Challenge: 1 Peter 3:15

I was raised in a Christian home with both my parents being born-again, washed in the blood, saved by grace through faith Christians.

Those parents took us (themselves, my sister, and I as my brother was not yet born or even considered by them. See I Close My Eyes for background on that.) from a church where the pastor was more concerned about elevating and justifying himself than he was about helping the church body to grow in their knowledge of and faith in God to a church that taught hard-core theology. The accounts in the Bible – Old and New Testaments – were taught as early as in the nursery. By the time you got to high school youth group or the adult classes, you were onto in-depth learning about not only how the lessons and teachings in the Bible apply to our daily lives but also information to supplement those lessons and teachings such as the history behind the book of John, what was happening in the world at the time the book of Romans was being written, what is the difference in the original Greek words that translates to the same word in English, etc.

Soon, it was time to start school. Due to….loose morals at the local public school, my parents felt led to put me into a Christian school ran as a business ministry of our church. (That’s a whole other post – one which does not necessarily need to be published…) At that school, our teachers emphasized they were supplementing what our parents taught us at home, not taking their place. In order to graduate or pass each grade, you had to take a semester of Bible for every semester you attended. Elementary, it was looking at the lives of missionaries – recorded in the Bible and those of our time – in addition to the teachings of the Bible. Salvation was always taught as was creation and the accounts of the lives of people in the Bible. Rather than simply reciting those accounts, they were built upon every year. Example: in kindergarten, we learned the days of creation. We had plates that we glued/colored pictures of the different created subjects and learned a rhyme. By the time we got to senior year, we were talking about how God was able to create something out of nothing; what does it mean that God is omnipotent? How is He self-sufficient? Looking more at Who the Creator Is – not just what He created when (that was in science as we looked at how the order of creation was perfect for the sustainability of life.).

We had chapel once a week. In elementary, it was usually the teachers rotating through with the occasional special speaker (local pastor or a missionary home on furlough). In high school though, it was either our Bible teacher or a pastor/missionary – including the presidents and vice-presidents of local mission agencies – who taught chapel. It was always frustrating to myself and fellow students who went to the same church when we had youth pastors from other churches speak. Some of us may have referred to their lessons at the character lessons we had back in elementary school. On the flip side, our peers who went to those other churches hated when our youth pastor taught because they were not used to so much hard-core, in-depth theology being thrown at them in such a short amount of time.

Flash forward a few years. Our pastor was called to his heavenly home. That amazing youth pastor was called to be a senior pastor at a different church a forever long drive away. Due to other events, again, that would be a whole different post, I found myself without a church to call home.

My parents moved back to their home church now that there was a new pastor in place. I began attending that church with them. Where to start???

It is a church where you will hear the Biblical gospel preached. It is a church where the members love God. When my grandpa died, the message preached was so passionate and Biblically sound that I actually forgot I was sitting 5 feet away from the body of my grandpa. The people are sincere.

That being said, it’s not my home church. I believe I have already posted about the worship there – if not I will another time.

The sermons are similar to those chapel sessions when we had pastors from other churches speak. They apply lessons to your person without any additional information such as what the Greek or Hebrew word is and how that ties into the context of other words used. It’s essentially taking what the passage says and saying, “ok, this is how this verse applies to your life in this situation.”

It is teaching of the word of God which is a powerful tool used in conviction. I have learned through these sermons, but I am almost always left wanting more, not feeling satisfied or full. I often go home and pull-up a podcast of a sermon of my former youth pastor in his new church to get that in-depth lesson.

I have tried explaining this to my parents, that I feel as though I went from milk (like an infant) to steak and now I’m back down to a hamburger. There’s nothing wrong with a hamburger. I like hamburgers, but they’re not as satisfying or filling as a 16oz steak. That did not go over well. I probably could have worded it a bit better especially as they are both satisfied there. I’ve also pointed out that my learning style is different than both of theirs…but I think that was mentioned at the same time as the hamburger thing, and the subject was needing to be changed before all our blood pressures sky-rocketed.

What prompted this post tonight? I just finished reading and am already planning on re-reading an incredibly book titled Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by (recently called home to heaven much to my dismay) Nabeel Qureshi. I plan on buying the rest of his books (I actually planned on begging local pastors to invite him to come speak, but that won’t happen now!) as this one was so, so well written!

He begins by recollecting and telling the story of his Muslim upbringing. The reader can appreciate his love for his family and his culture while beginning to see the questionable aspects of the Islamic belief system. He transitions smoothly into when he began to realize that what he had been taught literally since moments after his birth may not be correct.

