The Journey Begins

Secondhand Knowledge

and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” 1 Timothy 2:14 ESV

God daily walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He talked with them face to face. They had a personal relationship with Him. They had no sin nature. They were made perfect and still, they sinned.

Satan tempted Eve into sin by getting her to question God’s command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why did it seem so easy for her to question God and become ensnared by Satan’s lies?

Genesis 3:3 has the answer.

And the woman said not the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.‘” Genesis 3:2-3 ESV (my emphasis)

Eve misquoted God. In Genesis 2:17, God said “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” God said nothing about touching the tree–only about eating from it.

Eve had not been created when God gave that command to Adam and so, as far as we can tell, she got that information secondhand from her husband.

There is a great lesson in this for us.

Deception now is so great. False teachers abound. Misquoted scriptures flood social media and many peoples knowledge of God depends on what they learn from others. It does not matter what people say with their opinions and beliefs. Christian books are not the answer. Christian blogs are not the answer. Even a trusted believer with a strong relationship with God to mentor you is not the answer.

You must get to know God for yourself.

Secondhand knowledge will lead you into deception.

We are fortunate to have the scriptures before us and thousands of years of history showing us what God has done in His plan to redeem humanity. The apostles, the early church, and those Old Testament men and women of faith did not have what we have.

God’s actual living, Holy Spirit inspired Word is within our reach every moment of the day. Take time to study it in detail. Take time to pray and allow the Holy Spirit to teach you and help you understand it (John 14:26).

Do not rely on secondhand knowledge. Doing so will make you vulnerable to deception and lead you into sin and the price will be higher than you want to pay.

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This Is Good News

So with many other exhortations he preached the good news to the people.” Luke 3:18 ESV

What news was John the Baptist preaching that Luke said was good?

John answered them all saying, “I baptize you with water but He who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” Luke 3:16 & 17 ESV

Verse 17 is quoted often and how thankful we are for the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire, but there was more good news that John the Baptist was preaching. In the often overlooked verse 18, he said Christ would do more than baptize us with the Holy Spirit.

John’s good news was that Christ came to divide.

Jesus confirmed this when He came. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34 ESV

This is good news for those who love Him and have surrendered their life to Him. We will be gathered for good and we will not have to live in eternity with the pain that sin and the rejection of Christ brings. We will safely enter heaven in peace with joy. Every tear will be wiped away. (Revelation 21:4)

For the unbelievers–those who reject Christ and put themselves on the throne of their lives, their end will be the burning, eternal pain of separation from God in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8).

Yet, in a day when much preaching is tickling our ears and making us feel good, we struggle to hear the things that challenge us. It is hard to hear the truth. John’s good news was that Christ came to divide. This means we have a choice. We choose Him, take up our cross (Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23, Mark 8:34) and walk the difficult and rewarding path OR we reject Him, choose ourselves, and face the bitter end as chaff to be burned.

It is easier to walk the path of the world and do what pleases our flesh. But the consequences are dire. We suffer on earth and we will suffer in eternity if we choose this path. But it is easier to give into our carnal desires, to follow the crowd, to avoid the truth.

Facing the truth is painful, so it takes courage. The truth stands strong in front of our pride and makes us see ourselves for who we really are, not what we think we are or what we want to be.

We strive to be self-sufficient, to protect ourselves from pain and this makes it difficult to accept the fact that without Christ, we are NOT good people. At our core, we are self-centered, ungodly people and we cannot make ourselves into this great, kind, wonderful, giving, selfless person that we really want to be. We can change some actions and try to make ourselves look good. We can even convince others that we are wonderful people, but we know deep down who we are. If we are willing to be honest with ourselves, we know that we cannot take those selfish thoughts, unkind, wrong desires and make them go away on our own.

We cannot save ourselves. We need someone to save us (Romans 3:23). And the beauty of God is that Christ knows the awful state we are without Him and He loves us anyway. He suffered more than we can imagine to offer us a way to be free from all the stuff we cannot free ourselves from.

All we have to do is surrender it all to Him. Not say a little prayer, do some good deeds, go to church, have Christian friends, etc…We have to surrender our life, our wants our choices, our will, our plan, our purpose to Him. We cannot walk between this world and His world. “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself a enemy of God.” James 4:4 ESV

This is the truth.

