us not to fear but to trust.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

Interpretation: Snuggling the Baby

I snuggled the baby’s face. I believe strongly that this means that many Christians today are too focused on the pleasures of this world. Overwhelmed by the prospect of coming disaster, unsure what to do, and tired of the years and years of warnings, some have simply given up on worrying about it. Instead, they focus their time and efforts on pursuits that bring them pleasure and take their minds off the coming mess. But Galatians 6:9 tells us to persevere.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Galatians 6:9

The baby said, “Too much.” I believe that this is a chastisement, a correction from God. He is letting us know that we are still too much a part of the world. We are too invested and too involved in playing with the fun parts of the world and not nearly serious enough about preparing for the big mess that will come from it.

Interpretation: Poop on the Bed & a Towel

The baby pooped on the bedspread. I think this represents the beginning of a time when trouble hits. There was just a little at first, but when I noticed it, I reacted immediately. I think the bed/bedspread represents larger damage. Maybe this means that the kick-off event will come with a high price for those who are uncovered. If the baby had been covered with a diaper (covered with Christ), the larger damage could have been avoided.

I picked the baby up and held it over a towel. I think this represents the things we will do to try to survive and get through when the really bad things start happening. Without the covering of Christ, we will be on our own to find a way to lessen the impact of the hard times that will be upon us. If the baby had been wearing a diaper, we might still have needed a towel, but we could have avoided the larger damage of the bedspread, and there would have been a lot less to clean up.

Interpretation: The Unsaved Family Member

I expected more help from my family member. To be honest, I prayed and prayed about this part, even asking close friends what they thought this meant. I didn’t get any answers other than the definite idea that I shouldn’t expect much help from those who are not saved. It wasn’t until I was listening to a YouTube video this week that I received both another confirmation of the dream as well as a better idea of what this part meant.

I said, “This was more her baby than it was mine.” I think this statement confirms the interpretation of the baby as the world and reminds us that, as Christians, this world is not our home. We are in it, but we are not of it. We must always remember that and keep our minds focused on living with eternity in mind.

A Confirmation and the Last Piece of the Puzzle

A Minute to Midnite is a terrific YouTube ministry. This week, I listened to Tony’s show titled Mike@Onpoint Preparedness – Spotlight on Very Important Signs at start of 2020. The whole show was really a confirmation that we need to be preparing for what is coming instead of spending our time in pursuit of the world. First, we must put on Christ as our main covering. Then, we must prepare as best we can physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

Near the end of the interview, Mike mentioned something that gave me the last bit of interpretation as to what my unsaved family member meant. He said, “Christians are really going to have to rely on one another during these times.” He spoke of finding like-minded Christians to prepare with in your area. In the dream, I couldn’t depend on someone from this world for much help (even a close family member). I think this means that we must seek out believers near us for help and support in these last days.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Those who have the Spirit of God will be our best resource for help and support because we all have the same goals: to glorify God and to love His people.

The Correction and the Warning

I believe this dream is a correction to virtually every one of us. We need to stop focusing on the world and get serious about preparing for what is coming. Most importantly, we must make sure that we have put on Christ as our covering by giving ourselves to Him completely and listening when He convicts us about our behavior. We must seek out local Christian connections for support both now and when hard times hit.

It is also a warning to those who resist the Holy Spirit’s correction and prompting to prepare. Proverbs 27:12 says, “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.” As western Christians, we are used to living very convenient, comfortable lives. We have no idea what it will be like to live without internet and stocked grocery stores, much less electricity or running water. Jesus can protect us from a lot of things that are coming, but God’s ways are not our ways. We may have to go through some things to fulfill our calling and lead others to Him. He knows what is coming and what He will require of us. We have to listen when He warns us to focus and prepare.  

If you like Words from the Lord, try A Message of Hope in a Time of Great Trial. In it, the Lord gives me a song that speaks to God’s faithfulness to the child of God even during terrible times. Or, try The Waves of God’s Judgement and the Child of God. In it, God reveals the way God’s children will be treated when judgement comes.

Closer Look at Scripture

What Did Jesus Write In the Dust?

In John Chapter 8, the Pharisees, seeking to trap Jesus by His own words, bring him a woman caught in the act of adultery. They ask what should be done to her according to the law. In response, Jesus stoops two times to write in the dust, and they depart from the eldest to the youngest. What did Jesus write in the dust? Some say he was writing a list of the sins of the accusers or the names of those who had also been with the woman. But Jesus’ own words the day before coupled with a little known prophecy from Jeremiah tell a completely different story about what He wrote. And the situation itself is a prophetic picture of what will happen when Jesus comes again and a warning to us all.

The Feast of Tabernacles

The whole thing starts on the seventh day of an eight day festival called the Feast of Tabernacles. Also called the Feast of Booths or the Feast of Sukkot, this celebration required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple and offer sacrifices to the Lord. People celebrated it around harvest time, and many still acknowledge it today. It’s meant to be a remembrance of God’s life-giving provisions during the Jew’s exodus from Egypt into the Promised Land (manna from Heaven and water from a rock). It is also an acknowledgement that God still continues to provide for His people.

The seventh day was known as Hashana Rabba, or “the Great Day.” The people celebrated a joyful ritual called the Water Drawing Ceremony. In it, a whole parade of worshippers and flutists led by priests trekked to the pool of Siloam. While the priest filled a golden pitcher with water from the pool, a choir of Israelites chanted Psalm 118. Then everybody headed back to the Temple through the Water Gate.

When they got there, a trumpet sounded, and the priest approached the altar. He carried that golden pitcher of water and another golden pitcher filled with wine. He poured the wine into one of two silver basins as a drink offering to the Lord. And, he poured water from the pool of Siloam into the other. The purpose was to thank God for His bounty and to ask for rain for crops in the coming year. (Water was scarce at that time in the Middle East, so they understood their dependence on God to provide.)

Jesus’ Offense to the Pharisees

All of this happened the very day that Jesus said:

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

JOHN 7:38

So during a festival meant to celebrate God’s provision of water during the Exodus with Moses striking the rock, Jesus is comparing Himself to the rock, who is God. 

  • PSALM 78:35 “And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.”

He is also reminding them of the scriptures that say that the very rock, or stone will be rejected by the people.

  • PSALM 118:22 “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”
  • ISAIAH 8:14  “He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”

The Pharisees Want Him Arrested

When the people hear Jesus speak, they start to murmur among themselves. They are wondering if He could be the Christ they were waiting for. But the Pharisees and the chief priests reject His message. They get angry and send a security team to arrest Jesus. But, when the men hear Him speak, they refuse to arrest Him. Now the priests and Pharisees are really angry, and they deride the officers for their foolishness in believing in Him.

They accuse both the officers and the people of not knowing the law. Ironically enough, their quick comeback is that no prophet ever came out of Galilee. This is in direct opposition to Isaiah Chapter 9 which says that the Messiah Himself will come from Galilee “…by the way of the sea beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles.” And later in Isaiah 9:6, it says, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The Pharisees Try to Trap Jesus

So someone comes up with a great idea to trap Jesus and humiliate Him in front of His followers. The next day is the last day of the festival, a day Holy to the Lord when the people are called to gather together. Early in the morning while He is teaching in the Temple, they bring Him a woman caught in the act of adultery and ask Him what should be done with her. It’s a catch 22, a no-win situation. If He says they should have mercy, this challenges God’s law. The sin of adultery required a punishment of death by stoning according to Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22. This would have appeared rebellious and sinful, even though the Pharisees were distorting that very law by bringing only the woman when the law required both man and woman to be punished. On the other hand, if He recommends stoning, He would be authorizing a death penalty. This is something that the Roman authorities of the time forbade. Plus, it would be antithetical to His purpose on earth: to provide a propitiation for sins.

