Christianity 201

May 30, 2021

Social Media Detoxification

Rebecca Brand lives in Auckland, New Zealand, with her husband, Kieren, daughter, Sarai, and their rescue dog, Nala. She has blogged for years at RebeccaBrand.org, has spoken nationally and internationally and is the author of Life’s Greatest Battles. We have borrowed two articles from her on this subject, so readers, please reciprocate by clicking the headers which follow and reading this on her site.

Hello, From the Other Side

Over the last two months, I have embarked on a detox for my soul, and it has been life-changing.

You see, at first, it hadn’t dawned on me that I had stumbled into the rat race of social media…I had unintentionally wanted to start to find the “best time” to post (because that is when “my followers” are most “engaged”. I had also started to think about the social media “algorithms”, and how post-after-post on Instagram and Facebook would tell me why I wasn’t good enough, and that these other people had the key to “success” in getting more followers, more engagement, and ultimately, more “famous” (like, what does that even mean?).

I had realized that I had innocently become a consumer on what these social media giants wanted all along – my time, and ultimately, what they hoped for, was my money.

I was tired of waking up, and not spending as much time with God, in order to create “the post” (which ironically was about God) that would speak to “more people”.

For the last six years, blogging was like my “daily diary.” I’d spend time with God and then write what was on my heart. I loved the simplicity of whatever revelation the Holy Spirit had given me for that day – I’d write about.

But Holy Spirit had started to show me that I was spending more time on social media and less time with God, and so I stopped, with repentance in my heart, and a cry in my soul, to truly reconnect with my saviour.

One day, before I went on my soul detox, I stumbled across #fakefamous on Netflix. As I was watching, it was as if a veil of deceit had come off my eyes!

Friends, when something takes our eyes off Jesus – no matter how many times we tell ourselves, that this is our “ministry” – it’s a lie, and we need a heart check.

God never wants us to be more focused on anything other than Himself. We need to ask ourselves some hard truths about why we want more likes, shares and saves…because I know for myself, I wanted more followers, and I had unintentionally started comparing myself!

Let’s stop giving the enemy what He wants and restart to connect with our ultimate true love

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else”

Matthew 6.33

Why Are We Still Striving?

I used to believe that I wasn’t striving, but over my two-month social media detox, God showed me that I, along with many others, still are

The catchphrase “actions speak louder than words” rang true in my ear because it was the first time that when God told me to take the break, I saw people start “unfollowing me” and (no offence), but I didn’t care

A few days ago, I wrote on when I watched a program called “Fake Famous”, and it opened my eyes to how fake social media can be. Honestly, it showed me that although we have people on our profiles who engage with our content, more often than not, the numbers that are represented aren’t an accurate representation

For the first time, and I continue to be, at peace in seeing my numbers decline because I am not interested in having fake accounts or bots follow me. This was never my intention in the first place, and yet, there I was, checking out, daily, my stats and wondering where I was going wrong?

Things have shifted in my life. I realized that I was striving to bring in large numbers as I believed that that would allow the messages God has placed on my heart to have a wider reach. Yet, Jesus changed the world with twelve faithful followers, all located right before His eyes, so why do we strive for anything less?

Kieren and I have been praying into our church – which launches end of June – but, again, we would rather have ten people “on fire” for God to change our city, our region, our nation, and beyond, than a church of ten-thousand that are “sleeping”

My absolute favourite song at the minute is “Jireh” by Elevation Worship, but a few lines within that song became true for the first time in years…

“I’ll never be more loved than I am right now”

“Wasn’t holding You up so there’s nothing I can do to let You down”

“God is enough”

Friends, when will we truly get the revelation that God loves us unconditionally, and so, He doesn’t need our ministries, but He has only ever wanted our hearts?

Let’s stop fooling ourselves. Let’s stop striving and be who God has called us each to be…

A child of God

“Give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways”

Proverbs 23:26

May 27, 2021

Does Any and Every Sin Cancel You Out as a Christian?

