Christianity 201

September 8, 2019

Our Christian Heroes are Equally Vulnerable as We

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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On the days I rotate through writers we’ve used previously, I’m always pleased to see the name Elsie Montgomery appear because I know I’m going to find some quality devotional material to read for myself, and then choose one to include here. (This is her 20th time appearing here, and we frequently break our six-month rule to include her!) Click the header below to read this at her blog, Practical Faith.

Don’t Put Anyone on a Pedestal

When a teenager, I idolized a few singers, including Elvis Presley. After becoming a Christian, that tendency to put stars on a pedestal was soon shaken. God showed me that no matter how popular or ‘great’ a person might be, as a friend used to say, they put their pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else.

I’ve been put on a pedestal by a few well-meaning people; and hated it. One extreme was having my mistakes overlooked or excused making transparency and confessing sin awkward to say the least. Not only that, if I did make even a small error, some would treat me as if I’d ruined the world. Pride likes a pedestal, but only to a point!

None of the above is biblical. God does not play favorites and tells His people not to do it either. Each member of His family has struggles, ups and downs, human needs, skills and weaknesses. Paul, an easy person to put on a pedestal, reveals reasons why this is not to be done. He was human like the rest of us and every time I read this section, I identify with him and feel empathy. That can’t happen if I put him up there somewhere rather than alongside me. Paul writes to Timothy:

Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:9–18)

I feel his loneliness in this passage. He was needy. He forgot his cloak, books and Scripture in Troas. He had been opposed by someone, perhaps a person he’d trusted. He also had been deserted and attacked while alone by that roaring lion — Satan. He knew the pressures of suffering without anyone to help him, yet the Lord was with him. These are the words of a ‘spiritual giant’ yet they sound like the words of every Christian. Each of us struggles with the same things.

A couple weeks ago in a small group discussion about seniors, I mentioned what I thought most seniors struggled with — feeling abandoned and useless. Two were over ninety, another a bit younger and they nodded vigorously. They had not expressed this as a problem but seemed totally relieved that it came out in the open. They are people who appear spiritual mature to everyone else, yet in their hearts have struggles with basic issues — just as everyone else.

God’s thought for me today is that we are all in this battle of life together. I’ve met famous preachers — they lose their car keys and forget their wives’ birthdays just like many ordinary people. I’ve met famous authors and they goof up too, burn the toast and worse, just like I do. Don’t put anyone on a pedestal.

The preachers I learn the most from are transparent and willing to share their quirks and foibles. One of our pastors recently shared getting a speeding ticket and how he felt when he saw the flashing lights, while waiting for the officer to come to his vehicle, during the conversation and after receiving the piece of paper. He was up on a platform in the church building but refused to be put on a pedestal. Some listeners expressed discomfort, yet all of us felt closer to this man and more aware of the love of Jesus that he preached about that day.


Lord Jesus, it is easy to talk about accomplishments and not as easy to share my mistakes, needs, or negative emotions or events, but Paul did. And he invites his readers to follow his example. We humans are in this together; we all struggle with various things and should never make anyone feel they are so ‘special’ that they cannot be honest about their lives. Pedestals make them feel uncomfortable because standing there forces them to be unreal, even dishonest. Guard my heart that I don’t do this to anyone or let anyone do it to me.



September 19, 2012

Prayer Partners Wanted

I’m not sure if I agree entirely with customizing sections of the Bible to meet the needs of various audiences, not because I disagree with dynamic equivalence translation, but because it concerns me that individual translators might be given too much latitude.

For example, I’ve mentioned before the translators who tried to deal with a tribe that had never seen snow, and came up with, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as fungus.’  Or the time they had to deal with a society where you called into a house and only a thief would rattle the door to see if anyone was inside, so they wrote, ‘”Behold, I stand at the door and call.”‘ Those choices, I understand, became necessary.

Or what about the New Century Version of the Bible. Before it’s renaming as the NCV, it was called The Everyday Bible, but I’m told that it has origins that predate that as a translation that was developed especially for the deaf community.  Was “He who has ears, let him hear,” tastefully edited out? One almost hopes so.

But what do we do with Matthew 18:19 — “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”

Isolation is a chronic problem in modern society. Even among Christ-followers, many people choose online church, or get lost in the vast crowds of a mega church. How do they react when they see this particular verse? What if you’re facing a great need and don’t have someone to “agree in prayer” with?

I think that the verse shows that, properly lived out, Christians should exist in real — not virtual — community, and that connecting with other people must be considered normative Christian living.

But, on the other hand, I can foresee a day where, in a world of specialty Bibles, there is one for introverts where they simply will feel the need to address this verse, at least with a footnote.

For the rest of us, this verse shows the importance of having prayer partners. This can certainly exist between mothers and fathers and their children, and between husbands and wives; but I believe we should all work toward having prayer partner relationships with people beyond the family context.

And perhaps one place to look would be among people who do not have a family context, or are not currently attending church for whatever reason.

July 1, 2010

Holiday Depression

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:37 pm
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July 1st is Canada Day and in the U.S., July 4th is… well, it’s better known simply as “The 4th of July.”  (Independence Day to be precise.)

Many times people feel very lonely and even severely depressed on holidays, especially when they (a) have no one to share the time with and (b) they don’t have the distractions of their job.

If you are single and you think marriage is the cure for this, think again.   My wife and I currently do not have any other couple that we, as the kids would say, hang with.   Holidays simply reinforce this current state of social affairs, and as I type this, we’re actually dealing with another byproduct of having no one we call on to help with a particular need.

The Psalmist understood this; Psalm 73: 25 says

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Some might argue that the key to this verse is “in heaven;” that Asaph is comparing the God of Israel to other gods.   But I believe he is also contrasting “friends on earth” to having a “friend in heaven.”

A similar passage is in John 6:68, when Jesus has asked the disciples if they wish to leave

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Cynics would say that Peter is simply saying he has no other options, almost implying that he might leave if something better came along.

But time will prove the prophetic nature of his statement.   Jesus remains faithful to Peter even when Peter doesn’t remain faithful to Jesus.  Peter messes up but Jesus restores him.   Truly, this is a friend who stays closer than a brother.

That’s the kind of companion you have in Christ, even on a holiday when waves of depression roll in.