Christianity 201

February 19, 2020

Waiting Is Not a Passive Act

The website Broken Believers “is all about serving through a message of Christian discipleship and helping Christians with mental illnesses and other issues. Bryan is a pastor who also suffers from clinical depression and now ministers to those in need.”

This is our seventh time with Bryan Lowe. An understanding of the Hebrew word used in a very familiar verse really enhances its meaning. As always, click the header below to read this at source.

Braided Up With God

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 40:31, NASB

The particular word “wait” is a vital force. It’s definitely not a passive word in the Scriptures. It does not mean to be apathetic or lazy. Sometimes we wait in line at the grocery store or maybe waiting on a phone call. We regularly wait all the time, and usually, we don’t even realize it.

The Hebrew word used in v. 31 is ‘kawvah’ which means, ‘to bind together by twisting.’ It sometimes will mean, ‘to braid.’

It’s an interesting word picture, isn’t it? Sometimes we only take the English idea of waiting and turn it turns into a frustrating delay. Often this is why we lose out on what ‘wait’ is really about. I have to believe the Holy Spirit wants to teach this idea of becoming ‘braided up with God.’ All too often we are limited by our definitions and not God’s Word.

For those of us who are ill— physically or mentally, just to be told simply, “wait on the Lord” is a real challenge. Often, we will end up resenting this counsel (and the counselor) because we misunderstand what it means to really ‘wait.’

Yet when I truly wait on God, I’m actually weaving myself into Him. He becomes my strength; He is now the strong cord I am braided into. (Perhaps this is how He imparts strength and might to His people?) We desperately need this and the Lord is eager to lead us into this new intimacy.

The promise in Isaiah 40:31 tells us about new strength, the eagle’s wings, and holy stamina. This verse is relevant to us today, and we need this kind of strength now. I only want to encourage you in your own prayer time, to see yourself intertwined to the Lord, and to recognize the good gift of the Holy Spirit freely given.

“Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!”

Psalm 27:14



Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. Your suggestions of articles and websites to consider are always welcome.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

January 29, 2020

God Doesn’t Need Professionals to Accomplish His Purposes

38 Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. 39 David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before.

“I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. 40 He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.

if you’re not familiar with the story click here to read the full chapter

Today’s thoughts are taken from the late Eugene Peterson’s book Leap Over a Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians, which is a study of the life of David. So many times in church life we think we have to leave certain responsibilities to the pastor. Depending on where you worship, there are often limits on what non-clergy — the laity — can do. This often transfers to a belief that if you are empowered to carry out a task, you have to do it in a certain, prescribed way. You find yourself often imitating the person who usually carries out that task, because that is what is expected.

Those of us who have worked vocationally in Christian ministry often use the two word shortcut code “Saul’s armor” to describe these situations. We’re being asked to perform in a way that is simply not us.

Eugene PetersonOn the near side of the valley, King Saul is worried over this kneeling David. He has just tried his best to be of help by outfitting him with his own armor. He set his bronze helmet on David’s head, wrapped him in his coat of mail, and handed him his sword, which David strapped around his waist. David had never been dressed like that before. And it seemed like such a good idea. Saul’s Armor! The king’s weapons! If there was anything that would fit him for the task ahead, it was certainly this. Was there a man in Israel who wouldn’t have counted it the highest privilege to be so equipped? But when he tried to walk, he couldn’t move. Weighted down under the cumbrous metal, he was reduced to a stiff and awkward waddle.

There was no question but that Saul was well intentioned. He wanted to help and was helping in the only way he knew: pile on the armor, protect yourself, get a weapon with proven effectiveness.

This is a common experience in the Valley of Elah, when an amateur ventures into a field dominated by professionals. All around us people who care about us are suddenly there helping – piling armor on us, dressing us up in equipment that’s going to qualify us for the task (even though it didn’t seem to be doing them much good). We get advice. We get instruction. We’re sent off to a training workshop. We find ourselves with an armload of books. These people are truly concerned about us, and we’re touched by their concern, in awe of their knowledge and experience. We listen to them and do what they tell us. And then we find that we can hardly move. (p. 42)

As I read this, I was reminded of an earlier part in the book where Peterson talks about how we tend to defer everything to pastor, priest, rector or minister:

Most people who venture upon a life of faith are laypersons. Why do so many of the habitually and pliantly take a subordinate position under the certified experts in matters of faith – that is, the clergy? As a pastor myself, I’ve never gotten over either my surprise or my dismay at being treated with doggish deference by so many people. Where do all these Christians, who by definition are “new creatures in Christ” and therefore surely eager to taste and see for themselves (a universal characteristic in newborns) that the Lord is good, pick up this deprecating self-understanding? They certainly don’t get it from the Bible or from the gospel. They get it from the culture, whether secular or ecclesial.

They get it from leaders who love the prerogatives and power of expertise and bully people by means of their glamorous bravado into abdicating the original splendor of a new life in Christ and declining into the wretched condition of the consumer. The consumer is passivity objectified: passive in the pew, passive before the TV screen, vulnerable to every sort of exploitation and seduction, whether religious or secular. (p. 21)

As I read these words several days later, I am reminded that there are likely people reading this who, while they long for a deeper walk with God, settle for a church life that reflects the passivity Peterson speaks of. When needs are mentioned, they assume someone else will answer the call. Someone more gifted. Someone more intellectual. Someone who has the particular expertise they think is needed.

It’s common today to be in a room and you hear the sound of a cell phone ringing and you ignore it and then suddenly realize, that’s my ringtone. Of all the people in the room, it’s me they’re calling. Perhaps that’s true in Christian service as well. Appeals are made but few take the time to say, that call is for me.

It may be that someone is reading today and God has a calling on your life to step out in faith in what we would call a ministry, but an inner voice halts you from making the first move:

  • I’m not trained
  • I’m not a Bible scholar
  • I don’t know Greek
  • I’ve never taken any Bible college courses

Now by all means, if you can, take some courses, get some training. But God may be wanting to use you, right now, the way you are — imperfect, tempted, broken, unschooled — with no armor, just the five stones in your hand.

Your posture as a warrior for God may not include armor, helmet and a sword. You may be kneeling at the brook, looking to all the world like you’re playing in the water, when you’re actually gathering stones, formulating a plan and acting on a vision.


