Why are we told to Keep Watch?

Our property backs onto a wilderness area that gradually turns into a marsh. The first time I saw the house I fell in love with the wildness of it. It was like living in a forest. Although I’m not an outdoor person and do not enjoy camping, I do enjoy looking at the trees and the wildlife. Sometimes my husband was able to persuade me to take a walk with him in this forest and we would explore the area. The one thing I noticed immediately, and anyone who has ever walked in this type of terrain will also know, is that I had to be careful to watch where I was going. There were holes in the ground where I’m sure some little critter lived; there were tree limbs and branches littering the ground, and there were even little areas of standing water that I had to find a way to cross, without slipping. I had to be on alert the entire time for these natural traps and snares, so I would not be injured or worse, even bitten by a snake. As I ponder on this, I can’t help but think of the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:42 when He warned His disciples to “stay awake”. The word used here is a Greek word that means to stay awake or be vigilant or keep watch. In other words, don’t fall asleep. As I walked through that untamed wilderness area behind my house, I had to be vigilant to not sprain my ankle, or trip and fall. As much as I love watching the birds, looking up at that time would not have been good. I had to keep watch over my feet. 

I’ve always wondered what Jesus meant when He told us to “keep watch”. However, as I think of this story in the natural, I begin to understand what it could possibly mean in the spiritual. In Ephesians 5:15 Paul admonishes us to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil”. So the first thing that I have to understand as I learn to keep watch in the spirit realm, is that I need to be wise, and I need to make the best use of my time. 

In other words, I have to have the wisdom to understand that the enemy is laying traps, snares, tree limbs, branches, little holes in the ground, and even using snakes, to trip us and make us fall and get hurt or bit. Denial doesn’t change anything. He’s out there looking for you and me. He’s looking for weak spots in our lives so that we might become offended with the Lord and walk away from Him. Jesus warned His disciples in John 16:1 by telling them: “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.” The word falling away means to offend, to trip up or cause to stumble. What did Jesus just warn them about before He said that? He told them that persecutions would come and they would be hated by the world. I think we can all agree that this has been happening all over the world, and is most recently getting even worse. We must guard our hearts that we not become offended with the Lord but instead choose to trust Him in everything that happens, even and perhaps especially when we don’t understand. 

Jesus also warned His disciples in Mark 14:38 to “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”. Jesus told His disciples this right before He was arrested and crucified. What temptation could He have been referring to? I believe He was warning them about fear and offense. They were all scattered and afraid when He was arrested. They were afraid that it could happen to them as well and offended because He was not doing what they had hoped. He did not declare Himself as King of the Jews and deliver them from Roman occupation, which is what they were looking for in a Messiah. They were not looking for a lamb that was crucified. 

Temptation is not always about sinful actions such as immorality. We can also be tempted to become angry, bitter and offended with our Lord when life doesn’t turn out the way we thought it should. When our prayers haven’t been answered or they were answered in a way we didn’t like, or anytime stuff happens that is painful and difficult, it is easy to become offended with Him. When life doesn’t turn out the way we expected it to, the temptation is great to become like John the Baptist and doubt that Jesus really is God and that He is in control. “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3) I will point out what Jesus said to John’s disciples after telling them to report back about the things He was doing, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:6) Why would Jesus say that? I would venture to say that John was offended because he was in prison, and this was not the way he expected his ministry to end up. He fell into the trap of offense. If it can happen to John the Baptist, it can happen to anyone. We must be vigilant and keep watch. 

The enemy is also looking for ways to distract us with the cares of this world. When I look at the world right now, I can truly agree with Paul when he says “the days are evil”. There are so many things happening to us in this world right now that are distracting, to say the least. Fear is everywhere. Anger is readily on the surface. Confusion reigns. If we struggle with who is in control, then these emotions double in their intensity. I’m sure that I am not alone in trying to escape from the fears of this world. It is easy to do that with the internet and other entertainments so readily available in our society. I have to so often reign my heart and mind back in and stop finding comfort in these distraction and instead find my peace and comfort in Jesus. As He faced arrest, knowing the darkness coming at both Him and them, Jesus told them “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Our eyes must be on Jesus in these perilous days. I will leave you with this final word of encouragement that Jesus tells us in Luke 21:28: “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Look up. He’s coming in the clouds!