God truly did send him the right person to befriend him and guide him along the journey to salvation. As I was reading, I was in awe of how knowledgeable his friend was. I thought being raised by godly parents in addition to 13 years in a Christian school in addition to a solid, Bible-preaching church would have prepared me to answer some of the questions resulting from comparison of the Quran and the Bible. Nope. I recognized the conflict and the responding verses, but I could not put them together. At one point, I wondered if his friend, David, got home from those discussions sometimes and just sank to the floor thanking God for putting the thoughts in his head and the words in his mouth. I’ve had those moments myself after in-depth conversations with friends and co-workers when I was half asleep and usually not able to process light conversation let alone theology.

All the while I was reading this book, I was thinking about the Muslims with whom I am acquainted. Would these topics come up? I began praying that God would open the door for me to witness to those acquaintances, and that He would put the appropriate responses on my brain, heart, and tongue. At that point, I realized that while yes, I have been completing Bible studies, I have been neglectful in studying the Bible. I have fallen into the habit of thinking, “what does this passage mean for me” without adding, “what does this passage teach me about God? How does strengthen my faith? How would I explain this passage to an unbeliever?”

As I told one of my mentors, reading through this book showed me where in my Biblical studies I need to spend more time to strengthen.

I have always been awful with remembering the references for verses. I can remember math equations and formulas, random and important dates throughout history, but those chapters and verses get confused in my head. When my youth group was preparing for what was my first missions trip, we were given “random” verses as well as Galations 6 to memorize. Myself and one of my friends were the only two to memorize Galations 6 in addition to those other select verses. To this day, if I hear someone quote a verse out of Galations 6, I may not be able to say which verse it is, but I know that it comes from that book and chapter!

There are not a lot of verses that I can point to and recall when I memorized it or first felt its importance. 1 Peter 3:15 was one of those seemingly random verses we memorized for that first missions  trip. I remember it. I actually recognize the reference for that verse. I remember reading through it several times, just because of the strength of the challenge, maybe command, maybe advice of that that verse. 1 Peter 3:15 was referenced in Qureshi’s book. I immediately had to close the book, pause, and then slowly grin as I again resolved to up the intensity of my Bible studies and not be ok with what, to me, are sometimeshamburger sermons. (Note: those sermons may be steak to other believes; we are all at different points in our relationship with God. It may be that those sermons are buffalo burgers to someone and just what they need in their life in their present situation. As I said, I have still been convicted and/or taught during most of those sermons!)

As I flipped to that verse to include it in this post, I got another chuckle. It is surrounded by notes in my Bible including a reminder to not be a know-it-all and our faith is not a blind faith, accepting of what is being taught from the pulpit purely because it is taught from the pulpit. We are to know the reasons or the logic of what we believe.

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. . . ”      1 Peter 3:15


I Close My Eyes

When I was three years old, when we were driving somewhere, I told my parents I wanted a baby brother. My parents said take it up with God because after 1 (near) perfect pregnancy (that would be me) and 1 incredibly rough pregnancy/delivery (that would be my sister), a third kid wasn’t likely to happen. They like to tell how it got quiet in the back seat, so my parents looked back and saw my little hands folded, my eyes shut, and my little mouth moving in a silent prayer for a baby brother. Five days after I turned 4 years old, my baby brother was born. When my mum went to the doctor, before he as born, they asked her if she wanted to know the gender of the new baby. She said nope, her daughter had prayed for a brother, so she knew it was a boy.

That was the first time I experienced the power of prayer.

Since then, I have seen it numerous times. Sometimes the answer is no; frustratingly enough the answer is often wait, and sometimes the answer is yes!

I have learned a few things over the years. Be specific in prayer. When I ask my daddy for something, I am usually specific because he has that same ornery streak I do and will look for loopholes just to watch the expression on my face. When I talk to my heavenly Father, I am specific because, well, humans had to get that ornery streak from somewhere…we all know God has a sense of humor. More importantly, He created the universe in 6 days. Why worry about asking Him for something specific? It’s not going to be too hard or impossible for Him. If He says no, then it’s not good for you at this point in time.

Don’t be afraid to claim God’s promises. We are told several times in Scriptures that vengeance belongs to God – not us. Nothing we as humans can do comes anywhere near to what God, El Elyon, God Most High, can and will do to those who harm His children. Several times in the last five years, I have thrice claimed that promise found first in Deuteronomy 32:35 and repeated in Romans 12:19 and cried out for God to wreak havoc on those who hurt me. I didn’t need to see it; I didn’t know when, though chances are I would hear of it. I knew He would handle it in the best way in His time.

It is pretty common for me to go running to my parents with an idea for project and later go back saying I changed my mind or tweaked it a bit.