January 12, 2020

Understanding the Message Happens with Applying the Message

A year ago we quoted a short excerpt from the blog of author Rick Thomas. Today we’re doing the same, as this is taken from a much longer article written for pastors and leaders. I encourage you to read it at its source, in full. Just click the header which follows:

You Need More Than Preaching If You Want to Change

The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4, ESV)

1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Purpose of the Parables

10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

“ ‘they may indeed see but not perceive,

and may indeed hear but not understand,

lest they should turn and be forgiven.’ ”

13 And he said to them, Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

Community Contexts

In verses 1-9 Jesus was teaching to a very large crowd from the pulpit,so to speak. In verses 10-13 He begins to unpack the teaching lesson in a personal, customized, relevant, and practical way for His community.

The pulpit is a great place to exalt the Savior and expound the gospel, as well as call people to live lives of holiness. To be sure, God-ordained preaching for the proclamation of His Word. It is the foolishness of preaching that confounds the wise and empowers the faithful (1 Corinthians 1:18).

In addition to great preaching, you also find in Scripture that it is in the living rooms of the communitywhere the truths preached from the pulpit are worked out in the contexts of lives.

You can exhort someone over and over again from the pulpit to serve, and its possible he will understand, personalize, and apply that idea. But if you bring a towel and basin to his living room and wash your friends feet, you can be assured he will never forget that one act of other-centered serving (see John 13:15; Matthew 26:13).

Helping others is where Jesus excelled. He contextualized His preached Word in the community of the believers. He did not let the preached Word stand alone. He modeled His message to drive home His points.

Practically Speaking

Rachel has heard wonderful preaching the past 16 years of her life. Nearly every Sunday, she has been encouraged, enlightened, and envisioned about how to be a woman for God.

Recently, a growing bitterness took root in her soul toward her church, her pastor, and some of her friends. The more she hears the wonderful truths from the Word declared from the pulpit, the more cynical and suspicious she becomes. 

She’s seeing the discontinuity between the preached Word on Sunday and her marriage and family during the week. The dots are not practically connecting for her.

Sadly, her cynicism and suspicion are directed toward Godthough she would never say it that way. She hoped for a different life and believed it would come by “going to church,” as she put it.

Her belief about the church is why she committed herself to God and the meetings of the church. She even took on a ministry in the church to help in whatever way she could. Her faith and practice were real. Rachel loves God.

But like a person asleep in a boat, only to awake hours later to find they drifted beyond the buoys, Rachels marriage has seemingly slipped past the point of no return. All the while she is faithfully committed to her local church.

Rachel is not struggling with sound doctrine. She does not have a theological problem, as far as her understanding of the Bible. What she has is a methodological problem.

Building a knowledge base through learning and growing in theological understanding, is half the equation. Rachel is getting good information on Sunday morning. It is consistently biblical, easy to understand, and well-delivered.

Her problem is the other half of the solution she needs. Her church has not provided or trained her on how to take the good Word preached and work it out in the milieu (contexts) of her life. She needs a clear and practical application. The Sunday church meeting is not designed to fulfill that part of her solution.

Rachel is half-full: She knows the Word, but she has not been equipped to apply it practically in ways that matter to her life, marriage, and other relationships. If she continues this way, she’ll be running on empty before long.


Rick then continues with ten action steps for local churches. See the closing section of the article which I am again, linking here.

January 5, 2020

Spiritual Vulnerability May Follow Spiritual Triumph

NIV.Gen.9.20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.

There are some Bible passages we’d rather just ignore. For me, this is one of them. However, Bible teacher Joanne Guarnieri Hagemeyer has done an excellent job of dealing with this passage at her blog Grace and Peace. (Learn more about her personal story at this about page.) Click the title below to read this at source.

His Nakedness Uncovered

I think of Noah as a fine man who was not vigilant and slipped, spiritually.

After all, reading his story reminds me of when my own excesses may have presented temptation to those close to me, and caused anguish in the lives of the people I love. Anyone can sin, even someone who had been righteous and blameless among the people of his time, and who walked with God, as Noah was described.

He had experienced great spiritual summits. He had come through the Great Flood as only one of eight survivors. God had rested upon his shoulders the weight of the ark, and of the animals, and of his family. He had preached for a hundred years with not one single convert, yet he had faithfully pressed on, obedient to God’s commands from first to last.

Now, in the new world, his family growing and spreading as the new humanity, their fields and flocks thriving, their orchards and vineyards established, their lives enriched, Noah was right with God and right with the world. That’s often a time when a person will let down their guard.

What began as a perfectly worthy work, growing a vineyard, degenerated into a complete dishonoring of his body, made in the image of God. That’s a great metaphor for how sin insinuates itself into our souls. It can gradually grow as you and I make one small seemingly unimportant choice after another, getting closer and closer to the edge of okay, slipping like wisps of mist into the gray area between good and bad, right and wrong, until one day we step over another line, the true line that separates us from evil, and it wasn’t a very big step, actually. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal. But it was.

  • Maybe this was a spiritual fall after a spiritual victory.
  • Maybe Noah allowed the pressures of life to get to him, not remembering to call upon the name of the Lord, as his ancestor Seth had done.
  • Maybe this was just one more step of many steps, wandering ever closer to no return.

Many people of faith today have decided to express their faith in Christ by living a life that is free from controlled substances such as alcohol in a world that is given over to the indulgence of appetites to the point of addiction. The apostle Paul talked about the value of refraining from those things that might trouble other people or open the door to temptation or worse for them, writing: “It is best not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that causes problems for other followers of the Lord.

In another letter, Paul urged believers to be mindful and intentional about every aspect of their lives, writing, “When you eat or drink or do anything else, always do it to honor God.”

What exactly Noah’s son did to him is not clear. Some Bible scholars link this episode with Leviticus 18, where the phrase, “to see the nakedness” of an individual is a euphemism for a sexual act, suggesting this involved some sort of incestuous activity on Ham’s part. (Some scholars suggest it might even have involved Ham’s mother, Noah’s wife.)

Even if no sexual act took place, there is a sexual connotation to the way Ham took in his father’s exposed condition. Whether or not there was outright coitus, some form of sexual perversion seems to have been present at the very least in Ham’s lustful thoughts, as the son leered at his father’s naked form.

