Years ago when our daughters were toddlers, my husband Lon and I took them to the park for a free special event. We arrived early and while the event’s coordinators were setting up bouncy houses and other kid-friendly stations, we milled around the extensive local park. Seeing that they had already started the barbecue with hot dogs, chips, and pop, we stood in line and waited our turn.
When we arrived at the front of the line, one of the men grilling the hot dogs mentioned that he didn’t realize we worked for such-and-such company. Lon and I looked at each other before I asked, “such-and-such company?”
“Yes,” the man said. “This is a private employee picnic for those who work at the company.”
Lon and I quickly escaped the line, our faces red with embarrassment, as we apologized to our disappointed little girls.
Sometimes things are not obvious. It wasn’t obvious to us that day that this was a private picnic, plopped in the middle of the area where the free special event would take place.
And so it is with false teaching of the Bible. Sometimes it’s not easy to discern when it is plopped in the center of an otherwise Biblical-sounding sermon or podcast. Sometimes otherwise good teaching is interspersed with falsehoods or even heresy. That’s when we need to be on our guard the most.
So how do we spot false teaching?
By praying for discernment. There is no doubt that discernment can be difficult, which is why we should pray often that God would give us the wisdom to spot untruths. Some pastors and Bible teachers have a knack for being convincing or saying just enough good stuff to sound legit. Or their method of delivery is so passionate and persuasive that their audience can’t help but believe what they say.
By being in the Word often. We cannot filter the truth from the false without knowing what the Truth is. We can’t know what the Truth is if we never study it. Plan to not only open your Bible, but to study it. Read the commentary. Pray for guidance as you seek to understand.
By seeking godly wisdom from mentors. God has blessed me with three godly mentors in my life. They have spent countless hours discipling me, answering my questions, and guiding me through rough times. It’s important to have at least one trusted mentor who is a mature Christian.
A friend at church told me that he once heard that we all need someone discipling us who is more advanced in their Christian walk than we are, and that we ought to be discipling someone who is a newer Believer. I agree. Mentors can be found at church, in Bible studies, and can be family members, friends, or those with a ministry. One of my favorite things about our church’s Sunday school class is listening to the wisdom shared by several of the attendees – most of whom are mature Christians and are old enough to be at least my parents, if not my grandparents.
By holding everything to the Word of God. My daughters and I have discussed often that everyone has an opinion and that there are gazillion ideas from all sorts of people in all sorts of media platforms. Pick up a book, turn on the TV, listen to a podcast, chat with a friend, hang out on social media…and you’ll discover a wide range of ideas and “true facts”. The only true Truth Meter we have is the Word of God. We need to hold everything up to it and see whether it aligns.
By becoming a researcher. No matter who is preaching, whether you are sitting in a pew on Sunday morning, listening to a podcast in the comfort of your living room, or watching “virtual” church, take a minute to “fact check” the pastor or Bible teacher. A quick internet research can give you some insight as to what the teacher believes, what their statement of faith consists of, and possibly other information that can help you discern whether or not they are on the right track.
Some people will say that if the teaching is mostly good, then there’s nothing wrong if one or two things aren’t. I would respectfully disagree. For one, a little bit of falsity contaminates the entire message. Secondly, for the one leading the teaching, while some listeners might be more discerning that others, some will stumble. The Bible is clear about causing people to stumble.
Case in point: I recently listened to a sermon that was good. Yet, toward the end, the pastor highlighted a story from a popular website that is widely known for its unbiblical teaching. While there are some articles on this website that are “decent,” most of them are not (and I personally do not think it is a website for Bible-believing Christians to take their information from). So to quote this website could quite possibly have caused many in his listening audience to stumble. They may go to this website, trusting that it’s okay because the pastor mentioned a story from it. He may know that not all the stories on it are in alignment with God’s Word and can pick and choose with discernment, but to the average believer, or maybe even an unbeliever listening to his sermon, this might not be the case. We have to be careful not to cause others to stumble.
