Christianity 201

November 12, 2017

Sunday Worship

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
  – Romans 12:1

“The problem with a living sacrifice is that it tends to crawl off the altar.”

Today we return to a recurring theme verse here at Sunday Worship. It reminds us that worship is something we do, but rather worship is something we are. Years ago, Christian musician Chris Christian wrote,

We lift our voices
We lift our hands
We lift our lives up to You
We are an offering1

I really try to eschew pithy illustrations and stories here at C201, but I find this one most appropriate:

A chicken and a pig were discussing how they could do something for the farmer. Finally the chicken said, “He loves a good breakfast; why don’t we give him bacon and eggs?”

To this the pig replied, “That’s easy for you. All it demands of you is an offering, but for me it demands total sacrifice.” 2

Here are some things I think will help us remember what it means to live our lives as a living sacrifice. Each starts with the letter ‘s’ followed by a different vowel.

Sacrifice

If we are to judge it, the measure of a sacrifice is not the size of what is given, but the size of what is left over.

A sacrifice will cost us and it will be consumed. There is no taking back the investment of our energies, gifts or material possessions given up in the service and pleasing of God. The last distinction is important. In service we see tangible results. But God is sometimes pleased by our giving up of things. Ask yourself: How much cash would you put on the offering plate if, as it was in Old Testament times, what was giving was then burned? That’s what our Old Testament predecessors did with the best of their grain and animals.

Set-Apartness

If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

In a world that values conformity, no one wants to be the odd duck. Yet the book of Leviticus is essentially God wanting to insure that his people could maintain a distinct identity. It was all about showing yourself to be different.3

Sinlessness

Jerry Bridges has written,

Jesus said, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). We must honestly face the question, “Am I willing to give up a certain practice or habit that is keeping me from holiness?” It is at this point of commitment that most of us fail. We prefer to dally with sin, to try to play with it a little without getting too deeply involved. 4

Sovereignty

“There is a God. You are not Him,”

Jesus himself deferred to his Father on many occasions; providing us a reminder of who is in charge.

Surrender

When Abraham is asked to sacrifice is only son, we have the advantage that Abraham and Sarah didn’t; we know how the story ends. They did not, and yet Abraham is willing to do whatever it takes to obey God.5

Although we speak very different languages, two symbols are universal throughout the worldwide church. One is the word “Hallelujah” which I’m told is rendered the same in most languages. The other is lifted hands as a sign of surrender.

A writer at Charisma points out that our fingers, hands and arms are also most associated with human strength, power, creativity; both in a human sense and if we examine the Biblical record of God’s actions presented in a way we can best understand them. 6

 


1 Full video at YouTube.

2 This story is often used by leadership coaches as well. Here’s a longer version with the punchline contrasting contribution and commitment.

3 We looked at maintaining a distinct identity in this March, 2017 article.

4 We included more quotes from Jerry Bridges on this topic in this article.

5 This is excerpted from a fuller look at Abraham’s trip up the mountain with Isaac at this link.

6 See the full article about lifting hands at this link.

August 20, 2017

Sunday Worship

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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This is a writer who is new to us. Neil White, is a Lutheran (ELCA) Pastor, currently Senior Pastor for Rejoice Lutheran in Frisco, Texas. His blog is called Sign of the Rose. To read this at source, and then navigate to other articles, click the title below.

The Disconnect Between Worship and Obedience: Jeremiah 6: 15-21

15 They acted shamefully, they committed abomination;
yet they were not ashamed, they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the LORD.
16 Thus says the LORD: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, “We will not walk in it.”
17 Also I raised up sentinels for you: “Give heed to the sound of the trumpet!”
But they said, “We will not give heed.”
18 Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.
19 Hear, O earth; I am going to bring disaster on this people,
the fruit of their schemes, because they have not given heed to my words;
and as for my teaching, they have rejected it.
20 Of what use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba, or sweet cane from a distant land?
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor are your sacrifices pleasing to me.
21 Therefore thus says the LORD:
See, I am laying before this people stumbling blocks against which they shall stumble;
parents and children together, neighbor and friend shall perish.