Christ Stoops Down and Writes in the Dust.

Now, there was a protocol for accusing someone of sin in those days. The priest would kneel down and write both the name of the accused as well as the the law that had been broken in the dust of the Temple floor (or somewhere else temporary). I believe this first time, though, Jesus wrote Jeremiah 17:13, a prayer and a prophecy:

O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.”

Jeremiah 17:13

This was a common prayer recited at end of the Feast of Atonement each year. As such, each of the accusers would have heard this prayer every year of his life from the time he was twelve years old. As Jesus is writing, the men continue to ask Him about His decision. They are trying to pressure Him one way or the other. He then raises Himself up and says to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). Then He stoops again and continues to write. 

This time, I believe He is fulfilling the prophecy from Jeremiah 17:13 when he writes the names of the Pharisees standing before Him, possibly alongside the very sin they had come to accuse the woman: adultery (against God). Pricked by their consciences in order of seniority (and the number of times they had heard that prayer repeated every Feast of Atonement), the men depart. They realized that they, themselves, were the fulfillment of that prophecy.

Why Did Jesus Stoop Twice?

Saying or doing anything twice in the Bible is like an underline or a bold. It means that the actions are important, like when Jesus said, “Verily, verily I say unto you…” Another reason I believe He stooped twice is because this scene is both literal and symbolic. He was highlighting the significance of the scene both in real time and as a foreshadowing of the day when He will come again to the earth and receive Israel to Himself.

Go And Sin No More

When the men depart, Jesus is alone with the woman. The law required at least two witnesses or accusers for someone to be condemned to death.  When no one is left to testify against her, He tells her to go and sin no more. This woman is actually a symbol of Israel herself. She was taken, that very day, in the sin of adultery against her God. But Jesus’ mercy on the woman that day will be replayed again at His Second Coming. On that very spot, Jesus will forgive the sins of Israel and accept her to Himself. In Ezekiel, we see again the picture of the cleansing waters. On that day, the Holy Spirit will flow out of the Jewish people who accept Jesus as their Savior and God.

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

Ezekiel 36:25-27

The Warning

Mark 12:37 says about Jesus, “…And the common people heard Him gladly.” When Jesus came the first time, many people heard Him and believed. But some of the very ones who rejected Him were the ones who should have known better. All of the Jews were God’s chosen people. The Pharisees were teachers of the law and righteous before men. They should have discerned the time of their visitation, but they were too caught up in tradition and the narrative they had constructed in their minds for how things would go. They honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. Was it pride that kept them blind to the truth? Was it their unwillingness to surrender control?

In Acts 7:51, Stephen sums up the problem when he chastises them, saying, “You stiff-neckedand uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” It is a sobering thought and one that should keep every one of us humble as we search the scriptures for the timing of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Let us never be prideful or unwilling to surrender to what the Spirit is revealing. Even if it contradicts what we thought would happen. Even if it contradicts the teachings of men. We must seek Him with our whole hearts. It is only then that He will be found by us.

If you to look closely at scripture, try Three Simple Instructions From God to Us. In it, we look at Hebrews 3-4. Or, try A Different Interpretation of the Pearl of Great Price Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Articles for Edification

Burnt Rolls and the Timing of the Rapture

A burnt cinnamon roll represents the results of not setting the timer correctly and not watching the oven. It's an analogy of people setting a time for the rapture.

I burned the cinnamon rolls on Christmas Day. I thought I had set the timer correctly, but it’s a relatively new oven, so I guess I didn’t. When my husband asked about breakfast, I pulled the rolls out. He saw them and said, “When you have something in the oven, you have to watch it.” Now, he’s the one who does most of the cooking in our house (for a good reason!), and I knew he was right. Still, I just kept thinking to myself, “But, I set the timer!” All of a sudden, the correlation between that situation and the timing of the rapture hit me. Just about everyone has “set a timer” in their minds for when the rapture will take place. But what if that timer is wrong?

The timing of the rapture is a contentious topic among Christians. It’s not a matter of salvation, but as we get deeper and deeper into these last days, people are understandably thinking about it. Before we get to that, though, there are a few terms that I would like to explore just so everyone understands the vast array of beliefs about the end times.

Amillennialism Vs Premillennialism

Amillennialism teaches that there is no literal thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. Revelation 20 is taken figuratively. Those who subscribe to this position believe that we are in the (figurative) millennium now. Christ will return at the end for a final judgement when heaven and the earth will be destroyed and remade. 

Premillennialism teaches that Christ will literally return to the earth for His reign. He will bind Satan, and physically reign for a thousand years on earth. After that, God will loose Satan for a little while for one more rebellion. Jesus will then defeat him forever, judge the lost in the Great White Throne Judgement, and then bring in the new heaven and the new earth.

Preterists, Historists, Idealists, and Futurists

Whether or not there will be a literal reign of Christ on earth is just the beginning of the discussion. Next, there are four different ways to interpret scriptures pertaining to end times. 

First, the preterist position teaches that all the events of Matthew 24 (including the rapture) occurred in the first century. The final event was the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Since all these events have already happened, there is no need to look for a future fulfillment. 

The historist position, also called the continuous historical view, teaches that the Bible prophetically reveals the entire history of the church. They see books such as Daniel and Revelation as prophesying future events of the church in their time. But, for us right now, all the events are past (or history). 

Idealists (or spiritualists) take the whole book of Revelation symbolically. They see it more as an allegory and not literal at all. They believe the antichrist figure is more of a symbol of societal injustice. The kingdom of heaven is established when society generally improves.

Futurists, on the other hand, believe that the prophecies in Revelation are literal events that have yet to be fulfilled. Many believe that some events may have already happened once in a limited way in the past but will also take place in the future. (This is called dual fulfillment and is also sometimes contested among even those who agree on the futurist position.)

A Literal, Futurist Approach to the Rapture

Since the vast majority of Bible-believing Christians are literal futurists, I will now focus the remainder of the article on the rapture. The word is never actually used in the Bible even once. Instead the Greek word harpazo (ἁρπάζω) is used. We understand that word to mean a “seizing” or a “snatching away.” The word was translated as “rapio” in the Latin Vulgate. The past participle of “rapio” is “raptus,” which is where we get the word rapture. Here are two Bible verses describing the event.

  • 1 THESSALONIANS 4:16: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
  • 1 CORINTHIANS 15:52: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

Literal futurists do not dispute the event as happening at some future date. The disagreement comes at the timeline of events, the way that God will protect us from His wrath, and the participants who will be involved. (All agree that the Church is not appointed unto wrath). There are four basic rapture beliefs: pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, pre-wrath, and post-tribulation.

“Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming–in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning — lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.”

Mark 13:35-36

Disclaimer: There are so many different opinions even among advocates of the same rapture timing beliefs that I can’t possibly include them all. These are the ones I see from researching online and from personally hearing from believers. It’s meant to be a general overview, not an exhaustive list.

Pre-tribulation Rapture – Separate from Second Coming of Christ

The pre-tribulation rapture adherents believe in the immanency of the rapture. They believe that there is literally nothing else that must be fulfilled for the rapture to occur. Therefore, it could happen at any moment. When it does happen, this will be an event that is completely separate from the Second Coming of Christ. The rapture will cause a commotion as millions of believers disappear from the earth. It also signals the start of God’s wrath, the seven year tribulation. Being raptured at this time is a reward for true believers in Christ. They will be taken to heaven to experience the Marriage Supper of the Lamb during the tribulation period. Unbelievers and lukewarm Christians will be “left behind” on earth. But, they can still be saved during the time of tribulation. They just need to believe on Jesus and refuse to take the mark of the beast.

