You Are…

You are my Glory and my Hope
Perfect in all Your ways
You are the One in Whom I rest
You are my Hope and Stay

You are my Wisdom and my Rock
The Blesser of my soul
The Hearer of my painful cries
You’re holy and faithful

You are the One in whom I trust
The Strength’ner of my heart
You are my Shield and Protection
You’ll never more depart

You uphold all your righteous ones
You are my Hiding Place
You are the One Who gives me food
My Light, my Truth, my Grace

You are Alpha and Omega
You are the First and Last
When You come back to take me home
My sin will all be past.

Words by Violet Escalera – January 2017
(Can be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace)

Discerning Believer

We live in a time of beginnings of peril within our country. The church is falling apart and grows more apostate each day, our culture, which was built on the Word of God, hates true believers and is willing to sacrifice them on the altar of tolerance. We are regularly put into a position of either stand for the Lord or stand with the world. People we thought loved the Lord have fallen prey to the lies of Satan and some may even have turned on true believers. We see children, who’ve been raised their whole life being taught the Word of God, stray to churches that teach sweet little nothing’s and tickle their ears.

We are in the midst of that time where Amos tells us, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:” There is a famine in the land and it’s not a physical one. We have a famine of God’s Word but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have the Word of God available to us so we can read and study it daily. We aren’t so far gone that we can’t know what is said.

As we go through each day we are called upon to make decisions based on the Word of God, we are called to be Berean Christians. We are called upon to discern right from wrong and good from bad. Sadly, we see more and more people dropping out of true Christianity to lie in bed with the deceiver and his minions. Sometimes we ask ourselves, “What is happening? Who can we trust? How do we know who is right and who is wrong?”

When this blog was first started it was named Defending Contending, which was very appropriate as it was begun so false prophets posing as true prophets would be called into question and revealed for what they truly were. Yet, the question should be asked, “Why don’t true believers know and discern who is a wolf in sheep clothing and who is truly the man of God?” Sometimes even we, as true believers, are fooled by someone who, we think, is truly loving and serving the Lord. The truth is that we won’t always know who is true and who is a tare. Some of them will be hidden for a time until the great harvest.

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Yet we find that the Word of God is very clear. Heb 5:11-14, “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” We are a people who refuse to study the Word of God. We “pay those people” to study it for us and, heaven forbid, that they should say something we don’t want to hear.

Brothers and sisters, it is our responsibility to study God’s Word to find out if what we are being taught is according to God’s Word. Even on this blog now called Truth in Grace, it’s important to realize that we are all sinners and can be led astray. We are in the midst of that time where Amos tells us, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:” There is a famine in the land and it’s not a physical one. We have a famine of God’s Word but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have the Word of God available to us so we can read and study it daily. We aren’t so far gone that we can’t know what is said.

Granted, there are grey areas within the Word of God that aren’t clearly known so some things can be believed one way or another. When it is clear and concise, though, it’s important for us to realize that God expects His children to follow His commands. Obedience with joy is very important for true believers. We can’t be obedient if we don’t know what the Lord tells us to do. It’s time for each of us to find out and learn to be discerning not just wait for someone else to do it for us.

Having A Tender Heart

As I’ve gone through my life I’ve found many times that my heart has been hardened against the things of the Lord. Before the Lord drew me to Himself, my conscience was pretty much hard and cold except every once in a while. Then, I would have a glimpse of what would happen if I continued on the path I was traveling.

After salvation, I was still quite a bit like a worldling in most everything. As I watched my husband and learned a lot from him, who’d been saved for awhile, I began slowly changing in areas. He read a lot of theological books and I wanted to learn so I began reading them. There were many times I stopped reading, struggled for awhile and then grow hard and cold again. The Lord sent trials my way and I’d realize how cold I’d gotten. I had been so immersed in my own self that I never even saw what had happened and the stagnation within my own life. My heart was no longer tender towards the Lord and it would take awhile to return to tenderness towards the Lord.

Many churches we went to made a call for the conscience but not a call that would bring my heart to a tenderness towards the Lord. It was normally done to make me feel guilty over something I was doing (or not doing) that would prove to the leadership that I wasn’t spiritual enough. Some of the things were valid points but most weren’t.

heart

Sadly, a lot of churches and even believers can be very dictatorial over what is spiritual and what isn’t. We find, in evangelicalism, that rules or the lack thereof seems to take precedence over Biblical truth. So many churches that claim to be preaching the truth only tend to preach a portion of it. It’s easy to add a little error to truth but a little error makes the truth nonexistent.

The example Mark Anthony Escalera used about the barrel of apples is prime. If you have a barrel of apples and one is poisoned how will you know which one to choose? You might grab the first one and it could be clear of the poison but how will you know? Eventually you will grab the wrong one and pay the price.