Apparently the reality that some people may be faithful church attenders while they live lives that are fundamentally out of touch with God’s desire for their lives is not a new reality. As Walter Brueggemann states:

In place of torah, Israel has substituted cultic action (Jer. 6:20-21): frankincense, cane, sacrifices. Israel has devised a form of religion that reflects affluence, which can be safely administered, and which brackets out all questions of obedience. (Brueggemann 1998, 73)

It is a nice, safe, easy religion that has allowed the people to slip into a sense of cultic complacency. So long as we have the temple and we keep bringing our offerings to God nothing will happen to us. This is the picture of gods that are common in the ancient world, that you bring pleasing offerings to the gods to entreat their favor and to get them fight for you in your battles, allow your crops to prosper, etc. But this is to fundamentally misunderstand the relationship God wants for God’s people.

It is not coincidence that the Old Testament prophets frequently rail against the sacrificial system (and Jesus also directly confronts the temple in his own day). The way things are will not continue indefinitely, God is speaking through the prophet. God is taking away the things that people have placed their trust in, and the temple and the priestly sacrificial system is one of these things.

November 26, 2015

Gulping Life’s Champagne

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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Today we’re paying a return visit to Barenuckle Bible, the blog of John Myer. There are some great articles on this site, and if you’re looking for some good reading for the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend, click the title below, and then click the “Home” button and find more thoughts to chew on! (A connect-the-dots Thanksgiving and eating reference.)

If You’ve Lost Something for Christ, Your Moment is Coming; If You Haven’t, Your Moment is Still Coming

We follow Jesus by going where He goes.  But few people ever ask Him, “Where are you going?”  We assume He’s headed to financial abundance, good times, and of course at the very end of the trip, heaven.   The sign-up list bulges with names for that kind of journey.

That’s why it’s shocking when Jesus cradles your head in His hands and says straight into your face, “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matt. 16:21).

Talk about putting a damper on the whole Follow-Jesus thing.

His next statement equally unsettles us:  “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24).

These aren’t words I necessarily want to wear on a tee-shirt.  Yet, if we follow him, at both large and small crisis points we’ll be required to deny—say “No”—to ourselves.

Self-denial leads to taking up your cross.  The link between those two makes sense.  Some experiences of self-denial are going to be excruciating.    I’m talking about tears, the feeling of throwing your heart under a bus.

Our first reaction is to refuse with expletives, while fighting to save, to hold onto our lives.  Jesus adds, “Whoever would save his life will lose it” (Matt. 16:25).  Even if you persist in clutching what He was requiring you to lose, you’ll lose it anyway—Perhaps not only the thing itself, but your interest in it, the fulfillment, or the enjoyment of it.

Stories abound of people who have held onto things at great personal cost, and compromised their integrity and even their identity in order to do so.  Then having “saved” it, they quickly “lost” it.

One athlete revealed in an interview how he had made his sport the purpose of his life.  The day he established himself in the top echelon of it, the thrill of his victory suddenly reset to zero.  Regardless of the accolades that followed, he couldn’t shake the sense of depression and waste.  This always happens when we try to save something.  We are after all, lousy Saviors.

Then Jesus goes on to issue one of the most stunning promises ever.  “Whoever loses His life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).  Nothing ever lost for the sake of Christ is truly lost.  In some way, shape, or form it always ends up being found.  That’s because when we lose something for His sake, we’re basically “losing” it into His hands.  Jesus is after all, an excellent Savior.

Time out.  You probably know somebody who broke all the rules and got exactly what they wanted.  They don’t seem to have lost a thing.  They “saved” it all.  Jesus doesn’t deny such a thing is possible.  People make terrible decisions and move up.  They do destructive, selfish things and feel happy with the outcome.  Every day this happens.

But then He poses a hypothetical.  What if they got everything they wanted—in fact, the whole world!—and then forfeited their soul? (Matt. 16:26).  Yes, they could say they got an exciting gulp of life’s champagne.  But they threw away the fountain of fellowship with Christ.  Worse, when they realize their mistake one day, what will they possibly give to get back what they lost?

The book of Hebrews warns us that Esau couldn’t get back what he lost even when he “sought it with tears” (Heb. 12:17).  He had been hungry one day and had swapped his inheritance for one bowl of porridge.  No doubt it was the best bowl of porridge he ever had, with that special spiced gravy all served up in his man-bowl.

It was so tasty for that moment.

Don’t live for the moment.  Jesus said, “The Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father and then He will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matt. 16:27).  This is the grand moment.  For some, sadly, it will be about forfeiture.  For others who have lost for his sake but haven’t yet found, that will be a time of celebration.