The Mid-Tribulation Rapture View – Separate From Second Coming of Christ

Mid-Tribulation believers think the first three and a half years of the tribulation are Satan’s wrath, not God’s. God’s wrath, they say, doesn’t begin until the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11. The church will remain on earth during that time, also called the “beginning of sorrows.” The church will see all seven seal judgements and the first six trumpets before we are called to the clouds to be with Him. They still see the rapture event as separate from the Second Coming of Christ. Only believers will hear the trumpet and see Him in the clouds. They believe that the Church will be in Heaven having the Marriage Supper of the Lamb during those last three and a half years when God brings His wrath.

The Pre-Wrath Position – One Event: The Second Coming of Christ

Pre-wrath believers think that the rapture will occur sometime after the midpoint of the tribulation but before God’s wrath (the bowl judgements) is poured out on unbelievers. The church will face the antichrist and have to choose whether or not to take the mark of the beast. They believe that at some point, Jesus will cut short the rest of the time of tribulation and rapture the Church. This is the kick-off event to the Day of the Lord. When Jesus appears, all eyes will see Him in this ONE event: the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. At this point, like when God closed the door of the ark, nobody else gets in. He will take His church to Heaven while wrath is poured out on the earth. (This is in contrast to the post-tribulation view in which believers immediately fight the Battle of Armageddon before touching down on earth with Jesus in Jerusalem.) The church comes back to earth with Jesus after God’s wrath is poured out.

Post-Tribulation Position – One Event: The Second Coming of Christ

Post-Tribulation believers also believe that the rapture and the Second Coming of Christ are one event. Protection from God’s wrath during this time will be individual to the believers. Like the three Hebrew boys put into the furnace, Jesus will be there in the tribulation fire with them. The meeting in the air, the rapture of the church, is for those who remain alive plus the martyrs who died during the tribulation. They welcome their Lord to the earth where they will fight the Battle of Armageddon and then reign with Jesus for a thousand years.The rest of the dead will not live again until after the one thousand years. The Marriage Supper of the Lamb will take place in New Jerusalem with all believers of all times.

What They Say

Pretribulation believers say, “Post-trib believers are wrong.” They also say things like, “I will see you on Sunday if the Lord tarries.” They are watching every moment for the Lord to return. They also say, “Make sure you aren’t left behind” because they see facing the tribulation as a punishment for those who are not right with God at the moment He comes to take the Church. 

I have also heard them say, “Would Jesus ‘beat His bride’ before He marries her by leaving her to face the tribulation?” Or, if they are feeling snarky, they say, “I guess post-trib believers don’t love Jesus as much as we do because we want Him to come now.” Also, when asking them about preparation (even the spiritual kind) for future hard times, many say, “We don’t have to worry about it because we’re gonna be outa here!”

Mid-Trib, Pre-Wrath, and Post-Trib believers say things like, “Pre-trib believers are deceived.”They also say, “The early church had to go through terrible trials for their faith. Why should the modern church be any different?” Or, I have heard, “America is the only country that still believes in the pre-trib rapture. Christians in other countries are already facing persecution.” Finally, many are preparing physically, mentally, and spiritually to go through very hard times, so they say things like, “Settle it in your hearts NOW what you will do when persecution comes.”

What If They Are Wrong?

I know Spirit-filled believers who know their Bibles and hear from God in virtually every camp. They simply interpret the scriptures differently. This is what makes me believe that right now, for whatever reason, God is not revealing the timeline to everyone. Otherwise, we would all be on the same page. It would be prideful to say that any one of us could not be wrong on any number of items in these last days. Even the disciples who walked with Jesus didn’t fully understand everything when He came to earth the first time. Since this is the case, I think it is important to understand the consequences of getting too attached to any one particular rapture doctrine.

Pre-Trib: If the antichrist shows up on the scene and Christians are still on earth, this could cause some pre-trib believers to lose faith in God completely. Some might think He doesn’t really exist, and some might question His goodness for allowing His children to face this time of great trial and testing. Their grave disappointment coupled with the pressure to take the mark of the beast could be too much for some. On the other hand, those who are used to continually watching for Christ’s return will never be caught off guard if they continue to do so.

Mid-Trib, Pre-Wrath, Post-Trib: If the pre-trib timeline holds, other believers might be caught unaware. Instead of watching for the Lord, they are watching for events that may or may not look like what they expect them to in these last days. They could also assume that they have much more time to get done the things God has called them to do. Procrastination could become an issue if their timeline is found to be in error. On the other hand, their spiritual preparations are appropriate for all times, and their physical preparations would come in handy if indeed there are those who are “left behind.”

The Lesson In the Cinnamon Rolls

“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”

Titus 2:13

No matter when the rapture takes place, it is still our blessed hope. We can all look forward to that day when our Lord will come again to reign on the earth. Whether the rapture happens pre-trib, mid-trib, pre-wrath, or post-trib, just like when something is in the oven, we all must watch. We can’t just count on our “timers.” We must keep our eyes and ears open to what is happening on earth and what the Holy Spirit is telling us. Luke 12:37 says, “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when He comes, will find watching…”

We must watch with open minds that allow for the possibility that we could be wrong. Proverbs 27 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” If things don’t happen exactly like we thought they would, we have to pray to ask God for eyes to see things as He would have us to see them. The Bible is the Word of God and is truth, and we can’t take it lightly. Matthew 24:44 is talking to every one of us when it says:

“Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Want to hear more about how God deals with His people during times of judgement? Try The Waves of God’s Judgement and the Child of God. In it, God gave me an analogy that shows how true believers should respond when our nations are judged.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Points to Ponder

The Desires of the Heart: What’s Your ONE Thing?

A young girl is fervently praying the desires of her heart. There is a blue background with white, wispy clouds around just her body.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord,and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” It’s a verse that some take to mean that if you are good and love God, He will give you what you want. I don’t see it that way, though. I think it means that if your delight – what you want – is the Lord, you will have Him. Last week’s blog was about distractions. This week is about focus. What is the one thing you want more than anything else?

Solomon Asked For Wisdom

In 1 Kings 3:9, Solomon got the chance to ask God for anything he wanted, and he chose wisdom. “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” He wanted to be able to judge God’s people fairly, but he didn’t feel like he was equipped to do it on his own. Here was a man who asked for a tool to do the job that God had called him to do. James 1:5 tells us that we can have the same thing if we will but ask. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Agur Asked For Two Things

Proverbs 30 was written by a man known only as Agur, son of Jakeh. In Proverbs 30:7-8, he also makes a request of the Lord. He says, “Two things I request of You (Deprive me not before I die): remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me.”

Here was another guy who asked God for something that would help him navigate our world. He wanted God to fix an apparent character flaw within himself. He also wanted God to give him just enough so that he wasn’t too rich so he became proud or too poor so he would have to steal and give God a bad name. I certainly can relate to both of these requests. Agur wanted to live a life that pleased God, so he asked for the tools he felt he needed to achieve it.

But David Asked for God Himself

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

Psalm 27:4

Psalm 27 is one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible. Written by King David, a man after God’s own heart, it’s full of a passionate faith. In it, he makes the declaration that he wants only ONE thing from God (one thing have I desired of the Lord). He will set his mind to getting it (that will I seek after). He wants to be part of God’s family forever (that I will dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life). And, he wants to be close enough to God to know Him and someday be in His presence (to behold the beauty of the Lord). Finally, he wants to be able to have a relationship with Him, to be able to ask God questions and get answers (and to enquire in His temple).