Awaiting the return of Jesus

I became aware of a rather startling statistic the other day. I’m not a math person, so perhaps that is why I never noticed it before, but when I did see it, it left me shocked. Have you ever looked at the math in the parable of the sower? Jesus shared this parable in three of the gospels. Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 all share this story in great detail and each one of them share the interpretation that Jesus told the disciples in private. A sower went out to sow. He tells them that the seed is the word of God and that there are 4 kinds of people whose lives the seed is sown into. The first is the one who hears it, but doesn’t understand the message, and the enemy comes and takes the word away. “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path”. (Matthew 13:19) The second is the one who hears the word and receives it with joy, but because the word is planted among the rocks, what I will call a hard heart, the roots do not grow deep, “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away”. (Luke 8:13) Matthew and Mark also call it persecution and tribulation. Trouble! The third kind is the one whose heart is full of thorns, and although they too receive the word for a season, “they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature”. (Luke 8:14) Finally, the fourth kind is the only one that receives the message and actually grows deep roots and eventually produces a harvest of good fruit.  “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience”. If you know anything about plants and trees, you will know that shallow roots and poor soil do not create a good harvest. 

So how are statistics and math involved in this equation? There are four kinds of people in this parable, yet 3/4 of them will eventually walk away from Jesus. Three out of four! Not my words, not my understanding, not my interpretation, only Jesus. He said it. Truth be told, it puts the fear of God in me. I know that this generation has been told repeatedly from the pulpit that we cannot lose our salvation. I don’t know if that’s true. Perhaps it is, and there is more going on than I understand. But I do know what the word tells me, and according to Jesus, 3/4 of the people who hear His gospel, will eventually walk away from Him. I will repeat, they walk away. I also know that we have an adversary who is constantly trying to tempt us, and perhaps even more importantly, try to get us to become offended with God. In my feeble attempt to understand what Jesus is trying to warn us about, and I do believe it is a warning, I’m going to try to paraphrase what Jesus said even further. Sometimes just hearing it in a slightly different way helps us to see it with fresh eyes.

One quarter will hear the message and will never be interested in the good news. They are content with their lives, they love this world and they cannot imagine bowing down to God and obeying Him. Another quarter will hear the message and get excited, but as soon as trouble comes, and it will, and their prayers are not answered the way they would like them to be, as soon as things happen around them that they don’t understand or like, they will become angry and offended with God. I see a lot of that happening right now. Another quarter will also receive the word with some excitement, perhaps they were told that if they said a simple prayer of salvation, they would get a free ticket to heaven. Unfortunately, all those shiny things, all those temptations such as money and all that money can buy, and all the pleasures that can be found in this world, are very distracting. Pretty soon, obeying Jesus, doing His will, saying no to sin, living for Him, becomes a bore and maybe even a chore. Slowly but surely, they choose the things of this world, over Jesus. Perhaps they continue to attend church, talking themselves into believing that nothing has changed, but their heart is no longer seeking Him. They honor Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. (Isaiah 29:13)

Since we are talking about statistics, I want to share another one with you. This one might actually be worse than the first one. Did you know that 50% of the church will be left behind in the rapture? How on earth did I get that one, you might ask? Sadly, out of the mouth of Jesus, as well. In Matthew 24 and 25 Jesus is talking to the disciples about the end of the age. Along with telling us the signs that will tell us the end is near, He also mentions the rapture. I’m going to let Jesus tell us Himself in Matthew 24:36-42:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”

This passage is interesting because every time I’ve ever seen it quoted, the emphasis is always on the day and hour. Sadly, no one mentions that one man will be taken, and one left, or that one woman will be taken and one left behind. Luke 17:34 repeats this idea of being taken and left behind when he says that Jesus also said, “I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left.” 

There is another story in Matthew 25 where Jesus shares the parable of the ten virgins. Five were wise and five were foolish. Five were taken to the wedding feast. Five were left behind.