So, how do you know which church has the poison, the error mixed in with the truth, and which doesn’t? Well, the Word of God is there for our learning and, as we grow in faith and in the knowledge of the Lord, we will have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Heb. 5:11-14. The Word of God has both truth and principles to follow in our lives. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” The Holy Spirit makes it plain to us.

The poison can apply to either churches that add extra to God’s Word or say that God’s Word is irrelevant and you can do whatever you want or that all roads lead to heaven. As we study God’s Word regularly and feast on His truth, let us be mindful to exercise our senses to discern good and evil. So many are headed in a direction that goes contrary to God’s Word because they refuse to read and refuse to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in such areas as is important for their walk with the Lord. May we be of that number who “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that we might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”

As we journey in this life towards the next, our hearts need to be tender towards the Lord. The strength of tenderness towards the Lord is where our relationship with Him grows. As we desire to do His will as well as do it, our hearts are exercised in obedience towards Him. Next time you visit a church the questions should not be — What can I get out of this? Or…is the music my style? Do they have great programs here? How long do services last!

Instead, ask these questions, Is this church teaching the Word of God in its entirety? Am I seeing the sin within my life and being convicted of it? Am I becoming more like the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Word of God? Am I able to discern if the leaders are teaching truth or error? May each of us be always tender towards the Lord.

Speaking Graciously

Truth in grace. I love the new blog title. I’ve said for years that some people have no problem “speaking the truth” (or what they perceive that truth to be) but they forget the “in love” part.  If we love each other, our words will be “gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6).

col46

People complain about the internet being a place where some say things that they would never say to a person’s face. I personally love this mode of communication because it gives me time to think through how to respond to a person or situation. Not that I always do it perfectly, but I have the opportunity to slow down and allow God to speak through me as opposed to speaking off the top of my head words that might be full of pride and ignorance.

Whatever we do, whether in word or deed, we are to do it to the glory of God (Col. 3:17). I pray that I will never lose sight of that truth.

 

Moving Forward

Hello Brothers and Sisters,

Of recent times, I have been doing much soul-searching in particular as it applies to Defending Contending. I have seriously considering everything from closing it down to transferring ownership to another person. However, the more I have considered this, the more tense I became. This was not because it has been mine for so long, but because this has been an opportunity that the Lord has used to help me to grow and to be able to share with others. I have been writing at Defending Contending for 9 years come the end of January 2017.

During that time, there have been things I have both read and written that I have cringed. There are posts written that have caused my heart to break before the Lord and I have had to seek repentance for my own stubbornness and lack of Christ-likeness. We have gained many viewers and lost more than we have gained. I believe that we are in a state of flux within evangelical Christianity and my heart has long been to reach out to our readers in a way that still point out the truth without being hateful, spiteful, or vitriolic in any manner even when we disagree with others.

With that in mind, I believe for the time being that a change in direction will be a profitable move. I want to lay these out just briefly.

climateoftruth

1. A new name – Truth In Grace — Reason is simply because we are truly called to preach and teach truth, but I believe we are called to do so with grace. The new picture on the website says, “Truth without grace is a prison; Grace without truth is chaos.”
2. A new tagline – “Sharing truth and faith in a spirit of love and grace.”
3. A new direction with posts
4. Additional contributors — I have just this evening reached out to two people that I believe could be a blessing to our readers.

I believe that this new direction, name change, and tagline are still very much in line with where The Pilgrim was going with the blog when he started it. Yes, we have all had to learn and I pray this will continue to reach others with a gracious spirit years in to the future.

However, I know that with the additions and changes, there will be other differences to deal with which is another reason for writing. Not all of us, even now, are in full agreement on every aspect of doctrine. I have no doubt that our differences are not salvific in nature, but I also understand that can be debated by some if they choose a hard line on some points.

For example, through the ages, men like Spurgeon, Sproul, MacArthur, Wilkerson, Conway, Baucham, Lloyd-Jones, etc. would have all agreed on many points of foundational truths that are unassailable, but they would have disagreed on some doctrines that, in my humble opinion, do not make a difference in whether a person is a true believer or not. Another example would be where Lloyd-Jones stood on the work and role of the Holy Spirit as compared to say Sproul or MacArthur. Yet, I have no doubt that they would have been gracious to each other and would have learned from each other.

Many of you know that I hold to the doctrines of grace, but it is not a drum that I have ever made a point of beating others up on. I can respectfully agree to disagree with another and still call them my brother or sister in Christ. I can disagree on things like family integrated or Sunday school, or in the style and meaning of missions, or in the version or music styles I choose to use and still call the other side of the coin a brother or sister in Christ.