David was a man of war. He had blood on his hands, not just from battles, but from his own sin as well. As a king, he lived a life of passion and power on the one hand but integrity and purpose on the other. Like all of us, he was human, but he was a human being who loved God with all of his heart. When he looked at his life and thought about what the most important thing was to him, the answer was clear: he wanted God above everything else.

What Do You Want?

Some people look at their lives and play the “if only” game. If only I had better health. If only I had a better job, a different spouse, more money, more time, etc. They have set up scenarios in their minds in which all of their problems could be solved if only this or that were different. But so many others have testified that even upon receiving that one thing they were asking for, there was still a hole, a void, a need for something more. If you aren’t careful, even when you get what you want, something else earthly will become your new “one thing,” and the cycle will begin again.

In these last days, I think it is important for each of us to examine our own hearts. What do we want more than anything else? The Bible tells us to pray unceasingly, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ALWAYS asking for something. I often ask for the tools to achieve the calling God has put on my life. I also ask for strengthening of character and the provision to give me the ability to live a life that pleases Him. But when I consider my heart’s greatest desire, like David, mine is the Lord. I think it HAS to be in order for us to get through the times of hardship that the watchmen have warned us will come in these last days.

Anchor in Jesus

Hebrews 6:19 says, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil.” In essence, the desires of our heart to be with God in spirit now and in person someday is what anchors us, grounds us, keeps us. There is a chain that goes from us straight through the veil, the doorway between the physical and the spiritual realm, and attaches itself to the throne of God. In that way, we can’t be blown by winds of (false) doctrine or tossed in the tempest of the wicked. Instead, will be founded on the Rock of Christ Jesus.

Want to hear the hymn “Anchored in Jesus”? Listen to it on my No Longer Lukewarm YouTube channel. I read my blogs for those who like to listen while they are doing something else. I also have a playlist called Hymns With Hannah. Here I collect all the hymns and “specials” from our talented worship team. Subscribe for new music each week.

Enjoy timely articles? Try 4 Distractions For Christians We Must Beware from last week.  Or, try 4 Ways to Avoid Spiritual Deception. It is a testimony about a time when I was deceived and what God taught me though the experience. Or, check out or Three Steps to Forgive From the Heart. In that one, we look at the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant and learn ways to truly forgive.

Points to Ponder

4 Distractions For Christians We Must Beware

This is a picture of a woman holding a white towel toward a group of marathon runners to symbolize distraction from the Christian race.

People say “Keep your eyes on the prize” to remind others to focus on achieving their goals. The Bible says it this way in Hebrews 12:1-2 “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” We have to put away distractions that capture our attentions and, instead, keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. This week, I believe the Lord showed me four kinds of distractions for Christians that can get our heads out of the game.

1. Fellowship With Darkness

A few days ago, a sister in Christ posted a video entitled End Unrighteous Fellowship. It was about limiting time spent with non-Christians because of the spiritual effect they can have on us. Of course, we can’t be rude, and we have to spend certain amounts of time with people at work and even some family members who aren’t saved. But, we shouldn’t actively seek them out for fellowship/fun.

As soon as I heard the video, my mind instantly went to the three ladies I run with at work. We are all on the same team in public education. As such, we spend hours and hours together aligning lesson plans and putting out fires. Occasionally, we eat lunch together, especially on in-service days when we actually get more than 30 minutes to eat and can go to a restaurant. The weird thing is, more often than not when I leave those meetings/lunches, I’m repenting for something I said or thought during that time. Sometimes, though, it’s not even anything I can name. It’s just a general feeling that I am out of sync with the Lord.

The Object Lesson

Then I got the object lesson. It was Sunday night, and just as I was putting on my boots for church, I got a phone call from one of my co-workers asking about something at school. When I was done talking, I put my phone on the arm of the couch and then forgot about it. When I got to church, I didn’t have my cell phone to record the night’s hymns for my YouTube channel playlist called Hymns With Hannah.

I was distracted, and I wasn’t able to do the job that I believe that God called me to do. I think He was showing me a physical example of what actually happens in the spiritual realm. Whether it is ungodliness or just worldliness, time spent with people who don’t have Jesus as their centerpiece can cause us to miss important details in the work that God has for us to do.

Another Object Lesson

That Wednesday night, I did have my phone. As Sister Hannah went to the front to prepare to lead worship, I looked at the videos in my gallery. Were there too many videos there? Would there be enough room? What if the recording stopped in the middle because there was no more space? I started deleting old videos and pictures. The first chords were starting as I hurriedly clicked over to the camera, but I was too late. I missed the opening words of the hymn. Instead of trusting that God would have me covered for the assignment He led me to do, I panicked and missed something important.

2. Worry/Anxiety

Typically, Christians are some of the most personally responsible people you will ever meet. But sometimes that need to be responsible can leave us feeling like it is up to us to take care of all the details. Philippians 4:6 doesn’t say “Be anxious for only the really important things that you can’t afford to get wrong.” It says, “Be anxious for nothing.” And, it doesn’t say, “Just work really hard and double check everything.” It says, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Of course, there are details we must attend to, and we can’t live recklessly. But the main thing is that when it comes to the actual jobs that God has called us to do, we must keep our focus first and foremost on Jesus. He will take care of us. We just need to keep in very close contact with Him and be led by the Spirit in all things. We can’t let fear or anxiety get in the way of being effective for God. Isaiah 41:10 tells us not to be dismayed. It says that He will strengthen us, help us, and uphold us with His righteous right hand. We just have to trust Him.

3. Social Media

I don’t need to tell anyone here that social media can be a distraction. We all know it. Every time you look in your feed, someone is signing off for a Facebook fast or checking out of Twitter for a while or taking a hiatus from Instagram. People feel the need to break away entirely because it is so very hard to keep in moderation. 

Either One More Object Lesson or a Phenomenon

What I wanted to mention here, though, I haven’t heard anyone else say. Maybe it is because it only happens to me, and it is just one more object lesson. Or, maybe it is because it’s a feeling that’s kind of hard to describe. But lately, I have had this feeling when I’m on Facebook like I’m caught in one of the old-time Star Trek’s tractor beams. My mind is almost like in a kind of quick-sand. I want to click out and do something else, but it takes real effort to wrench myself away. It’s a new feeling. I really don’t remember this happening until just recently, and It doesn’t happen every time. It’s also much stronger with my phone than my laptop. But, there have been many times lately in which I have even likened it to feeling kind of drugged. 

The Effects of Social Media

Now, we don’t know the long term effects on the brain of the super dopamine hits that come with “likes” and “shares” on social media. What we do know is that Satan is the prince of the power of the air (waves). And, he knows his time is short. Whether it is psychological, spiritual, or both, there is a real danger in losing ourselves in “the scroll.” When you can sit down to check Facebook at 6:30 PM, and five minutes later it’s 8:30 PM, and that is all you have done, that is a problem.

Now, not all social media is bad, for sure. I connect with many Spirit-filled Christians online, and we discuss issues that are important for iron to sharpen iron. We support each other, pray for each other, and help one another keep abreast of the things happening in these last days. But, the Bible tells us to walk in wisdom. In Ephesians 5:15, it says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” We must make our time both purposeful and limited on social media. We have to prioritize time spent getting closer to Jesus.

