Christianity 201

February 24, 2015

A Cross-Carrying Kind of Life

cross at Grace ChurchThis is one of two posts in a series by Deb Wolf who blogs at Counting My Blessings. This is her third time appearing here at Christianity 201 and we do appreciate the work she does on her site; the tag line is “Encouraging you with stories of faith, hope and love.” Click the title below to read at source and/or read part two, “Jesus Answer to the Fear of Cross-Carrying.

When You Don’t Want a Cross-Carrying Kind of Faith

There is a verse in the Bible that did anything but give me peace and contentment. I tried to pretend I was obedient, but my heart knew it terrified me.

Then He [Jesus] called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:34–35

[Last Wednesday] was Ash Wednesday—the beginning of Lent. For the next six and a half weeks followers of Jesus will fast, pray, and ponder His journey to the cross.

Followers who are called to deny themselves, carry their cross, trust and obey . . . lose their life for Jesus.

I didn’t want to carry my cross. I liked my comfortable safe life. Sure there were some problems and pain, but life—my life, my kid’s lives, my husband’s life, complete trust and obedience . . . what could happen to a life lost to cross carrying.

My doctor and a counselor said I was “high-strung,” anxious.

Lack of Faith

I knew I was a fear-filled worrier. Seriously, I turned worry into an art form. Not surprising. Look around. Have you seen all the truly terrible things that can happen?

I didn’t want to admit it, but I knew it was lack of faith.

But that verse and others like it:

But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” Acts 9:15–16

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps. 1 Peter 2:21

 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. Matthew 10:38

Giving Up Fear for Faith

“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith . . . I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

It’s true. In this world there will be trials and sorrows. Worry doesn’t prevent it. Fear won’t keep it out of reach.

Trials and sorrows did happen, but.

What a small yet important word.

“You will have trials and sorrows. But take heart, because.

Take heart [don’t lose your faith], because…

I have overcome the world
I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.
Be sure of this: I am with you always.

Through trials and sorrows Jesus was faithful, and because of His faithfulness my faith grew. Faith that was greater than my fear. Faith that was impossible when I focused on my fears, but grew when I kept my eyes on Jesus.

Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1–2

October 5, 2014

Mountains You’re Facing

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A year ago we introduced you to Chris Hendrix at the blog Devotions By Chris. We returned for a visit and found the piece included below, but we’ve also borrowed another resource from his blog, a list of ten healing scriptures, and as we consider the mountains people face, perhaps that’s the obstacle that you or someone close to you is facing. I also liked this particular devotional because it reminds me how much of my understanding of key scripture verses is shaped by the King James rendering I learned in my younger days, and how I now just speed by these verses because I think I know them.  To read the two posts below at source, which you’re encouraged to do, just click the titles below.

Mountains To Molehills

One of the songs we used to sing at church came from Zechariah 4:6-7. It went, “Not by might. Not by power, but by my spirit sayeth The Lord. This mountain shall be removed by my spirit sayeth The Lord.” I remember wondering what the deeper meaning of that scripture song was. As a child, I didn’t have the capacity to understand it, but I sang it with all of my heart. I had no idea those scripture songs would come back to life in my mind years later.

As I read those verses recently, I started reading them in different translations. An angel was showing Zechariah things in the spirit realm. One of the things he saw was a lamp stand made of gold with a bowl for oil and seven lights with spouts down to the bowl of oil. There were two olive trees on either side of the lamp stand where the bowl was getting its oil from. Zechariah asked the angel what it meant.

In the Message version, the angel replied, “You can’t force these things. They only come about through my Spirit. So, big mountain, who do you think you are? You’re nothing but a molehill.” In my own life, I’ve been known to force things to make them happen. I tell myself, “If things aren’t happening, make them happen.” I pride myself on my determination to get things done. If there’s a brick wall I can’t get over, I do what I can to knock it down. I don’t let it stand in my way. I’m learning that I can’t force things that God wants to do in His timing.

In the Amplified translation, the angel replied, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit of whom the oil is a symbol, says The Lord of Hosts. For who are you, O great mountain of human obstacles? You shall become a plain. A mere molehill.” Here I see that we have to stay plugged in to God’s Spirit. The oil feeds the lamp and keeps it burning. The bowl was connected to the olive trees so it wouldn’t run out. Our connection to God gives us the strength to get past the obstacles in our lives created by ourselves or others. It’s not by anything we do, but only through Him that we will succeed.

