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Written Word

Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water.  And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments.  Exodus 34:28

As a college student, I majored in journalism with a minor in English.  You could surmise I enjoy the written word so much I wanted to make a living at a job that required a lot of writing.  I dreamed of one day writing a novel or even a regular column in a magazine.  And although neither of those has happened (yet!) my eventual career path in public relations saw me using those skills in abundance. 

The degradation of the written and spoken word these days drives people like me a bit batty.  Not only do people rarely speak face to face but they also don’t write much.  Text messaging has broken all the basic rules of the written word with shortcuts such as “lol” and “brb.”  But I suppose it’s just another step in the evolution of God’s gift to us of language and the written word.

Write them (the Commands) on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,” Deuteronomy 11:20

There are currently around 6,000 different languages spoken around the world. It’s been estimated that it would have taken at least 100,000 years for a single language to have diversified that much. That would take us back to the middle of the Stone Age according to BBC Science Focus magazine.  But archeologists have found languages written in Mesopotamia dating back to the 8th millennium BC.  God has been at work helping us communicate with each other for a very long time!

When we think about Moses writing the Bible about 1500 years before Jesus’ birth, we should sit in awe at the beauty of it all.  The poetry, symbolism, logic, history and storytelling have guided millions upon millions of believers.  I’ve marveled with my Bible study ladies at the sophistication level of the apostle’s letters to the churches.  Their ability to use the written word to educate, admonish and encourage people for thousands of years must be the envy of any author.

God has always provided what we, as humans, need to survive and thrive in this world.  His gift of language and the written word has catapulted us ahead of all the biological life on Earth.  I thank Him not only for the Bible but for all the poetry, novels, history books, songs, letters, phone calls, conversations and yes, text messages that have been made possible because of His love for us.

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Identifying The Enemy

Lesson #13: To win a battle you first need to identify your adversary.

For certain individuals whose condemnation 
was written about long ago have secretly 
slipped in among you. They are ungodly 
people, who pervert the grace of our God 
into a license for immorality and deny 
Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. 
Jude 1:4

About 10 years after I started at my first professional job out of college, I decided I needed a new experience.  So, I accepted a job at one of our vendors.  I was worried that I wasn’t as experienced as the other professional staff because I had only worked at one job.  But almost instantly I was able to identify the warring factions.  

You see, the fire I went through starting a new public relations and marketing department at the age of 21 prepared me in more ways than I had realized.  While others at my new company struggled with office politics I already knew how to work around the “up, in your face, dragon lady” and the “she speaks sweetly to your face and then stabs you in the back.”  These two women were powerful forces who worked solely for their benefit and at the expense of others.  Had I not quickly assessed the situation I would’ve been tossed about in turmoil like the rest of the staff.

They are wild waves of the sea, 
foaming up their shame; wandering 
stars, for whom blackest darkness 
has been reserved forever. 
Jude 1:13

A number of the letters written by Jesus’ disciples include warnings to churches about the enemies within their midst.  It’s appropriate that our next mini-letter, written by our LORD’s half-brother Jude, is a call to arms against the infiltrators.  Why? Because it also is the last book before Revelation.  It’s almost a final warning to secure the gates, gather the brethren, and stand strong against the enemy before Christ comes.

These people are blemishes at your 
love feasts, eating with you without 
the slightest qualm—shepherds who 
feed only themselves. They are clouds 
without rain, blown along by the wind; 
autumn trees, without fruit and 
uprooted—twice dead. 
Jude 1:12

So how, as Christians, are we to discern who the “blemishes” are in our churches and protect our hearts and minds from them?

Let’s first state that every false teacher, every apostate comes from Satan. He is the enemy. As the Great Liar, Satan has plenty of fodder to create chaos in our midst. When our motivations stem from fame or popularity, greed, lust, and more, Satan is quite happy to make us like yeast — using us to spread his lies about God and Jesus.

I am currently looking for a new church.  But I’m going about it much differently than in the past.  For the first time I’ll be able to truly evaluate whether the teachings of a church are biblically based.  It’s amazing how what God has led us through in our lives always serves to prepare us for the next trial.  I could never had known that starting a small Bible study over a year ago would be one of my greatest weapons against falling prey to apostasy.  

apostasy uhpos-tuh-see ]

a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc.

When I first started going to church, we selected the church of my husband’s family.  I trusted my in-laws’ choice and therefore felt comfortable with attending the same denomination.  As for the theological ins-and-outs, I really didn’t understand them or care to know much about the details.

And there lies the dangers.  Satan loves when we are ignorant about God. Sometimes we take more effort dissecting the ingredients in our cereal than what is taught to us from a pulpit.  We think, “Hey, they’ve got training and approval from someone higher up so they must know what they’re talking about.”  And for the most part that’s probably true.  But there’s plenty of churches that have few ties to standard, accepted, religious teaching. There are also all the authors, TV and radio preachers, podcasters, Instagrammers, and yes, bloggers.

Dear friends, do not believe every 
spirit, but test the spirits to see 
whether they are from God, because 
many false prophets have gone out 
into the world. 
1 John: 4:1

My younger daughter was mentoring a new, young member of her church.  This young woman was distraught and thought she had failed God.  Why? Because she couldn’t speak in tongues.  Her church, in which she had grown up, taught that every single person who truly is a follower of Jesus speaks in tongues.  In one short conversation based on scripture this woman’s life was changed.  Because of the truth of the Bible. 

My parents are in their 80s.  I find that when they speak to their doctor, they treat what he says with almost reverence.  They don’t question a word any doctor says.  I keep telling them that doctors are just people.  They also don’t always have the best bedside manner.  So, questions go unanswered.  And fears and missteps with their health abound.

The same is true with faith leaders, be they pastors, priests, elders, deacons, Bible study leaders, famous authors, or church committee members.  They are all people.  Yes, they may have at some point received a calling but they are still people.  And people sin.  Some get greedy.  Some lie to protect themselves.  They all make mistakes.  It’s our responsibility as Christians to know the Word of God enough to question if something doesn’t sound right.

The short letter of Jude has an emphasis on sexual immorality and its promoters who have burrowed into our Christian lives.  How many of us are willing to say to our pastor search committee that our applicants must not be living with someone outside marriage or can’t be homosexual?  In fact, our major denominations have decided neither of those is a “big deal.”  And I ask, is that biblically based?  

If we want to escape the (Christian) struggle we have but to draw back and accept the currently accepted low-keyed Christian life as the normal one. That is all Satan wants. That will ground our power, stunt our growth and render us harmless to the kingdom of darkness.

A.W. Tozer

The struggle, the battle, the enemy.  The Christian life is not a playground.  Yes, we have peace in the fact that Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit have our backs.  They direct us and empower us.  But to truly live a complete Christian life is to face the enemy.  We are to be always on watch for those that would twist the Word of God.  

It sounds harsh to say but according to the renowned Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe an apostate is not a true believer who has abandoned his salvation.  Instead, it is a person who said they accepted the truth but then turned away from the truth.

These are the people who divide you, 
who follow mere natural instincts and 
do not have the Spirit.  
Jude 1:19

As Christians we want to live by Jesus’ admonishment to love one another, especially our brethren.  But at the same time, he called out the “den of vipers.”  Jesus has never asked us to forgo the truth in the spirit of getting along.  Our first steps are to be honest as to who our adversaries are and to acknowledge that Satan is always at work creating chaos.  Only then can we pray for direction and preparation for any battles that may ensue.