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.

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?

Articles for Edification

Lordship Salvation: What Does It Mean to Believe?

A glittering, sparkling crown with the words "I believe" at the bottom represents the Lordship of God.

Hanging out with Christians on social media can be a trip sometimes. Whether in Facebook groups or just in the comments on ministry posts, you can encounter many different viewpoints among people who are all supposed to be in one accord. This week, two people on two different sites stated definitively that giving one’s life to the Lord was unnecessary for salvation. Both insisted that the only requirement was a profession of faith. “Yes, I believe that Jesus died for my sins.” Done. Anything past that, they both cried, was adding to the finished work of the cross. They called it works salvation (also called Lordship Salvation) and heresy. But what these guys are missing is what the Bible says about what it means to believe.

Belief Is More Than a Mental Assent

James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” It’s one thing to acknowledge with your head that something is true. It is quite another thing to believe it with your life. James 2:14-17 says, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” The point here is that WHEN you believe something, you act a certain way because of that belief. It’s the evidence, or fruit, that you believe it.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” But, the very next verse qualifies the statement. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” It’s not our works that save us. But, the good works we do have been prepared for us ahead of time by God. We walk in them, meaning that we do good works, because we believe that He has work for us to do.

Belief Means Living Like You Have a God

You can say you believe that a chair will hold your weight. But, if you are unwilling to sit on the chair, your actions belie your so-called beliefs. If you say you believe that there is one God who sent His Son to die for your sins so you can live, you have to live like you believe it, or your words are empty. Romans 1:18-20 says that deep down everybody knows that there is a God because they have been shown it, and there is no excuse. But everybody who KNOWS it doesn’t live like it. Romans 1:21 says, “…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Think about it. If you say you believe there is a God, a real God, is it still okay to go about living your life like everybody else who says there isn’t? Wouldn’t you talk differently if you believed Matthew 12:36-37? (“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”)  If you truly believed, wouldn’t you think differently like it says in 2 Corinthians 10:5? (“…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.”)

Wouldn’t your priorities be different if you believed 1 John 2:15? (“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”) Wouldn’t you act differently if you believed Matthew 5:44? (“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”)

Belief Means Worshiping God as God

Finally, wouldn’t you worship differently if you truly BELIEVED that there really was an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God with real feelings and desires? After all, would a real God (who is sovereign and not just a creation of our imaginations) tolerate worship of anything else other than Him?  Right now we live in a world that is in the hands of the evil one. Everything competes for our worship. Idols of materialism and pride/self-love wink at us from every advertisement. Music and contemporary culture pound those ideals into our brains with every picture, song, article, and post.

Can we say we believe in God but never take time to read the Book He wrote to us? Can we worship God for an hour on Sunday but live for the world and ourselves the rest of the week? Or does worship mean giving our lives to the one who gave His life for us?  In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, we read, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” We are not our own. He is our Lord and Master.

Belief Means Giving Our Lives to Him

Verse after verse of the New Testament assures us that more of us is required than nodding our heads. We must give our lives to Him if we believe that He is who He says He is.

  • Luke 9:23 – “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
  • Matthew 10:38 – “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”
  • Romans 12:1 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
  • Galatians 5:24 – “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”
  • Luke 14:23 – “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”
  • Luke 6:46 – “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”

Belief Means More Than Just Saying “Lord, Lord”

Some of the scariest verses in the entire New Testament are found in Matthew 7:21-23. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

These verses are talking about people who think they are Christians. They have done works as Christians, but they did not have a relationship with God. He doesn’t KNOW them. They didn’t do the will of His Father. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, we read, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” From the Strong’s Concordance the word “sanctification” is ἁγιασμός in Greek, (pronounced hag-ee-as-mos). It means “the process of making or becoming holy, set apart.” We must be set apart for the Master’s purposes.

God Gives His Holy Spirit To Those Who Believe

When you believe that God is who He says He is, you will commit your life to Him, and He will give you His Holy Spirit. You will be born again. John 3:5-6 says, “Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Romans 8:9 says, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” When you have the Spirit of God, you have a relationship with Him. You hear Him speak to you, and you do your best to obey. John 10:27-28 says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

From Lukewarm to Red Hot

This subject is of special importance to me, and it’s the basis for my blogging ministry. My whole life I called myself a Christian and believed that I was one. I went to church every week, prayed every morning and night, and always listened to Contemporary Christian music. I had said the prayer of salvation as a kid. In fact, I said it again a few more times over the years because I never felt changed. Then one day when I was 41, God woke me up to the times we are living in (the end times). He also brought to my attention one very important verse from Revelation 3:16: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

All those years, I believed with my head, but I was still living for myself. I was the lord of my own life. Once I realized that His Word was true and He would not accept me in this condition, I decided to live my life like I really believed that everything the Bible says is true. From the moment I made that decision,  He gave me His precious Holy Spirit. Since then, I have never been the same. I’m a new creation with a desire to worship Him with my entire life. He PUT the desire to live for Him inside me, and my life is now focused on the Lord Jesus Christ as my heart’s greatest desire. If you would like to watch my testimony video, you can find that here.