In the Good News Bible translation, the angel replied, “You will succeed, not by military might or by your own strength, but by my Spirit. Obstacles as great as mountains will disappear before you.” I like this one because when we face mountains in our lives, we wonder if we will ever get past them. Here, God reminds us that we will be successful and it won’t be dependent on anything we do. It’s through Him that we will be successful. When we realize that, the mountains in our lives will no longer look like mountains because of our perspective. A mountain is tiny in God’s eyes.

Whatever mountain stands in your way today, know that you will be successful in getting past it, but it won’t be because of your own strength. It won’t be because you forced your way through it. You will succeed because you are tapped into God’s Spirit and recognize His strength in your life. When you give up your strength and tactics to accept His, you will see those obstacles in your way disappear and become mere molehills. Trust in God today and get into His Word so you have oil in your lamp to see what He is about to do for you.


10 Scriptures On Healing

1. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. (Psalms 103:3 NLT)

2. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. (Psalm 107:20 ESV)

3. O LORD, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone! (Jeremiah 17:14 NLT)

4. Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone. (Luke 6:19 NLT)

5. For though he wounds, he also bandages. He strikes, but his hands also heal. (Job 5:18 NLT)

6. Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.” (Mark 5:34 MSG)

7. He heals the broken-hearted and bandages their wounds. (Psalms 147:3 GNB)

8. If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 AMP)

9. Through the middle of the broadway of the city; also, on either side of the river was the tree of life with its twelve varieties of fruit, yielding each month its fresh crop; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing and the restoration of the nations. [Gen. 2:9.] (Revelation 22:2 AMP)

10. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole. (Isaiah 53:5 AMP)

November 20, 2013

Spiritual Day-Trading

On Monday night at the small group Bible study we attend, we were talking about the “progress” we are making on our Christian pilgrimage, and the tendency to sense wild fluctuations in our spiritual “temperature” on an hour-by-hour, minute-to-minute basis. One of the guys in the group felt his spiritual life is subject to swings like the stock market, and then I compared this with our desire to gauge our spirituality in the micro-short-term as “spiritual day-traders.” Day-traders are people who buy stocks and often sell them within the hour (or less) for a quick profit.

While I think some of us are spiritual day-traders, I worry about using words like “progress” or spiritual “temperature” because this tends to quantify our spiritual life. True, it seems like some days are “one step forward, and two step backwards,” but we wouldn’t quantify a relationship with a parent or a spouse; we wouldn’t say, “Well, yesterday was definitely a 8.3, but today has been more like a 7.6” or people would just laugh!

As I considered some application to this, I noted that on Monday, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber had written on seeing “the big picture” in the light of tragedy and calamity such as befallen the people in The Philippines. I realized that in all areas of life, we need to get the “macro” view and see things as God sees them.  Click here to read “The Big Picture”

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“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17,18).

Today we consider the continued agony in the Philippines and more recently the tornadoes in the Midwest. These are large events that make the news. But we consider the accumulative burden of heartache scores of people are enduring today. Physical affliction, wayward children, broken marriages. Then we consider our brothers and sisters enduring persecution. We just read an article about Saeed Abedini, who is imprisoned in Iran and his desperate situation. link

“For our light and momentary troubles.” What kind of light and momentary troubles are you dealing with today? In the daily text Paul is writing of troubles that would rival or surpass our most difficult experiences in life. He had written a few verses previous to this: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11).

The point he is making is a matter of perspective, of seeing the big picture. These troubles are “light and momentary” in comparison to the ultimate eternal glories of heaven. We might argue that they sure don’t seem light and momentary at the time we’re experiencing them! Some of these troubles are constant or recurring and weigh heavy on our hearts.

Yet we need to embed this truth deep in our hearts, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” These troubles are fulfilling a purpose ordained by God, achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. The three letter word, “all” encompasses the multiple “light and momentary troubles” we continually experience as trials on this side of eternity.

The “eternal glory” must be the ultimate guide by which we view all that happens to us personally or in the world about us. We must live for “there and then”, not just “here and now”.  It’s something I’ve learned theologically and know in my heart to be true but need to constantly remind myself. As a believer in Christ I must remember that my times are in His hands. With my eyes I see only the physical present, but in my spirit I must always contend for the future eternal reward.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” The big picture is so powerfully expressed by the Apostle Paul in this passage.  I’ve memorized it and even now, through eyes of faith, rejoice in its truth.  But it only pertains to people of faith in Jesus Christ. People without faith are blind to the big picture. Understanding the bigger picture begins when we commit our lives to Christ. Have you done that?

