Christianity 201

October 10, 2015

Running on Your Strength, Not God’s

Romans 8:13 For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.…

Today we pay a return visit to Zech Newman, who we’ve featured here before. In general, his blog is directed toward business entrepreneurs, but from a decidedly Christian perspective. In that world, “hustle” is the name of the game. It’s in that context that he wrote the following this summer; click the link below to read at source, and pass this site on to a business owner who might appreciate reading it regularly.

4 Signs You’re Into Works of the Flesh

There is a difference between hustling really hard and getting into works of the flesh. I am sure that like me you want to not only include God in your dreams and aspirations, but you want to do what He has for your life. It is quite simple to slip into works of the flesh and try to do things on our own strength. Heck it’s not just easy, but natural to operate in the works of the flesh. What feels unnatural to us is being led by the Spirit. Although this feels unnatural it is the only way to have true peace.

Getting into works of the flesh is a common problem for all of us. It is not cut and dry because you can be Spirit led and work really hard and can also barely work and be into works of the flesh. To help you on your journey here are 4 signs you’re into works of the flesh.

1. Out of priority. The moment we get out of alignment is a sign that we are into the flesh. Your priorities should be God, then spouse, kids, the body, and then your career. This is a life priority, not a time allocation. When you notice that you are out of priority quickly realign your life back into “balance.”

2. Jealousy/comparing. Both of these go hand in hand with each other. We compare to show how we are better than someone else or we compare to show how we are more “spiritual” than someone else. Comparing your hustle or work to others is a sure-fire sign that you are operating in the flesh. It is hard for me to not get into comparison and jealously. I often struggle with the thought of, “What does he have that I don’t?” When I have a thought like this, I am focused on myself and not on Christ.

3. Loss of peace. One of the attributes of being plugged into Christ is peace. No matter what the storm is in your life you can have peace. It is overwhelming and passes understanding, however, it is ever-present when you are plugged into the vine. It is an impossible peace to describe until you encounter it when everything around you is falling apart.

4. Mental weariness. When you are operating in the flesh you are trying to figure things out and rationalize life. The ways of God will not always make sense. Mental weariness comes in when we try to “figure it out.” Trusting God is moving when He says move and not going around and around in your mind. Get off the mar-a-go-round in your mind and trust God!

Galatians 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In the end, the moment we start to get frustrated is the point at which we move from working in the Spirit to working in the flesh. You can be working 100 hours in a week and be working in the Spirit or you can be working ten hours a week and be working in the flesh. Being led by God will have fruit that is of God. Not fruit of strife and confusion. If you are off the path get back on with Jesus.  Be blessed on your journey.

How do you recognize when you need to readjust? 


Go Deeper: Here is a message outline at Sermon Central on knowing the 17 Works of the Flesh (3 pages)

 

 

September 12, 2015

The Great Omission

Today we pay a return visit to Steven C. Mills of Steve’s Bible Meditations. (CEB refers to the Common English Bible, a newer translation that I also use frequently.) Click the title below to read this at source.

The Great Omission (from the Great Commission) – Matthew 28:19-20

Great-Omission“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age” (Matthew 28:19-20, CEB).

After His death and resurrection in Jerusalem, Jesus made several post-resurrection appearances to His disciples in Jerusalem and in Galilee. It was in Galilee that Jesus appeared to His disciples (some believe the “more than 500” that Paul described in 1 Corinthians 15:6) and directed them to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

All Christians are very familiar with the Great Commission. In fact, you could say that Christianity is organized around the Great Commission. Almost everything we do as the Church is in response to the Great Commission.

But, in our zeal to perform the first part of the Great Commission, “Go and make disciples,” we sometimes omit the second part, “I will be with you.”

I think that Jesus was telling His disciples– after His death and resurrection and before His ascension into heaven–that He would still be with them in much the same way that He was with them for the three years of His earthly ministry. He talked with them. He taught them. He guided them. He counseled with them. He was with them. Jesus was their leader and they followed Him!

But, sometimes we want to implement, organize, expedite, administer and manage the Great Commission without consulting Jesus.  We want to do it our own way instead of subjecting ourselves to the empowering presence of Jesus to direct us and enable us.

So, what if we decided to put Jesus first in the Great Commission? Maybe it would go something like this: “I will be with you, so go and make disciples?”

Jesus is with us!  The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7; Philippians 1:19), dwells in us and with us to empower us to accomplish the Great Commission. And, if you think about it, we can’t really make disciples for Jesus without His presence and power: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, CEB).

So, before we go make disciples for Jesus, we need to be with Jesus. We need Him to be present with us by making ourselves available to Him, by submitting our own will and our own way to God’s will and God’s way.

Because, the best way to eliminate the Great Omission from the Great Commission is through Complete Submission.