Remember the conditions that existed before the Great Flood: widespread sexual perversion. Jude[1] referred to a series of unnatural acts, connecting antediluvian society with the unnatural sexual deviance of Sodom and Gomorrah. Shem, Ham, and Japheth had grown up in this kind of an atmosphere, even though Noah and his family were an island of righteousness in a sea of corruption.

All the more reason for you and I to be vigilant about the ways our culture influences us, and the people God has placed in our care. It’s not so much this TV show or that video game, this website or that party, this politician or that policy. It’s the sum total, the message the culture sends in all kinds of ways, every day, that shapes what the next generation is going to think is good, bad and just plain fun.

Somehow, Ham did not recognize the degenerate nature of his thoughts (or perhaps even acts), for he seems to have taken lewd delight in talking about it with his brothers. That gave me real pause. How will what I am about to say about someone influence my listener’s impression of the person I am talking about? Have I ever found myself relishing someone else’s downfall, particularly someone whose authority I felt was misused in some way? Did it make such delicious news I just couldn’t wait to tell somebody about it? (The answer is yes. I am ashamed to admit it.)

Shem and Japheth wanted to have nothing to do with it. They did not even respond to their brother’s salacious suggestiveness. Instead, their love for their father covered over this “multitude of sins.” They literally covered their father with a blanket, turning their heads away as they did so, refusing to look at his shame. They honored their father, and the stamp of God’s image in him.


[1] Note Jude’s use of the phrases “likewise” and “in the same way” to link the Nephilim culture, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the culture of his own day all together, as all one kind of people, all destined for the same destruction.


December 13, 2019

Good Habits

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NLT.Luke.4.14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. 15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures.

Today we are back again at the blog with the unusual name, More than Useless, written by Thom Fowler. Click the title below to read this at source.

He Went as Usual

Father, it is much later than I like but I just couldn’t stop what I was doing. You and I were working on this coming Sunday’s sermon and You were speaking and guiding me so clearly that I just couldn’t stop! May it be a blessing to those that hear. May our time be a blessing, as well. Amen.

Luke 4:14-16 (<<see above or click to read the passage)

Frequently, I see and hear excuses for why people don’t attend church. Let me share one from a slightly different angle.

12 Reasons Why I, as a Pastor, Have Decided to Quit Attending Sporting Events

1. The coach never came to visit me.
2. Every time I went, they asked for money.
3. The people sitting in my row didn’t seem very friendly.
4. The seats were very hard.
5. The referees made a decision I didn’t agree with.
6. I was sitting with hypocrites – they only came to see what others were wearing!
7. Some games went into overtime and I was late getting home.
8. The band played some songs I had never heard before.
9. The games are scheduled on my only day to sleep in and run errands.
10. My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up.
11. Since I read a book on sports, I feel that I know more than the coaches, anyway.
12. I don’t want to take my children because I want them to choose for themselves what sport they like best.

Now this list is shared with a little tongue in cheek on my part but as I read through today’s passage something important was pointed out. At the beginning of verse 16, it says of Jesus,

When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath…

First of all, my Life Application Bible states, “During the exile when the Jews no longer had their Temple, synagogues were established as places of worship on the Sabbath and as schools for young boys during the week. [They] continued to exist even after the Temple was rebuilt.”

So, verse 16 states that Jesus “went as usual”.

Just for review, who is Jesus? He is fully God and fully man. Do you think that God needed to go to worship? And if you really give it some thought, wouldn’t His local synagogue had been a little sub-par, especially when compared to the majesty of heaven? But He went “as usual”.

Hebrews 10:25 encourages us by saying

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. NLT

Sunday is coming – and if Sunday doesn’t work others meet on Saturday night. Find yourself a place to set down the burdens you carry every day. Jesus will welcome you with open arms! Don’t miss out!

November 30, 2019

Blameless and Pressing On

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today’s writer is appearing here for the first time. Tina Clark “a children’s minister and writer with a passion for seeing kids and their families grow in their faith and finding their purpose in the world.” Her blog is titled The Kidmin Journey.

Weekend Word: The Fear of Falling Short

Read: 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

Today’s Scripture: He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:8)

During the announcements at church the last few weeks, we’ve watched a video about a man running a race. In the video, the man injures his leg. Instead of giving up all hope of finishing the race, he gets back up and limps toward the finish.

With still a long way to go, another man notices the injured runner and jogs to his side. With the help of the uninjured man, our runner makes it to the finish line.

The video was an illustration about helping missionaries by giving to missions, but when I saw it, it also reminded me of Christ. When we fail, fall short, or struggle through difficulty, Jesus is by our side to help us push through.

In the Bible, the apostle Paul often describes life as a race (1 Cor. 9:24, 2 Tim. 4:7). He talks about pressing on toward eternity with Christ.

But it can sometimes feel like a long race, and there are plenty of chances along the way to stumble and fall. Plenty of opportunities to sin and fall short. How can we remain blameless to the end? That seems like a tall order.

It’s easy for me to fall into this train of thought. Maybe it is for you, too. But it’s not helpful or true, and we can thankfully challenge this line of thinking.

You see, we know that salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). It’s a gift of God, not of works. But even though we know this, we can still battle fears of coming up short. Because we live in this imperfect world and still sin despite our best intentions, our sin can lead us to believe that we don’t belong in God’s presence.

Be honest with yourself for a minute and ask yourself if you harbor these fears. If you don’t, that’s great. But if you do, even though you know you’ve been saved by grace, you’re not the only one to feel that way. Perhaps more of us feel that way than we let on.

Take a look at 1 Corinthians 1:8 again. Running the race isn’t about you keeping yourself blameless. It’s about God keeping you blameless.

The word “blameless” here means “not to be called to account.” It doesn’t mean that you haven’t sinned. It means that you aren’t “convictable” for your sin. If you belong to Jesus, your sin won’t be held against you when you stand before God in the end. His death and resurrection already has it covered.

Pressing on until the end can be difficult. But when you feel weak, when you stumble and fall, or when you’re weighed down by guilt, Jesus comes alongside you to give you the strength to keep running the race.

And when He brings you to the end, you’ll stand blameless before Him. Not by your own merit, but by the grace given to you by Jesus’ sacrificial gift. Whenever guilt tries to condemn you, remind yourself of this simple truth.

Today’s Thoughts: Do you still harbor fears about being in God’s presence even though you know your sin is forgiven? Are you afraid that by the time you stand before God, you’ll come up short? How can knowing that God can keep you blameless and strengthen you to the end help you release that burden?


