Soulless creation???

I’m an animal lover.  I’ll just get that out of the way right now.  I was raised with cats and often quip that I was raised in the way of being a “crazy cat lady” from my youth, (although I will assert to this day that I am still one cat shy of “crazy.”)

So with this kind of history, when someone looks at me and says that animals ‘don’t think, they don’t feel, and they don’t have souls,’ I know in my heart that it’s untrue, but until I sat down to work on a project this morning, I didn’t have the scripture to back up what, to this point, had just been my ‘opinion.’

To give context to the following, my mother had recently sent me an e-mail about an upcoming video addressing “Our Pets in Heaven?”  Asserting that she was planning to get a few copies, she had me curious so I clicked the link.  I’ll say it was the animals with photoshopped wings that turned me off to the video, rather than the fact that it included an “animal behaviorist” in among the Bible scholars slated to address the topic.

So when I replied back with what was essentially a “thanks, but no thanks, I have all the verses I need to settle this issue for me and don’t need a video for that,” I shouldn’t have been surprised when I got the reply back of “can you send those to me?”

Since I had first had someone look me in the eyes and tell me that “animals don’t have souls,” I’ve been highlighting those verses in my nightly reading, (Bible in  a year,) but unfortunately, it is an app on my cell where highlights are not searchable.  While I have transferred some to my paper Bible, I had not transferred all of them and so, was not in a position to readily provide the list of verses I had found that established that not only do animals have souls, but they know that there is a God and even cry out to Him!  Not only that, but He hears them as well, and they absolutely will be in heaven!

So after several hours of searching and reading and cross referencing, here’s the list I have compiled so far- just so that I don’t lose it and have it for easy reference later.

“And should I not pity Nineveh, the great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left- and
much livestock?” Jonah 4:11

Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O Lord, You preserve man and beast. Psalm 36:6

(In the NLT translation, the last line is: You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.)

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. Colossians 1:19-20

(notice “all things” not just “men”)

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Matthew 10:29

A righteous man regards the life of his animal, Proverbs 12:10a

“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind? Job 12:7-10

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox, the nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11:6-9

“Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed. Exodus 23:12

For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. Psalm 50:10-11

“Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. Genesis 1:30

(“life” in this verse is the Hebrew נָ֫פֶשׁ pronounced neh’-fesh. The first listed definition for it is “a soul.”)

that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on the earth- in Him. Ephesians 1:10

(again, things instead of man or mankind.)

“And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth.” Genesis 9:9-10

In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely. Hosea 2:18

I said in my heart, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.” For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. Ecclesiastes 3:18-20

(by the way, the same “breath” that we have here, is also translated “spirit.”)

The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:9

Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:7

“Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens, or lurk in their lairs to lie in wait? Who provides food for the raven, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food? Job 38:39-41

(That’s God answering Job out of the whirlwind, by the way- establishing the even ravens, which are sometimes used to symbolize evil, even cry to Him and He hears!)

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Revelation 5:13

(again- creature.  Literally, “every created thing.”)

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all the depths; (…) Beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying fowl; Psalm 148:7 & 10

The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their food from God. Psalm 104:21

It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:44

(Go back to 39 for full context; alternately translated “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”)

“And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” Luke 3:6

CPB

Faithful or religious?

re·li·gious adjective \ri-ˈli-jəs\

: of or relating to religion

: believing in a god or a group of gods and following the rules of a religion

: very careful to do something whenever it can or should be done

faith·ful adjective \ˈfāth-fəl\

: having or showing true and constant support or loyalty

: deserving trust : keeping your promises or doing what you are supposed to do

Earlier today someone posted the question to me as to whether it is better to be faithful or religious, or if they were in fact the same thing.

My knee-jerk answer is absolutely it’s better to be faithful, and no, these two are not synonyms despite many seeming to use them as such.

Of course, I will explain.

Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful, And fully repays the proud person.  Psalm 31:23

Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.  1 Corinthians 4:2

There are over 130 uses of the word “faithful” within the Bible.  Most, as expected, refer to the faithfulness of God to His people and in keeping His word.  The remaining uses of the word refer to those that are found to lack faithfulness and therefore require chastening from the Lord, or those that are found faithful to reward.