False teaching can be difficult to pinpoint, but with prayer, using the Bible as the only Truth meter, doing some research, and by enlisting the help of godly mentors, we can learn to test everything and hold fast to what is good.
At the beginning of every New Year, many make resolutions that they aim to keep throughout the year. Decisions to make them healthier, fitter, more organized, etc.
In the classic 80s song “New Attitude“, Patti LaBelle sings of starting a new beginning with a new attitude “from [her] head to [her] shoes.” Every time I hear that song, it brings to mind a crabby lady in need of a personality overhaul.
But what about a new beginning in Christ?
At any time of the year?
Paul in the Bible received a new beginning – a “start over”, if you will. A harsh man who made it his life’s goal to persecute Christians, Paul was the furthest thing from one who could be used effectively by God. Wasn’t he?
On the contrary. God used Paul in a mighty way. After Paul’s conversion, he was one of the greatest apostles who ever lived. He endured beatings and spent much time in prison for the sake of the Gospel.
Could you be used for God’s Kingdom?
Probably not if you have a “checkered” past, right? If you’ve done things you’re not proud of, sinned in ways you don’t care to admit, you certainly can’t be used. And definitely, God isn’t going to forgive you for all of those things you did. After all, we’re not talking “minor” sins here.
Again, on the contrary.
God can and will use you, no matter what you have done or who you have been.
We serve a God who is One of second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances. Jesus took all of our sins, past and present, upon Himself when He went to the Cross. Your new beginning means your dry erase board is wiped clean from all of the junk that once cluttered it.
After you have made a decision for Christ, you are forgiven. You have a new beginning. You also have eternal life and will spend eternity with Him. Nothing can ever take you from His hand (John 10:28). But it doesn’t stop there. Find a Bible-based church where the pastor digs into the Word and preaches it each week. Find a mature Christian to mentor you in your walk.
Spend time in the Bible. The Old Testament is wonderful, and I would highly recommend reading it, but as a new believer, the best place to start is in the New Testament in the Book of John.
Turn your eyes toward Him. Listen and watch things that aren’t contrary to your new faith.
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).
This year, spend time in prayer to dedicate your life to a new beginning for Christ. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “the old is gone, the new is here.” And that is definitely something to celebrate!
While foreign missions are an exciting and valuable way to fulfill The Great Commission, we don’t have to go far to make an impact. All that most of us have to do to be in the mission field is to step outside our front door.
We as Believers are all missionaries when we spread the Gospel, whether by actions, words, deeds, or a combination of all three. It has been said that we could be the only Jesus that some people see.
Thought-provoking. Humbling. And something that should spur us on with a vigor to share the Good News about our Savior.
So how are we using our influence?
And yes, we all have influence.
If you are a parent, grandparent, employer, employee, pastor, author, speaker, grocery shopper, neighbor, singer, actor, business owner, medical professional, patient, teacher, student, blogger, or a social media user, you have a platform and a sphere of influence.
Everyone can make a difference for the Lord. We just have to be mindful of our actions, words, and deeds. Here are a few examples:
The parent. Raising children is one of the most important responsibilities we parents will be entrusted with. And the most important thing about raising them? Teaching them about the Lord and praying that they will surrender their lives to Christ. Each day, we set examples for them. Do they see us reading the Bible? Making church a priority? Praying often? Helping those in need? Do we read the Bible to them on a regular basis, or if they are older, spend time reading and studying the Bible with them?
The grandparent. Grandparents, you truly have no idea the impact you make on your grandchildren. Even if they don’t live nearby, you can still exhibit a heart for God. Sharing your testimony, reminding them of His love for them, texting Bible verses, and being there to talk through the tough times are just a few ways to encourage your grandchild in the Lord.
The employer. As an employer, you can show the love of Christ by being an honorable boss who makes your employees a priority.