The truth is hard. It is hard to lay down your pride. It is hard to fall on your face before God in tears of repentance. It is hard to be vulnerable. But this is exactly what you must do. The reward is inexplicable peace of mind regardless of the storm around you. The reward is a life without worrying about tomorrow and the cares that it brings. The reward is having the strength through Him to let go of all of those things that make us slaves to pain, worry and stress. The reward is standing on the threshing floor and being gathered by our loving Father to live in eternal bliss forever.

Please choose Him. Do not choose to be the chaff. Do not choose the path that leads to destruction simply because you do not want the pain of the truth today.

My mother said these wise words to me many times, “If it is easy, it isn’t the right thing.” The right thing pushes us, challenges us, grows us, and with Jesus—It frees us.

Why are you hanging on to a life that is killing you? Fall on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ and be broken. You will never regret it.

And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone it will crush him.” Matthew 21:44 ESV

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Grace, Faith, and The Church Today

The church today is losing and here’s why.

Christians are just as sick, just as tired, just as depressed, and struggling just as much as unbelievers. All that we have presented to the world is eternal hope but we haven’t given them a lot of help for today—for this life on earth. The church today isn’t presenting victory not the victory that Jesus talked about, not the victory that He offered to us— victory here, now. Victory that inspires us, spurs us on and lights a fire with us that leads us to a better life and helps us lead others to a better life here and in eternity. The church today isn’t bold and strong. The church today has become tired and defeated and though we look energetic and put on a good face for social media, we are dying inside.

Our lack of victory has relegated us to looking to Hollywood for inspiration and we now mimic their methods of entertaining us and with a scripture and some religious lingo, it now looks like we have something we can offer. Yet…as churches grow in number, we have become what we always criticized….religious. We cannot offer to others what we do not have ourselves. There is no depth…no anchor. When life’s battles come, will we fare better than the rest of the secular world…? No…There is no evidence that we are faring better…Battles have come and we are still suffering. Death, illness, depression…Many ask, when will we see the victory Christ promised?

Since the church can’t offer the world what it needs now, we’ve had to change. We’ve had to adapt the world. We’ve had to find something to offer them to keep our doors open, so we chose to become like the world and we justify it by saying “by being like them, they will become like us.” This doesn’t even make sense and it’s not a principle that we would teach our children. We would never teach them to look around and do what everyone else is doing….We would never teach them to succumb to peer pressure, but instead to be different, to stand out. So, what are we doing and how did we get to this point?

The legalistic church has mixed the old and new covenants and are so busy working their way to heaven or into God’s good graces that they have no time for God—They are too distracted by man-made religion. (Mark 7:9, 13) They cannot obey Jesus’ command to go into the world and make disciples, heal the sick, and raise the dead (Matthew 10:8). They cannot access the power that Jesus left them through the Holy Spirit  (2 Timothy 3:5). They are just trying to stay afloat in the sea of rules and regulations. The sin of pride.

The grace church has been so focused on God’s grace that they, too, have been distracted from the full gospel of Jesus Christ. They, too, cannot access the power (2 Timothy 3:5) left them because in the guise of freedom, they have become like the Nicolaitans of old (Revelations 2:6, 15) and are too busy enjoying the pleasures of “sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25) and suffering from the consequences of a life filled with sin the rest of the time (Romans 6:16, Galatians 6:7-8). Yet still, the sin of pride.

If we want victory in this life and the next, we must come to end of ourselves (Luke 9:23-24; Matthew 16:24). We must decide that knowing God and His Word is the most important thing in our lives. We must decide that our opinion of what He said is unimportant (Romans 3:4). We must let go of everything that we have been taught, everything that we have believed and everything that we want to believe and choose to do as Paul did (Galatians 1:16)—lay ourselves out before God-and commit all that we have and all that we are to Him. He will teach us all we need to know if we are focused on Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17). A life focused on Him is full of faith, studying His Word and denying our flesh. Doing so requires a sacrifice of our empty pleasures, our “me-time.” But the price is so little compared to what Jesus Christ paid in becoming sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We have a job to do and we have great power and victory to share, if only we would take a hold of it for ourselves.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:57‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The Enemy’s Tactics

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 ESV

We are at war. Yet, we have to remember that our fight is not with other people. Our enemy is much less obvious. Satan has been warring against mankind since the beginning. He wanted to be God and his pride got him cast from heaven. His goal since then has been to take as many people with him to hell as possible. He loves destruction–destruction of the truth, destruction of God’s beloved creation, destruction of God’s church, destruction of God’s people.