His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’  Matthew 25:21

Conversely, if you search for uses of the word “religious” within the Bible, you will come up with a whopping four uses.  Two if theses that came up in my search are not even Scriptures but rather, headers that were added within the chapters for ease of use and reference.  That leaves a mere two verses!  The first one is in Acts 17 where Paul is addressing the Athenians to share the Gospel, stating that he knows them to be religious in all things.  The second drives home the difference between faithfulness and religion though:

If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless  James 1:26

That verse alone is pretty clear.  But when one takes a step back to look at the verse before, it becomes even clearer:

But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.  James 1:25

So we’re admonished to “continue in” and to be “a doer of the work.”  Sounds like that could just as easily be translated as “be faithful” if you ask me.  Followed by a warning not to rely on being religious.

So why’s being religious a bad thing?

While it is now recognized as a word that refers to things pertaining to a system of beliefs and of faith, but one cannot overlook the fact that it also refers to a methodical system for doing something; a ritual if you will.

Before I go further, let’s take a look at the word used in Acts 17:22 in the original Greek.

δεισιδαίμων at best is pious or religious, at worst, superstitious.

I am religious about my morning consumption of coffee.  If I do not consume adequate amounts, I find it hard to type straight at times, and type much slower than normal.  This can border on a superstition in that it is my belief that coffee helps me communicate better earlier in the morning.  The thing with superstitions is that they are beliefs held by people which are not necessarily based on fact.  I can assert to my coffee consumption being a religious action/ superstition because I know there have been many times where I did not consume caffeine in the morning and yet, was able to type and communicate just as normal.

Yet on the other hand, I strive to be faithful in my attendance at church, my daily reading of the Bible and in prayer.  Rather than just following a hollow routine, it takes effort to be consistently faithful.  It’s a conscious decision.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  Luke 9:23

It’s a daily choice that you must make when you wake up.  Are you going to go through the day, filling it with motions that in the end are meaningless, or are you going to chose to stand for something more?

Matthew West: The Motions

CPB

No harm in making nice…

First off: in this context, YES, there is.  There is eternal harm in this kind of “making nice.”

By this time, we’ve all see the headlines splashed across all kinds of media outlets: “Pope says atheists can go to heaven.”  If you happen to have somehow missed it, here are a few links:

Pope Francis assures atheists:You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven  (The Independent)

Pope Francis tells atheists to abide by their own consciences   (The Guardian)

Don’t feel like clicking and reading?  Here are two quotes:

Responding to a list of questions published in the paper by Mr Scalfari, who is not a Roman Catholic, Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.
“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
-The Independent

Expressing the belief that it was important for Christians to engage in “a sincere and rigorous dialogue” with atheists, Francis recalled Scalfari had asked him whether God forgave those “who do not believe and do not seek to believe”.
“Given – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits, if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart,” the pope wrote, “the question for those who do not believe in God is to abide by their own conscience. There is sin, also for those who have no faith, in going against one’s conscience. Listening to it and abiding by it means making up one’s mind about what is good and evil.”
-The Guardian

Now, this isn’t the first time that Pope Francis has spoken out about the redemption of atheists, either.  Earlier this year, in May, there was some backlash over a homily that he gave.  NPR covered the story:

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class. We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all. And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: We will meet one another there.”

If this is not your first time skimming through my blog, I am sure you already know where this is going.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
John 14:6

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.  This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’  Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:8-12

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:18

He who is not with Me is against me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
Luke 11:32

If you try to be a “good person” apart from the salvation offered by Christ, it’s not good enough.  Sorry, no passing go and collecting $200.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Proverbs 14:12, 16:25

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

But we are all like an unclean thing,
All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
Isaiah 64:6a

The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked,
Who can know it?
Jeremiah 17:9

So pretty clearly, we can do what seems to be right, and give it our best effort, but even that is nothing more than a filthy rag.  It’s a pretty desperate situation, this human condition.  Thankfully:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
John 3:16-17

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:5-6

Now one thing that Francis said, I do agree with, based on Scripture.

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge this: that if One died for all, then all died;and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15

But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
Romans 5:15-16

So yes, I do agree that Jesus did die for everyone; those that were alive, those that are alive, and all that are to come in the future.  BUT- if we accept that, then we accept that fact that we were bought with a price and that we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him.