Lordship Salvation

Lordship salvation is controversial in some Christian circles. Some people don’t want to think that there is any requirement past acknowledging that Jesus died for our sins. After all, John 3:16 says that “whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life,” and it’s absolutely true. When we believe with our hearts, we are saved. But believing is more than agreeing that something is right. It means LIVING the truth of the thing we believe. If God really is God, He deserves that we give Him our everything. And if His Word is true, He will accept nothing less.

Want to hear more about Lordship Salvation? Check out Got Questions. Interested in more articles about testimonies? Check out A Testimony of Healing After a Prayer in Faith. Or, for something a little different, try my tract called Plugged In. It’s a symbolic short story. It illustrates the concept that Christianity is the only way, and only those who do it God’s way will make it to heaven.

Articles for Edification

3 Steps to Forgive From the Heart

The parable of the unforgiving servant has a pretty straight forward message that we all understand. Forgive so you are forgiven. Got it. But as easy as the lesson is to get, that’s how tough it is to actually put into practice. Add to the whole scenario that Satan is trying to wear out the saints and iniquity is abounding, and all of a sudden we have a real danger on our hands. There is a big difference between forgiveness and stuffing those hurts and offenses deeper and deeper under the rug of the mind. We must forgive from the heart.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant: The Setup

The story takes place in Matthew 18:21-35. It starts when Peter asks Jesus how many times he must forgive a brother who sins against him. He suggests what he probably thinks is a very large number: seven. But, “Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Now, some versions say 77 times, which just might be a more accurate translation. It is most likely an allusion to Genesis 4. In it, Lamech murders a man who wounded him but insists that, like his ancestor Cain who was protected by God, he can’t be harmed in return without being avenged by God. He says, “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.” Jesus is reversing things from radical vengeance to radical forgiveness.

In any case, we are simply to interpret the numerical phrase as an “unlimited number of times.” Then Jesus tells a parable to illustrate the concept of grace for grace. 

The Parable Itself

The kingdom of heaven is like a master who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. He called for a man who owed him 10,000 talents. Now, a talent was the equivalent of 6,000 to 10,0000 denarii. One denarius was a day’s wages for twelve hours of work, and people typically earned about 300 denarii per year. That means that it would take 20 to 30 years for a day laborer to earn just ONE talent. In modern terms, at minimum wage, he owed roughly seven billion dollars.

It was an impossible sum that, of course, he could not pay. When the master ordered that he and his wife and children be sold to pay the debt, the servant fell on his knees and begged for mercy. “‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’” A hollow promise at best. But, the master took pity on him, cancelled the debt, and let him go.

Now, as soon as the man left his master, he went right to one of his fellow servants who owed money to him. This debt was much smaller, though. It was only 100 denarii. It was about a third of a year’s wages. In our time, that is about $11,733.00 at minimum wage (with overtime). When the man could not pay, the servant began to choke him, demanding the money immediately. The servant fell at his feet and begged him. He used almost the exact same words that he, himself, had spoken just a little while before. “’Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’” With this comparatively small sum, he probably could have, too. But this unforgiving man did not have pity. He threw the debtor into prison until he could pay back every penny.

The other servants who saw what had happened were not happy. They went and told their master what the ungrateful servant had done. He was immediately hauled back in before the master. The master said, “’You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’” Then he handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he paid back all he owed.

The Lesson

The parable ends with a very chilling statement that is aimed at you and me. 

So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Matthew 18:35

The lesson is clear that we are to give grace for grace. We are not to withhold forgiveness to anyone. No matter what the person has done to us, it is NOTHING compared to what we have done to God. God has new mercy for us every day, and most days (I don’t know about you) I need it. I try to bring every thought into subjection, but those little buggers are nasty sometimes. And, certainly, I try to keep control of my mouth, but the Bible doesn’t call the tongue “untamable” for nothing.  

As hard I try, I still have a deceitful heart that gets me into trouble and flesh that is constantly trying to talk me into bad business. And none of this is even a drop in the bucket to my behavior before God saved me and gave me His precious Holy Spirit. Now, every time I step over the line, He is faithful to remind me Whose I am and Whom I serve. I immediately repent, of course. And, every single time, without fail, God’s mercy brings me back into right standing with Him. 

Iniquity is Abounding & Satan Knows His Time is Short

We are to forgive everything, but offenses are waxing worse and worse. Not to mention, they are getting more frequent in these last days. Iniquity is “grossly unfair or immoral behavior,” and it is abounding about now.  When speaking about this time, 2 Timothy 3:2-3 says, “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” With all that bad behavior out there, the Christian is sure to get hit in the crossfire on a regular basis. When this behavior affects us – and Satan makes sure that it does pretty often – we must forgive from our hearts. This is hard to do once, even harder to do seven times, and impossible (without God!) an unlimited amount of times.