4. “Hidden” Sin

This last one is a late entry. I finished my article yesterday and was just waiting until after church to publish. (I always do that in case the pastor mentions something I need to add.) But last night, I had a dream that gave me my fourth point.

In the dream, I was on the couch with an old boyfriend from high school, and we were kissing and touching. Now, in real life, this person is someone whom I thought about and wanted for a ridiculous number of years of my life. After I got truly converted just a few short years ago, I understood that I did not want him as a person at all. He was an idol I had set up in my heart.

Anyway, in the dream, I was the age I am now. I knew we were both married, and I knew that it was wrong, but it was dark, so no I thought one could see. Then I opened my eyes and realized that it was only dark TO ME because I had my eyes closed. Everyone else could see just fine. In fact, other people were in the room, including my mother, a person I am desperately trying to win to the Lord. As soon as I realized that everyone could see, I disengaged. I then went to work on my blog, feeling terrible that I had destroyed my Christian witness.

The Lesson

Mark 4:22 says, “For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.” If anyone reading this has sins that you think are hidden, I believe the message here is that they are only hidden TO YOU. You may be trying to overcome them in the flesh, all the while thinking that it is between you and the Lord, but others who are watching you see more than you think. Plus, your efforts to hide those sins are distracting you from the work God has for you. It’s time to lay those sins at the foot of the cross, make no provision for them, and seek deliverance. God can then remove the idol you have set up in your heart. Then your witness for Him will be pure and undefiled, and your attentions will be stayed on Him.

The Hour Is Late

The hour is late. We must guard our hearts and minds. Examine yourself and take these four areas of distractions for Christians to the Lord in prayer. There are many prophetic voices warning that 2020 will come with some difficulties. We must be ready to face the new year with a renewed mind, firmly grounded in the Word, and strong in our walk with the Lord.

Enjoy timely articles? Try 4 Ways to Avoid Spiritual Deception. In it, I tell a story about a time I was deceived and what God taught me though the experience. Or, try Three Steps to Forgive From the Heart. In that one, we look at the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant and learn ways to truly forgive.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Lessons to Learn

When Obedience IS the Sacrifice

Picture of a clock with the words "Redeem the time" to represent the time sacrificed to do what my job required.

As Christians, we are held to higher standards than the world. We are expected to follow the requirements of those in authority over us as long as what they are asking us to do does not conflict with what the Bible commands. We do it because we are representatives of Christ, and our behavior reflects on Him. And, we do everything as to the Lord and not to men. But what happens when those requirements aren’t wrong but just annoying? Not only that, but others around you refuse to comply. This very situation happened to me this week at work. I learned a lesson about obedience that reminded me exactly who my Boss really is.

The Mandate

I’m a high school English teacher. I get to school around 7:00 AM and leave around 3:45 each day. So when the email came through instructing English teachers to sign up to attend a meeting scheduled from 4:45 to 6:45 PM the next day, I was already not happy. To make matters worse, the purpose of the meeting was so that the teachers from the two high schools in the district could get together to share ideas and plan for the next quarter. But the other high school teachers don’t do the same things we do at my level of English. They don’t even do the same things as each other. The whole thing would be a pointless waste of time, and it would add three extra hours to the end of my day.

I mentioned what a bummer it was to my two my teammates on my level. “It’s three hours after school,” said one. “I’m not going.” “What’s the worst they can do? Slap our hands? Not going,” said the other. Well, I decided. Then I’m not going either. But no sooner had I hit “delete” on the online sign-up sheet, the nagging feeling of guilt started in my head. 

Indecision

“I’m supposed to be representing Christ. Everybody knows I’m a Christian. If I just do whatever I want, what does that say about my integrity?” I thought. Wasn’t there a Bible verse about that? I looked it up: 1 Timothy 6:1, “Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.” Then Colossians 3:23 popped in. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” “Besides,” that voice in my head continued, “I don’t work for people. I work for the Lord. He called me to teach. He put His fingerprints all over my job when I got hired at my school over ten years ago. I’m supposed to do my best at work to please Him.”

“But I don’t waaaaant to!” I whined back to the voice. Plus, if nobody showed up, maybe the person in charge would get the idea that the online version we have been doing to this point was fine. I was just being a conscientious objector. It was like chaining myself to a tree or refusing to leave a sidewalk. I was protesting really. I’m sure that’s allowed, right?

A Choice to Obey

But the nagging feeling just would not go away. I sat at my desk for over an hour after school going back and forth in my head. I decided I wasn’t going, and that was final. Then the nagging feeling stopped. Wait. A small shiver of fear shot through me. Did it stop because I had finally convinced myself that it was the right thing to do, or did it stop because the Holy Spirit was tired of dealing with me? THAT scared me. If it was the Holy Spirit who had been behind that feeling of guilt the whole time, this was a game changer. I never want to get to a place in which I ignore God’s voice so that He stops speaking.

Plus, just a few weeks ago, I had been in a similar position. I had a strong feeling that I was supposed to share Jesus with a certain someone, but I didn’t do it. I was in a place and at a time when it wouldn’t have been exactly convenient, so I “straight-armed” the Holy Spirit. As soon as my split-second decision was made not to comply with what He was asking, I felt the sting of regret. I had made a promise to myself at that time to always look at things from the standpoint of hindsight. So now here was my chance to do things right. Which would I regret more? Losing three hours of my time or the opportunity to show obedience to God? I decided to go after all.

It Was a Good Night

Long story short, it wasn’t a bad meeting. Only one other lady at my level showed up from the other high school, and we actually had a good conversation. I found out that we have similar backgrounds and were hired the exact same year at our respective schools. She told me some stories from her years teaching at her school, a lower-income version of my school. I shared some lesson plans and talked about my love for my kids . I also told her how I believed God had sent me to my school. On the way home, I prayed for three accidents I saw. And, when I stopped for gas, I felt led to give out a Spanish tract I had in my purse to a guy pumping gas next to me.

Looking back at the evening, I had the very strong feeling that I had done the will of the Lord. I believe that I was in the place He wanted me to be at the time He wanted me to be there. I think I had made the difference I was supposed to make – whatever that difference actually was (only God knows). The whole thing was annoying and pointless in theory, but the reality was that God put me in my position for a reason. I am not my own. I was bought with a price. He gave me the exact advantages, skills, and background I needed to do the job He sent me to do. Submission to my employer is submission to God, and obedience is the only option.

When Obedience IS the Sacrifice

The idea for the title of this article came from 1 Samuel 15:22: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” While I was meditating on it this week, I believe that the Lord showed me something about this verse I had never heard mentioned in any commentary before. Since no sacrifice is needed unless there is sin, this verse means that It’s better to do what is right the first time than to have to repent for doing what’s wrong/sinful (which would require a sacrifice). And even when obedience has a cost attached – our time, our effort, our submission when we don’t understand the point – that sacrifice IS the obedience that God desires. Then, when we look back on the situation, instead of regret, we will have the amazing feeling that we have done the will of the Lord.

Interested in more articles about workplace encounters? Check out Check out God Knows Even When You Don’t, So Pray!  It’s about a time when I prayed for the graffiti to stop, and it did. Or, try Make God’s Will My Will: A New Way to Pray. It’s a “God wink” story that teaches a new way to pray to get what you want. Or, see God Answered the Prayer I Did Not Pray. In it, God teaches me a lesson about leaning on Him for strength.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Articles for Edification

Hebrew Roots Movement: An Analogy of Priorities

These are images from the dumpster diving YouTube channel. All this good food and merchandise is thrown away because of misplaced priorities.