Never envy those who seem to be getting all their rewards now.

During my first week of grad school, I took a look at the syllabus and wondered how I could still have room for a life.  As stress levels went through the roof, one of my classmates (who was not yet thirty years old) developed shingles.  The rest of us stole time from our families or resigned ourselves to living in a quasi-exhausted state.

But not everybody.  Some folks casually came and went.  When paper or quiz deadlines were announced, they never flinched.  In fact, they never tested or turned in homework of any kind.  They were called auditors.  They paid a cheaper price to attend class but with no commitment to assignments.  Their nights and free time belonged to them.

I couldn’t decide whether I hated them or wanted to be them.  They absorbed the same material as I, but without the emotional trauma that comes from the work-family-study crunch.

The only substantial difference was that they received no credit for attending those classes, while I did. Still, now and then the question would cross my mind, Why am I doing this to myself?

Eventually, my moment came.  I graduated.  I walked in a public ceremony, received honors from my college, and a master’s sash around my neck.  I got a diploma and letters after my name.  The commitment that seemed so unreasonable, so crazy at times, went somewhere.

Yours will, too.

November 7, 2011

Faith of My Father

Why did it have to be at the top of a mountain on a hot day, carrying all that wood?
His father wasn’t young anymore (had he ever been?) so Isaac took the load of wood himself.
Abraham went ahead, finding the path, carrying the fire for the altar. This was a long, long way
to come to make a sacrifice.

Isaac had seen his father make sacrifices to his god before, and it was always the same.
He’d build an altar, stone on stone ‘till it was right,
lay it with wood – first the tinder, then the kindling, then the fuel.
He’d choose the very best lamb he could find,
sometimes that took hours, talking to the shepherds, looking at hooves and skin.
If he couldn’t find the one he wanted, he’d buy one from a neighbour. That could take a day or two.

Once he’d found the one he wanted, he’d tie its legs with rope, lay it on the altar.
He’d cut the lamb’s throat quickly so it wouldn’t suffer and light the fire.
A complete waste, except it wasn’t.
It was a gift, a symbol of how nothing was more important to Abraham than his god.

But this one was different, not only the journey, but especially the fact that there was no lamb.
Abraham was always so picky about choosing just the right one, surely he didn’t expect it to
just be waiting there for him at the top.
Isaac had asked about that, but Abraham didn’t really answer,
so he dropped it.

Abraham was unusually quiet.
Anytime they’d sat or eaten or traveled together Abraham was full of stories
the time he’d tried to trick Pharaoh and his God had ratted him out,
the time he’d gone to war to rescue Uncle Lot and his God had given him victory,
the time his god had wiped a couple of entire cities off the earth,

and over and over and over again, the story of the son, the only son, the son their God had
given them, the son they loved, their miracle son.
The first star in his father’s sky of children and children’s children and
children’s children’s children.

Isaac had heard volumes about Abraham’s god. Sarah’s god.
But not today.

Today he was lugging a load of wood up a mountain, eyes on where he was putting his feet,
glancing at his father’s back.

Lots of time to think.
This god of his father’s was a strange one as gods went.
He didn’t seem to follow the same rules.
The other gods, the ones that ruled the lands around them, the ones that came into the family
compound with slaves from other places…
The other gods were tied to one particular nation or tribe or family. This one seemed to be
everywhere, involved with anybody he chose.
Isaac wasn’t sure whether he went ahead, or if he was following Abraham, but he had been
everywhere.

The other gods were distant and people did extravagant things to get their attention…
shouting, dancing, extreme sacrifices – even killing their own children to get their noticed.
His father’s god seemed to be waiting around every corner,
with something to say,
to ask,
something to offer
– kind of like Abraham was with Isaac.

But Isaac had never heard the voice his father heard.
Everything he knew, he’d learned from his parents’ lives and stories.
He’d lived his whole life from before he could remember by the words and ways
of his father’s god.

Abraham stopped walking. He looked around and said,
“We’re here.”
He told Isaac to sit down and have a drink while he built the altar.

Stone on stone ‘till it was right,

Then, he opened the bag of tinder,
untied the rope that held the bundle of wood,
arranged the altar, – tinder first, then kindling, then fuel.

He stood still, looking at it.

Isaac said, “Perfect! Now all we need is the lamb.”