For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are God’s.
1 Corinthians 6:20

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
Luke 9:23-24

“But why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do the things which I say?
Luke 6:45

But be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
James 1:22

So clearly, apart from Christ, there is no salvation; no justification.  Yes, it is a free gift to all, but as with any gift, it must be accepted and then you are to respond accordingly.  With gifts from friends and family do you not respond with an attitude of gratitude?  Why would you give any less to God who offers you a gift that you could never hope to earn on your own, freely?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul,
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
Psalm 19:7-8

So why do I cite these two verses?  Because of something that I recently became aware of; the belief by Catholics that the Pope is infallible, that he speaks for God.  That truly scared me.  Let me say this plainly: he is human.  Those verses about hearts being desperately wicked and the very best a person can muster being nothing more than filthy rags?  Guess what- they apply to the Pope as well!

O my soul, you have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart form You.”
Psalm 16:2

“Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you aide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
John 15:4-5

The only good in me is the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Even with His presence, however, I am still a fallible human.  It doesn’t matter how much time I spend in prayer, at church, or singing worship songs.  I will still screw up.  Are we then to take the word of a man that is supposed to be infallible, speaking in what appears to be opposition to a list of Scriptures within the Bible?

Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.
Romans 3:4a

When all these comments hit the news outlets and it seemed as though the media was taking Francis out of context, a Vatican spokesman, Thomas Rosica, quickly made a statement to try and clarify things.

“People who know the Catholic Church cannot be saved if they refuse to enter or remain in her.”

Now at this point, I will raise my hand to say that I know the Catholic Church.  I will never “enter or remain in her” because I know that my salvation is granted by the blood of Jesus Christ not a church of man.

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
2 Peter 2:1-3

So what I feel needs to be taken to heart here is that either God or man can be infallible.  Not both.  Compare anything you hear to the Bible to find the truth.

 

CPB

♫♪♫ Jesus Christ is on your side ♫♪♫

I realized earlier today that fits perfectly with the Nationwide jingle, which I find rather ironic because well, that’s what it seems many treat Him as; an insurance policy.

We all know those that when put on the spot and asked, will say, “Sure, I know Jesus, and He’s my savior,” but the remainder of the time, act as they always have, showing no outward signs of an inward change having taken place.  Could very well be that I am speaking of you.  (I know I myself was guilty of the above in my life.)

It’s as though they feel protected by having taken a single moment to pray for forgiveness but feel no need to really be changed and instead, continue as they had before, believing that because they told God they’re a sinner and need help, that they’re good.

What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not!  How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
Romans 6:1-2

You know the ones.  When life is good, you never hear them utter a word about prayer or church, but once they scrape along rock bottom for an inch or two, turn back to God and ask for guidance and help.

He’s not an insurance policy that you purchase, set aside, and only call on in case of emergency, and He is most certainly not a life insurance policy that you purchase while alive and only see the benefit of once you die.

“But why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”
Luke 6:46

See that?  It’s pretty simple, really.  If He is truly Lord in your life, you do the things He says, follow His example, and have a regular relationship with Him, thereby showing your love of the Lord.

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
John 14:15

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome.
1 John 5:3

But be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
James 1:22

“You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.  Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
John 13:13-17

The blessings don’t come merely by knowing of Jesus.  Even Richard Dawkins has heard of him.  The blessings come by following His example and living for Him.  By taking the steps necessary to move from being a sedentary hearer into the realm of actively doing.  Sure, if I stay inside, out of traffic, away from obnoxious drivers, I am most certainly not hating people (thereby committing murder in my heart because of the mere thought, Matthew 5:28) but I am far from showing God’s love for people.  After all, we were not charged with abstaining from becoming aggravated with others, but rather, to love others.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
Luke 9:23-24

So yes, it is a daily choice that each must make as to which master will be served each and every morning; the world or the Lord.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammom.
Matthew 6:24

Pretty cut and dried.  Not to be taken lightly as one does when they get an insurance policy.  Once the coverages and deductibles are set, the premium is oftentimes set up on a direct payment method, (just for the additional discount that grants,) and then not given a second thought.

Rather similar to those that realize at one point that they need God and willingly accept the gift of His salvation through the blood of Christ.  They will even confess their transgressions to God and, for a time, attempt to reconcile themselves not only with the Almighty, but also with others.  Soon, however, the premiums of regular fellowship with other believers, reading of the Bible, and prayer seem to be too expensive a price to pay.