“And while they were going to buy (oil), the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Why am I sharing these frightening statistics? I really had to think this one through and make sure I was hearing the Lord correctly. I’m sharing them because I believe He is warning us to wake up. I believe He is warning us to not be the church of Laodicea. I don’t want to be left behind. I don’t want to think I’m safe, and have my heart drifting off with temptations and offenses. I don’t want to have Him look at me one day, and say:

“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” I’m listening to His advice to that church and I’m asking Him to show me how I can buy gold refined in the fire, and white garments to clothe myself so I’m no longer naked, and I’m buying eye salve so I can see and am no longer blind. (Revelation 3:14-22)

If ever there is a fire on this earth it is now. I’m choosing to buy gold, by trusting Him, by not allowing fear to overwhelm me. I’m choosing to not become offended by the things going on around me that I don’t like or understand. I’m choosing to trust Him with my salvation and spending time in His word, and time listening to His voice. I counsel you to do the same, to search your own heart and keep watch. Be ready, for we do not know the day or the hour.

Are You Ready For Jesus To Return?

When I was a young child I remember being at school and having to occasionally deal with a fire drill. Right in the middle of class, when no one was expecting it, the fire alarm would sound very loudly and nobody knew if it was a drill or a real fire, but we all knew what it meant. We had to get up and go outside and wait until it was over. Thankfully, each time that alarm rang, it was always a drill and never a real fire. As much as the drill was an inconvenience however, it taught us what to do if there ever was a real fire in the school. It meant, grab your stuff and  walk out the door towards the outside. Don’t run, don’t panic, don’t scream, don’t knock other people down, just walk quickly and make your way to the nearest exit. Practice of course is never the same as the real deal, but, it does make us have some idea of what to do and sometimes, perhaps even more important, what not to do.

The other night as I was lying in my bed trying to go to sleep, I had this little vision that I want to share with you because it felt very much like a fire drill to me. I saw in my mind’s eye an angel come to my side and tap me on the shoulder and tell me it was time to go. Go where you might ask? Up! I told you, it was like a fire drill, except I knew instantly that it was just a drill, it was not the rapture. What was revealed to me through this little vision however, was even more important. I realized in that split second that I saw the angel and knew that he was calling to me, that I wasn’t ready to go yet. Why not? If you had asked me if I was ready for the rapture, I would have told you that I’ve been ready for decades. Theoretically, I have been. As long as it was a thought, a promise, a hope, something that would happen one day in the future, I was looking forward to it. But when the reality of it came, to my own dismay, I was not ready. I had things I was not yet ready to give up. People I didn’t want to leave were on my mind. What about my unsaved kids? Who would feed my cat? These are important things! I was not yet ready to give up this earthly life and as I pondered on this very chilling thought, I realized that we have in fact been warned about this exact thing in scripture. 

There’s a story in Genesis 19 that tells us about a man named Lot and his wife and family. Lot lived in the city of Sodom and he was Abraham’s nephew. Unbeknownst to Lot, the Lord had told Abraham He was about to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham had interceded on his and his family’s behalf. We are told that two angels came into the city to assess the situation and see if things were really as wicked as they appeared. If you have ever read the story, you will most certainly know that things were so bad, that the men of that city wanted to rape the two angels, who they thought were just visitors. The two angels told Lot he had to leave because destruction was coming.

Lot and his small family reluctantly left and headed to safety, but even as they escaped, fire and brimstone came down from heaven and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. What happened next is almost as tragic as the destruction of these cities. Lot’s wife heard the destruction and looked back, even though the angels had warned them not to.“And as they (the angels) brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” (Genesis 19:17) What happened to her? She became a pillar of salt. (Verse 26)

Lot’s wife has always gotten a lot of judgement, no pun intended. We always look at her and wonder why she didn’t listen. You know the old expression, “curiosity killed the cat”. But was she really just being curious, or was there more to what she did? Remember I mentioned earlier that she had family left behind in that city? Yeah. I use the term “left behind” for a reason. We are not told for certain if her two daughters were her only children, but we do know that their betrothed husbands did not join them. Genesis 19:14 tells us, “So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.” Notice the word “Up”!