My friend and his wife have a pretty unique hobby: dumpster diving. They have certain stores’ schedules down pat, and every week they dive for things the employees put in the bins and video it all for YouTube. See, there are laws put in place to keep the public safe, laws that say when a store can and can’t sell and even donate items past the expiration dates. But once you get a system like that going in which perfectly good food is tossed for a date, pretty soon other things are tossed as well. In fact, it isn’t long before all kinds of valuable merchandise is going to waste. I was thinking about the set up, and part of 2 Corinthians 3:6 popped into my mind: “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” When I thought about it some more, I saw how this whole situation is an analogy of the legalism of the Hebrew Roots Movement, also known as Torah Observance.

The Set Up

For stores, following the letter of the law is essential to continuing to operate as a business. Violating those laws can get a company fined or even shut down. And the laws ARE good. They keep stores on their toes. They make sure fresh merchandise is always on hand, and they protect people from illness and stores from getting sued. 

But what following the letter doesn’t account for is the very real possibility that the food is still good when the date rolls around. Just like babies don’t know their due dates and will often come before or after the doctor predicts, food is much the same way. It’s an estimate, and often it is a conservative estimate so that products are high quality before the expiration date listed. Plus, when good food is thrown away in mass quantities, employees start to lose sight of the immorality of wasting quality items. They start to see the dumpster as an easy way to avoid the headache of unwanted merchandise or overcrowded shelves. In-date foods with cracked outer lids, in-date older stock, and even shoes, toys, and small appliances have all been trashed. Instead of dealing with those items, employees just throw them away: out of sight, out of mind. 

But following the law without using good judgement only makes sense for stores that care more about getting in trouble with the law or dealing with unwanted products than they do about wasting valuable resources. People with different concerns would find a way to get the good things to the people who need it. It’s about priorities.

The Analogy

Some Christians today have stumbled upon a very old movement with a very new name. It’s called The Hebrew Roots Movement, or Torah Observance. In fact, the Council of Jerusalem was convened to talk about it in 50 AD. Paul, himself, wrote about it just a few years later when he wrote Galatians. In this movement, Christians were/are going back to the 613 laws of the Torah. Sin, they say, is breaking any one of those 613 laws. Now, ask anyone in the Hebrew Roots Movement, and he/she will claim that adherents are still saved by grace through faith alone in the shed blood of Christ. Following the law, they say, is simply the outpouring of their obedience now that they have been saved. It’s a way to honor Jesus and the life He lived. When any one of the laws is broken, it is simply a matter of repentance to get back to right standing again.

But what the people are failing to understand is that their focus then becomes on following the letter of the law that Jesus already fulfilled instead of following Jesus Himself. It’s all about priorities. Romans 8:6-7 says, “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Either we are concerned with the world and the things in it (clean vs unclean meats, what to wear, how to keep the Sabbath and follow the feasts to the letter, etc.), or we are concerned with the Spirit and the things of Him. The focus the majority of our thinking becomes our god. Either that God is Jesus Christ, or it is legalism. We can’t serve two masters.

Plus, just like the employees that start to throw other things away too, the people who are involved in the Hebrew Roots Movement often start to add to even observance of the Torah. They say that God must be referred to only as Yahweh or Yah and Jesus only as Yeshua; otherwise, this is blasphemy. Some don’t even want to be referred to as Christians anymore. They encourage people, once joining the movement, to separate from local churches and other Christians who are not Torah Observant. They have great communities online in which they discuss every detail of the Law and how to follow it appropriately. It has become a completely different gospel.

Physical Vs Spiritual Israel

For the Jewish people, those 613 laws were good. They were a system of guidelines that the people followed as evidence that they were set apart for God. He required them, and following them ensured that the lines of communication were open with God. The ordinances and procedures were physical, and it was physically obvious who was following them and who wasn’t. But that was the Old Covenant with physical Israel. It was an object lesson, a concrete symbol of the spiritual obedience that would later be required. 

While physical Israel was held to the 613 physical laws, modern day Christians – called Spiritual Israel – are expected to follow the Holy Spirit in complete submission. Our focus is to be be on worshiping and giving thanks to Jesus. We should always make sure our minds and hearts are right with Him. In 1 Corinthians 10:4-5, we read, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

The New Covenant is not about physical compliance with ordinances and procedures in order to be right with God — or even to honor God. Our relationship with Jesus is what makes us right with Him. Ephesians 2:15 says about Christ, “having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.” And, honoring Him is about giving Him glory and thanks. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, we read, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

We Are Held To A Different Covenant

Being “obedient” by following all 613 laws is impossible anyway right now because several involve animal sacrifices or how to treat people groups that no longer exist. Already, the Hebrew Roots Movement picks and chooses which of the 613 to follow. As Christians, we know that Christ is our one-time sacrifice. But, even if someone could successfully follow every other law all the time, that person might still not be right with God if his/her heart isn’t right. For example, Matthew 5:27-28. In it, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Later, in Matthew 15:8, Jesus says this about the pharisees who were known for their great keeping of the laws. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.

The Law Has Been Fulfilled

In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

From the Strong’s Concordance, destroy is ἀπόλλυμι (ap-ol’-loo-mee): to destroy utterly. Fulfill is “πληρόω (pléroó): to make full, to complete.” The Law is God’s order, His requirement, for righteousness. Jesus didn’t come so that there were no more requirements for righteousness. He came to BE that righteousness. 

“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

Galatians 3:23-25

In fact, this is why the laws were called the tutor. A tutor gives you a little extra help understanding a concept. As Christians, when we look at the list of 613 rules, we realize just how impossible it would be to continually try to follow every single one without mistakes. We realize how badly we need a savior. Romans 10:4 says “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Jesus fulfilled the Law for us. He is our righteousness when we trust in His sacrifice for our atonement. 

We Have To Stand Fast

Galatians 5:1-3 says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.” Trying to follow the Torah in part just makes you accountable for following the whole thing in order to be righteous.

This brings us back to 2 Corinthians 6:3. The letter kills because its just a list of rules. Life comes when we have the Holy Spirit abiding in us. He quickens us to the things we should do and avoid, but He does so much more. He gives us a new nature, new desires, and a new heart to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said much the same thing in John 6:63 when He said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” The flesh cares about flesh. The Spirit cares about spirit. It’s one or the other: death or life.

Don’t Lose Track of Priorities

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” 

Romans 2:28-29

Either your priority is following the letter of the law in the sight of men, or it is about submission to God in your heart and worshiping Jesus with your life. One or the other has to take precedence. One or the other will fill your mind and give purpose to your heart. For those who are involved in the Hebrew Roots Movement, following the laws can start to take over their lives. They isolate themselves in little groups, discussing prohibitions on the sabbath. They talk about the best places to buy kosher meats or head coverings or their preparations for the latest feast days. If they are doing a good job following the laws, they might get prideful, looking down their noses at others who are struggling or who don’t believe in it at all. If they, themselves, are struggling, they might get discouraged and decide it’s too hard, seeking solace at the other extreme of legalism: antinomianism or greasy grace.

At the end of the day, priorities determine the actions of big chain grocery stores in America. They also determine the focus of our minds and hearts. My friends have found a hobby in rescuing valuable merchandise from stores that care more about laws and convenience than they do about waste in a world of want. My friends use some, donate some, and give some away to friends and family members here and abroad. But for those who focus their lives on following Old Covenant laws, the trade-off is much more serious. They fill their minds and hearts with the outward appearance of righteousness instead of the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And that is the biggest waste of all.

Other Resources You May Like

Note: My friend’s wife is from the Philippines. The channel is bilingual and focuses a lot on the ridiculousness of the waste in America. You can view that channel here.