What happens when you don’t pay your insurance premium?

Your policy lapses and no longer has effect.

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place- unless you repent.”
Revelation 2:4-5

If I regard iniquity in my heart,
The Lord will not hear.
Psalm 66:18

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.
Isaiah 59:1-2

It’s a daily choice to follow Christ.  We are called children of God, and as with earthly children and their parents, there is regular communication and fellowship.  It is not to be any different between us and our Heavenly Father.

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
Matthew 22:37

The reality of the situation is that once you fully grasp what Jesus did for you on the cross, it is completely life altering and there is no way you can, (or certainly even wish,) to go back to the way things were before God.  Being on fire for God comes naturally.

You begin to see fellowship, both with other believers, and with your Savior as something that you look forward to actively participating in instead of something that you view more as a job that you are required to check into and punch a time clock at.  It’s the life altering difference between “have to” and “get to.”

“Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Matthew 7:14

“So the last will be first, and the first last.  For many are called, but few chosen.”
Matthew 20:16

“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Matthew 22:14

“For God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
John 3:16-17

So again, it’s pretty clear.  God desires for all to be saved through His Son, Jesus, but clearly expresses that while He calls to everyone, not everyone will heed His call and find the narrow path to salvation.  One of the reasons not many make it to the narrow path is that they treat God as an insurance policy instead of as Abba, Father.

He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.
Matthew 12:30

“I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
John 15:5

This is not a situation where you are able to sit on the edge of the pool dangling just your feet into the water to obtain the best of both worlds.  This is either all or nothing.  Either you are fully committed to God, or you are still a slave to sin living in the world.  What happens when you try to mix a fresh pot of coffee and ice cubes?  You get melted ice and coffee that is cold in spots, but still hot in others; overall, a beverage that is neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm.

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Revelation 3:16

Sitting on the edge of the pool is not going to cut it.  You’re either sunning yourselves on the lounge chairs, or cannon balling into the deep end shouting for joy all the way in.

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.  Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as the lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
Philippians 2:9-16

See that?  God loved you, the broken sinner that you are, so much that He became sin for you and died so that you may now turn to Him and choose to live.  You do not work to earn your salvation.  It’s already been given freely, the moment that you accept that gift from God.  Instead, you now go out and work because of the gift of grace you have been given.  Paying a monthly premium does not cut it, and God will not be treated as an insurance policy.

 

CPB

 

Two months and counting

Two months ago, I had dinner with a long time friend.  While she thought it would just be two friends getting together to enjoy food and small talk, I freely admit I had ulterior motives going into this.

There were some things that had been eating away at me for a while and I had finally worked up the courage to follow the prodding of that little voice in the back of my mind telling me that something needed to be said.  Whereas I will generally run away from any kind of confrontation, (especially any that does not directly involve me,) this time I was walking right towards it.

I’ve known her since elementary school.  We used to be in the same Girl Scout troop, and went to the same schools all the way through High School.  While we were not always the closest of friends, we were always able to talk to each other.  After High School, as oftentimes happens, we lost track of each other for a number of years.

Over a year ago, she tracked me down on social media and we started talking again.  Messages soon turned into texting which soon turned into regular phone conversations.  We caught up on what we’d done in our lives since High School and where we were now, what was going on in our daily lives, and all the small stuff in between.

It wasn’t too long before she mentioned that in the intervening years she had come to be a follower of Jesus, sometimes went to a good Bible teaching church locally to her, and when she was in my city, attended a church that my husband and I had been attending for a while before falling away from it for, (among other reasons,) a lack of content.

Awesome!  Someone else that I could talk Bible with and get a female’s perspective of different things on.

Several months ago, she ended up relocating to my city.  It took a while, but I was finally able to get her to come out to check out the church that my husband and I had found in the interim; an honest to goodness Bible teaching church with some amazing people to boot.  She was all smiles after as the three of us had lunch together, saying that she had enjoyed it and would “definitely come back again.”

Then she and a guy that she had been on-again off-again with, started talking again and soon, were ‘dating but not going to talk about it because that creates issues.’

Without going into all of the gory details, they were soon involved in a very dangerous relationship and soon essentially living together despite them both possessing their own apartment leases.  Not surprisingly, she suddenly had no time for church.  The amount we communicated dropped dramatically and it became clear that, in her mind, since she had a guy, everything was perfect and she neither needed anyone else, nor especially, God.

