Christianity 201

June 30, 2021

Prayer: Have You Reached the Stage of Saying “What’s the Point?”

Today we have two alternative articles for you, but this one, while perhaps seeming elementary to some of you, is a good review and as we reach the end of the month and the halfway point in the year; I sense someone needs to read this.

The U.K. blog author, who we’re featuring for the first time, simply goes by “The Godly Lady” and the blog has the title, Christian Lady After God’s Own Heart. Click the header below to read at source, and then explore!

What’s the use of praying?

Ever found yourself in a place where you feel angry, annoyed, frustrated, downhearted, and feel a little bitter towards God? Well I have, and I’m sure that several other Christians have also felt this way too. It’s not abnormal to express emotions of annoyance over why God let a specific circumstance, pan out the way it did. My encouragement to you today is that you’re not alone in your feelings of frustration, although our experiences are different we all encounter pain, joy, and happiness in our lives.

So what’s the use in praying or striving to live a life of righteousness? If God has already determined my future, and there’s no changing what has been predetermined, why bother to pray, and pursue holiness? I can confirm that I’ve asked myself these questions, and God has recently brought two major points to my attention.

First point being an analogy. I know that my parents would do whatever they can to help me live a great and fulfilling life, and I’m also aware that if I desire something within their means to obtain, they will not hesitate to give me that thing. Now just because I know my parents will help support me doesn’t mean that I should stop speaking with them altogether, because they’ve done their job as my earthly guardians. What my parents desire most, is to have a deep, loving, and meaningful relationship with me. And we all know that a key ingredient to maintaining a good relationship is GOOD COMMUNICATION.

Now even if an answer to prayer seems delayed, it doesn’t mean that we should stop praying to God, because God desires intimacy with us, and wants us to pour out our hearts to Him. He desires for us to speak with Him! We mustn’t forget that prayer is a form of communication. Be honest and real with God, and pour out all your complaints before Him. God cares about everything that bothers your mind, no matter how small or big your concerns may be, God cares! So what’s the use in praying? It’s about building a better relationship with God, and enhancing our level of closeness with Him.

Psalm 27:8 ~ My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

Psalm 55:22 ~ “Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”

Secondly one should not do good (pursue to live righteously) in order to get from God, or to be seen by others. Remember God freely gives to us, not based upon our works or performance, but simply because that’s part of His loving nature! We should pursue to live godly lives, and mustn’t give up on doing good, purely because of our love for The Lord. The great act of love which God showed us through His death on Calvary, should motivate us to love Him through our actions, because He first loved us!

Galatians 6:9 ~ “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

So let us not give up on praying, and let’s not throw in the towel because of challenging circumstances. And let us not forget that when the going gets tough, we should strive to use it as an opportunity to build a better relationship with God!

Luke 18:1 ~ “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.”

Bonus items for today:

Today we have two suggested articles. These are opinion pieces, not Bible studies, but ones we would carry here if the format were different.

The first is by Michael Frost and just published today, If Jesus Planted a Church, What Would it Look Like? Highly recommended.

The other is by Chris Tiegreen and deals with the online disputes often carried out in the name of doctrinal purity; Disagreement or Heresy?

Both of these are respected Christian authors. Enjoy.

December 31, 2012

Goal for 2013: Be Authentic

God Hates Fake Stuff

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4

Everybody hates a fake.

Artificial or GenuineMy wife is so tricky sometimes! She puts out all this counterfeit fruit in bowls in our kitchen and I get so confused. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up a great looking pear and almost broken my tooth when I tried to bite into it! How worthless is that? I hope you don’t have fake fruit at your house.

I also hate fake grass. Football should be played on real turf.

I hate fake laugh tracks on TV shows. What?—is the comedy so bad that it needs canned laughter?

I just hate fake stuff.

God hates fake stuff, too. Not so much the surfacey, silly things that bother me—God hates soul fakeness. He detests the gap in our lives between what we know to be true and how we’re living it. The biblical term is hypocrisy.

There should be some kind of alarm that’s goes off in your heart when there’s a substantive gap between what you say and what you do; between what you profess and what you actually live; between the appearances that you keep up at church in front of other people and what it’s really like at your house. God hates that phoniness. That’s why Jesus says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1).

People will see you live your life; that’s not the problem. You don’t have to keep secret the fact that you go to church, or raise your hands in worship or get on your knees to pray, or open your written-in Bible. But when you do all those things so that people will see you—that is a problem. Doing-spiritual-things-so-other-people-notice goes right to motive. If you’re acting godly with the desire to get attention or affirmation or strokes from folks—you just got all the reward you deserve and lost God’s approval in the process.

So this begs the question, “Why is hypocrisy such a hard thing to shake?”

It’s because of the weight you and I put on people’s opinions of us rather than feeling the weight of what God thinks of us.

The solution: Don’t do anything “to be seen.” Have a better, more pure reason to do whatever it is you choose to do for God. Anything less than pleasing Him will only get you canned applause.