[Today’s devotion about running the race is a part of the Weekend Word devotional series. Check Tina’s blog every Saturday for fresh insights from God’s Word, or follow via email or WordPress to have content sent straight to your inbox.]

November 29, 2019

Bad Behavior: An Embarrassing Fashion Choice

This is our sixth time with a writer who we haven’t included in several years: Blake Coffee at Church Whisperer (churchwhisperer.com). Click the header below to read at source.

Christians Behaving Badly

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:8-10

Another week and lots of new opportunities to see social media lit up with examples of Christians behaving badly, saying hateful things…about other Christians. You know what’s sad? This blog post can stay up for years and that opening sentence will still be perfectly timely and relevant. Oh, how we make embarrassing choices over and over again. And social media seems perfectly designed to help us shine the brightest of lights on those embarrassing choices. Is it just me, or has social media become the newest highway for our road rage? The temptation to make embarrassing choices is just too great for many of us.

Embarrassing Fashion Choices

I’ve lost track of how many reality TV shows there are about fashion makeovers. Well, that’s not true. I’m certain I never did have any handle on that count. But you know the formula for them: some unsuspecting soul is suddenly put into what amounts to a fashion intervention by well-meaning friends or family. The fashion “experts” come in and go through the person’s closet and ridicule them for all the horrible fashions represented there. A miraculous transformation ensues, and that person is a new person as a result. May it never happen to you or to me.

But the truth is, we all have worn things in the past which we would be thoroughly embarrassed to wear today (e.g., take a look at the wedding pictures of anyone married in the 70s or 80s). To put those things on today and be seen in them would be, well, pretty horrible. I’m not going to admit anything here, but let’s just say that, in matters of fashion choices, I’m familiar with sentiments like: “Dad! No! We’ve talked about this!”

This, I believe, is a near-perfect illustration for the discipline of living “in the Spirit”.

Life in the Spirit

In his writing, the Apostle Paul talks often about the discipline of living in the Spirit. He sometimes compares it to what we might call making embarrassing fashion choices. In his letter to the Colossians, he takes a stroll through our spiritual closets filled with “old stuff” and says, “throw this away”, “get rid of that”, and “never wear that again”. He is talking about Christians behaving badly. Paul recognizes that there are some old ways about us, some things that fit our old nature just fine but that look completely ridiculous on us now, and we need to just get rid of them. In their place, we need to don the clothes that fit our new nature. We need to “wear” things that allow the Spirit Who lives in us to shine through. It is not changing our behavior in order to be a Christ follower, it is changing our behavior because we are a Christ follower. It is simply putting away our old ways and taking on the look that the Spirit of God portrays through us.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

A Better Look, a Better Way of Being

In typical Paul fashion, he moves from the big theological picture down to the blatantly practical pretty quickly. He hits Christians behaving badly right between the eyes. Paul, in a few words, writes the Christian’s social media policy for us. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. In a typically grueling way, God’s Word peeks into our closets and calls us out. As embarrassing as the process can be sometimes, you have to admit, the new look is worth pursuing. It suits you. It is a great look for you and for me…and for Christians everywhere.

© Christian Unity Ministries; used by permission

 

 

November 27, 2019

Don’t Say What You’ll Never Do

Today’s article comes from a blog I’ve linked to at Thinking Out Loud, but not here. “Gospel Taboo is a contributor-based platform that provides articles as resources and biblical counseling opportunities.” The author of this piece is Rebekah Hannah. The header below is a link to the article at its original source.

Never Say Never

The older I get, the less I have to say. I find words and phrases get eliminated from my vocabulary over time. God slowly and kindly shrinks my words with his Spirit, wisdom and small bits of experience. Whether it’s particular, embarrassing things I’ve said that can’t be erased from memory or just my regular, daily idiotic thoughts, the Lord slowly morphs and renews my thinking. Recently, there’s a common phrase that’s been utterly and completely taken out of my lexicon.

I will never. 

There. I admit it. Only problem now is I’m saying, “I will never say ‘I will never.”

Right now, I’m living with two giant “I will nevers.” But God is using these “nevers” to change me in very specific ways. He’s showing me that my “nevers” are a form of boasting that I must repent over. In this process of transferring my “nevers” over to “Lord, help me trust you,” God is leveraging my old “nevers” for my now good.

When God changes our proclamations to supplications, he teaches us several things.

He teaches humility. 

When we’re corrected and have to go back on things we’ve said, humility grows. It teaches us that we don’t know everything. We can’t predict the future, but there’s One who can. He teaches meekness through our lack of control over our own futures. I can honestly and wholeheartedly mean “I will never” do this or that, but 10 years later I may indeed find myself doing that very thing. I’m unable to determine my future self’s ultimate well-being (Prov 16:9). I can’t know where I’m going to be 10 minutes from now, much less 10 days, 10 months or 10 years from now. But God can.

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Proverbs 27:1

He teaches human limits. 

Of course, humility is about me knowing my finite limits. I was not at the beginning of the world nor do I have control over the air I breathe. I rely solely on the One who created me, gave me air and knows the number of my days. How dare I declare “I will never.” To do so is to proclaim a foolish likeness to God in his timelessness. Of course, this is irrational. To know I have limits causes me to cast my eyes on the One who has none.

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:14-15)

He teaches grace.

Saying “I will never” and later having to shove those words back into my mouth teaches me about the gaping hole only grace can fill. Because God shows me how little I know and control, there’s a deeper understanding of my need for grace. Grace says God gives me everything I need. He provides help for my small capacities and inabilities, my misunderstandings and shortcomings. This kindness is then available for me to give to others. If I know God leads, guides and allows us all to do and be different, how does this change how I react to others? It teaches me to withhold judgement on things I cannot know everything about, because I’m not God.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Heb 4:16

He teaches his preeminence. 

Anytime I’ve proclaimed, “I will never,” God was sitting on his throne. And guess what . . . he knew I absolutely would do whatever my never was. When we say I will never do this or I will never go there, we are displaying foolishness as God preeminently resides in greatness. He is infinite. He has no boundaries in knowledge. He is all-wise. He sees all things. He is the beginning and the end. To say, “I will never,” is to have a small reverence for a God who easily says, “Yes you will.”