Therein lies where the feeling that came over me sprouted from concerning the need to talk to her.

As I mentioned before, I have been working my way through the Self-Confrontation course compiled by the Biblical Counseling Foundation for a while now.  During the few weeks leading up to the eventful dinner, verses kept jumping out at me and bringing to my mind my friend.  Eventually, I started writing these verses down on a note card.  Before long, I had a list of more than twenty verses and could not shake the feeling that something had to be said.  She professed to be a believer.  She was currently living in a very un-biblical way, and I felt as though I would be remiss to allow her to continue down this path without trying to help her turn back to God and do things His way.

And before you cite the core verses of the course, Matthew 7:1-5 asking who am I to say anything about how she lives her life, let me assure you that I have been there, done that, bought and then burnt the shirt.  I am not proud to admit it, but I have been where she is, and know too well the damage that comes from it.  Thankfully, God was strong when I was weak and has helped me past it.  Once I finally accepted that my attempts to run my life were in fact just ruining it and surrendered completely to His will, things began to fall into place.  I soon realized that I may think I know what I want, but He has better than I could ever dream planned.

So anyway, I continually prayed about this impending dinner and studied the verses I had on my note card.  It was clear there was a theme.

“But why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and not do the things which I say?
Luke 6:46

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We dwell come to him and make Our home with him.  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.
John 14:23-24

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him.
1 John 2:3-4

And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
1 John 3:22

They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
Titus 1:16

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  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.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Romans 8:5-8

And the list goes on.

I had over 20 verses that I kept seeing over and over that did nothing more than bring her to mind.

So I tried as best I could to discuss with her that I was not judging either her or her boyfriend, but rather, doing my best to be a fruit inspector and that I felt there were several things that she should take a look at, pray about, and seriously consider.  I started by mentioning to her the fruit of the spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

I explained the importance of the fact that the word is fruit, singular, not plural.  That when the Spirit is present, all of those are as well.  Not just one or two.  And then I mentioned what she had told me about her relationship and how nothing pointed to any of the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit.  What she had told me about were lusts, strife, arguments, self-seeking, and the list goes on.

I told her that I had been where she was.  That I had thought I was doing fine running my life on my own, finding my own happiness, but that eventually I came to realize I wasn’t running it, but rather ruining it.  I pointed out to her that it’s not always that you immediately get what you want, but that by following God’s commandments and serving Him, He does provide what you seek.

And whatever we ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
1 John 3:22

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Matthew 6:33

But of course, she didn’t want to hear any of this.  So far as she was concerned, they were going to continue their relationship as they were regardless of what anyone else had to say about it.

I conceded that in the end, it was ultimately her choice and I could not change anything, but that I would have been remiss had I not spoken up, and that I would continue to pray for her.

She stated that they were going to proceed with their intents to purchase a house, (all on her credit,) and would likely at some point get married.  She said that she was perfectly fine with her and her boyfriend seeking out their religious paths together and attempting to find their own way; that they didn’t need help.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:23-25

But by this point, it had become abundantly clear to me that she wanted nothing of what I had to say.  I will, however, give her credit for at least attempting to make it look as though she was listening and containing her eye-rolling for the most part.

As we parted, she said several times that she was not mad at me, and that the way I had addressed her was okay because I had not come off as “preachy and judgmental” as she alleges someone else had done with her when addressing the same things.  But I could see the truth.  She was pissed.  Maybe even livid with me.  But walking in, I knew that this was the likely response.  At one point, I had even addressed that with her stating that I knew what she was hearing was upsetting her but that in reality, she wasn’t mad at me but rather, mad at God.

So a few days ago was her birthday.  I hadn’t spoken to her in any depth since that dinner, and part of me wanted to reach out to he and offer to take her out to dinner for her birthday.

But I didn’t.

The lesson that I began, just days before her birthday, (which curbed my desire to reach out to her to take her out,) was on biblical responses to the sin of another.  Yeah, pretty directed, huh?

But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner- not even to eat with such a person.
1 Corinthians 15:11

But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.
2 Thessalonians 3:6

And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.  Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

So needless to say, I left it at a message wishing her a happy birthday and nothing more.  I know that when this relationship inevitably combusts I will hear from her again, but until then, I can only sit and pray.

 

CPB