Not everybody who has or who will write at DefCon are staunch Calvinists. Each of us are at different points in our Christian walk, and even one who is mature in the faith in many areas can still have much to learn as though they were a new believer. Brothers and sisters, as I get older, my heart’s desire is that my mind would be brought into closer communion with the Lord of glory. We will not be found in glory based on or divided into groups according to what we believed on certain issues. We will be in glory because of what Christ alone has done for us.

I know that each of you will have to make decisions as to what direction you will go into the future. As for me, this is where I believe the Lord would have me to walk. My issue will be that every post provides encouragement, edification, or exhortation according to the principles of God’s Word. Simply put, my intention is not to linger on one issue, one doctrine, or even appear as though we are nothing but a discernment blog. The new blog will be so much more, as the Lord blesses and is glorified.

If you have any questions, thoughts, or concerns, please feel free to reach back out to me.

I am so thankful for all we have been through down through each season that you have been part of our readership. My prayer is that this will continue for a long time, but it needs to move in a new direction effective immediately. You are my brothers and sisters in Christ even if we do not ultimately agree in the end. Thank you for your understanding.

In Christian love and grace,

Mark Anthony

Lightning Strikes Car After Church Robbery?

This article will be quick. I caught a glimpse of a Facebook video that is being shared by many concerning a supposed lightning strike that hit a car that was involved in a chase after robbing a church. Here is the video:

Seems pretty plausible doesn’t it? Not really. And I will show you why in the next paragraph. But the veracity of this chase does not concern me as much as how easy it is to believe something on the Internet, even if it was supposedly God who did it. In other words, I find that those who are suppose to be on the side of truth and biblical objectivity still keep falling prey to the tricks that the Internet is notorious for. Spreading lies, gossip, misinformation, and the like is not something that should be named among us as Christians. Yet, time and time again, I continually see posts, twitter feeds, and other such avenues being flooded with slander, propaganda, and nonsense that has not been given due diligence and godly reservation before sharing and spreading.

Case in point. Here is a frame by frame visual of what actually happened to this car. Continue reading

Religion vs. God – LGBT issues

A recent article by the Huffington Post is doing its part to undermine the truth of Scripture. Entitled, “The Gender You Associate to God May Indicate How You Feel About Gay Marriage.”

The truth is that we have no right to assign a gender to God. He is God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was equally God and equally man. If one wrongly assumes that God may be a woman to pacify the liberal and LGBT communities, then we have to wonder how long it will be before somebody rewrites the Bible to show that Jesus was actually a woman. You can take every page of Scripture and rewrite it to satisfy the lusts of the world, but it will never become truth. EVER!

LGBTBible

Read the differences between what leaders within major world religions have to say versus what God says.

Desmond Tutu, Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of South Africa – “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”

Francis, Pope of the Roman Catholic Church – “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord? You can’t marginalize these people.”

Laura Geller, Jewish Rabbi – “Now I can invoke the power vested in me by the State of California and declare them married in accordance with the laws of the State of California and our Jewish faith. Now we are so much closer to the truth of their experience: a gay or lesbian Jewish wedding, like a Jewish heterosexual wedding, is a Jewish wedding pure and simple, the inheritance of every loving Jewish couple.”

Dalai Lama – Head Monk of Tibetan Buddhism – “If someone comes to me and asks whether it is okay or not, I will first ask if you have some religious vows to uphold. Then my next question is, What is your companion’s opinion? If you both agree, then I think I would say, if two males or two females voluntarily agree to have mutual satisfaction without further implication of harming others, then it is okay.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson – Religion of Civil Rights – Supports gay marriage and would perform a marriage of gay couples “if I was asked to.”

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Anglican Church – “I mean I know plenty of gay couples whose relationships are an example to plenty of other people and that’s something that’s very important, I’m not saying that gay relationships are in some way, you know that the love that there is less than the love there is between straight couples, that would be a completely absurd thing to say.”

Well, that should be enough to show the apostasy and the lack of Biblical truth within every one of these religions. Now, what does God say about LGBT issues. Here are a few thoughts from GotQuestions.org.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

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“In summary, Romans 1:18-31 deals with the fact that God has innately made Himself known to humanity, but He has been rejected and replaced by other objects of worship. Because of this, God has delivered two judgments: one of homosexual behavior and another of an immoral mind, each of which demonstrates His ‘abandonment’ wrath toward humanity’s rebellion.”

The truth is that ALL those who willfully remain in their sin stand condemned before God. It does not matter what kind of sin – homosexuality, lying, murder, lesbianism, cheating, pedophilia, hating, idolatry, bestiality. What matters is how far each person is from a holy, righteous God. When God saves the sinner, He CHANGES them and makes them a brand new creation in Christ. If you are a true believer, you will NOT go back with pleasure to your sin. To say God saved you to continue in your sin is to grossly misunderstand the Scriptures.

Final Score = God Wins, Religion Fails.