The employee. Bosses know when they have an employee who stands out from the rest. Being reliable, punctual, dependable, loyal, and with a good work ethic can go a long way. Yes, a nonbeliever can have those traits as well, but as Christians, we should exemplify them. Do you stand out from the other employees? Are you the one who doesn’t resort to swear words or hateful rhetoric? Who takes pride in your duties, no matter what they are?
The pastor. Pastors, a majority of the people in your congregation on Sunday only hear about Jesus on that day during your sermon. Are you using that time wisely, to carefully explore the Bible in a way that pleases God? Or are you using those few precious moments for other less important matters or to further your own agenda?
The author/writer. Authors and writers, you have an invaluable platform. The written word reaches hearts and minds in a way that the spoken word can’t often do. You don’t have to write Christian novels to have an effect on your readers. Your bio and the things that matter to you are impactful.
The medical professional. Healthcare professionals who are Christians approach things from a different perspective. You have the awesome opportunity to pray for (and with if they are agreeable) your patients, to offer reassurance, and your calming presence can do wonders for someone undergoing a medical procedure or one who is scared about a painful diagnosis.
The patient. On the flipside of the medical professional is the patient. My mom has multiple health issues and is confined to a wheelchair. The chronic pain she experiences on a constant basis is often unmanageable. Yet, I have never seen anyone so strong in her faith, and that faith doesn’t stop when she visits the doctor. She has offered to pray for medical professionals (not one has turned her down), has asked them to join her in prayer when she’s about to undergo an excruciating procedure, and has praised the Lord for His goodness in their presence. Will my mom ever be able to do the things she once was able to do before an accident changed her life forever? No. But God is using her to make a mighty difference.
The blogger/social media user. Bloggers and social media users, we have a huge platform for the Lord! Where else can we share the love of Christ to people in multiple nations around the world? While not every post or update needs to be a Bible verse, (I blog on many other items including writing, homeschooling, humor, and movie reviews) our words can encourage someone having a difficult day or shine Christ’s light.
Realize your influence. Whether by visiting with the grocery store clerk and inviting her to church or as an employer treating your employees differently than the worldly employer, you can be the Jesus people see.
No, we won’t do this perfectly. Of this I can personally assure you. But with the Lord’s help, we can seek to share the love of Jesus and the life-giving Gospel no matter what our occupation or role in life.
Numerous verses from God’s Word serve as reminders of His steadfast comfort. Rest in Him today and be reminded He is there for us no matter what we are going through, and He is there to comfort us in those challenging moments life tosses our way.
Before you go, check out these other posts on this blog:
I recently heard someone say that they’ve experienced the thirty-day trial of 2021 and they’d like a refund.
The world has changed so rapidly in the past year. It is cause for concern, fear, and even grief, as we ponder the effects of those changes not only on ourselves, but also on our children and grandchildren. Our nation has been transformed in ways we don’t recognize and never thought possible – or at least never thought possible -in such a short amount of time. Things are chaotic, tumultuous, and turbulent.
For survivors of 2020, 2021 has started out much the same, and the struggle to put one foot in front of the other and forge ahead can be a challenge.
What can we do when things seem out of control? Here are some suggestions:
Pray often. Prayer is critical, and not a once-a-day event. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 reminds us to “pray without ceasing”. The good news is that God is available to hear those prayers 24/7 without fail.
Immerse yourself in the Bible and hide His Word in your heart. If our Bibles were taken from us tomorrow, would we have enough of it hidden in our hearts? What if we made it a goal to dive deeper into the precious words of Scripture more often and more fully than we ever have?
Church is crucial. Fellowship with other believers is essential. Make both a priority.
When things are stressful and unmanageable, focus on God’s promises. (I will be posting another installment of The Scripture Series on God’s Promises in the coming weeks).
Cherish your family members. Love them well, appreciate them, cling to them, and realize they walk through the same challenges in this topsy-turvy world.
Be selective about which headlines and articles you read. Hibernating, avoiding all happenings in the world around us, or playing ostrich is never a good idea. We need to be aware of what is going on in our world, but not take it to the extreme. Read from sources you know are based on honesty, not on an agenda.