Sweeping It Under the Rug of the Mind

So what do we do when we know we SHOULD forgive, but we are so fill-in-the-blank (angry, sad, upset, tired, betrayed, disgusted…etc.), that the best we can do for the moment is an “It’s fine” through clenched teeth. We paste on a churchy smile, but inside we can start to feel a little like a punching bag. The world knows we are Christians and are required to forgive, so some people push and push. In fact, sometimes and with some people, the offenses come so fast and furiously that it’s hard to even keep up. “I forgive. I forgive. I forgive. I forgive,” but instead of forgiving, we are stuffing. Out of sight, out of mind.

“It’s fine. I forgive,” but ten minutes later when the subject comes up, our nostrils flare, and a string of words will come out of our mouths before we have had a chance to check our WWJD bracelets. Just because we don’t scream back or retaliate at the moment doesn’t mean we have forgiven from our hearts. We could just be sweeping all that hurt under the carpet of our minds and deceiving ourselves that we have dealt with it appropriately. But you can’t keep sweeping things under without one day getting tripped by the big, fat bulge in the rug. It’s the same with unforgiveness.

Three Steps to Forgiving From the Heart

So how do we forgive every single time from our hearts? After meditating a lot this week, I believe it comes down to a three step process.

Step 1: Acknowledge Our Feelings

First, we must acknowledge that there has been a wrong done and we feel some type of way. Someone has sinned against us, and it is okay to be upset. Ephesians 4:6 says, “Be angry, and sin not.” We aren’t robots. Ignoring our feelings and shoving them down deep just creates a hardness of heart that we must guard against at all costs. In order to keep our hearts of flesh, we have to allow ourselves to have feelings. Maybe it was a snide comment, a snap, a disrespectful tone, or even a betrayal of trust. Or, it could be something significantly bigger. Maybe someone caused you to lose money, a big opportunity, or even the life of someone you love. We must acknowledge that the actions were wrong and that we have feelings of hurt or anger in response.

Step 2: Forgive and Give it to God

Second, we must consciously choose to forgive and give the situation to God. Whatever the offense “deserves” for justice to be done, in Romans 12:19, God says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” Luke 17:3 says, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” Let’s be clear here. Nobody is getting away with anything. Even if God doesn’t send lightning bolts to zap people much these days, every single person will stand before God to give an account on judgement day. Every careless word spoken will be accounted for. Every negative action will have a price unless covered by repentance and the blood of Jesus. 

Step 3: Pray

Third, and I think this is pivotal, we must pray. We must give thanks to God for His grace to us, reminding ourselves that God is our Master who has forgiven us a sum that we could never ever hope to repay. In response, we must cancel the debts that others owe to us. Next, we must ask for clemency for those who have hurt us. In Luke 23:24, Jesus was betrayed unto death but prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In Acts 7:60, Stephen was being stoned but took the time to breath, “Lay not this sin to their charge.” Matthew 5:44 says, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” It’s important to pray.

Forgiveness Is for US, Not the Other Guy

Refusing to forgive others doesn’t hurt the other people, and it certainly doesn’t create justice for the wrong done to us. It only hurts us by making us bitter, angry, or upset, and worse than that, it is an offense to our Master who has forgiven us of so much. This is an item that I think a lot of people understand on a cognitive level but have never taken to heart. We MUST forgive to be forgiven.

Our faith in Jesus allows His sacrifice to pay for our sins, but unrepentant sin cannot be covered by His blood. Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” We must forgive from our hearts. Every offense. Every time. Because no matter what anyone has done to us, nothing is worth trading for the words, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.”

Read More

If you like to look at scripture more closely, try Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job 28. Or, 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

9 Reasons God Doesn’t God Hear Our Prayers

A doorbell that says "Press for Attention" to represent getting God's attention to hear our prayers.

The old hymn “Prayer Bells of Heaven” is a song about communicating with God. It uses the picture of a bell at the Lord’s right hand. When we are in need, we pray our prayers, and the little bell rings to get God’s attention to hear us. The other day when I was praying, I had a surprising thought about why prayers might go unanswered sometimes. I thought of prayers like a doorbell. If you have ever tried to get someone’s attention using a doorbell when the power is out, you know it doesn’t work. You can press the button until your finger is purple, but the people inside the house will still never know you are standing there (unless you call them or bang on the door).  Doorbells need power. They have to be connected. Some people have no connection to God and are ringing a dead bell.

1. God Doesn’t Hear Us When We Have Unconfessed Sin

Sin separates us from God. It’s that simple. It’s like slamming down a barrier in between us and God. The only thing that will open the gates again is repentance. This is why it is so very important to live a life characterized by self-examination and repentance for sins so that He can forgive us and cleanse us. Then He will hear our prayers.