There was a long silence. Abraham trembled, sat down beside his son, his only son,
the son his god had given him, the son he loved, his miracle son
the first star in his sky of children and children’s children and
children’s children’s children and told him about the lamb.
What he said cut Isaac open like no knife ever could.

Isaac was to be the lamb.

No.
That can’t be right.
All his life he’d been told how special he was.
His life was a miracle, an answered prayer, a promise kept.
He couldn’t die now!
It was too soon!
That can’t be right.
No.

His father was old, confused. Isaac was stronger, he could take him, maybe tie him up with the rope from the wood and get him home somehow. (On the donkey. That would work.)

To Sarah. Sarah would know what to do.
Isaac snatched up the rope, jumped to his feet ready for anything and in that moment,
he heard it.

He heard the voice – whispering somewhere inside him, behind him.
Whispering his name
“Isaac”

The whisper took over his heart and his mind and whispered to him in that split second every story his father had ever told him.

Every step of his father’s journey,
every promise made and kept,
every tear,
every laugh,
every surprise,
every demand,
every moment of forgiveness and starting over again and redemption.
Every star in his father’s sky.

And in that moment, Isaac knew he had a choice to make. A line to cross.

He had lived his entire life from before he could remember by the words and ways of his father’s god and
now
now
now he had to decide whether this god was his own.
Isaac had to choose.

~Ruth Wilkinson

June 5, 2011

Forgetting Yourself Into Greatness

This appeared earlier last week on Mark Wilson’s blog, Revitalize Your Church

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Who is my neighbor?”
“Anybody in need.”
“How do I love my neighbor?”
“With actions that help.”

“What keeps me from loving my neighbor?”
“Selfishness.”
“How can I stop being so selfish?”
“Forget yourself into greatness.”

Consider these words from William Arthur Ward of Texas Wesleyan University:

If you are wise, you will forget yourself into greatness.
Forget your rights, but remember your responsibilities.
Forget your inconveniences, but remember your blessings.
Forget your own accomplishments, but remember your obligations.

Follow the examples of Florence Nightengale, of Albert Schweitzer, of Abraham Lincoln, of Tom Dooley, and forget yourself into greatness.

If you are wise, you will empty yourself into adventure.
Remember the words of General Douglass McArthur:
“There is no security on this earth. There is only opportunity.”

Empty your days of the search for security; fill them with a passion for service.
Empty your hours of the ambition for recognition; fill them with the aspiration for achievement.
Empty your moments of the need for entertainment; fill them with the quest for creativity.
If you are wise, you will forget yourself into greatness.

As we forget ourselves into greatness, our hearts are filled with love. Selfishness is defeated when we invest our lives in others. It is in giving that we receive.

May 8, 2011

Make My Life a Prayer to You — Keith Green

It’s hard to believe a new generation of Christians is emerging who are unfamiliar with Keith Green, a singer who perhaps was a little ahead of his time in terms of the modern worship movement, but who sadly also left us before his time.  This song is familiar to many of us, but I post it here for those for whom this is something entirely new…

Make my life a prayer to You,
I want to do what you want me to,
No empty words and no white lies,
No token prayers, no compromise,

I want to shine the light you gave,
Through Your Son, you sent to save us,
From ourselves and our despair,
It comforts me to know you’re really there.

Oh, I want to thank you now, for being patient with me,
Oh, it’s so hard to see, when my eyes are on me,
I guess I’ll have to trust and just believe what you say,
Oh, you’re coming again, coming to take me away,

I want to die, and let you give,
Your life to me, so I might live,
And share the hope you gave to me,
The love that set me free,

I want to tell the world out there,
You’re not some fable or fairy tale,
That I made up inside my head,
You’re God, The Son, You’ve risen from the dead.

Oh, I want to thank you now,
For being patient with me,
Oh, it’s so hard to see,
When my eyes are on me,

I guess I’ll have to trust,
and just believe what you say,
Oh, you’re coming again,
Coming to take me away.

I want to die, and let you give,
Your life to me, so I might give,
And share the hope you gave to me,
I want to share the love that set me free.

 NLT Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.

For more info about Keith and Last Days Ministries, go to KeithGreen.com

April 23, 2011

The Scandal of the Cross: Look Who’s Getting In!