Thinking Through 1st John 2:29-3:10

by Clarke Dixon

Have you ever felt like you just don’t measure up as a Christian? You believe in Jesus, but you don’t believe you have achieved the kind of sinless perfection you think a Christian should have?

Perhaps a church or a Christian has made you feel that way. I remember well having coffee with a student from a certain Bible college while I was at seminary. It felt like an interrogation and I’m not sure I passed the test of “good enough” to be a Christian in his mind.

Perhaps you don’t need any help in feeling you don’t measure up. You get there all on your own.

Perhaps the Bible sometimes makes you feel like you don’t measure up. For example,

2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who does right has been born of him.

3:1-10 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him . . .  Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.  You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.  No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.

1 John 2:29 – 3:1,4-10 (NRSV emphasis added)

Discouraged yet? Actually, as we dig into what John has written here, we will find great encouragement.

Let us keep in mind what we learned last week, that John had been speaking about false teachers who tried to change the facts about Jesus to fit their thinking, when they should have changed their thinking to fit the facts about Jesus. They were missing the mark on their teaching on who Jesus was and is. But here is what is important for us to know in understanding our passage today; they were also missing the mark on what it looks like to follow Jesus.

The false teachers got the identity of Jesus wrong, but they also missed the teaching of Jesus on loving God, neighbour, and one’s enemies. In getting the identity of Jesus wrong, they also missed the example of Jesus on loving God, neighbour, and one’s enemies, namely, the incarnation, death and resurrection.

John’s point here in 1st John 2:29-3:10 is that these false teachers are easy to spot. Not only do they try to change Jesus, they don’t live Jesus focused lives:

  • They don’t do what is right (see 2:29 and 3:7 above).
  • They have no concern for sin (see 3:4-6 above).
  • They have no concern for destroying the works of the devil, for overturning evil (see 3:8 above).
  • They have no conscience (see 3:9 above).

The false teachers were easy to spot, and in our passage John gave the early readers the way to notice them easily:

Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test.

1 John 3:10 (The Message)

John’s intention was not to discourage the Christians he was writing to. He was not writing to make them doubt their salvation over each and every sin they might commit. Nor was he writing to discourage us today. He was writing to discourage them, and us, from following false teachers, who were, and are, easy to spot by their lack of Jesus-focused lives. In fact he is very encouraging when he highlights the identity of the readers:

What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are.

1st John 3:1 (The Message)

There is no hint here of “be sure to never, ever, ever sin, and if you do, then you are a child of the devil!” No, rather you are the children of God, but watch out for the false teachers who are the children of the devil.

Jesus spends quite some time teaching us to think of ourselves as God’s children. He teaches us to pray “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer. In fact Jesus gives many references to thinking of God as our father throughout the Sermon on the Mount where we find that prayer in Matthew’s Gospel.

John had also highlighted the opportunity to become children of God in his Gospel account:

He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

John 1:11-13 (NLT)

As children of God, we are those whose lives are being transformed by Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit. We may not be perfect, but we live Jesus-focused lives:

  • We have a concern for righteousness (see 2:29 and 3:7 above).
  • we have joined and are actively playing for “Team Jesus” (see 3:4-6 above, plus an eariler “Shrunk Sermon” on 1st John 2:1-6. Yes, we make mistakes and the other team may score because of those mistakes, but there is forgiveness, we are still on the team, and the other team scoring is never what we want).
  • We are those who participate apte in God’s plan of destroying the works of the devil, of dealing with evil (see 3:8 above).
  • We have a conscience (see 3:9 above).

Though John does not mention the Holy Spirit in our passage, the Holy Spirit is here, the Holy Spirit is involved:

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:15-16 (NLT)

There is a spiritual rebirth that happens, a transformation as we begin to show a family resemblance to our heavenly Father, even though we are still children.

Jesus teaches us to come to God like a small child:

I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

Mark 10:15 (NLT)

When a small child is called to the dinner table, does the child ask “do I deserve dinner tonight?” When we are sitting at dinner with God, we are not worried about our standing before God. But we will have a natural desire to be “just like Dad.”