If you like articles about modern day movements, try The Mandela Effect and the Character of God.  In it, we see how the movement is incompatible with the God of the Bible. Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Articles for Edification

4 Ways to Avoid Spiritual Deception

A fragmented, colorful picture of a lady with chains stuck to her mind to represent spiritual deception.

“Take heed that no man deceives you.” These were the first words Jesus spoke in Matthew 24 when the disciples asked Him about the signs of His second coming. Deception is a huge danger in these last days. To say that any one of us is above getting caught in one of the fowler’s snares would be prideful and wrong. I, myself, have been caught. There was a time when it never even occurred to me that the enemy would have teachers masquerading as Christians in order to lead people into error. I still hadn’t read 2 Corinthians 11:13-14, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” I remember how I thought and felt during the whole process, and on hindsight, I learned four ways to avoid spiritual deception for the future.

God woke me up to the times we are living in between 2011-2012. In May of 2012, He let me know that I needed to get serious about my faith. He weaned me off Alex Jones and conspiracies about the New World Order. He helped me to find communities of believers online for fellowship. In those days, I watched a ton of YouTube videos. I was hungry for more and more information about the God who came for me and invited me into a real relationship with Him.

Caught in the Snare

One channel I found was a handsome Australian man. I don’t remember the name or a whole lot of what he talked about, but on one episode, he was responding to a video he had made recommending certain other YouTube channels. Apparently, he had gotten a lot of bad feedback from the list, so he had taken it down. He was, however, still recommending one channel in particular that he would not take back.

In the comment section, a man said that he and this other channel owner were witches. Another man agreed. I, of course, stood up for the Aussie. How could these two men judge like that? None of his teaching that I had seen from him would indicate anything was amiss. I mean, there was one video in which the Holy Spirit had come upon him so strongly that he had trouble talking through the message he was receiving. That was kind of weird, but God can do what He wants, right? I told the two men that they had better be careful what they said about the Holy Spirit.

Warnings Were Adding Up

I also noticed in the comments that the channel owner he had recommended made a nice comment on his video. He told her how absolutely thrilled he was for her to grace his channel with a comment. I checked her out. This channel’s name I DO remember: Still Small Voice. She isn’t on YouTube anymore because of all the videos people made exposing her for what she is, but she is still around on other platforms. I would not recommend going to her sites, but if you do, please cover yourself with prayers of protection.

Anyway, the first thing I noticed when I got to her channel was that her voice made me extremely uncomfortable. It was a little like trying to sit still while something gross crawled on me. I had to force myself to stay and listen. I got through part of one video and had to quit. The voice was too much.

I went back to the first channel with the cute Aussie. He was filming this particular video in bed. Didn’t he know that was a little distracting for the ladies? Anyway, he was recommending her channel again, so I wondered if I had been a bit hasty. I tried again. The video I tried next was about the channel owner herself having a vision. Mother Claire said that she danced with Jesus. He had come to her in the night, and they had danced together, intertwined like lovers. I didn’t get through that one either.

Prayers for Discernment

I was distressed. It didn’t make sense that a channel I liked so much could recommend a channel that made me so uncomfortable. I had to know for sure, and I wasn’t getting anywhere on my own. So, I prayed to God, asking for Him to show me if that channel was from Him. 

That night, I had a dream. I was lying in bed, and Jesus came to the side of the bed. I said, “Jesus, I love you!” Then the “Jesus” moved over top of me like a man with a woman. I reeled back in horror, and he turned into a great black dragon. The next morning was a Saturday. When I got up, I went straight to YouTube to another channel I listened to, and the brother there was talking about deception. He mentioned Still Small Voice by name as a channel that was “straight from the dragon himself, Satan.” That was confirmation enough that the one channel was false, but what about the other one?

I started thinking about the Aussie’s channel. On hindsight, he had pushed a lot of fear. He also claimed supernatural encounters that, upon further reflection, were not consistent with the Holy Spirit. Finally, when he received a visit from SSV to his channel, he didn’t react like a brother in Christ. He reacted much more like a fawning underling. I realized that Mother Claire is likely very high up in demonic circles, and it was probably a great honor for her to make an appearance on his channel. I unsubscribed from the Aussie that same day.

4 Ways to Avoid Spiritual Deception

Avoid Deception By Listening to the Holy Spirit

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”

JOHN 16:13

At the time this happened, I didn’t know enough about the Bible to catch any errors in the Aussie’s teaching, but the Holy Spirit had tried to warn me a few times. The man was nice to look at, had a great accent, and talked about interesting things. I didn’t want to believe he was anything other than sincere. Each time I would get a “check,” I explained it away. The strange spiritual encounter video, the video from the bed, the fawning comment to SSV — I had excuses for everything.

Even when I heard that voice from the SSV channel that set me on edge, I didn’t stop listening immediately. I pushed through past the Holy Spirit’s extreme warnings that it was harmful. I WANTED to find value there. The Bible says, “Buy the truth and sell it not.” I was selling the truth, trading what was real for how I wanted things to be.

Avoid Deception By Listening to Fellow Christians

“As iron sharpens iron,so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

Proverbs 27:17

When the two men made the comment that the channels were owned by witches, it was a shock to me. I was watching for error, but it never occurred to me that someone from darkness would deliberately try to subvert God’s people. At the time, I also didn’t know a lot about how the Holy Spirit worked. How could I know that the man’s behavior was much more consistent with channeling demonic spirits than getting a message from God? But these two men did, and they also knew enough of the Bible to identify deception when they saw it. Instead of listening to them, considering their words, doing more research, and asking God for truth, I had immediately accused them of judging and warned them about speaking against the Holy Spirit. 

I see that a lot on posts and videos these days. Anytime people make comments that a public figure is preaching error or ask questions about a person’s fruit, people will jump on them immediately. They caution them not to blaspheme the Holy Spirt. They tell them not to touch God’s anointed, and they warn them not to judge a brother in Christ.

When Christians, especially when there are a lot of them, are warning about someone or something, we should take it to God. Don’t immediately assume that the people doing the warning are being judgmental or are in error. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Satan DOES have his people masquerading as Christians. It is good and right to be careful and examine public figures, comparing their words and behavior to the Word of God.

Avoid Deception By Asking God For Truth

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

James 1:5

The one thing I did right in the whole scenario was to ask God for truth. It took me a while, but when I finally did it, He answered me very clearly. This isn’t the only time that has happened, either. After this incident, I asked God about another YouTube channel, Jonathan Kleck. I had watched some of his symbolism videos, and they seemed interesting. But some of the things he was saying didn’t add up. I was getting those warning bells again.

This time, though, I remembered my other experience and went straight to God in prayer. Then I opened my Bible to my bookmark, and it was at Ephesians 5. Just eleven verses in, the words just about jumped off the page, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Not long after that, I saw a video of JK claiming to be a fallen angel. 

Avoid Deception by Abiding In Him

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5

The whole idea for this week’s blog started with a thought God gave me on my way to work this week. I was thinking about the words, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” It’s one of those verses that we hear and say, “Yep, that’s right,” but I don’t think we really get it completely.

Then I thought of a rushing river. The current was strong, moving tiny rowboats toward the edge of a waterfall. The only boats that were not being pulled over were the ones lit up by what I understood to be the Holy Spirit. Those were moving upstream, against the current, and away from danger. Then it hit me. Deception is potent. The devil and his forces are powerful, and he knows his time is short. The only hope any of us has to avoid deception in these last days is to stay very close to Jesus and to continually seek Him for truth.