He loves evil and he hates anything of God. He has two battle fronts: first, he fights sinners. He works to keep them from coming to Christ and, second, he fights believers who have put their faith in Christ.

He will do anything possible to keep people from accepting the truth and putting their faith in Christ. He will lie to them and tell them the Bible is fantasy, that believers are weak, that God doesn’t exist and if He does exist, then He hates us. He is constantly in every possible way trying to turn us against God because if we are against God then we are for him. There are only two choices–no one is neutral in this war.

If he cannot keep us from accepting Christ, he will plague us with lies, unbelief, pride in ourselves and our sin, hatred, dissension, fear, doubt, anger, and every other sin he can squeeze into our lives. Satan is working overtime to destroy those of us who have faith in God, His Son, and His Word. He does this individually and he does this through the church.

I have known many people who have shunned the church. Some were unbelievers who rejected God, His standards, and His people outright. Some were Christians who were hurt by things that went on in the church. Both are doing exactly what Satan wants them to do.

Satan destroys the church through dilution of the gospel via vain discussion and and shifting the focus of the church to entertainment.

Why is there trouble in the church where God’s people are supposed to be living out His Word? Because we have an enemy who is actively working to destroy us. What better way for him to get us (or sinners observing us) to reject God and/or to hinder our spiritual growth than get us wrapped up entertainment and the pride of our life, our jobs, our family, our goals, our desires and our fights with each other?

Have you noticed that people fight over petty, vain discussions (1 Timothy 1:6) and it’s accepted, but as soon as someone stands up for the truth, for God’s Word and even quotes Jesus’ own words–that person is labeled as a trouble maker and persecution ensues (Think Paul)? This makes perfect sense. It has been happening since God sent His prophets, His Son, His apostles, and it happens today.

Anything to distract us from what God wants us to do or to even get us to reject God– Satan will do it and we go right along with it and play right into his hands like puppets.

The church has become more interested in entertaining people to bring in the numbers than discipling its members. I see dress up days, mardi gras celebration, and churches being flooded with nonsense while lacking strong biblical teaching and we are too busy to go home and study the Bible, so we just accept what fed to us by people who are too busy to study the Bible because they are planning parties instead of worship services. It is heartbreaking that God’s Word is drowning in the sea of entertainment (“amusement or diversion provided by performers” Merrian-Webster).

When will we start seeing through our spiritual eyes? When will we look at the end and understand that this life is temporary? When we will lay ourselves before Christ and stop prioritizing our entertainment or our opinions and put Christ first? When will we cry to God to help us out of the ditch and then fight to enter in to God’s rest (Hebrews 4:11)?

If the church wants to see sinners saved, see the blind eyes opened and experience the peace of God through the trials of life, then it must stop being a victim to Satan’s tactics—saying all the right things while hiding behind what John calls the lusts of the flesh (1 John 2:16) and become a living sacrifice to God.

Only when we die to ourselves will we truly live and make a difference for His eternal kingdom. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. ” Philippians 1:21 ESV

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 ESV

Our Fathers in the Faith

We have a tendency to focus our Bible studies on our fathers in the faith—Moses, Abraham, David, etc. We look to them as role models, as examples of how to live and how not to live. We look to them to learn how to relate to God, how to walk in faith and this is good—the scripture says they were written for our examples (1 Corinthians 10:11)….yet, a majority of our focus and study should be our Lord—His life, His Words, and we should be modeling ourselves after Him—He should be living through us and we should be practicing His instructions—the fruit of which should be evident in our lives. (John 15:8)

Our relationship with God will not be exactly like our Old Testament Fathers in the Faith. Here is what we need to take away from their lives: We should walk in the faith in which they walked and put God, His Word, and His opinion above everything and everyone in our lives including ourselves. He should be our sole focus and His purpose our sole purpose.