We belong, we are a children of God. Let us not fret about whether we measure up, anxious that any and every sin will cancel us out as Christians, but instead let us continue to take our place at God’s table, growing into this beautiful relationship with our heavenly Father.


The full message on which this is based may be viewed on its own, or as part of this “online worship expression

October 19, 2019

Trying to Earn God’s Presence

Six months ago we introduced you to Kristen Larson who writes at Abide.Trust.Believe. I stopped in for a visit again this week, and was touched by how she writes at a deeply personal level, as you’ll see in the piece below. Click the header which follows to read at her site.

Loved

I was raised in a Christian home. My upbringing included Sunday School on Sunday mornings, Youth Group on Wednesday nights, and Small Group on Fridays. From an early age, God quickly became the most important person in my life.

I can remember the first time I raised my hands in worship during Sunday School. I would spend hours in prayer at church camp in the summer. My journals are filled with prayers and questions – looking to God for the answers.

Growing into adulthood, the godly women in my life encouraged me to spend intentional time alone with God, where you read your bible and pray. And I have done my best to make this a priority for the last 10 years. They’ve never been the perfect “hour every morning with a cup of coffee”, and they’ve never been perfectly consistent, but spending time in the Word and in prayer has continued to grow in importance the older I get.

I have had many seasons in life where I’ve felt alive in Christ. I’ve felt his love wash over me and my times with him have been fruitful and life giving. But this year, my times in solitude with the Lord started to get frustrating.  I was leaving each time upset and irritated. I couldn’t feel God. I couldn’t hear him. The logical solution was that I was doing something wrong. So, I would try getting up before work to start my day off right. I kept falling asleep, so I’d plan out exactly what I would read. When that didn’t work, I’d try spontaneity – just opening up anywhere in the bible and reading. I gave devotional reading a shot. I tried focusing on prayer alone. I gave reading a book by a Christian author. Nothing worked.

It wasn’t until just recently that I was able to finally voice the lie that had been planted in my heart. Luke and I were driving home from a dear friends funeral, and I don’t remember exactly how it came up or how the conversation wound its way there, but I remember telling Luke with tears in my eyes… I don’t think God loves me.

Just voicing this to Luke and identifying it caused blinders to off my eyes. I can see it now. I was trying to earn his love. I realized on that car ride home that I had been trying to earn his presence by getting up early each morning. I was trying to be good enough for him to speak to me by doing all the right things. I was trying to come up with ways to manipulate him into speaking to me.

But as I remembered the overarching story of the Bible, the truth became so clear: I cannot, under any circumstances, earn his love. 

Romans 5:6-11 says,

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

God chased after us, even while we rejected him. God extended his love to us, even when we failed, yet again. God sealed the deal, even while we sat covered in our sin – paralyzed by our inability to measure up.

Psalm 23:6 says,

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

He pursues us.

I hope you can begin to walk in this freedom today, too. I encourage you to spend time with the Lord, knowing, believing, and declaring that he loves you.  Let this truth wash over you:

You are loved. You are his.

September 26, 2018

What it Means to be a Godly Man

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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After a break of a couple of years, we’re paying a return visit to the blog Brothers of the Book, written by Bill Hood. While the column is directed at men, I hope that 50% of our readers don’t simply tune out today’s devotional, but rather, see what God is showing you as you read. As you’ll see, they’re wrapping a series on the Book of Daniel.

The Godly Man Shines Like The Stars

The book of Daniel tells us that the godly man shines like the stars. Are you a godly man? Do you humble yourself before God seeking to understand? Do you share the Gospel?

[Suggested reading: Daniel 10-12]

Today we finish Daniel. I love what these final chapters have to say about those who belong to God. I have always intended this blog to look at how God defines a godly man. Take a look at this verse.

Daniel 10:12 ESV
“Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.”