God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. Psalm 47:8 

He teaches eternity. 

God teaching about eternity is his love on display for us. To teach an eternal perspective is to teach how to survive in a world that is not my forever home. It gives me something to cling to, to look forward to when things go haywire here. God knows that to persevere in our insufferable world, I must know and believe what he promises will come. Enter eternity. I can’t tell you where I’ll live, what I’ll be doing or what my life will look like, but I can acknowledge my certain hope in God’s eternal plan. Refraining from “will nevers” makes me look for what I can know. Eternal good with Jesus, my Savior, my Joy, my Hope is an absolute certainty (Heb 6:19).

. . . for the sake of the faith of God’s elect . . . in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began . . . Titus 1:1b-2

We have a good Father who loves to give good things (Matt 7:11). For me, he’s leveraged my “nevers” to teach me some of these good things. He gives me exactly what I need, puts me exactly where I need to be and plans my life better than I do. Our God is always faithful, even in our foolish “nevers.”

Questions for Reflection: 

1.    What have you said “never” about?

2.    How can you acknowledge your smallness before God so as to worship his greatness?

3.    What are some ways to give up your illusion of control in your life?

4.    Do you worry about today more than you think on eternity with Jesus?

5.    What are some practical ways you can spend more time thinking God for having control over your life?

November 26, 2019

Being Christ-Like May Involve More Than You Imagine

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7, ESV)

I urge you, then, be imitators of me. (1 Cor 4:16, ESV)

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ… (1 Cor 11:16, ESV)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. (Ephesians 5:1, ESV)

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19, NIV)

This is our eighth time at the blog with the inauspicious title, Done With Religion. This time the author is Jim Gordon. Click the header below to read at source.

Being Christ-like

We often talk about being like Jesus, or living a Christ-like life. What does that really entail?

My first thought is being like Jesus does not necessarily mean imitating Jesus. I think that is something that is close but a little different. Imitating, according to the dictionary means to mimic; impersonate; to make a copy of; to have or assume the appearance of. Some of this can be understood to be good, but I feel it takes away from our own identity and the way we were made as individuals.

I do not think being Christ-like means we are going to do everything we read in the gospels just like Jesus. It may mean we do things that are not popular or accepted by everyone, but we do them as the Spirit leads us, not because we are imitating exactly what Jesus did.

Most of us probably will not go to a Jewish synagogue and overturn tables. We may not walk all over the country healing people and raising the dead. We may never face being stoned and we may not have to deal directly with the spiritual or political leaders of our day.

What it might mean is, some of us may leave the church system because it is man-controlled with its doctrines and various interpretations of the bible. This will cause us to walk in the wilderness outside the walls of religion. It may mean being shunned by those still within the system. Yet we still have the Spirit living within us and who will never leave us.

Some of us may disassociate ourselves from politics. In the U.S.A. many people think being Christian means being republican. Jesus did not seem to associate himself with any political party of his time. He respected them by saying give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. Yet, Jesus goals and purposes were far beyond anything political.

Some may join an LGBTQ organization to show support, or work with race, gender or nationality relations. It may mean participating with and helping people that others would rather ignore. We want to help provide understanding and acceptance among people no matter what label they wear. Doing so may be misunderstood by others and may cause us to be cut off from friends or family who see things differently.

No matter how the Spirit leads us, I believe being like Jesus will be going about the Father’s business. That is to show love and not judgment and condemnation. It is encouraging, loving, building up and accepting people just as they are. Jesus came to our world to show us that God is not a God of hate, condemnation, murder and exclusiveness. God is love and a god of acceptance, inclusiveness and a god that walks side by side with us through everything we go through in this world.

We are all different. We each have our own personality, interests and special ways of living life. I think being like Jesus will be different as God works in the uniqueness of us. Being like Jesus will be different things to different people, but it will all be done by following the Spirit of Christ from within us. It will be a life of love for God and love for people each and every day.

November 24, 2019

The Bible on Punctuality and Lateness

As I sat down to dinner just now, I realized that I had missed my usual 5:32 PM (EST) posting time for Christianity 201. (Sometime, I’ll have to explain why it’s usually 5:33, or 5:32.) I had sat down at my computer to do this several hours earlier, but got distracted by another online project, which actually isn’t due until tomorrow. So it seems fitting to look at this subject!

GotQuestions.org has covered this in two different articles. We’ll look at excerpts from each, but you must click the headers below to read them in full!

What does the Bible say about punctuality?

…Punctual people build trust with others because they are dependable. Punctuality is a way of showing respect for other people and their time. It also indicates to those meeting with us that they were worth planning ahead. We communicate value to others when we are where we said we would be when we said we would be there. Punctuality is a form of trustworthiness that can help build a good reputation.

Punctuality, or the lack of it, is a character trait that tells other people how dependable we are. The unpunctual may consider their chronic tardiness unavoidable (“That’s just how I am!”). But, while the unpunctual may not realize it, their continued lateness stems from a combination of pride and lack of time management skills. Chronically late people have subconsciously adopted a perspective that says, “I’m important enough that others will wait for me.” It communicates to those who must wait that their schedules are not a priority. So making it a point to be punctual is a way of obeying the Scriptures that tell us to consider others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3–4).

…Punctuality is also a byproduct of the spiritual fruit of self-control (Galatians 5:22). Self-control requires that we be proactive about our choices and our schedules. Rather than reacting to unexpected events, punctual people have already allowed for the unexpected by allotting extra time for such an occurrence. The unpunctual are usually procrastinators, leaving too many last-minute tasks that must be completed before moving to the next one. By contrast, punctual people are planners who give attention to future events and the time required to honor their commitments. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Diligent people are usually punctual because wise time management is required to accomplish their goals.

While all of us will be late from time to time, punctual people are bothered by their own tardiness and do not let it become a habit. Chronically late people, however, have developed an indifference to the problems caused by their continued lateness. Although they apologize and feign regret, they don’t take the necessary steps to change it. The chronically tardy may never know the opportunities, relationships, and responsibilities they forfeited because they could not be counted on to be there. Those who’ve known them for long enough to notice their lack of punctuality simply stop asking for their help…

What does the Bible say about being late or lateness?