One of those times I cried out for vengeance, I went back to God a couple years later and told Him that if He was still wanting to avenge the pain caused me, ok. I wasn’t going to ask for it anymore though. Instead, I asked He convict the person instead. Specifically, I have been asking that person be unable to sleep due to a feeling that something is wrong in his life. I have been asking that poking through his thoughts is the one thought that he is missing something in his life, that what he has been doing is wrong, and that he needs the forgiveness of sins offered by God. I was able to forgive this person for how he wronged me for 11 long, long months. When I realized I was no longer angry and hurt anytime I thought of this person, I realized I should no longer cry for vengeance. Instead, if I truly forgave him, I should be 100% concerned for the status of his eternal life and less concerned about what happened several year ago with his earthly life.

I am not ADD or ADHD….maybe some OCD tendencies. I am not easily distracted, but I am always or almost always alert – looking for potential threats, remaining aware of my surroundings. With the exception of when I am driving, I have started closing my eyes when I am talking to God. Not just closing them, but also covering them with my hands or arms (my eyes don’t always close all the way unless I focus on that which takes my focus away from God). My phone gets turned off; computer gets closed. I can focus on talking to God, one on One, with no outside distractions. Obviously when I’m driving, that cannot happen. During that time, it’s more like I’m talking to someone I can actually physically see where I go on rabbit trails or talk to myself after being reminded about something and have to figure out what I was telling God before that distraction.

The differences I’ve noticed are hard to describe, but I am going to try. When my eyes are open, without a face toward which I can direct my words, as already mentioned, it is a conversation all over the place. Unfocused, unpurposed, just random thoughts. There is not necessarily anything wrong with that. However, it’s not really prayer warrior worthy discussion. It’s not as serious. Obviously, you’ll still see answers, but I personally do not feel as though that should be the norm for talking to God when it comes to requests such as vengeance, conviction, healing, protection, etc.

That is why I close my eyes. If I don’t have a face towards which I direct my attention, I need that focus of one-on-One. I check my surroundings, and then I trust that El Roi will set a guard around me while He and I talk.

And Let It Begin with Me

I was planning on writing a post about breed bans (I am 100% against them), but this morning at church, as usual, my mind was changed.

Apparently, pastors and churches are of the opinion that America will not see another big revival because they feel we’re too close to the second coming for it to happen.

How DARE they limit God?!

How DARE they decide that people no longer need to hear the gospel or have another opportunity to be saved?!

How DARE they ignore the part about only God knows when the rapture will be?!

Last time I checked, the job of Christians is to bring glory to God and to tell the world of the good news of the hope of salvation.

After September 11, 2001, many people in this country bent their knees and put their faith in God. Just because it may take something horrendous such as the deaths of over three thousand people in the first attack on US soil since December 7, 1941, to bring about a revival does not mean that revivals can or will not happen in this country again.

The excuse that surely we must be close to the rapture and second coming is just that: an excuse for laziness in the church. It’s an excuse for people to stay in their comfort zone or their bubble where they don’t risk being mocked or persecuted in some form for their beliefs and willingness to share those beliefs.

Here’s the thing: God is watching. If you have put your faith in Him and the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus but are not doing your job and in fact are living according to what the world wants you to do (usually, that’s the opposite of God), then you will be in trouble when you get to heaven regardless of it is following your death or the rapture.

I personally would rather see and hear of another revival in America because Christians are doing their job as Christians than because we suffered another massive tragedy. Have you considered that maybe we have so many shootings and hurricanes and fires because that is how people are coming to God?

President Trump this past week said that the attack on Christian-Judeo morals and values has come to an end. I cheered when I read that. I know many Christians working in the secular workplace who have kept their mouths shut as their co-workers actually asked how to get to heaven or what does salvation mean because they (the Christians) were worried about getting made fun of or losing their jobs because they knew the answer. I know of Christians who got tired of being mocked and left the narrow path to blend in with the world. I know of Christians who have wandered so incredibly far from God that I shudder thinking of what it will take to bring them back to Him…because they saw the world profiting and appearing to have more fun than their Christian circle. All of them will have to answer for those choices. Maybe now that we have a president who has said that our morals and beliefs are not to be attacked, now that we can legally fight back, Christians will finally come out from under the rock they’ve been hiding and do their job. Maybe now, they will end this nonsense about “oh, America will never see another revival” and instead say, as the old song goes, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin with me.”

Probably Not as Intended

At the end of devotional reading today, the author of the book through which I’m currently reading and using as a study-guide wrote:

 Now, one last question. How has God spoken to you today?

My response? Probably not in the way the author intended….

I did something new today. I did the usual pour a nice hot cup of freshly made coffee and shut my computer to avoid that as a distraction. Today, I also turned down the volume on my phone to mute and flipped it over so I would not see the flashing green light alerting me to a new message. Normally, I just leave it on the counter behind me, but the beeps of the new messages still serve as a distraction from focusing on the Word of God.

I began reading about Jehovah-raah, the Lord my Shepherd.

The author had some solid insights that caused me to pause and reflect on how what she said applies or is observed in my own life. “New” verses to look up and post around my house and on facebook as a reminder throughout the week. So far so good.