~ James MacDonald, Walk in the Word, February 2008

May 14, 2012

Seeking Earnestly

Today’s devotional find is Carl Gobelman’s blog, A New Creation, where these thoughts appeared today under the title, Truly Seeking Jesus.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (John 6:26-27)

Some of the more potent sayings from Jesus of Nazareth come from the closing words of the famous Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14). This passage depicts all of humanity on either one of two roads: The wide road that leads to destruction or the narrow road that leads to life. In fact, most of the sayings at the end of this sermon serve to differentiate true followers of Christ from false followers of Christ. What makes this difficult is that it’s often the case that one cannot readily discern the true from the false followers easily. False followers refer to Jesus as “Lord” (their doctrine is right) and they do many things in his name (their actions are right), yet Jesus will turn them away by saying “I never knew you” (they didn’t have a saving relationship with Christ).

The truth of the matter is that there are no shortage of people who admire and seek to follow Jesus, but they aren’t truly seeking Jesus. Today’s passage from John’s gospel illustrates this phenomenon. The context of the passage is Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. After the miraculous feeding, Jesus and his disciples travel to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. When the crowd that was fed the day before realized that Jesus went to the other side of the sea, they proceeded to follow him. When they find him, the crowd said to Jesus, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus responds with the passage cited above. Note three things about Jesus’ initial response to the crowd:

  1. Jesus correctly diagnoses their true intent
  2. Jesus negatively exhorts them
  3. Jesus positively exhorts them

Jesus begins by correctly diagnosing their true intentions. The crowd wasn’t following Jesus because of the signs and wonders he was performing, but because they were fed to the full by Jesus. In other words, they didn’t want Jesus, but they wanted what Jesus could do. If you’re a follower of Jesus, why are you following him? Are you seeking Jesus or what Jesus can do for you? How many Christians come to Jesus for life improvement? Having problems in your marriage? Come to Jesus and he’ll help you have a successful marriage. Having problems making ends meet financially? Come to Jesus and he’ll help you manage your finances. The problem with all of this is that Jesus becomes a means to an end, rather than the end itself.

Of course, people who are seeking Jesus for all the wrong reasons aren’t completely to blame. For many years now, Christianity has been marketed as relevant for meeting the needs of 21st century people. People don’t want to hear boring doctrine, but want a Christianity that meets their felt needs and helps them navigate the travails of life (at least that’s what we’re told from the slick marketers of contemporary evangelicalism). If Christ is preached as a means to an end rather than the end itself, then all you’re doing is creating shallow (and false) followers of Christ.

Secondly, Jesus negatively exhorts them by telling them not to labor for food that perishes. One of the great roadblocks to truly seeking and following Jesus is our propensity for being bound up in earthly desires (represented by Jesus as “food that perishes”). In the well known Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13), Jesus illustrates one of the false converts as the seed that landed in the week-choked soil. When it sprouted, it was choked by the weeds and died before bearing fruit. Jesus explains to his disciples that this represents the man who receives Jesus joyfully, but the cares of the world choke the life out of the person and he ends up falling away. Following Jesus is not easy. For many it means losing friends and family, for others it means losing wealth and status, and for some it may even mean imprisonment or death. If we’re more concerned with the cares of this world, then we’re not following Jesus.

Of course, it’s not enough to negatively exhort someone without also positively exhorting them. If we’re not to labor for the food that perishes, then what are we to do? Jesus continues, “[Labor] for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” Jesus will, of course, go on to say that HE is the bread of life (John 6:35). The food that endures to eternal life is Jesus himself! The Bible continually exhorts us to seek after the eternal, not the temporal; the imperishable, not the perishable; the spiritual, not the physical. As it pertains to our discussion, we need to seek Jesus, not the blessings he bestows. This is not an either/or exhortation, but a both/and. If we seek Jesus, we get the blessings he bestows as well. What does Jesus say in the Sermon on the Mount? “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). However, if all we seek are the blessings Jesus bestows, we get neither Jesus nor the blessings.

Jesus concludes this passage by saying, “For on him God the Father has set his seal.” The seal being referred to here is God’s seal of approval. That Jesus is the Son of God is authenticated by his miraculous signs. The feeding of the 5,000 corroborated that Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah. Jesus never performed a miracle that was superfluous. They all pointed to his redeeming work as Messiah — bringing sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf and making the lame walk all point to Christ restoring creation to its original design; a reversing of the effects of the fall. Yet the people that followed Christ to the other side of the sea were more interested in the sign that what the sign pointed to. This is a danger that some Christian traditions that over emphasize spiritual gifts run into; they’re more interested in the gifts than the giver of the gifts.

Bottom Line: It’s not enough to seek Jesus. It’s not enough to admire Jesus. It’s not enough to even follow Jesus if we’re not seeking, admiring or following for the right reasons. Jesus is not a life coach who will help you be a better you. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords! His signs and miracles point to that reality, yet we labor so hard in this life to make this life more bearable. Rather we should seek Jesus because he’s gateway to eternal life! He’s the REAL FOOD that leads to eternal life, not the perishable food of this world. Seek Jesus as he really is, not as some life improvement solution, but Son of God upon whom the Father has set his seal of approval.

~Carl Gobelman