…[I]f someone is habitually late and unconcerned about being on time, especially if that person professes to be a Christian, then scriptural principles do apply. As with all things, God looks at the heart, “for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

For one thing, continual lateness does not express love for others. Forcing others to wait for us time after time is simply rude. Christians are to love one another and love our enemies as well, and “love is not rude” (1 Corinthians 13:5). When others perceive that we are unloving and unconcerned about them, our reputations as Christians suffer. “A good name is better than precious ointment” (Ecclesiastes 7:1). A good name, a good reputation is important for a Christian. This means that we should be known as people of our word, trustworthy and dependable, and not be known as always late, slothful, or unconcerned about others. Our actions as Christians point back at Christ. Do they glorify Him? Do they bring Him honor? “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).

Furthermore, as Christians we never want to cause someone else to sin. Constantly being forced to wait for someone can be very aggravating, especially to those who make an effort to be on time. Minor irritation can easily become anger, which can easily become sin, and we are never to be the cause of someone else’s sin. “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come’” (Luke 17:1).

Waiting can not only be frustrating, but it causes unnecessary stress and wasted time for the person that has to wait. Christians are exhorted by Paul to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). The perpetually late person does not consider others’ time as more important than his own. Most habitual late-comers are concerned only with themselves. Continually being late does not communicate a zeal or diligence in serving Christ by loving others as He loves us. It also does not communicate faithfulness or trustworthiness…

 

November 18, 2019

God is Sovereign Over Suffering

Today we have a new writer. Pastor Matthew Rickett leads Antioch Baptist Church in Portland, Tennessee in the U.S. He posts occasional devotional articles at the church website. Clicking the header below will take you directly to today’s article.

Our Faithful Creator

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” 1 Pet 4:19

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. All of it is profitable. Yet, some verses become elevated in our thinking because of the promises they contain, or because they speak to a certain season in our life, or because they succinctly declare Gospel truth. Unfortunately, other verses can get overlooked, though they are just as inspired, just as wonderful, and just as powerful. 1 Pet 4:19 is one of those verses. We touched on it briefly this past Sunday when discussing the context of our passage. I encourage you to read 1 Peter this week. Meditate on it. Especially 1 Peter 4:19. Why?

  1. It Affirms that Suffering is a Normal Part of the Christian Experience. Don’t be surprised by suffering. Why are these things happening to me? Why now? Why this? Why me? Don’t be surprised by suffering, says Peter (4:12). Suffering is never scheduled. It is never convenient. But, according to Christ, it is to be expected. Peter reaffirms this in this little letter. This verse brings to conclusion Peter’s thoughts on suffering by telling us how to react: Entrust your soul to a faithful Creator and continue to do good. I can’t answer, “Why?” But I can answer, “How.” God has not left us without instruction for the rainy season.
  1. It Affirms that God is Sovereign Over Suffering. Peter makes a clear distinction: You can suffer as a consequence of your sin (ex. drunkenness will lead to vomiting and hangovers. Gross.). Or, suffering might seemingly come from nowhere. Peter says, that the latter is according to God’s will. It’s shocking to think that suffering might actually be God’s will. Today, we are often told that God wants you to be happy, fed, and blessed. But, suffering is a part of God’s redemptive purposes, and as such, he is sovereign over it. Not a hair on your head will fall without the Creator’s signature to allow it. But, he often does allow it. This is ultimately for your good and for his glory. Jesus suffered. You were saved as a result.
  1. It Affirms that God is Faithful. God is faithful. He has saved you. He has redeemed you. He has forgiven you. He has declared you righteous. He has sealed you with the Holy Spirit. He has adopted you. He has accepted you. He has purified you. Why would he let you down now? When has God ever failed you? When has God ever not been there? When has God ever turned his back on you? When has God ever left you? Point: God is faithful. His steadfast love endures forever. You can entrust your soul to God because he is always, and has always been, faithful.
  1. It Affirms that God is Creator. God is your creator. He is omnipotent, even in the midst of our suffering. Often, our circumstances or our trials rule our thoughts. They become big and God becomes small. Flip it. God created man from dust and breathed into him the breath of life. Your situation does not have that power. Suffering creates in our minds the thought that this (whatever this might be) is too powerful to overcome, too strong, too mighty. Peter, on the other hand, reminds us that God created all things ex nihilo, what is too much for the God who creates?
  1. It affirms that Our Actions and Our Thoughts Precede Our Feelings. Suffer, says Peter, while doing good. You might not feel like doing good, but that’s exactly the point. Anxiety is a feeling- it’s a physiological response to our thoughts. When that response is triggered, anxiety takes over and we live our lives around this feeling. Peter is clear- we may not feel like doing good, but do it anyway. Your anxiety might be telling you to worry about this or that, but tell yourself the truth. To simplify: Tell yourself the truth of Scripture, do good… and eventually, the feelings will follow. Follow your heart? Nah, man… Follow the Word. Do the Word. Your heart will catch up.

Meditate on God’s Word this week. Commit this passage to memory. Open the Word- you might just find hidden treasures.

November 13, 2019

Playing ‘Parishioner of the Week’ at Church

NIV James 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6a But you have dishonored the poor…

I remember the first time I encountered this verse. I attended a large church at the time, and there was a couple in the church who would always arrive five minutes late, which was rare in that church culture. The service would start at 11:00 AM with the call to worship, the invocation and the opening prayer; and then either just before or just after the opening hymn, this man and his wife would walk in and be escorted by an usher to a seat near the front that had been kept for them.

Imagine my surprise when someone older and more cynical (but as I later realized, surprisingly accurate) told me that their late arrival was on purpose. That the whole point of their apparent tardiness was to create the grand entrance that I witnessed each week. To be seen. To be known.

In that stage of my life I would later move on to a succession of four much smaller churches, and I could say with all honesty that this problem didn’t apply in those churches. At least not as far as I could see. But it’s not unique by any means.

The problem of favoritism toward the rich obviously was an early church problem. I remember encountering these verses from Ken Taylor’s classic original Living Bible:

LB Romans 14:1 Give a warm welcome to any brother who wants to join you, even though his faith is weak. Don’t criticize him for having different ideas from yours about what is right and wrong.

The second half of this verse has been used to shut down all discussion of doctrinal matters, which I don’t believe is the intent. The first part has been the subject of what it means to be “the brother of weaker faith” and how it is often new believers (starters) who are prone to religiosity and legalism.

The point is not have a bias against people whose doctrinal interpretation is different on secondary matters.