In addition, be vigilant about what you allow into your mind. Not everything you read or listen to is true. More importantly, not everything you read or listen to is pleasing to God. Practice discernment.
Engage, but don’t make it an idol. I am a firm believer that Christians should engage in politics. In a world that, among other things, seeks to attack religious liberties and deems the killing of the pre-born acceptable, we need to stand for the right to worship God and for the value of all life. And we need to elect those who will do the same. If something grieves our Heavenly Father, it should grieve us. Contact your local, state, and federal legislators about issues of concern. Run for office. Pray that God would place godly men and women in positions of authority. Just remember not to allow politics to consume you.
Avoid the lure of constant 24/7 social media. While there is nothing wrong with social media (I will be the first to tell you that I love social media and have accounts on several platforms), the key is not to allow it to become an idol or something that takes you away from the important things of life. Checking it a few times a day is fine. Being tethered to it isn’t.
Turn off the cell phone/computer an hour before bedtime. Finish nightly duties, then spend the remainder of your time before bed reading the Bible. I guarantee you will find peace.
Don’t suffer alone. Spend time talking with a mentor – a spiritually mature person who can pray with and for you and help you navigate the ongoings of this chaotic world with a focus on the Lord.
Spend time listening to godly podcasts. Several people have told me in recent weeks that they are hungrier than ever for godly counsel and Bible-based teaching (and many are not getting that need met). Bible-focused podcasts that put God’s Truth above all else provide encouragement and remind us in Whom we place our faith. Again, practice discernment.
Journal your thoughts, worries, and concerns – then turn them over to the Lord.
Take care of yourself. Do your best to eat healthy foods, get sufficient sleep, and find time to exercise. Go outside and soak up sunshine, even on a chilly day. It will do wonders for your mood.
There is hope. Our lives, while affected greatly by the world around us, are not defined by it. Rather, they are defined by the One who holds the seat of highest honor today, tomorrow, and eternally. May we not only continually and permanently fix our eyes on Jesus, but also rest in our Heavenly Father’s arms where peace reigns.
As a kid, I remember after a long day of playing outside, I came in and turned on the TV. Flipping through our three channels, I came across a black-and-white re-run of The Twilight Zone. Intrigued, I watched it for a few minutes. While it never became my “cup of tea” to watch continuously due to the fact I’m not a sci-fi/fantasy fan (although 3 out of 4 Zellers are) and I watch, read, and write only stories with happy endings, the show stuck with me.
All these years later, it feels as though we have stepped into the Twilight Zone. Things are just bizarre. It leaves me wanting to change the channel.
Things are scary right now. Our nation is in turmoil, a crisis that leaves (if we’re honest) even the most faithful with a moment or two of uncertainty. When we return our focus to Him, we are reminded of a few key things:
God is bigger than all of this. Bigger than nefarious evildoers, communism, socialism, hatefulness, division, wars, diseases, illnesses, viruses, and all the other truly frightening things in this world. And He always walks with us through those daunting times.
He was not caught off guard. God wasn’t asleep or having afternoon tea on the patio when these frightening events began to unfold. To the contrary, He knows all that has occurred and will occur throughout history.
We are here for such a time as this. Just as Esther was placed in her role to help her people, we are placed in our role at this precise time in history. Sure. I think it might be neat to have lived in the late 1800s/early 1900s, or another time period, but that’s not where God has placed me. Or you. We are here through Divine appointment. He never makes a mistake or bemoans the fact that He allowed us to be born when we were born, rather than 10 years, 100 years, or even 1,000 years earlier.
Jesus gave His life for us. Time may be short, or He may tarry for another 400 years. No one knows except God. But before He returns, we have our work cut out for us in the here and now. To tell others about the saving faith found only in Jesus Christ and the eternal life they can have when they put their faith and trust in Him. To love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Yes, even those challenging “neighbors”.