Part III of Setting our Faces Toward Jerusalem Series

A couple of years ago we were at Willow Creek at a time that they were getting ready to bring in a major country artist for a concert. It struck me that instead of promoting the benefits to be had for those adherents of the church who would be attending, they instead promoted the value of the artist’s reputation in terms of inviting unchurched neighbors, co-workers and family. “This is the best invite opportunity you’ll ever had,” was close to how Bill Hybels put it.

good-friday

In a way, Easter is like that. I don’t mean the actual Good Friday or Easter services at a local church, so much as the conversational opportunities it affords. You can talk about things during the next 48 hours that you simply might never get to the rest of the year, other than perhaps Christmas. This is a prime opportunity to talk about Jesus, the Cross, sin, death, forgiveness, atonement, resurrection — major themes of Christian doctrine and practice that just don’t come up in normal conversation. Provided you don’t introduce those topics artificially, you can still bring the discussion around to Easter fairly easily and then say what it means to you personally.

In considering writing this however, it occurred to me that voicing this suggestion is not unlike sitting in church and hearing a great sermon and then deciding that someone else that we know has to hear it; the idea that this time of year is a great opportunity for the benefit of somebody else. But this time of year comes around in the Christian calendar not so much for anyone else but for me. This is my time to sit and contemplate that it was my sin that led Christ to the cross to die in my place. This is why Jesus came; because we needed a savior.

The apostle Paul said that it was for this reason that Christ came into the world: to save sinners. And then he adds something like, ‘of which I am the worst.’ I, so undeserving, so unable to gain salvation by any of my own efforts, gets included in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary just by saying to God, “I want to be included among those who realize that this sacrifice was for me; I want to be among those covered by what happened that day on the cross.”

And look who else is getting in: The woman caught in the act of adultery; the thief on the cross; the prodigal son and his elder brother. Christ died to save sinners of which we all are the worst. We’re a bunch of misfits.

So this year, we need to be re-examining the story looking for things we’ve missed before; looking for things in a familiar story to touch us in a new way. Then, because of what Christ did, and because we’ve allowed ourselves to be changed by it, we look for opportunities to share this story with others at a time it is so much easier to do so, than at any other time of year.

And really, isn’t that just like the Gospel? Part one is “taste and see;” and part two is “go and tell.”

January 3, 2011

The Cost of Following Christ

When a rich young man came to Jesus and asked if there’s “anything else” he needed to do, Jesus presented him with “one more thing” that to the young man was seemingly impossible.

Biblical discipleship would truly involve “forsaking all.”    This post appeared in July at TruthSource.Net While I agree with what it says, I can think of instances where I wouldn’t want to see this used.   Or would I?   I remember hearing a speaker saying that “small demands will produce small results; great demands will produce great results.”   Didn’t Jesus seem to be “waving people off” following Him at times with “difficult sayings?”  Have we watered down the gospel?

Because of horrible evangelism, religious lies, and itching ears, a majority of people have been led to believe that becoming a Christian is as easy as praying a simple prayer and requires very little cost or no cost at all. However, the Lord Jesus Christ has declared very clearly in the Bible that it will indeed cost you—it will cost you everything.

You will have to turn away from all your sins

Being a Christian will cost you your sins; you cannot be a Christian if you’re unwilling to forsake them. This is called repentance, and Jesus declared that unless you repent, you will perish in Hell. We are called by God to repent of our sins and turn to Him because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world. You don’t have to clean up your life before you come to Christ; no, my dear friend, come to Him now as you are. You just have to make up your mind about giving up your sins. You must stop, turn around from following after sinful lusts, and begin following after Christ, calling upon Him to help and He will remove sin from your life as you follow His lead and obey His word.

James 2:19-20; Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; 26:20; Luke 13:3; Psalm 7:12; Revelation 2:16

You will have to forsake your desires and affections

Being a Christian will cost you all desires and affections which oppose the will and word of God. You will have to continually be on guard to rid your life of all the things that God hates and declares to be wicked. If you are unwilling to give up these unrighteous desires, you cannot be a Christian. God commands His people to hate evil and love good; to abstain from every form or appearance of evil; to flee from immorality, lust, idolatry, and greed. We are commanded to pursue righteousness, justice, and godliness. And this means all the things we fill our lives with will be determined by God’s word—the movies or television we watch, music we listen to, clothes we wear, and everything else on which we may set our affections.