Jesus said to everyone, ‘All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.’ (Luke 9:23, CEB)

December 18, 2014

Two Sets of Stones

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Joshua 4:20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, What do these stones mean?

Joshua 4:8 So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.

stones of remembranceToday’s reading is from the devotional website All About Reflections. Click the link in the title below to read at source and look around the rest of the site.

Jordan River Stones – Stones In My Jordan

by Gloria Small

It is a joy to find it true that, if we open our hearts to Him, the LORD continually teaches us. Passages of scripture that have been read over and over suddenly jump out at you and the lesson there is always perfectly timed. Just that sort of thing happened to me. I have been so blessed and thrilled by the application of this truth to my heart that I wanted to share it. The passage is found in Joshua the fourth chapter.

The context of this chapter is, of course, the passing of the children of Israel over the Jordan into the Promised Land. The LORD had instructed Joshua to tell one man from every tribe to pick up a stone from the midst of the Jordan and to carry it to Gilgal. There Joshua was to set up those stones as a memorial of what the LORD had done for them that day and what He had done at the Red Sea (Joshua 4:20-24). The word for this stone is “eban.” The Holy Spirit brought to my mind the “stone of the help,” Ebanezer, that Samuel had set up when the LORD gave them the victory over the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:9-14).

Yet, there were two sets of stones mentioned in Joshua chapter four! That is something that I had read before but it never really registered. There is also a set of 12 stones that Joshua set up in the “midst of the Jordan” (Joshua 4:9). It is this set of stones that are “there unto this day,” that the LORD has used to bless my heart.

Jordan River Stones – What are these Stones?

When the LORD applied the stones as a lesson to my life and heart it seemed everything I heard or read re-enforced the truth. Isn’t it a wonderful thrill when that happens? The Spirit asked me, “What means these stones?” My soul had to answer, “these are the stones of the help that the LORD has allowed to come into my life.”

As I look back through it now, I can see those stones. They have not been “stones of stumbling.” Rather, the afflictions that I have seen have been building material. God has been building upon the foundation He laid in my life with those stones. Not only that, He is the one who carries the burden! What JOY!

Where are those stones? In the midst of my Jordan! I am still traveling through my Jordan, walking upon the dry ground He has prepared for me. Along the way, I see those “stones of the help” that are constant reminders that “He who has begun a good work in me, will be faithful to complete it” (Philippians 1:6).

These are stones of remembrances of battles He has won, of steps of faith taken in His Name. Those stones will remain there until “the day of Jesus Christ” and they are built upon His foundation that is under me and will be until I reach my final home with Him. How my heart filled to over flowing with love and gratitude when this lesson came flooding over me.

Jordan River Stones – Conforming Me

The process that we constantly go through, as the LORD conforms us to the image of His Son, is not always an easy one. It seems we ever learn from the “rocky places.” It is the oasis of His Word that refreshes us with springs of living water. These times of encouragement from the Spirit of Christ living with in us help us along the way. The Word that is “spiritually discerned” fills us and gives us His strength to “keep on keeping on” as we journey through our own Jordan, knowing this promise that is sure “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The lesson of these stones has brought me peace and joy in the midst of the battle. So if it looks like the waters of your Jordan are about to overwhelm you, look around for those stones.

May 17, 2013

Comfort From the Word

I tend to read the scriptures for instruction and teaching. I’m looking for passages that engage my intellect and illustrate the inter-connectedness and symmetry of scripture; not to mention scriptures I can share with personal contacts and blog readers.

I wrote about that in a blog post that has actually run twice here, sharing a popular verse of scripture, II Tim 3:16,  in three translations and then ending with my paraphrase:

All scripture has its point of origin in God’s mind, and

  • shows us the path God would have us walk
  • highlights when and where we’ve gotten off the path
  • points the way back to the path
  • gives us the advice we need to keep from wandering off the path in future

But while this list includes four benefits of studying the word, it is not inclusive. The point is that whatever we think of when we think of the Bible, it is always so much more.

In Ps. 23:4 we read:

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

What is the ‘rod and staff’ spoken of here?  Most translations, including The Message preserve this imagery:

Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.  (The Message)

Matthew Henry affirms that this imagery is pertinent to the phrase that precedes it; that the protection of the Lord described here is that needed in the face of death:

It is a comfort to the saints, when they come to die, that God takes cognizance of them (he knows those that are his), that he will rebuke the enemy, that he will guide them with his rod and sustain them with his staff. The gospel is called the rod of Christ’s strength (Ps. 110:2), and there is enough in that to comfort the saints when they come to die, and underneath them are the everlasting arms.