We need to be an encouragement to each other. In the past couple of weeks, I have seen some discouraging folks out and about bringing others down, rather than building them up. Instead of spewing hateful rhetoric or division, let’s rally around each other and support each other. And never, ever forget how important fellowship is (Hebrews 10:25).
He is our Protector and our Refuge. Seek Him and rest in Him.
There is a happy ending. For those of us in Christ, it ends well. I’m personally not keen on what may be an arduous and troublesome journey between here and the end when I see my Savior face-to-face, but as Christians, He promises to go before us, be with us through the journey, and to carry us safely home when our time on this earth is done. Hopefully, that’s decades away for all of us, but we do have that reassurance that this story has a happy ending.
So, my friends, hang in there. Keep your focus on Christ and know that if He is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?
Life can be a road of uncertainty. Current events have been a definite testament to how things can change in an instant. Fear and discouragement can easily envelop us and take up residence in our lives, even with our best efforts. Thankfully we don’t have to navigate these unsettling times alone.
Amidst the anxiety and fear that grips us during these uncertain times, we must keep our focus on the only One who can give us peace and comfort when all seems lost. The only one – our Savior – who is our true refuge in these turbulent days. Pray for our nation. For each other. For truth and justice to prevail. And remember, for those of us in Christ, this is not our home.
In this installment of The Scripture Series, be encouraged by the following 28 verses found in the precious pages of Scripture. They are the Lord’s promises that we are never alone, that He goes before us, that He is our shield and our comfort.
It doesn’t mean compromising our faith and values, but rather to respectfully disagree.
This year has been a rough one for everyone, but unfortunately, instead of pulling together in unity, the opposite has occurred in many cases. It seems people are angrier and less inclined to give others the benefit of the doubt. Less likely to show grace. Quicker to assume the worst of someone. Abruptly forgetting that it’s all right to agree to disagree.
In addition, this past year brought in a litany of things to add to our growing list of why we are divided as a nation, as a church, even as friends and family. We’ve witnessed friendships end, families in dispute, churches divided, and a nation in turmoil.
Having our own opinions isn’t wrong, as a matter of fact, it’s a good thing and a testament to the creativity of our Creator. He made us each different with different longings, different ideas, and different ways of seeing things. Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we all had the same thoughts on every topic? If we all had the same hopes and dreams?
So this year, in addition to our regular New Year’s resolutions, what if we made it a goal to be kinder? Here are 11 ways to do just that.
Give people the benefit of the doubt.
Offer a genuine smile. Smiling not only benefits others, but also, according to Benefits Bridge, benefits you by improving your mood, enhancing your immune system, and reducing blood pressure.
Offer ample appreciation and encouragement.
See a need and fill it.
Dedicate yourself to praying for others often, even your enemies. (Matthew 5:44).
Be generous with forgiveness. (Matthew 18:21-22)
Offer grace, especially when it’s undeserved.
Be humble and put others first.
Agree to disagree, and do so with respect.
And most importantly, tell someone about Jesus and make an eternal impact in their lives.
We don’t have to align ourselves with a culture that is harsh, angry, and divided. We can choose to be kind and gracious, even to those with whom we strongly disagree.
May this year’s New Year’s Resolution be one of kindness.
Every person you see, whether the grandma at the grocery store, the elderly man at the doctor’s office, the young couple at the restaurant, or the teenager on the bike path – everyone has a struggle. Even if it’s not visible from the pasted smile they offer as you pass.
This year especially has promoted a deep sense of weariness, a fatigue and longstanding exhaustion that leaves our souls longing for comfort. For peace. For relief from the burdens that weigh heavily upon us.
But there is a cure for that weariness. A cure for that burden that bows our shoulders and tempts us to forget the One who can offer that cure.
God’s love is most importantly revealed through His Son’s sacrifice on the Cross so we could have eternal life. His promises are written within the pages of His Word. He knew we would be weary travelers through this life and He offers us this hope and reassures us that we can have peace in Him and that we never walk alone.