  • Isaiah 59:2: “But your iniquities have separated you from your God;and your sins have hidden His face from you,so that He will not hear.”
  • Micah 3:4: “Then they will cry to the Lord, but He will not hear them; He will even hide His face from them at that time, because they have been evil in their deeds.”
  • Psalm 66:18-19: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear but certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer.”
  • Proverbs 28:9: “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.”
  • 1 John 3:22: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”

2. God Doesn’t Hear Us When We Worship Idols or Put Other Things Before God

The Old Testament is full of idolatry as a major sin. It can be hard to relate to people who melt earrings to make golden calves, but modern idols are “alive” and well. It’s just that today, those idols are all based on self: materialism, ego/pride, science/naturalism, self-indulgence, and works to name a few. When we put anything other than God on the throne of our hearts, it causes a barrier.

  • Ezekiel 14:7-8 “For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the Lord will answer him by Myself. I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Galatians 5:4 “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

3. God Doesn’t Hear Us When There Is Unforgiveness

We must forgive to be forgiven. It is simply not okay for a Christian to have anything against anyone. We must choose to forgive and give those hard feelings to God for His disposal. We must live at peace with others in as much as it is within our power to do so. The parable of the unforgiving servant illustrates just how ridiculous it is when we don’t forgive others since God has forgiven us so much.

  • Mark 11:25 ““And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
  • Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

4. God Does Not Hear Us When We Lack Charity

The Bible says, “Give to those who ask you,” and although there are certainly exceptions, if we know that someone has a need and we have the ability to meet that need, it is up to us to help. After all, we are but stewards. Everything we have has been given to us. We must do good and share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Hebrews 13:16).

  • Proverbs 21:13 “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.”

5. God Does Not Hear Us When We Don’t Ask Correctly

When we ask for things for our own selfish pleasures, or when we want things that are not in the will of God, He doesn’t hear us. When we make vain repetitions with words after words that never touch our hearts, He may not listen. But when we ask according to His will, with our hearts, and in His name, He will hear, and we will receive.

  • James 4:3: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
  • Matthew 6:7:  “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
  • 1 John 5:14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
  • John 16:23-24: “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

6. God Does Not Hear Us When We Ask in Unbelief

God won’t answer our prayers when we don’t believe He will do so. He hears us when we pray in belief that He is both listening and able to answer our prayers.

  • James 1:6-8: “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lordhe is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
  • Matthew 21:22: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

7. God Does Not Hear Us When We Are Disobedient

My pastor says “Do what you know God wants you to do. If you’re not sure, do what you think He wants you to do.” But when we know what God wants and deny giving it to Him for our own selfish motives, we are in rebellion to God, and that is sin.  Even when what He is asking is hard or puts us outside our comfort zone, we must submit to God always.

  • Zachariah 7:11-13: “But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
  • Proverbs 10:24: “The fear of the wicked will come upon him, and the desire of the righteous will be granted.”

8. God Does Not Hear Us When There Is Family Discord

Problems in a marriage can affect God’s willingness to hear our prayers. We must honor our partners so that our prayers may, in turn, be honored by God.

  • 1 Peter 3:7: “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”
  • Ephesians 5:22-24 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”

9. God Doesn’t Hear Us When We Don’t Ring the Bell

Finally, a working doorbell is only helpful if someone pushes the button. When we try to use worldly means to get the things we think we need and want, we can cause ourselves more harm than good. Instead, we should humble ourselves and ask God for His help.

  • James 4:2 “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”

God DOES Hear Us When We Are Right With Him

God does listen to prayers from His children who are right with Him. He knows us, and we have a relationship with Him that opens the lines of communication. We believe in Him, trust Him, and spend our lives trying to please Him. The Bible is full of promises that God will hear us when we are in a right relationship with Him. 

  • John 15:7: “f you abide in Me, and My words abide in youyou will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
  • John 9:31: “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.”
  • Psalm 91:14-15 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.”
  • Psalm 145:18-20 “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. The LORD preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.
  • Jeremiah 29:11-12 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”
  • Psalm 34:17: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.”
  • Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

We Simply Must Be Connected to Be Heard

Like a doorbell that must have power, our prayers must have a connection to God in order to be heard. He doesn’t hear us when we are separated by things that displease Him, but when we are in good standing with God, He promises to hear us and grant those petitions that are in His will and good pleasure.

Do you like hymns? Check out Prayer Bells of Heaven. It’s on my YouTube channel playlist called Hymns With Hannah. Subscribe for new music each week.

f you like analogies, try Message in the Moisturizer: We Can Choose Change . It is an object lesson about changing for the better. Or, try The Waves of God’s Judgement and the Child of God. In it, we can see that the closer we are to God, the more protected we will be in times of trouble.