Psalm 97:10; Amos 5:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:22; Ephesians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:10-11; 2 Timothy 2:22; Philippians 1:10; 4:8; Psalm 119:97, 128

You will have to surrender over your dreams and aspirations

Being a Christian will cost you all dreams and aspirations you may have that do not align with the will of God for your life. If you’re unwilling to completely shift the focus of your life away from yourself and your previous aspirations and toward Christ and doing His will, you cannot be a Christian. We are commanded to do absolutely everything—down to something as small as taking a drink of water—with the focus of bringing God glory. We are even called to take every thought captive and make them obedient to the will of Christ. That means if you’re worrying about becoming rich, well-off, famous, or whatever, you’re going to have to cast this behind you. Jesus declared that our primary and preeminent focus is to be on His kingdom above all else. We serve the Lord, not vice versa; and He calls His people to carry out His will, not theirs; we pray for His kingdom come, His will be done, not ours. He is Lord over our life, and His disciples must live their lives accordingly.

1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Matthew 6:10, 33

You will have to give up all your finances and possessions

Being a Christian will cost you all your finances and possessions. If you’re not willing to transfer all ownership of your money and possessions over to Jesus Christ, you cannot be His disciple. He owns everything in your life—including your life—and as a Christian you must acknowledge and submit to this. All that you have, you no longer use it for yourself but for Him—for His sake, His glory, His kingdom. And the things which cannot be used for these things must go. The money you have, which itself comes from God, you no longer use to buy foolish things for yourself but for the things which He approves and is glorified in. Christ commands us not to store up treasures on earth, but to store up treasure in Heaven. Your treasure will reveal your heart. If you’re all about money or heaping up this world’s goods, then your heart is with this world which will pass away. What will it profit you if you gain the whole world but lose your soul? If you seek to keep this world’s goods, you will lose both them and your soul. You cannot serve both God and wealth.

Luke 9:23-25; 14:33; Matthew 6:19-21, 24

You will have to leave behind your family & friends

If you love your parents, siblings, spouse, children, family, friends, or even your own life more than Christ, you cannot be His disciple. Your love for Christ must be so extreme and preeminent that it makes your love for everyone else, in comparison, look like hatred. Jesus declared that He had not come to bring peace and tolerance amongst one another on the earth…He came, rather, to bring a sword of division, to set a person against the members of his own household for the sake of obedience and loyalty to Him. If your family criticizes you in regard to following Christ, or pressures you to go on a route that opposes the will of God, you will have oppose them for Christ’s sake. If you have friends who love to sin and could care less about Christ, you’re going to have to leave them behind…but if you are true to the Lord and serious about following Him, they’ll end up hating you eventually anyway. However, Jesus promises that whoever has left houses or parents or siblings or friends or spouses or children for His name’s sake will receive many times as much and will inherit eternal life.

Matthew 10:34-37; 19:27-29; Luke 14:26; 18:28-30; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 15:33

You will have to renounce your reputation and status

If you are unwilling to count as loss for Christ’s sake your reputation and status, and what people think of you, you cannot be a Christian. You must count all these things as rubbish in view of the surpassing value of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. You must cast off any false notion that you are someone important, someone of worth, one with wisdom and strength, and realize you indeed are one who is broken, lowly, foolish, and weak. The message of the cross is foolishness to the world, and in coming to Christ, believing His word, and obeying His commands, you will also be esteemed utterly foolish by them. But you must embrace the reproach of Christ that will come your way. If you hold faithfully to Christ, you will be ridiculed, despised, mocked, and slandered.

Philippians 3:7-8; 1 Corinthians 1:18, 21, 26-28; 3:18; 4:9-13; Luke 6:22-23

You will have to abandon your comforts & easy living

If you are unwilling to take on the demanding lifestyle of a disciple of Christ, you cannot be a Christian. Jesus declared that the vast majority of mankind will end up in Hell, and that there are many who desire to enter into eternal life but will not be able to. He exhorted His disciples to strive to enter into the kingdom of God, because only those who violently press into it will enter. The Christian life is not one of luxury or complacency, but one of self-denial and discipline, vigilance, always being on the alert, always taking heed and being careful, always striving, pursuing Christ, fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold on eternal life. The Bible says we must enter the kingdom of God through many trials and tribulations, and all who desire to live godly in Christ will suffer persecution. You will be hated, excluded, insulted, scorned, slandered, and abused on account of Christ—you may even be killed—but be of good cheer, for these things you are blessed, and your reward will be great in Heaven.