Here’s a prayer of faith that essentially begins the journey of seeing beyond this immediate life to receiving the promised eternal life through God’s plan of salvation. If you have not done so already I urge you to pray this prayer from your heart today.  And if you have done so join me in reaffirming your commitment to Christ today.

“Lord Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner.  I believe that You came to this earth and died on the cross as a substitute for me.  I place my faith in You and what You have done for me.  I receive You into my life and choose this day to follow and serve You.  Thank You for hearing my prayer.”

Daily prayer: Father, there is much that we can learn from our temporal problems here on earth that better prepares us for eternity.  As we work through these troubles, they enable us to have the mind of Christ so that attitudes reflecting the fruit of the Spirit become a spontaneous response to the difficulties that challenge us daily.  Just as light, soil, air and moisture are requirements for growth in vegetation so must faith, prayer, self-denial and persistence in obeying God’s Holy Word be requirements for growth in our Christian walk. Help us not to become so caught up in viewing our daily challenges from an earthly perspective that we lose the view of our future home in heaven following the storms we weather here below. We stand in the strength of the Lord Jesus and in the power of His might. Amen.

 

Stephen and Brooksyne also ask for prayer for their daughter Ester, who is recovering from open heart surgery to repair a previously installed pacemaker.

June 7, 2010

Will You Be Remembered?

Christian music was very influencial in my spiritual formation.   Some of those early “Jesus Music” recordings were the gateway through which I learned many elements of doctrine and theology, and it was significant in my appreciation of reading Christian literature.

The last few days have brought the passing of two veterans of that music, Dana Key (of DeGarmo & Key) and Kevin Thomson (of Sweet Comfort Band) so this devotional from Daily Encouragement — originally written for the U.S. Memorial Day — seemed most appropriate:

“A righteous man will be remembered forever” (Psalm 112:6).

Memorial Day was initially set aside to remember those who died at war but it has been extended as a time to remember all deceased loved ones. Many visit the graves of family members as an expression of lasting remembrance as they visibly show their honor and affection.

Yet for many, perhaps most, there will be little remembrance, but merely another long weekend and the unofficial start of summer. Plenty of picnics, swimming, partying, drinking and driving! So many live their lives only for the present, giving little thought to the past or their future.

We need to hear what the Apostle James says, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Nearly 2,000 years have passed since Jesus said, “I will build my church.” Our life will only comprise a small fraction of that period of time (about 4% of it). That’s pretty humbling isn’t it? And if you go all the way back to creation it’s an even smaller percentage.

But Psalm 112 gives a broader and more lasting perspective of this fleeting life. It extols the blessings of the man who “fears the Lord and finds great delight in His commands” (verse 1). Oh, that our hearts would yearn for the lasting value that comes from implementing God’s commands more than seeking after the temporal value of worldly goods or the glitz of fame, power or glamour. The Psalmist also wrote, “I love Your commands more than gold, more than pure gold…Your statutes are wonderful, therefore I will obey them” (Psalm 119:127,129).

Our text today is, “A righteous man will be remembered forever.” Read that again slowly. How do we become righteous? Certainly it is not attainable within ourselves, for we know all too well our natural inclination to sin. But following our salvation experience we choose to follow God’s commands.  It is then that we see the effectiveness and fruitful outflow of His principles and guidance in our lives and it develops a righteous heart within us. It is Jesus’ righteousness imputed in us that makes the difference. We no longer feel that we “have to” follow His commands but we “want to”. Our heart’s desires align our will with His and we seek to be like Jesus.

The vast majority of human beings who lived in 1850 are long forgotten. But there are various reasons people are remembered long after their death such as:

• Evil lives
• Significant inventions
• Literary works
• National leadership

But the highest form of remembrance that all of us can have is our devotion to God and our service for Him. Even though only a small portion of Christ’s followers are remembered on this side, generations will follow their example and leave similar legacies of righteous living.

Today we challenge you to be remembered for:
• The spiritual, Christ focused impact you are making presently.
• The godly, eternal legacy you will leave behind.

I want to be remembered today for what matters most. I want to follow Jesus Christ and seek to live as a righteous man according to His plan. “A righteous man will be remembered forever.” This is a promise I want to live by!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

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