Articles for Edification

The Mandela Effect and the Character of God

A lion and lamb basking in the sun represents the argument that the Mandela Effect changed the Bible from "lion will lie down with the lamb" to "wolf will lie down with the lamb."

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He doesn’t change. But there is a whole group of Christians out there right now who are convinced that the Bible does. They are calling it the Mandela Effect and are attributing the changes to a variety of possibilities. Some believe in multiple realities and a slide of consciousness from one to the next. Some say that it is the work of CERN, the great Hadron Collider, and a break through to a “mirror universe.” Others just believe the world is like a “holodeck” (to use a word from Star Trek) or a “matrix” (like the movie with the same name) with a glitch. Still others say it’s time travel or magic from the devil. Whatever the explanation, these Christians are sure that it is happening. And, they are slamming their Bibles shut in protest, claiming a “famine of the word of God.” But while these Christians will bring piece after piece of so-called “evidence” of the Bible’s “changes,” they are all ignoring one very important problem with any and all of these theories: the character of God.

What Is The Mandela Effect?

Fionna Broome coined the term “Mandela Effect” in 2009. It describes large groups of people all clearly remembering events that never happened. The name comes from a situation with political activist Nelson Mandela. While history records that he died in 2013, many people remember him dying in prison in the 1980’s. In fact, when comparing these false memories, Broome noticed there were similar details of the supposed funeral and a speech that his “widow” made.

But Mandela’s double funeral was just the beginning. As soon as people started hearing about the phenomenon, all of a sudden there were lots of examples. There were tons of tiny details that people were remembering very clearly one way but were finding out that they were not that way at all. The supposed changes involve characters and lines in movies, the spelling of names, and even the location of countries on the map. Whole groups of people remembered things that were simply not in historical evidence.

But the spelling of Berenstain Bears (versus Berenstein Bears) and the silver color of C-3PO’s leg (versus the all-gold version people remember) are minor compared to the “changes” people started to find in the Bible. The most famous one is Isaiah 11:6, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb…” (versus the lion and the lamb people remember, probably from the fact that Jesus is both the Lion and the Lamb). But there are also questions with the words “bottles” (used in the KJV when people remembered “wineskins” which is used in the NKJV and other versions) and “stuff” (which people argued was not a word in use at the time the Bible was written but was actually in the Oxford Dictionary as early as the 1400s.) 

Malevolent Bible Changes

Worse than that, people started finding words that they claim point to a new perversion in the Bible. For example, a website proclaiming supposed Bible changes said that the Bible is now condoning homosexuality. They cite the following verse. “Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left.” They say that it USED to say “Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.” As you will know if you search for these scriptures, the first one is actually Luke 17:35 and the second one is Matthew 24:41. They are BOTH in the Bible (and always have been). The gospel writers just chose a little bit different words to describe the same scenario.

Ridiculously enough, I also found a site that claims that the Bible now promotes the transgender agenda. It cites verses such as Isaiah 49:23 in the KJV. “And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers…” Now, as we all know, basic Bible learning is known as “milk.” Mature, deeper learning is known as “meat.” Is it so amazing that the King James Bible would use a metaphor here? John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible interprets the verse just that way. It says that Christian kings and queens would come “who feed the church with the milk of the word, and the breasts of ordinances.”

A Spiritual “Pull”

If you start to research this, first of all, please cover yourself with prayers of protection against deception. There is a real spiritual “pull” there that tells me that this whole idea comes straight from the enemy. Secondly, you will see terms like “the newest changes” as if this is some kind of ongoing project to rearrange and replace words throughout the Bible. You will also see verses you know, love, and remember, and claims that they have always read a completely different way than you know they have. It’s a frenzy; it’s a blindness. Once people believe this lie, they stop trusting everything in the Word of God. It leads people to paranoia, distress, and lack of faith in the things of God.

The Character of God

Put aside for a moment that the theories of “quantum pollution” and parallel universes are farfetched and like something straight out of science fiction. Ignore that people’s memories are fallible and susceptible to suggestion. Never mind that internet search engines and available information can be tampered with and pounding people’s brains with false information from memes, t-shirts, and broadcasts can make a big difference in how they remember things. Forget how different Bible versions and slightly different wording in different chapters can cause confusion. Dismiss people’s tendency to paraphrase when they can’t remember the exact words to a verse and the even greater tendency to repeat what people say, handing down verses and prayers in an oral tradition, instead of checking what the Bible actually reads. Discount all of these great explanations for why people are misremembering what the Bible says, and you are still left with the greatest problem with this theory: the character of God simply would not allow for His Word to be changed.

Is God Weak?