A godly man humbles himself before God and sets his heart to understand. Our prayers are heard and answered when they are offered in the right spirit and are consistent with His will. Remember that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that the cup He was to drink be taken away. He also prayed that even though He did not want the cup, His desire was for God’s will to be done nonetheless. Did God take the cup away? No. It is good to bring your cares and desires before God; just don’t expect to get what you want. God may have other plans. If you are humble before Him, and seek to understand, your prayers will grow to be consistent with His will. In these verses, I see the need to grow in our prayer life and in our Bible study, for these are the tools needed to search for understanding.

Daniel 10:18-19 ESV
“Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me.  And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”

Greatly loved by whom? Those who submit their life to the authority of Christ are greatly loved by God. What does this love mean? It means that we need not fear. It means that we have a peace surpassing understanding. It means we are strong and can have good courage for the touch of the Lord God in our life revives and strengthens us. How precious is His saving grace!

Daniel 11:32-35 ESV
“… but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.   And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder.  When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. And many shall join themselves to them with flattery, and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.”

Do you know your God? Will you stand firm and take action? Will you make many understand even though you suffer for it from time to time? This is what it means to be wise – to be a child of the King. Here we see that the trouble that comes in our life is intended to refine and purify us. This is what it means to be His! Godly men stand firm and take action as directed by Christ Himself.

Daniel 12:1-3 ESV
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.   And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

Is your name found in the Book of Life? Will you awake to everlasting life or shame and everlasting contempt? We saw in Daniel 11:32-35 what it means to be wise. The result of faithfully taking action in the name of Christ in His work of building the Kingdom, is the great honor of shining like the brightness of the sky above. To turn others toward Christ is to become like the stars forever and ever! When was the last time you told someone about the love of Jesus Christ? If you love Christ, you should have a burning desire to tell others of His love.

All of these things are what it means to be a godly man.

Vivere Victorem! (Live Victorious!)

April 17, 2011

Maybe You Still Don’t Get It

Steven Furtick, author of Sun Stand Still (Waterbrook) and pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina is another one of those people qualified to wear the label, “intentional.”  On his blog, he’s been doing a series, “Signs You Still Don’t Get It;” and again, in the interests of getting material actually seen while knowing people don’t click, I’ve assembled in a single post here, Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.  [Note: You might want to click through as there are additional resources linked there.]

To read the text in a larger font, hold down Ctrl and press “+” sign.

“Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?     – Matthew 16:9

There are some things that we just have to learn the hard way. The disciples of Jesus knew this better than anyone.

Two times in the previous two chapters Jesus had provided a miraculous supply of food for a hungry crowd. Here in chapter 16 Jesus tells them to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. The disciples freak out because they didn’t bring any bread and they think Jesus is hungry and needs them to supply food.

They still don’t get it.

We could be judgmental, but the truth is that there are things that are just as elementary that you and I still don’t get. And it’s these things that keep us in a state of inertia in our walk with God and the calling He has placed on our lives.

So I thought it’d be good … to address some of the top signs that indicate that we still don’t get it. Confront the elementary things that are keeping us from launching into a whole new dimension in our relationship with God…

1. You still feel unworthy to come to God when you fail.
You sin and think there needs to be a grace period before you can pray for forgiveness. You completely blow it and think there’s no way God can use you again. Your days are done. Your destiny disqualified. Might as well sit around and sulk in your self-condemnation.

This really comes down to one thing: you still don’t understand grace.

We often think the grace of God is just a commodity to get us to the point of salvation. But we don’t understand that the same grace that brought us to the point of salvation is also with us in our daily lives. The same power that raised you from the grave of your sin is the same power that raises you from the mistakes of your everyday life.

Proverbs 24:16 says, The righteous man falls down seven times, but seven times, he rises again.”

That’s not what comes to our minds when most of us think of a righteous person. We think they’re someone who never or rarely falls. But that’s because our idea of righteousness is rooted in self-righteousness. The real righteous person is the one who has been made righteous by Jesus and then can let Jesus pick him back up when up when he falls.

There’s a big difference between falling down (Peter) and falling away (Judas). Grace means God’s got your back. Like Peter, your failure is not final.