Ultimately, our comfort is God Himself. The Voice version, which tends to add things to the text, simplifies it in this verse:

Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
near with Your protection and guidance,
I am comforted.  (The Voice)

This echoes Psalm 46:1

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (KJV)

a verse which in many ways parallels the first verse of Psalm 23:

The Lord is my Shepherd…

This itself echoes Psalm 121:2

My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.  (NIV)

This comfort should sustain us at all times; not just as we reach the end of life; though it is often at the end of life that people turn to God.

Now going back to where I started, many times in my day, both here and in my personal Bible study time, I find myself engaging scripture more as an intellectual pursuit than to seek comfort, solace and strength from its pages. My faith is way up in my head somewhere and isn’t penetrating my heart.

Or there is also the “This is really deep stuff; who can I share this with?” mentality that sees the truths about God more as a type of theological email forward to be sent on to ten people who must promise to send it ten others.  “This is so good, I must send it to Bob.”

The result of this is what I am experiencing as I write this: In times of anxiety, stress or fear, I sometimes feel I have woefully inadequate resources at my immediate internal disposal because I have not “banked” the truths of God’s comfort and life-giving strength. I find myself totally broken because I have studied God’s Word enough to know the comfort of God is there to be taken, but living in the middle of a disconnect, not being able to draw on it as I should.

I don’t need God’s rod or staff to drive away 3rd party oppressors as much as I need to be hit over the head with it as a reminder, “Hey…I am right here; I am the strength you need.”

Do some of you resonate with this? Is it possible you’re attracted here to the “201” nature of this page — perhaps even looking for Christianity 301 or Christianity 401 — but are missing the “Christianity pre-Kindergarten” principle that Jesus loves us?

Yes, we need to search the scriptures and study to know the core doctrines and history that we learn from its pages. But we also need to know how to find comfort from the Word; because in those times, all our Bible knowledge and ability to explain theology will not hold us up. We need to know the reality of  “still waters” spoken of elsewhere in the 23rd Psalm.  

I know I do.

March 17, 2013

Prayer of St. Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.


I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

 

October 9, 2011

Worship Weekend: My Soul Knows Very Well

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When mountains fall I’ll stand; by the power of your hand
And in your heart of hearts I’ll dwell; that my soul knows very well

Allow Darlene Zschech to lead you in worship today:

May 28, 2011

Men Who Will Lead

I remember doing the Bringing Up Boys DVD course put out by Focus, and there was a statistic that when kids are old enough to choose, if they were brought up with a mom who went to church, there’s something like a 20-30% chance that they’ll continue the tradition; but if the dad went to church, it jumps up into the 70% range.  Wow!  Another argument for men to take a strong spiritual leadership role in the home.

And then, this week I was flipping through the blog of our local Salvation Army officer, and I came across his post Lead Me which featured the song below from Sanctus Real, and in its portrayal of wives looking to their husbands for spiritual leadership, and children looking to their fathers for spiritual direction, I was again reminded of the calling that rests on a man’s life within his home.

This is a message that all of us, married or single, male or female need to be reminded of.   Our churches put a great deal of emphasis on living out our faith in the broader community — at work, at school, in the marketplace, with extended family members, in the neighborhood — but really Christian living begins in the home.  In fact, let’s take it even a step further and remember that, in the title of an old Bill Hybels book, what counts most is Who You Are When No One’s Looking.

I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear her saying…

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They’re just children from the outside
I’m working hard, I tell myself they’ll be fine
They’re independent
But on the inside, I can hear them saying…

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I’m called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won’t You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can’t
Don’t want to leave them hungry for love,
Chasing things that I could give up

I’ll show them I’m willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone

Father, lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone

April 2, 2011

The Discipline of Walking With The Spirit

Paul Steele is a pastor in Storm Lake, Iowa.  This appeared just over a week ago on his blog, Paul’s Ponderings, just before he began a one month internet fast.  It appeared there without the addition of the scary word “discipline” under the more simple title, Walking With The Spirit.

A man cannot live one hour a godly life unless by the power of the Holy Ghost. He may live a proper, consistent life, as people call it, an irreproachable life, a life of virtue and diligent service; but to live a life acceptable to God, in the enjoyment of God’s salvation and God’s love, to live and walk in the power of the new life—he cannot do it unless he be guided by the Holy Spirit every day and every hour. ~ Andrew Murray, Humility and Absolute Surrender, p. 128

Trying to follow Jesus is hard work, especially when it is attempted solely by our own strength and will power. It is, in fact, impossible.

I know from experience that I don’t have what it takes to follow Jesus. The truth is that given the first sign of difficulty I crumble. It is what I do with trying to write a book, to run every morning, to eat healthier, and a numerous other things that I think are important. The cold reality is that in the battle of desires my flesh takes the easier road rather than sticking things out to the end.