The great news is that through the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we have more power to walk in that faith than our spiritual ancestors did.

{Hebrews 13:5}

{Matthew 28:20}

Exposing Darkness

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. 2 Corinthians 11:14 ESV

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:11 ESV

When I began studying the Bible in depth, I wanted to know exactly what the scriptures were teaching—in context and in the original language. I have spent innumerable hours over the last couple years and I have gone through the entire Bible and very heavily—multiple times—the New Testament. 

And after being a good little lifelong Bible reader—always in church 2-3 times a week–thinking I knew what the scriptures taught, I was stunned what I learned when I actually began to study it prayerfully.

What is emphasized heavily in scripture, is not emphasized in the church. To my recollection—I have never heard a sermon on, nor have I heard mentioned or taught—warnings against false doctrines and those who teach them. I may have sat through a sermon at some point, but at a minimum, it has barely been discussed-not enough to have ever had any impact on me at all. Many other things have been emphasized and are still focused on very heavily, but no one talks about the scriptures’ warnings of false doctrine and false teachers. When compared with what the Bible teaches, much of what is taught is unscriptural and out of context.

It’s frightening and tragic that the perversion of the gospel that Paul cursed is here and our churches are drowning in it. And with social media and its ubiquitous video clips of popular preachers tickling our ears going viral, false doctrine is spreading like wildfire and we are not even addressing it.

As I worked through my study, I started seeing these repeated warnings about false teachers and their teachings. But it really became apparent as I prepped to teach my Bible Study classes. As I went over and over, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, literal versions in English and Greek, I began realizing how often this was repeated. So—I started digging–looking to see if others had noticed this, too. And they have! There are others that have studied this in depth. In 2013, Steven J. Cole wrote, that according to a seminary study, within the New Testament “warning against false doctrine is emphasized more than any other thing, even more than love, unity, and experience.” Peter and Paul repeatedly warned about it and Jude’s entire book is about false teaching infiltrating the church. And God even warned in the Old Testament that prophets were spreading lies and tales about false visions. (Jeremiah 23:16 & Ezekiel 13:9)

Why do we—as born again, Bible believing people who refer to ourselves as followers and disciples of Christ—not emphasize in our teaching and in our study what is the, or at the least one of the, most heavily emphasized subjects in the New Testament? Why are we not studying the entire Word of God in context? Why are we not learning everything God has given us to know? 

Paul said that after Christ came that the mystery was revealed—that a full understanding of what God wants us to know is available through the scripture. So, why are we not studying it? Why are we not emphasizing it? 

We should be heeding all the instructions in the scripture and studying the Bible feverishly. We should stop relying on only what people tell us, stop assuming everything that has a scripture attached is truth, stop falling for everything we see and hear on the internet and find out for ourselves what the true gospel is and with everything in us, we should hold to it. And as we are instructed by the Bible and the example set by the apostles Peter, Paul, Jude, John, and our own savior, Jesus Christ, we should be standing up against false doctrine and teachers with the same zeal they did by exposing the darkness and proclaiming the truth vigorously. (Ephesians 5:11 & Titus 1:11)

God has no favorites (Romans 2:11)—He will show you and teach you all that is in His written Word—if you want to know. So, I challenge you, as I continue to do as well, to research and study this on your own–study in great detail, pray, learn the true, whole, complete, full gospel of Jesus Christ and stand firm in it no matter the consequence. Because someday every single one of us will stand before our loving, patient, merciful, but eternally just God who wishes that all come to repentance and salvation (1 Timothy 2:4) and we will be without excuse (Romans 1:19). The results of our choice will be for eternity.

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” 2 Timothy 4:2 ESV

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV

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Perilous Times—Strengthen Your Roots

Christ urged us to beware of those coming falsely in His name and Paul repeatedly fought the infiltration of false doctrine in the church. He warned about it over and over in multiple letters he wrote.

In his book of Colossians, he instructed all believers that we should walk in Christ and grow in His teachings to prevent us from falling prey to wrong doctrine, human philosophy, and manmade, worldly traditions.

These are perilous times—I strongly encourage you to research and study the scriptures regarding this.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

Colossians‬ ‭2:6-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