Having discernment is imperative now. Some public figures and situations are just not as they appear to be. In 1 John 1:4, the Bible says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We must listen to the Holy Spirit when He warns us that something is not right. We also need to listen to other Christians who are warning about situations and people and take what they say to the Word of God and to God Himself in prayer. And, most importantly, we must abide in Him. Psalm 91:3 says that surely God will deliver us from the snare of the fowler, but that promise is only for those who dwell in the secret place and abide under His shadow. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.

Like to Read More?

Enjoy articles about warfare? Check out Spiritual Warfare: A Defeated Foe. In it, God uses a housefly to teach me about the way I should view the enemy. Or, try Three Steps to Forgive From the Heart. In that one, we look at the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant and learn ways to truly forgive.

Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.

Articles for Edification

Modern Idolatry: Meeting Needs Without God

People are wired to worship. We were created by God to worship Him, and doing so meets deep-seated needs that we have in our lives. Even people who say they don’t believe in God live a lifestyle of worship. They have put something other than God upon the throne of their lives. They love it, bow to it, and surrender their all for it. As Christians, our focus should absolutely be the Lord Jesus Christ. But, if we aren’t careful, the world system all around us can muscle into the middle between God and us. We must always make sure that we are allowing God to provide for the four critical needs that worship meets. Otherwise, we, too, are guilty of modern idolatry. 

Worship Meets Our Need For Purpose/Focus

Everyone needs a purpose, a focus for our lives. We need to feel like we matter, and we always have something that occupies the majority of our thoughts accordingly. The Bible says in Ephesians 5:19-20 that a believer should go about “speaking to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” He should be our focus, our purpose for everything we do. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”

For so many years, I was a believer, but I lived for myself. The world occupied my thoughts, and my goals were all worldly and me-centered. When He came for me and saved me, all of a sudden, all my thoughts were on God continually. I prayed to Him and thought about Him. I was concerned that every decision and action was one that would be pleasing to Him. In every situation, I thought of how my life lined up with the Bible. I remember recognizing the major change in the way I thought and remarking to a new Christian friend online in surprise, “God is my God!”

Idols of Focus

But even things that are good can start to occupy the majority of our thoughts and focus if we aren’t careful. A calling, a good career, is important. But, if we are working for more money, promotions, and respect in the eyes of men so much that it interferes with the time we have to give to God, that can be idolatry. Good health is important, but when exercise or diet becomes our life’s goal and main concern, that can be idolatry.

Family is very important, and neglecting spouse or children is a sin. But, when they start to hold a position in our hearts greater than God Himself, that’s idolatry. It isn’t sin to have a nice home, car, or phone.. But, if you are never satisfied with what you have and always want more — better furniture, a new car, or the latest phone — this can be idolatry if it occupies our minds and hearts above the Lord.

Worship Meets Our Needs For Comfort

When we are sad, upset, tired, or stressed, the Holy Spirit comforts us. We surrender all of those negative feelings to Him and trust Him to take care of us. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Consider also 1 Peter 5:6-7. It says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Going to God with our problems is an act of submission. We submit ourselves to Him and let Him know we need Him.

One time a supervisor embarrassed me in front of my peers at an after school event. She had let me know already during the school year that my conservative views were a problem for her. This day, she was stressed about all the extra responsibility she was under at the end of the school year. When I was unable to find the papers she was looking for in a given moment, she snapped. She sent me home in a very rude and public way. I was humiliated and went straight to my truck and cried to God. In my prayer, I begged Him for a Bible verse that would put everything into perspective so that I could process through the hurt.

I wanted to forgive her, but I didn’t know how I could face her again after this. Within just a few moments, Romans 8:28 popped into my mind. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” A second later, I heard, “Do you really believe ALL things?” Yes, yes I do. I still felt hurt, but I knew that God had a purpose even if I couldn’t see it. He comforted me.

Idols of Comfort

But how many times do we take our need for comfort to things other than God? We submit and surrender ourselves to the mindlessness of social media, video games, movies, or sports. We lose ourselves in a glass of wine or a slice of cheesecake or by complaining to a friend. Instead of giving all that hurt to God and allowing Him to bind us up, we seek temporary comfort in the things the world can give us, and that is idolatry.

Worship Meets Our Need For Connection/Belonging

Worshiping God with music or in prayer is like picking up telephone, connecting us to Him. We hyper-focus on Him in thanks, adoration, and love, and He often responds by letting us know in tangible ways He is there with us. Often, we can feel him in church or in our prayer closets. It is then that we know deep down that he is our God and we are His children. In 1 Corinthians 6:20, we read, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” We seek out His people for fellowship because we all have the same focus to our lives: pleasing Him. We belong to Him.

Idols of Connection

But sometimes our connections to others can get in the way of our adoration for God. I have a dear friend and brother in Christ who testified at church a while back about a dream he received from the Lord in warning. My friend’s mother has a form of dementia. He had been spending hours thinking about her, praying for her and with her, and reading the Bible to her to keep her mind active. Unbeknownst to him, his mother had started to become too important to him in his heart. The Lord was now warning him that the seat belonged to Him alone. It was a sober warning for him as well as to the rest of the church who heard him speak. Family connections are good, but nothing should come before God.

But, how many times do we put our families before God? We think about them and worry instead of giving them to God? Or worse, how many of us have substituted a real connection to our Maker with connections involving politics or patriotism? We organize ourselves by political affiliation, pitting “us” against “them.” We rally around political ideals instead of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is good and right to love our country, but when that love supersedes the love for the things of God, this is idolatry.

Worship Meets Our Need For Guidance

Everyone has choices every day, and not all of them are black and white. As children of God, we want to do the right things. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to know what they are. So, we seek the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” God will direct us when our lives are focused on Him. We seek Him, and He answers us. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Seeking God for answers is an act of submission. We submit to Him and His direction because He knows what’s best for us.

Sometimes God answers us immediately He lets us know without a shadow of a doubt what we should do in a given situation. Sometimes, however, we must wait on His timing. This can be difficult for those of us for whom a three-second lag for a website to load is often described as “taking forever.” We want answers, and we want them now. So we look to other, more worldly, things to give us the guidance that should come from God alone. 

Idols of Guidance

A few years ago, I had a good friendship with an older sister in the Lord. We talked daily, and I would take my problems to her. Now, there is nothing at all wrong with seeking godly counsel, and elders in the Lord can often have very good advice. But, it seems that my dependence on this particular sister was excessive. I had thought after thought that I should be talking directly to the Lord about things. But time and again, I “couldn’t wait” for Him to answer and went right to her for her opinion about what to do. Not long after those warnings started, the friendship shattered. I came away with a clear understanding that whatever the apparent cause of the rift, the true reason was because I had put her above the Lord in that particular area.

One more way that people can seek counsel from places other than God is from divination. Most Christians don’t have to be told that psychics and astrology are demonic and wrong. But how many Christians do the little Facebook quizzes to tell you what kind of person you are or what will happen to you? Any time you allow someone or something to speak over your life or future, you are giving God’s place away, and this is idolatry.

Modern Idolatry

When we think of idolatry, we might picture statues like the one of Molech from the Old Testament that was an oven for burning babies in human sacrifice or statues of Mary that some people still venerate today. Really, though, an idol is anything we put above God in our hearts. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” When we get those needs met from people and things other than God, this is modern idolatry, and it is unacceptable to God. We must guard our minds and be vigilant that the only one on the throne of our hearts is the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you enjoy articles involving definitions, try Lordship Salvation: What Does It Mean to Believe? If you like articles about worship, try Are You Offering Your Sacrifice of Praise?