His future sons in law thought he was joking. I’m sure we all have people in our lives who think we are kidding when we tell them that Jesus is coming back soon and to get ready. What do we do when those people are family and friends that we love? You see, that is where my dilemma lies because there is a fire coming on this earth and it is called God’s wrath. Revelation tells us in chapter 6:16-17 that the people who are left on this earth during the tribulation period will cry out to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” When I think of those who will be left behind because they chose not to listen to my warnings, I have to remind myself of this one thing that is perhaps the most important fact of this story about Lot and his wife: Looking back did not save anyone; Looking back just killed his wife.

Jesus tells us in Luke 14:26 the following: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” I’ve always found this verse, if truth be told, a little offensive. He tells us to love each other, why would Jesus tell us to hate our own family? Actually, He’s not telling us to hate them. He is telling us to love Him more than them, and in comparison it will appear as hate to us. He’s telling us that when it gets down to the wire, if we have to choose between Him and them, we must choose Him.  Abraham is our terrible, awful, gut wrenching example of this when he was told to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22. Was God trying to kill Isaac, the promised child? Absolutely not. He was simply trying to kill the idol called Isaac in Abraham’s heart. So too, I must kill everything in my heart that comes between me and my God just like Abraham did. Do I hate my prodigal children? Absolutely not!! I love them and adore them and weep over them. But, when that angel comes again and calls my name and tells me to come, next time I will be ready. Next time I will have already made the decision in advance.  I will choose to trust those that I love with Him who is Love. And I will go up. It sounds like hate, doesn’t it? But it’s not. 

What on earth is going on?

During one of the private moments that the disciples had with Jesus, as they sat on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem, they asked the Lord in Matthew 24:3 what would be the sign  of His coming and the end of the age. Before He gives them any signs, He starts with a warning to them and to all of us: “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.” Astray in this sentence means to deceive or lead away from the truth. He repeats Himself in verse 11 and tells them, “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray”. The thing about deception is that it is, well, deceptive. In other words, it’s not obvious, it’s not easily discernible, and it will not be clear, unless you really look at it. I would suggest that even looking at it is not enough. You cannot stop from being deceived without help and there is only One who can help us to not be deceived: the Word! Yes, I called Jesus the Word, because that is what John called Him in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”. 

Why do I say that only the Word can protect us from deception and not the Holy Spirit? Because Jesus tells us to build our house on the Rock, which is Jesus, which is the Word. (Mathew 7:24-25) Deuteronomy 32:4 tells us that “He is the Rock”! He never tells us to build our house on the Spirit. He tells us that we must be born of the Spirit, but we must build our house on the Rock! It is only the Word of God that will keep us from being led astray. So I ask another question: why does this distinction matter so much? Am I suggesting that we don’t need the Spirit of God? Absolutely not!! The Holy Spirit is our Helper, and yes, He will help us to understand the Word. However, many people in this day and age do not know the Word. They do not read the Bible, they do not read the Scriptures and therefore they do not know when they are being led astray by shepherds and prophets who twist the Scriptures to their own advantage. In the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:14  he admonishes us “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting”. Yes, there are men and women who will trick you. They will deceive you and they will lead you astray. And no, it will not be obvious. Not at first. 

It only becomes obvious if you know the Word. Many of these false teachers and prophets will do signs and wonders to try and prove to you that God is with them. Signs and wonders however, do not prove anything. Jesus makes this very clear to us in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” I want you to really look at what Jesus said here. He never knew them! Yet, they prophesied in His Name! Yet, they cast out demons in His Name! Yet, they did many wonders in His Name! But He called them people who practiced lawlessness. I find this very interesting because it tells me that even though signs and wonders follow those who believe (Mark 16:17-18) they also follow those who deceive (Mark 13:22, Matthew 24:24).

In Jeremiah 23 the Lord speaks about these false prophets. How do I know He’s talking about this generation? Because he actually tells us: “In the latter days you will understand it clearly.”(vs. 20) Let me show you some of the things that God says about these false prophets: “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds”. There are many prophets out there right now, proclaiming “thus saith God”. Have they told you to repent? Have they told you to turn from your evil deeds? 