2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” 1 Peter 1:25 says that “the word of the Lord endures forever.” Hebrews 4:12 says that the “word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” John 10:35 says that “scripture cannot be set aside.” If the Bible is God-breathed, enduring forever, alive and active, and cannot be set aside, is God too weak to protect His Word and His own reputation for Truth? God forbid! The God who created the universe and calls the stars by name is well able to protect His own words. He is not at the mercy of quantum physics or the devil’s wiles. He is in control.

Is God Careless?

Ephesians 6:17 tells us that the sword of the spirit is the Word of God. We are in a battle. Most of the full armor of God is defensive, but the sword is the one offensive weapon that God gives us to fight the enemy. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, He fought using the Word. He used Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 6:16, and Deuteronomy 6:13 to withstand the enemy, and the enemy had to leave. It is the same with us today.

As believers, we stand on the promises God made in His word. We resist the devil, and he has to flee. Does God care so little about His children that He would allow someone or something to sabotage our weapon? Would He allow the very words that will vanquish the enemy to be changed little by little? God forbid! 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strong holds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God…”  

A Great Deception

It is the strangest thing talking to people who believe this great deception. The people simply refuse to answer the question as to why God would allow His word to be corrupted. When talking to someone on YouTube about the phenomenon, I commented that people should be very careful what they lend their ears to because to “and to you who hear, more will be given.” The person’s comment was that I didn’t even know the Bible. The actual verse read “for whoever has, to him more will be given.” But he was correcting me to Matthew 13:12 while I was quoting Mark 4:24

Likewise, people comment that the Bible warns about the Mandela Effect when it says that in the last days, there will be a famine of the word of God. But that isn’t what Amos 8:11 actually says. It says there will be a famine for HEARING the words of the Lord. These people are so worried about the Bible being changed by nefarious sources that they have stopped reading their Bibles altogether and are relying solely on what they remember. This absolutely contradicts what the Bible tells us to do. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding.”

Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.”  Ephesians 5:26 talks about the “washing of water by the word.” Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Besides being a sword to fight the enemy, faith, guidance, cleanliness, and protection from sin are just the start of the massive benefits to daily Bible reading. But when people start to question the Word of God, they are questioning the character of God as well. Those who say the Bible has been changed are falling into a trap of the enemy. They no longer trust God or His Word.

The Final Trilemma

CS Lewis popularized the “trilemma argument.” The argument goes that when you add up the things that Jesus Christ said and did when He was on earth, it was not possible that He was just a “nice man” or a “good teacher.” He either had to be a liar, deceiving others for His own gain, a lunatic, himself deceived into believing He was a deity, or Lord, God in the flesh. Given recorded history, there is no other alternative. I believe the same kind of trilemma exists with the so-called Mandela Effect and the character of God. Either God is weak, unable to protect His Word from the haphazard changes of the universe, He is careless, leaving His people vulnerable to fight the enemy with a defective weapon, or He is well able to protect both His people and His Word.

If you like articles heavy on scripture, try God’s Like Button: How to Know God Is Pleased. In it, we explore the scriptures that show what pleases God and the tangible evidence of His pleasure. 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

Are You Offering Your Sacrifice of Praise?

A girl lifting her arms in the sacrifice of praise.

God’s Old Covenant with the Jewish people worked on a system of sacrifice. People would gather their goods, and the priests would offer them to God at certain times each day or on special occasions. The sin sacrifice was a type and shadow of the New Covenant when Jesus Christ would become our one-time sacrifice for all sin. But what about all the other types of sacrifices? And with no Levitical line, who is supposed to be offering them up to God each day? 1 Peter 2:9 says that the priests are you and me. As such, we have a very specific task each day: to offer the sacrifice of praise.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

1 Peter 2:9

A Perfect Sacrifice

Old Testament offerings had to be spotless and without blemish. The Israelites couldn’t expect to please God by sacrificing lame animals or blighted grain. Everything had to be perfect and done with a heart that was devoted to God. In this way, it produced the “sweet aroma” that God was looking for. God could, and often did, reject offerings that were not perfect or that were given by hearts that were far from Him. That same concept is in action with believers today as we see that all the types of sacrifices have New Covenant counterparts.

Sin Offering

Without the shedding of blood, there will be no remission of sins. Jesus was and is forevermore our only offering for sins. He was sacrificed outside the camp on a tree just like the Israelites sacrificed animals and then took them outside the camp to burn the bodies on wood. Jesus paid the price of sin with His blood and sealed the New Covenant. Now, God can forgive you and me.

Burnt Offerings

Burnt offerings were meant to be totally burned up on the altar to God. They could be oxen, sheep, goats, or even turtledoves or pigeons. In every case, though, they were to be without blemish and burned completely.

As children of God, this represents our total dedication to God. Romans 12:1-2 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

Grain Offering

Since there was no blood involved, the grain offerings were always done along with the burnt offerings. These consisted of flour and oil, making a type of “bread.” When burned on the altar, it was to be mixed with Frankincense (an incense) that was burned with it. Finally, salt was to be present with every offering. Salt is a preservative and can endure very high heat.