Luke 6:22-23; 13:23-24; Matthew 7:13-14; 11:12; John 15:19; 1 John 3:13; Acts 13:40; 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 Timothy 6:12; Mark 13:33; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 10:12

HT: Holding to Truth

September 25, 2010

Would I Believe?

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Here’s another thought-provoking post from author and musicians John Fischer’s new blog, The Catch…

What does it mean to believe? For all practical purposes, “believe” has come to mean, “believe like me.” And the more I thought about this the more it seemed that believers had come to represent the opposite of what they should be.

What if believing meant that I had to be open to more ways of understanding truth than I have now? Would I believe?

What if believing meant I had to admit to being wrong much of the time? Would I believe?

What if believing meant I had to hang out with people who think differently than I do? Would I believe?

What if believing meant that no one was my enemy – I had no one to fight but the devil. Would I believe?

What if believing meant that my sin was far more important for me to deal with than anyone else’s? Would I believe?

What if believing made things more complicated instead of more simple? Would I believe?

What if believing didn’t explain everything? Would I believe?

What if believing was more about questions than answers? Would I believe?

What if believing meant I had a lot to learn? Would I believe?

What if believing meant I had to change? Would I believe?

What if believing meant I had to love all the people I currently hate? Would I believe?

What if believing meant exceeding my capacity to give back? Would I believe?

What if believing meant coming in last? Would I believe?

July 10, 2010

I Will Offer Up My Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:01 am
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One of my all-time favorite worship songs from England’s Matt Redman.

I will offer up my life
In spirit and truth,
Pouring out the oil of love
As my worship to You.

In surrender I must give my every part;
Lord, receive the sacrifice
Of a broken heart.

Jesus, what can I give, what can I bring
To so faithful a friend, to so loving a King?
Savior, what can be said, what can be sung
As a praise of Your name
For the things You have done?

Oh my words could not tell, not even in part
Of the debt of love that is owed
By this thankful heart.

You deserve my every breath
For You’ve paid the great cost;
Giving up Your life to death,
Even death on a cross.

You took all my shame away,
There defeated my sin
Opened up the gates of heaven
And have beckoned me in.

Jesus, what can I give, what can I bring
To so faithful a friend, to so loving a King?
Savior, what can be said, what can be sung
As a praise of Your name
For the things You have done?

Oh my words could not tell, not even in part
Of the debt of love that is owed
By this thankful heart.

June 8, 2010

Giving Up

I found this February post somewhat randomly.   Too many good things in the Christian blogosophere disappear after a few days, and it’s too bad, because there are a number of nuggets of gold in most Christian blogs if you’ve got the time to look for them.

This one is from Sim’s Blog and was written with Lent in mind, a time associated with “giving up” various things…

Give up complaining —— Focus on gratitude.
Give up pessimism —— Become an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments —— Think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry —— Trust divine providence.
Give up discouragement —— Be full of hope.
Give up bitterness —— Turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred —— Return good for evil.
Give up negativism —— Be positive.
Give up anger —— Be more patient.
Give up pettiness —— Become mature.
Give up gloom —— Enjoy the beauty that is all around you.
Give up jealousy —— Pray for trust.
Give up gossiping —— Control your tongue.
Give up sin —— Turn to virtue.
Give up giving up —— Hang in there!

`Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.’ – Matthew 9:13

April 6, 2010

Stuart Townend: Behold the Lamb

This is truly one of the most beautiful Communion hymns I’ve ever heard from one of the foremost praise and worship leaders in the UK, Stuart Townend.

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away
Slain for us and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross
So we share in this bread of life
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King

The body of our Saviour Jesus Christ
Torn for you eat and remember
The wounds that heal the death that brings us life
Paid the price to make us one
So we share in this bread of life
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of love
Around the table of the King

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin
Shed for you drink and remember
He drained death’s cup that all may enter in
To receive the life of God
So we share in this bread of life
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of grace
Around the table of the King

And so with thankfulness and faith
We rise to respond and to remember
Our call to follow in the steps of Christ
As His body here on earth
As we share in His suffering
We proclaim Christ will come again
And we’ll join in the feast of heaven
Around the table of the King

composed by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townend