It goes on. “How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another.” (Jeremiah 23:26-31) I have heard some of these prophets. They do not speak His word faithfully. They speak lies and promise us things that are so absurd that a child could tell it is deception. A child of God, that is. 

In verse 16 and 17 God says the following: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you”.

Right now there is a fire upon this earth. It is happening in every nation, with every tribe and tongue. That fire is not one thing, it is many things. We see the signs that Jesus said would come at the end, wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters, plagues, false prophets, the list goes on and on. Just turn on the news, you will see every one of them. All these signs lead to one thing and one thing alone: Jesus Christ is wrapping things upHe is getting ready to rapture the church, thereby ending the “age of the gentiles” which He talked about in Luke 21:24, “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”. How do we know this age of the Gentiles is ending? The beginning of it started on May 14, 1948 when Israel once again became a nation. Since then God has been calling the Jews back to their homeland from all the nations that He scattered them to in 70 A.D. when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem. 

If you are still with me, then please hear my cry. Read the Word of God! Be careful who you follow. Do not allow yourself to be deceived for there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing out their masquerading as shepherds and prophets. Ask the Lord if you are deceived. He will tell you. He will show you and if you are, repent! Build your house on Him, not on lies and deception.

What is the Gospel of Grace?

Did you grow up in the church? I did not. I became a Christian as a teenager and did not start attending church until I was a grown up. To me, this is a double edged sword. On the one hand I didn’t have the baggage of religion but on the other hand, I also had to learn the foundation of Christianity as an adult. The one thing I never had to deal with however, was the question of works versus grace. I was acutely aware of my own sinfulness when I repented at 17 and gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ. He saved me out of my sin through His atoning work on the cross. It is by grace I was and am saved and I never doubted it through all my years. 

However, after 46 years of walking with God, I began to notice a disturbing trend, a way of thinking, that had slowly crept into my heart and mind. I realized that I was struggling more and more with the bondage of being saved by my own works, and not by His grace. For me personally, I saw this issue through the writing of this blog. I noticed for example, that I was continually feeling pressured to write. I knew that the Lord had called me to write. He was the one that told me to start this blog and not hide what He was teaching me under a basket: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) However, it was becoming a continual struggle filled with guilt and even condemnation, when I did not know what to write about. I have no desire to entertain you, nor do I wish to write in the flesh. Nothing that I know is of any value. The only thing that will bring life to you and me, is His spirit. With that being said, let me show you how He walked me through this cycle of trying to obey Him, while not being caught in the bondage of slavery. 

I remember just a few weeks ago, coming to Him once again and asking Him about this struggle. He answered it for me so succinctly that I couldn’t believe it had ever been an issue. He asked me one simple question: “Do you want to be saved by your own works, or by my grace?” Whoa!! The answer was so obvious it was almost silly. I’m far too lazy to be saved by my works. I’ll take grace, thank you very much. I thought the issue was dealt with, but boy was I wrong. The devil loves to dupe us and trick us because he loves religion. He knows all too well the power of the blood, the power of the cross of Christ, and he knows more than anyone on this earth that my works are nothing more than dirty, filthy rags and will never meet God’s standard of righteousness. The devil knows that only the blood can save me. Only Christ’s righteousness will meet the standard of God! No matter how hard I try, I cannot save myself. If I could, then the cross would have been unnecessary and Jesus did not have to come to earth as a man to die on the cross. 

Ok, so why does the Bible tell us that we need to do good works, then? I think this question is a real conundrum for many people, including myself. I think that the answer is actually just as simple as being saved by grace. Paul tells us in Romans 8:14-15 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” I want to really unpack this scripture. The word slavery that Paul uses here is the word douleia which literally means, bondage, slavery, the condition of a slave. That word has a spirit attached to it. He called it the “spirit of slavery”. In Galatians 4:21 Paul addresses this issue, “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law”? He goes on to tell them, that they can choose between the yoke of slavery, which is and was the law, or they can choose the freedom that Christ has given us. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” The old covenant that God had given to Abraham was the law. If you break any of the law, you will break all of it. It was a continual attempt at being good enough, of keeping the law, of good works to earn salvation. It didn’t work for them, and it doesn’t work for us. 