The Word of God is our spiritual food, or bread. When read with the help of the Holy Spirit (symbolized by oil), this is an essential part of our worship every day. Another part of our worship is prayer. Revelation 5:8 says are our prayers are as incense to God. As believers, we are to be salt and light. We preserve the ways of God and withstand suffering that comes with naming the name of Jesus.

Peace Offering

Peace offerings were to be to be added on top of the burnt offering and grain offering. They were eaten by both the priests and the people presenting the offering to symbolize the unity of God’s people.

Romans 12:18 says “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” We are to strive for peace, especially with our brethren, and live in unity with them when it is possible.

Trespass Offering

Unlike the sin offering which covered the Adamic nature and sins done in ignorance, the trespass offering was to be made when there was a specific law broken. It came with restitution for any party harmed in the process. Not only would someone have to sacrifice an animal for stealing, for example, but the victim would be entitled to compensation for the crime.

Now as then, when we trespass against God, we must not only repent to God, but we must make things right with those we have harmed. Sin has consequences. Some of them are spiritual and can be forgiven with genuine repentance made possible by the blood sacrifice of Jesus. But some also need remedy in the natural. When we harm others, we must seek to restore the damage we have done.

The Sacrifice of Praise.

Jeremiah 17:26 speaks of bringing a sacrifice of praise, and Hebrews 13:15 seals the deal: 

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

Hebrews 13:15

Sacrifice means there is a cost. The Israelites had to give up valuable animals and grains to be right with God. Today, God asks only for our time and attention. But in our busy society of work and family obligations, not to mention the constant draw of entertainment and social media, pulling ourselves away to spend time wholeheartedly praising God can feel very much like a sacrifice. 

But is reading the Bible and praying every day and going to church each week enough? Is God still pleased when we sit in church thinking about work or skim the Bible quickly to get to the sweet sleep that seemed to elude us the night before? Are our offerings without blemish, or are they the equivalent of a lame bull or a sick lamb? Does God get the best of us, or do we find ourselves giving God “what’s left”?

Likewise, do we always praise God even when things aren’t going well in our lives? While it might be easy to praise Him in the good times, are we so quick to praise when we are sick, tired, hurt, or broke?

God Deserves Our Best

God has been so good to His children. He sacrificed His own life to pay the penalty for our sin. He goes before us, He fights for us, He provides for us, and He loves us. Every day, He deserves our time and attention. Every day He deserves our praise. Not just when we feel like it. Not just when things are good. And, not just in our minds, but with our lips, we must praise him “continually.”

We can sing songs in the car or around the house or in our prayer closet or at church. We can speak of Him to others at work, with our families, or while we are out and about. And, of course, we can pray out loud in the wonder and joy that we are His children and He is our God. Praising God gets the focus off ourselves and onto Him. It leads us into more humility as we realize how small we are comparison to One so great. It also brings us peace in knowing that our great God holds us in the palm of His hand.

In Psalm 34:1, David said, “I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Praise is our sacrifice to God, and it is up to us to make sure it is “perfect” by praising Him from a heart and mind that are fully focused on Him. In every situation,we must thank and exalt Him, for He is worthy.

If you like analogies, try It’s Not the Machine That Makes Us Clean. In it, we see that neither dishes nor Christians get clean without the washing of the Water. Or, try Message in the Moisturizer: We Can Choose Change . It is an object lesson about changing for the better. 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

Chasing Happiness or Choosing Joy

A watercolor picture of the words "Choose Joy"

There are two kinds of pleasure: temporal happiness and eternal joy. For the lost, this world is all they have. They spend their lives in pursuit of the things that make them feel happy and contented in this life. For the children of God, we have those same opportunities, but we also have something more: eternal joy. It’s a spiritual pleasure that only comes from interacting with God. Taking time to think about where and how you find enjoyment can reveal a lot about your spiritual condition. Maybe it’s time to stop chasing happiness and choose joy.

Temporal Happiness

Earthly happiness comes in many forms and, in moderation, is encouraged by God. Ecclesiastes 9:7 says, “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works.” There are many ways that both the lost and the saved can find pleasure in our world. The only time it becomes dangerous for the child of God is when seeking this pleasure comes before, or more often than, seeking the joy that only God can bring. 

Family Can Make Us Happy

Think about the happiness you feel with your family. Meeting your spouse, getting married, and building a life brings happiness. Children bring a whole new level of  delight. Consider the birth of a new baby, your child’s first smiles and steps. Or what about all those days of summer picnics, first days of school, fun shopping trips and vacations, and the deep feeling of pride at their accomplishments? Graduations, first days at college, and grandchildren all bring a great sense of happiness. God has given us our families. Though great love can cause great pain, family can be a source of much happiness in this life.