Both the James and Romans passage remind us that in the church we do tend to give privilege and ministry opportunity to people who are (a) in positions of socioeconomic high standing and (b) people who we’ve already ascertained ahead of time will agree with us on matters of doctrine.

The two areas of potential transgression are simply horses of a different color. It’s all about showing preference to person “A” and indifference to person “B.”

In our world, we have people moving through our churches who come from a variety of backgrounds. It’s said that many millennials really don’t care whose franchise name is on the door. So our churches today you might find Calvinists and Arminians sitting side-by-side, egalitarians and complementarians on the same church board, and pre-tribulation and post-tribulation interpreters sharing teaching duties on the same adult elective class or small group.

In our modern church we sometimes have a different, more subtle examples of bias and prejudice.

When it comes to fairness in any organization, the one thing the world detests is nepotism. The Oxford Diction defines nepotism as:

the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs

In a church environment, this may include unpaid volunteer positions, as well as salaried positions. (For the former, the reward occurs later in heaven, right?)

When Paul and James are telling the early church not to ignore those of weaker faith, or not to prefer the rich people, they are setting out rules. A rule is something that may apply to (a) only one people group, or (b) only one location, or (c) only at one time. But the statements about people with whom we have doctrinal differences, or ignoring the poor are simply examples. In scripture, rules always derive from principles.

And what is the principle?

The principle is simply not to show favoritism. To be so circumspect in all your dealings (and including dealing with the processes of hiring or appointing ministry leaders) as to not be seen as guilty of favoritism. To keep the process open and transparent. To keep accountability unbiased. To be willing to make the tough decisions if someone you’ve already placed in a position is falling short of the task required.

What’s true of churches also applies to Christians in leadership in a business or non-profit. It can apply to extended families. It can apply in neighborhoods…

…I don’t know who among us needed that today, but I hope it will stay with you in situations you find yourself this week.

CEB Deut. 16:19a Don’t delay justice; don’t show favoritism.

NIV Lev.19:15a Don’t delay justice; don’t show favoritism.

November 10, 2019

End of Life Revisions

(It’s a play on “end of life decisions.” Makes more sense after you read the article.)

As I said yesterday, Christianity 201 has been blessed over the years to feature Elsie Montgomery who writes at the blog Practical Faith. She is faithful in writing and consistent in terms of the content of what she posts. I’ve broken a rule here and have re-posted some recent things from her blog both yesterday and today. Visit the blog and click the headers for individual articles.

To-do list for old timers (and newcomers too)

Bette Midler once said regarding her body, “After fifty, it’s just maintenance, maintenance, maintenance.” Those in that age bracket will agree. However, I try not to focus on the state of my body since this is too easy the topic of conversation for us seniors. It tends to fill my head with a ‘me’ focus that is not healthy for my spiritual life.

At the end of 2 Peter, this disciple writes about focus as God’s people wait for the end of life and the return of Jesus Christ. He puts the focus on my spiritual state and gives me some practical assignments . . .

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him . . . You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ . . . . (2 Peter 3:14–18)

Be found by Him without spot or blemish. This isn’t about freckles or pimples but about sin. No one is sinless in this life, but keeping short accounts is possible. That is, God wants me to confess and forsake any sinful and selfish attitudes and actions as soon as I realize they are present. The benefits include continual fellowship with God and His people, having a child-like humility and attitude toward life, and a good night’s sleep!

Be at peace. No worrying. How is that even possible? For me, it means trusting the Lord with everything, and to do that, I must believe in His love and power. He is sovereign over this world and all that is in it. If not, I’d be in a stew about everything because nearly everything seems to be coming unraveled. Trusting the Lord means being able to take my burdens to Him and leave them in His care. I cannot do that without firmly believing He hears me and will answer my prayers. His answers may not be what I expect, but trust isn’t concerned about my thoughts and opinions, only about His loving wisdom.

Count patience as salvation. Peter also said that I’m to consider patience as a huge factor in salvation. Impatience is me trying to run things my way — and that is the essence of sin. Patience is evidence of faith, of knowing God is taking care of things and being okay with that. It is not an anxious ‘wait and see’ but a settled and peaceful yielding to His will.

Don’t get carried away. Spiritual maintenance includes standing firm on what I believe, not carried away by the teaching of those who have no regard for the basic principles of faith. The foundations of trust and obey, of knowing and believing, are the firm places. I don’t need to study error to know it — I only need to study truth.

Grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Last but not least I am to grow by studying Him, spending time with Him. Listening. Following His leading. Seeking His face. Reviewing and remembering His words. Doing whatever is necessary to deepen my relationship with this man who is God — who saved me for all eternity!

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Jesus, this is simple stuff for this old-timer, basic for those who are new to the faith, yet powerful. Doing the will of God is not as challenging as wanting to do the will of God. I must want to abandon the habits and old sinful ways and dictates of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Keep me close as I desire to stay close. I love You and want to bring You glory in this life and in the life to come!

Today’s thankful list . . .

– having basics to keep me growing and in God’s will.
– faith is practical!
– a good workout at the gym.
– motion detector light switches.
– time for a much-needed nap this afternoon.
– chicken tacos and salt-free chips.

 

November 7, 2019

Why God Isn’t Working In and Through You: A Checklist

A few weeks ago at Thinking Out Loud, I linked to the article that appears below from Charisma Magazine’s J. Lee Grady. He has been quoted, linked to, or excerpted at both blogs many times. Although we just had an article by him in August, I really wanted to share this one here. Click the title below to read at source.

There Are Some Types of Christians God Can’t Use

J. Lee Grady

About 17 years ago, I prayed the most dangerous prayer in the Bible while lying on the floor of my church near Orlando. I repeated these words from Isaiah 6:8: “Here am I. Send me.” Then I cringed. I knew God would “mess me up good” in order to use me to touch others for Christ.

I wanted God to use me, but I was painfully aware that we don’t just go out and start a ministry on our own terms. God bends and breaks those who speak for Him. He requires full surrender. I had to let go of fears, adjust attitudes and change priorities.

It has become popular today to suggest that God can use anybody. It’s true that He does not show favoritism based on race, age, gender, marital history, past failures or income status. Yet His standards have never been lowered; He only uses humble, obedient, consecrated followers.