So I will ask again, where do good works come in? The answer is surprisingly, also very simple. Paul tells us in the next sentence: “but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” If you’re like me, you have read this verse and never thought about what it really means. The difference between a slave and a son (or daughter) is love! Jesus tells us in John 15:14-15, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, (doulos, in the Greek, slave or servant) for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” There it is, right out of the mouth of Jesus, we are no longer servants or slaves, we are His friends if we do what He tells us to. If we love Him, if we consider ourselves His sons and daughters, we will do what He tells us to do. We will do good works. The works do not save me or you, but they are born out of love!

So simple. So hard. So difficult to believe. But it makes me really examine my heart. Do I love Him enough to do the work He has called me to do? He’s called me to write. What has He called you to do? And do you love Him enough, to do it?

Are you mad at God?

I was thinking about my regrets this morning. I think back on my relationship with my mother for example, and I regret that I didn’t communicate better with her. I had a lot of anger towards her while she was alive and we never resolved any of those issues. Now it’s too late. It’s only after her death that I began to give her more grace and forgive her for her humanity. I have several children, some of whom I have a good relationship with and others I don’t. You know what the number one reason for the difference is? Communication. One of my daughters will tell me when she’s mad at me. It’s never comfortable of course. But, the most important thing is that we hash it out, we talk it over, we work through it and we resolve it. This is never an easy process because it requires humility, repentance, courage to talk about your feelings and hurts and finally, forgiveness. 

I think one of the most painful things that we can do to people we love, or have done to us for that matter, is something commonly called the silent treatment. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Sometimes we may not be silent towards another, but we have this inner anger and resentment that we refuse to acknowledge or talk about. Instead of communicating and allowing both parties to share their feelings and thoughts, we pretend that everything is ok. 

All of this makes me think of something the Lord tells Isaiah in chapter 1 verse 18: “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD”. Whenever I read this, I always think about the term “conflict resolution”. God not only tells Israel to talk to Him, but He then offers them hope:

though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool”.

What is God really saying to Israel, and to us, when He tells us to come and reason with Him? It is my understanding and belief and might I add, personal experience, that He is telling us to come and tell Him what’s on our heart, and our mind, and to tell Him about our anger, our offense with Him, and perhaps even our resentment. You see, He already knows how I feel. If I’m angry with Him, I might be able to fool myself, or even others, but I cannot fool Him. He knows. 

I remember many years ago, I was going through a very painful and difficult time in my life. I was angry at the way God was handling the situation. Or perhaps I should rephrase that. I was angry at the way He wasn’t handling or fixing the situation. I was mad. But I refused to talk to Him about it. I had this weird idea in my head, that somehow, telling God I was mad, was wrong, sinful and offensive to Him! I remember a friend had told me that God was big enough to handle my anger. Was He? It seems like a strange question now, but at the time, it was where I was at spiritually and emotionally. I will confess that I did not handle the conversation well when I finally “confronted” Him. I yelled at Him. I’m ashamed to admit, I might have cussed at Him. I stood there in horror at what I had just done, afraid He might wipe me off the earth. His response shocked me. I heard Him say, as clear as a bell, “well, I’m glad we got that out of the way. I knew all that was there, but you didn’t”! Say what? He wasn’t angry at me. No. As a matter of fact, we talked about it, and then He offered me that hope and forgiveness that Isaiah mentions. I repented for my anger and in return I received His unfailing love and mercy. 

I look back now at those terrible years and I can see the wisdom in what He allowed to go on in my life. I learned to trust Him in those difficult times. I learned that He is safe. I learned that He loves me unconditionally. You see, unconditional love is not unconditional, unless the person really knows you, warts and all. If all they see is your best side, it’s not unconditional love. My God, my Jesus, knows me, inside and out and He loves me anyway. He knows you as well, inside and out. And the good news is that He loves you unconditionally as well. 

Let me just say one more thing. We are living in difficult, frightening times. If you are angry at God, if you feel offended with Him, go reason with Him. Tell Him how you feel. I think, if I know Him correctly, He will help you to work through it and to find His peace.