Work Can Make Us Happy

Then there’s the happiness you feel about your work. From the smallest bit of contentment you feel about a freshly mopped kitchen floor to the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from a promotion or other career win, work can make you happy. God has given us all gifts that we can use for Him. Some of these involve skills we can take into the workplace. When we are good at what we do, it feels good. When we can earn enough to support our families and have enough left over for a decent car, a nice house, a good phone, and dinners out, it’s a good thing. God gives us the skills and opportunities. It is up to us to be good stewards with the resources He puts into our hands.

Physical and Mental Gratification

Happiness in mental and physical gratification is the one that is hardest for some to keep in restraint. Delicious food, vacations, rest, intimacy, and spending time with pets and friends can make us happy. Reading a great book, time on the internet, playing video games, or watching sports or appropriate movies can be fun. All of these can all be proper for the child of God when not taken to extremes.

But seeking for temporal happiness shouldn’t be our main goal. Family is crucial, but it can’t be the thing we think about most in this world. Striving after promotions and income can be important in God’s will for our lives. When done for their own sake, though, they can skew our priorities about the way we spend our time and attentions. Physical and mental gratification can bring us a happiness that is still good and right in the sight of God. They only become a problem when they are out of balance. If they are a substitute for God’s comfort or an alternative to spending time with God, that’s a problem.

Eternal joy

Beyond the things of this world that make us happy, there is something more: the joy that only God can bring. John 10:27 says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Hearing God, interacting with Him, and living our lives in tune with the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us is what separates those who are alive from those who are dead. The joy we receive from communion with our Creator is something only children of God can know, but we have to take the time to choose joy. 

Reading the Bible Can Bring Us Joy

I have a friend who says, “People who are alive need to eat. If you aren’t hungry for the Word of God, maybe you aren’t spiritually alive at all. Maybe you are still dead in your sins.” That’s a pretty strong statement, but it makes sense when you think about it. Some of the greatest feelings of joy I have experienced have come when I was reading the Bible and God opened up something to me that I had never seen before. He can also use it to speak into the situations in our lives. He can teach us lessons in a way that we KNOW we are hearing from God. Setting an appointed time each day to spend time with God is His word is essential to building a relationship with Him. As any child will tell you, love is spelled T-I-M-E. We have to make time to choose joy.

Worshiping in His Presence Can Bring Us Joy

Whether you go to a brick and mortar church or worship by yourself at home, worship can bring some of the deepest joy there is. Wrapped in that feeling that He is there, we sing, praise, pray, and raise our hands. We relish in the knowledge that He is our king forever. One day, we will be with Him to worship Him in person. This life is not all there is. There is more, and it is ours because we are loved by God not just now but forever more. Jude 24 says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” He will keep us from stumbling if we will but seek Him. Like the hymn says, we can have that “joy unspeakable and full of glory” both now and forever more. We can choose joy.

Living in Constant Connection Can Bring Us Joy

Bible reading and worship are specific things done at set times. But one of the greatest joys in life comes from living in constant focus on and contact with God.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Waking up with God, meditating about the things of God, seeking His will for our lives, and watching and listening for His leading is a way of life for the child of God. When we are in tune to Jesus, we can see those little “God winks” that bring us joy. Maybe the radio plays the song that expresses our prayers or comforts us with an answer to those prayers. Maybe another Christian confirms an idea that we have been hearing from God. There are so many opportunities to choose joy throughout our day when we spend our time thinking about Him and being grateful for His sacrifice, His provision, and His promises.

We Can Have Joy in Distress

Some people seek food and drink or mindless entertainment to dull the pain that so often comes into our lives. They seek a substitute in a sensation or feeling of temporal happiness. But seeking God in times of pain can bring true joy. When I’m distressed, the Holy Spirit will often bring a Bible verse to my mind that puts the whole situation into focus. When I’m upset or sad, so often, the page I “just happen to be on” in the Bible will remind me that He is there with me and I will never be alone. Or even times that the devil is beating me up or lying to me, the Holy Spirit will simply alert me to his attack so I can fight back with the Word of God. Truly, some of the deepest times of gut-level joy have come out of my darkest days. The reality of a God who cares and takes the time to speak to me is far greater than any amount of sadness this world can bring.

Everyone, whether lost without Jesus or saved by His blood, wants good things that bring pleasure in this life. Pursuing those things through people and things is only natural. But, for the child of God, true joy can only be found in communion with God Himself. As His children, bought and paid for and no longer our own, we must examine ourselves regularly. Do our lives show a balance in the pleasure we seek from this world and the next? Are we substituting happiness for joy? Or, are we seeking after the joy that only a relationship with the one true God can bring. Maybe it’s time to choose joy.

 Like other articles for edification? Try God’s Like Button: How to Know God Is Pleased. Or, check out this blog round up from several Christian bloggers who tell us  7 Ways to Walk in Victory .

Check out my sister’s blog where Evangelical Christian sisters “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.