Then we get to the main Scripture passage for this morning – John 10:1-17, 26-33.

The author wanted us to make some observations about the different characters in the passage, compare and contrast different actions, etc. I began reading.

The first thing I noticed or that struck me was verse two:

But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

The power of this verse, the confidence of the shepherd in this statement caused me to pause. The first verse had a thief and robber climbing up the back way trying to avoid being seen in a cowardly, underhanded way. The shepherd just walked right in to the fold of his sheep. Picture it.

Then we get to the part where Jesus very clearly and patiently spells it out for His audience who were not quite comprehending what He was saying.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. (vs 11-12).

This is the part where my train of thought left the path the author probably intended for it to follow.

A lot of pastors refer to their congregation as their flock that they need to shepherd, to guide. As of today, I think that is something they probably should not be saying.

John is part of the New Testament. These words are coming straight from the mouth of Christ Jesus – He is the Shepherd! Go back to the Old Testament, and we have David saying, “The LORD (Jehovah-raah) is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). If we follow the chain of command, that means pastors are the hirelings – the help.

It makes sense. How often do we hear of pastors who left a church during a split of congregation or who back down from preaching the Word of God because it’s not the popular opinion of the world? They’re fleeing when the wolf comes for the flock of the Shepherd. Good help is hard to find….but it’s not impossible. There are many good pastors who stay to fight the wolves who enter the church with a mission to scatter and devour the flock. I am certain not every hireling in biblical times abandoned their post when a wolf came near the flock of which they were charged with protecting.

Look at the TV preachers and churches or religions with their thousands of followers…of what man is saying. They are not preaching salvation. They are not preaching that yes, God is loving, but He is also holy and just. They have just enough bits and pieces of the Bible – usually/always out of context – that they sound like they are working for the Shepherd. In reality, they are leading a group of sheep closer to the side of a cliff to fall.


A Lesson From 2 Timothy 4:2-5

In the Baptist, Evangelical, and really any Bible-believing church these days, there is an alarm being raised about different well-known leaders in Bible study materials. My Facebook feed has been flooded with articles and pictures and thoughts and the spiritual battle-cry about ban these authors from the materials used in church in for Sunday school, Bible studies, and recommendations from personal studies.

I am actually, partially disgusted by this.

To a point, I agree. If there is questionable theological content in their books, then that should not be included in study material given to new or young believers who need a solid foundation before they start sifting through the work of false preachers. However. To completely ban an author eliminates what could be a good learning experience for older believers, a chance to go from eating hamburger to eating steak. Allow me to explain.

For starters, just because an author has recently published questionable material does not mean their earlier writings were not spiritually, biblically sound writing. They may have only recently been taking in by a false preacher and been led astray as Satan decided they were becoming to great a threat to his plans. To ban and disregard what has already been taught after being studied and deemed appropriate in the church could have damaging effects such as believers who took comfort in those writings might be questioning decisions made based on that comfort and study. A believer who came to Christ through a message in a study written by that author might now be questioning their salvation.

It also gives more mature Christians the chance to sift through tactics of the devil. Recognize the truth in the false writings to see how it has been warped so they may be better prepared in the future in an instance when they have to determine for and by themselves whether or not something is true per the Bible. They can use it as a study tool. For example, this morning during my devotions, I came across a paragraph with which I took issue. Instead of throwing away the whole book, I instead wrote in a note at the top of the page reminding myself when I read through the book again later that there is something on that page that is not necessarily biblically sound. That paragraph did not contradict Scripture per se, but the idea behind the paragraph was on shifting sand. I noted it and moved on to the rest of the chapter.

I read a book which I highly recommend (Cold Case Christianity, a Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace) and loved with the exception of a single concept near the end of the book regarding celibacy. It was not even that the author was promoting or stating that concept was absolute per the Bible; it was more that he was simply stating a viewpoint of another person to contribute to that section of the book. Again, I just wrote a note on the side of the page and kept reading.

Banning books or teachings of someone previously accepted just because you disagree with their theology is taking things to the extreme. This is what the Catholic, Muslim, and other churches do to control their members. It’s also not trusting of the teachers to discern the difference between the truth and false teaching nor is it giving them the opportunity to take a concept or topic provided by the banned author and turn it into a biblically sound lesson.

Part of the growth of each believer should include learning how to study the Bible on their own looking at context (verses and chapters before and after the section being studied), word origins, what scholars of old have written on that passage, etc. If that is being done correctly, and the believer is growing in their relationship with their God, they should be able to discern false teaching on their own.

Again, using evil for good, using the change of writing of a well-known author from truth to false teaching as a teaching opportunity is much better than simply banning that author and becoming like false religions attempting to eliminate free will and control the actions and beliefs of their members.