Get back up. Go to back to God. No, you’re not worthy. But neither were you worthy when you came to God the first time. It was Jesus’ worthiness that made you worthy then.

What makes you think the terms of acceptance have changed?

2. You’re still waiting for God’s will to “fall into place.”

  • You’re still waiting for God to bring the right man or woman into your life.
  • For the perfect job to come along.
  • For…

And in the meantime you’re not doing much of anything about it.

  • You’re hanging out in your basement.
  • You’re begrudgingly going about your present job.

You’re going to be waiting for a long time. Not because God doesn’t want to bring the right person into your life. Or the job you’ve been created for. Or anything else He wants for you. But because God’s will isn’t a matter of waiting. And it rarely falls into place all at once.

When you think about the will of God for your life, think less in terms of a big bang and more in terms of small sparks that lead to a large fire. It’s a matter of doing what you should be doing and letting God continually move you forward into what He wants you to be doing.

A lot of times we spend our greatest effort trying to uncover the mysteries of the parts of God’s will that we don’t understand rather than obeying the part of God’s will that we do understand.

And that’s His Word. When all else fails, God’s Word is His will.

So from the examples above:

  • It’s always God’s will for you to become the kind of man or woman that will be the husband or wife of someone else’s dreams.
  • It’s always God’s will to do all of your work as unto the Lord.

So start doing those things. And then trust God to use your present obedience to move you closer to your future assignments.

If you’re single, stop waiting for God to bring you the right person and start running after God with everything you’ve got. When you see someone running alongside of you, you’ll know God’s will has “fallen into place.” And while you’re at it, clean yourself up, put some product in your hair, and join the greeter team at your church.

Stop waiting for the perfect job to come along and start perfecting the job that you have. That way when the perfect job “falls into place,” you’ll be ready for it.

We don’t have to waste time wondering when and how God’s will is going to fall into place. Obedience that is active is way better than passive reflection. We find direction from God while we’re on the move. We know as we go. We set out and then God shows up.

We know God’s will by doing God’s will.

3. You’re still driven by the approval and affirmation of others.

You’ve made yourself believe:

  • If I get another promotion.
  • If I buy another pair of shoes.
  • If I have sex with another person.
  • If I do another favor.
  • If I lose another size…

…They will approve of me.

Or:

  • If he would just tell me I’m beautiful.
  • If my husband would just notice me.
  • If my coworkers would just acknowledge my contribution.
  • If anyone would just affirm who I am and what I do…

…My life would be complete. My life would have meaning.

But it’s not true. The affirmation you want will always be just beyond you. The approval you crave will only last for a moment. You’ll have the thing you thought you needed, but you won’t feel the peace you thought you’d feel. And as I’ve said before, he who lives by the approval of others will die by the absence of the same.

Many people spend most of their lives trying to achieve the approval that can only be received. Stop trying to chase down from people what God has already given to you in Jesus. Instead live life with the knowledge that in Jesus, you’re already affirmed. You’re already approved of.

When you have the approval of your Father, you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone.

4. You’re still trying to put God first.
I know, it sounds weird. Shouldn’t this be the exact thing you should still be trying to do?

On the surface, of course we should. Jesus is supreme over everything. He is first in importance. And so in that sense, we should always be trying to put Him first in our lives.

But my question is, what does this actually look like when you get down to the grind of everyday life? For example, what does it even mean to put Jesus first before my family? Do I ignore my family to spend more time with Jesus? Or with my career, do I stop working to put Jesus first?

In many people’s honest attempt to put God first in their lives, they end up segregating Jesus from the different priorities of their lives. And this is the exact opposite of what Jesus wants. He doesn’t just want to be first before your priorities. He wants to be first in them. The center of them.

  • Don’t worry about putting God first, then your family. Put God first in your family.
  • Or God first, then your career. Put God first in your career.
  • Or God first, then your finances. Put God first in your finances.

If you do that, you won’t have to worry about trying to put God first in your life. He already will be. The thing that is at the center of your life is the thing that is ultimately first in your life.

~Pastor Steven Furtick