Many Christians will never be useful in the kingdom because of mindsets or behaviors that limit the flow of the Holy Spirit or, as the apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:21a (KJV), “frustrate the grace of God.” I don’t ever want to frustrate His grace! If you want God to use you, make sure you don’t fall into any of these categories:

  1. Driver’s seat Christians. Jesus is not just our Savior; He is our Lord. He wants to guide our decisions, direct our steps and overrule our selfish choices. There are many believers who enjoy the benefits of salvation, yet they never yield control to God. If you want Him to use you, then you must slide over into the passenger seat and let Jesus drive. If you have a problem with willfulness, learn to pray: “Not my will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42b, MEV).
  2. Armchair critics. There are some people who roll up their sleeves and serve the Lord; there are others who make it their business to analyze and pick apart everyone who is doing God’s work. The devil is the accuser, so if you are accusing others, you are operating in the spirit of Lucifer. The Holy Spirit does not work through people who are bitter, angry or judgmental.
  3. Glass-half-empty pessimists. Many Christians today worry about what sinners are doing, and some spend hours trying to predict when the Antichrist will arise or when the world will end. Meanwhile there are other Christians who focus on winning lost people to Jesus and showing His compassion to a broken world. Who do you think will bear more spiritual fruit—the doomsday pessimist or the hopeful evangelist?
  4. Carnally minded Christians. It has become fashionable today for believers to lower the standard of moral behavior to the point that anything goes. Don’t be fooled. Just because more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon of sexual permissiveness doesn’t mean God has rewritten His eternal Word.

People who live in blatant sin cannot be instruments of the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 2:21 says clearly: “One who cleanses himself from these things will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, fit for the Master’s use, and prepared for every good work.” Our usefulness to God is based on whether we have submitted to the process of sanctification. Holiness is not an option.

  1. Church dropouts. I won’t win a popularity contest by saying this, but it’s true: God does not use people who have turned away from the church. Today it is fashionable to bash the church; some people have even established “ministries” to lure Christians away from church and into an isolated spiritual wilderness. Most of these church-bashers are bitter because they had a bad experience with a pastor.

I have only compassion for victims of spiritual abuse. But no one has the right to tear down the work of God just because a spiritual leader hurt him. The church is God’s plan A, and He does not have an alternative. If we are going to be used by God, we must get connected to the church and learn to flow with God-ordained leadership.

  1. Timid cowards. When Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus to pioneer the church there, he exhorted him to break free from fear. He wrote: “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Tim. 1:8a). Fear has the power to paralyze. All those who surrender to the call of God must bravely open their mouths, defend the faith, risk their reputation and suffer rejection—and possible persecution. If you are afraid to share the gospel, repent of your fear and ask God for holy boldness.
  2. Lazy spectators. Many Christians today think following God means clocking in for a 60-minute service before driving to the lake. We read quick devotions on our smart phones and breathe short prayers during our morning commutes. But somewhere in all this 21st-century stress, we lost the meaning of discipleship.

If you want God to use you, you must take His call seriously and become a focused student of His Word and a passionate prayer warrior. The apostles of the first century declared: ” But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Halfhearted people never changed the world. You must be devoted, committed and passionate if you want to make maximum spiritual impact.

November 6, 2019

Deep and Lasting Friendships Don’t Just Happen

NIV.Eccl.4.9 Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.

NIV.Prov.27.17 As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another.

Six months ago we shared something from the writing of Glenn Kaiser, a leader in the Jesus People USA community in Chicago which gave birth to Resurrection Band, Cornerstone Magazine and the Cornerstone Festival. Today we’re back with another one of his devotional pieces. Click the header below to read at source.

True Friendship!

Some years ago someone repeated to me what another person had stated about a third party. The sentiment was something like “He might sometimes drive me crazy but he’s the kind of person you want to have next to you in a foxhole.”

I get a long list of daily devotionals in my inbox most of which I read slowly through. Sometimes they seem to nail truth or at least open up a line of thought I find encouraging to consider. On occasion they spread open to a larger field of reality I think it good to share.

Here are three quotes on friendship.

  • “A true friend is the one who walks in when others walk out.”  -Walter Winchell

Boom. A few more thoughts on this in a moment, but I have several such friends and am SOOOOO grateful to God for them!

  • “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

True friendship costs and the sad truth is that plenty of people are not committed to one another enough to pay the bill.

Lastly a “Yes and No” on this quote:

  • “In true friendship, one can express anything and everything without feeling ashamed or afraid of being rejected.” -Aparna Chatterjee

I agree but counter and add that even when you do feel ashamed a true friend is one you can still express anything to and not fear being rejected.

These kinds of deep and especially lasting friendships don’t just “happen”. They take real investment of time, effort, forgiveness, agreeing to disagree but not terminating the relationship easily. Actual continual physical abuse and life and death matters are another matter entirely and certainly friendship with such a person is not what I’m taking about.

Some of us are so insecure and/or arrogant, at times we’re just not willing to build truly deep and close alliances, maybe even a sort of coalition. This does not mean full agreement in every area but enough that you still reach out, respect, actually hang out willingly with one another.

The lack of such commitment to mutual friendship contributes to extreme polarization which can and often does happen. I believe this an element of why our world is often quite mean, impatient, fractured, even brutal to the extent of breeding outright hatred in our times.

How easily do you “send ’em packing”, just dump a friend? Whether or not you agree on everything (you don’t and won’t) what sort of friend are you when they’re hurting? How willing are you to point them in directions that may bring them needed help and perhaps relief from issues they’re plagued with?

Are you simply a friend of convenience- they have some of what you want so you hang out to take not so much share and/or give?

Some of the amazing reality of God is He already knows everything about you and knows the depth, importance, right or wrong, good for you or self-destructive, He’s down with it all -and still loves you. He doesn’t always agree with your choices but Jesus didn’t come to a world of people who all full-on agreed with Him, gave/give a rip about God or even care much for others. He came for all sinners -meaning you, me, all of us!

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” -Jesus in John 15.12,13

We may split from others, might run away from Jesus but He never left. While we were yet sinners… hmmm… He died for us. HE laid down His life for us. That’s the sort of friendship I’m talking about!

When nobody else is around -He is.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am for my Best Friend.

God help us learn to love and cultivate, indeed sacrifice to become the sort of friends Jesus calls us to be for others. And Thank You Lord for such friends!

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