This is one reason why we cannot boast in our salvation: because I do not have what it takes to save ourselves. We are weak and ignorant creatures, and the experience of life shows us that we will do things that we enjoy doing, even when we now that they are not good for us. There is not one of us that doesn’t know that McDonald’s isn’t a healthy place to eat, yet millions of us eat there every day. [Confession time: I am craving a Double Quarter Pounder and french fries right now] The problem isn’t about knowing what is right and wrong, the problem is disciplining our flesh to do the right thing.

Since we lack the will power and stamina to correctly discipline our flesh, we need to the help of another if we are going to experience the new life we have been given through Jesus’ death and resurrection. That help comes from the Holy Spirit working in our lives. Consider what the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Galatians 5:16-17; ESV)

The Spirit will enable us to live in such away that we will not feel compelled to give into every desire and whim our flesh has. By walking with the Spirit we turn our backs on the desires of the flesh, and we are able to live the way God desires us to live.

How do we do this? It is at this point that I wish Paul would have given us a little more instruction in his letter. It appears there is an assumption that the Galatians already knew what Paul was talking about. So let me offer a couple of my own thoughts.

First, I think it is safe to assume to walk by the Spirit is not about keeping a Law. In both Romans and Galatians Paul equates trying to keep the Law as a work of the flesh. The Law shows us what it means to live as God’s holy people in this world, but it requires our own strength and will power to keep, and thus it is said to be a work of the flesh.

My second thought is that to walk with the Spirit begins with repentance. We need to lay aside trying to become holy by our own effort and turn to God so He can make us holy. This requires that we confess our weakness, denounce our sin, and pledge our loyalty to God. It is this attitude of humility and of being poor in spirit that allows us to be open to the Holy Spirit working in our lives.

It is time to stop tiring so hard to be come holy by own efforts and it is time to start trusting the work of the Spirit in our lives. For it is the Spirit’s work, and not our efforts, which produces the changed life God desires for His people; But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22, 23; ESV). It is the Spirit’s fruit, the result of His work, that produces the type of life that God wants us to live.

~ Paul Steele

January 7, 2011

Making a Daily Affirmation of Faith

This was the Thursday morning devotional at Daily Encouragement.   It’s a reminder to make a daily renewal of our calling to serve and follow God.  It appeared there under the title, The Daily Decision.

“Then He said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me'” (Luke 9:23).

We want you to think with us. How often in a day’s time do we say aloud or think in our minds, “I need to decide…”?  We suppose it’s a lot. These decisions may be due to factors such as the weather, the day of the week, the time of day or the workload before us.  “What shall I wear, a coat or light jacket?” What should I prepare for dinner?”  “Shall I call or send an email?” And on and on our list goes.

But today we want to focus on a daily decision each of us has in common, regardless of where we live on this planet. Every morning when we awaken to a new day we are confronted with this same choice.

We memorized the daily verse many years ago.  It’s a clear call to discipleship from the words of our Lord.  Jesus was speaking to the disciples very plainly about how He would be rejected by the priests and chief elders. He then spoke of His suffering, His death and resurrection that would follow.  It was a very intense setting as these disciples were trying to understand and also rejecting such disturbing information about their Master.

Then Jesus surely added to the intensity of the moment when he then issued this call to His disciples; “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  Both Matthew and Mark record the same statement (Mt. 16:24, Mk. 8:34), but only Luke records a detail that includes a vital element to this call.  Notice the word “daily”.

By providing this detail Luke emphasized a concept that is often seen in Scripture. The day is a unit of time that the Word seems to stress as important in making a steadfast commitment to our Lord. Here are several phrases from the Scriptures in this regard: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). “I call to you, O LORD, every day” (Psalm 88:8). “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

In the New Testament Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer to request, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). The apostle Paul emphasized this daily walk in urging the Thessalonian believers to “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (Thessalonians 4:11,12). And in the Pastoral Epistle to Titus he taught, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives. (Titus 3:14).

Our daily encouragement series is prompted by a command found in Hebrews 3:13 which states: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” We are just two ordinary people making a decision this day to follow Christ. And we want to encourage all of you to do the same! Today and every day.

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Encouragement

Daily Encouragement ends each devotional blog post with a prayer.  This one is such an integral part of what they wrote, I included it also:

Daily Prayer: Father, there are many choices I will make today based upon the variables that I cannot foresee. But one choice for me that is not optional because I not only believe the truth of the Gospel, but am fully committed to following Christ. To do so I must deny my own selfish desires, take up my cross daily, and follow Him. In denying myself I will be careful never to deny Christ or the work He wants to do in me. On particular days it can be intense and require great sacrifice on my part. I don’t know what the cross will look like today, whether it be in the form of physical pain, ridicule of my faith, rejection from one that I love, a major letdown, or another difficulty that may come my way. The wonderful blessing is that I don’t carry my cross in my own strength but You carry it for me as I lean upon You for strength, guidance, and the assurance that today’s cross will soon be exchanged for tomorrow’s crown.


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