One of the things that is exciting about being involved in a church plant is the influx of new people coming to know Jesus, seeing miraculous things happening and being energized by new Christians. It is absolutely thrilling when a person who previously didn't regard Christ as his/her Savior experiences a life-changing decision. It boosts my faith when these people "who don't know better" really believe that God can do anything.
Having been a Christian for over 40 years, I think that I got this Christian thing down. I can easily become complacent and lazy. Yet, these new Christians are an inspiration. They remind me of how I need to rely more on Christ and less on myself.
I was in a small group from our church and we were praying for these new people. I was struck by a thought that I am sure came from God. I remember thinking, "you don't really believe that these new Christians are gonna make it, do you?" It was difficult for me to admit that to myself. But I sensed a further prompting, "tell these people in your small group what you have been thinking." So I said, "this is hard to say but I'm gonna say it. I have to confess to the sin of pride, of elitisim. These new people that we have been praying would come to our church, I have been thinking that they wouldn't last. That they aren't really gonna make this Christian thing work for them. I've been thinking that they will never be as good of a Christian as I am." Now, I would like to say that my statements changed somebody but these statements only changed me.
I am glad that I was brave enough to say out loud what I have been thinking for a while. It was difficult but humbling. I didn't experience any condemnation from my small group friends but rather an open discussion about attitudes and how we need to allow God's Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out.
I was thinking about my comments and my attitudes a little later, and I had another thought, "If these new Christians don't make it, you will be partly to blame. It is up to you to offer encouragement, discipleship, friendship and support."
That's one of the many things that I like about the Holy Spirit. He's direct, to the point and doesn't just blast away at me. He's sees something that needs to be corrected and all I have to do is listen, trust and obey. I'm glad that after being a Christian for all these years, that God hasn't stopped with molding me into the image of Christ.
If I'm honest and humble, He will do just that. He will do the same for you.
BE A MAN.
When I gave up, you held up
When I ran out, you filled me up
When I kept runnin', you kept up
When I let you down you lifted me up
This is the way love is
When I couldn't find the words, you understood
When I didn't find the time, you were in no hurry
When I wouldn't make ends meet, you tied them together
When I cheated you kept to the rules
Well, this is the way love is
This is the way love is
When it's a one-sided double-minded mirror with no reflection
When I was keepin' it in, you were givin' out
When I was losin' out, you'd let me come back
When I was holdin' back, you were holdin' on
When I was losin' my cool you were keepin' your love warm
Well, this is the way love is
This is the way love is
When it's a one-sided double-minded mirror with no reflection
When I kept it all to myself like a miser holds on to his last dime
When I closed up myself like a desperate hand on a lifeline
Well I was bled, I was dried, all wrapped up in my pride
This is the way it is when you're on the wrong side
Well, this is the way love is
This is the way love is
When it's a one-sided double-minded mirror with no reflection
It was a beautiful house. The most welcoming of houses. A stunning house. A house like no other. The house where Grace lived.
A home like this was destined to be shared, so as she often did, Grace prepared a meal. No, no, no, it wasn’t just a meal – this was a FEAST! The kind of cuisine reserved for castles, princesses, and fairytales. No expense was spared. She decked out her oversized, antique table with the finest china and the most elaborately embroidered tablecloths. The smell of exotic, culinary delicacies hung thickly in the air. It was time for a party.
Right about then, a man came struggling along the path in front of the house. He was obviously agitated. Jumpy. He talked out loud to the air with a phobic paranoia. And to make matters even stranger, behind him he dragged a large metal cage full of the ugliest black birds you have ever seen. It was attached to his waist with a massive steel chain, and he dragged it through the dirt with a strained shuffling gait. Whenever he stumbled or wobbled, the cage would shake and the birds would let out the most horrifying chorus of shrieks. The man would instinctively crumble in terror, balling himself into a fetal position, clawing at the air, as he begged in agony for them to stop.
Grace could see this awful unfolding scene from her dining room window and rushed outside to his aid.
“My friend,” she said in the most soothing of tones, “please relax, you’re not alone. I’m here to help, I have the answer. Let me cut these heavy chains and remove this hideous cage. You don’t have to drag these fears around with you anymore. Come inside, I’ve made the most splendid of meals and I want you to be my guest. I can do things for you that you could never possibly do for yourself.”
But the man shrieked all the louder. “Get away! Get away! These fears may be hideous, but they’re all I know. I’ve dragged them for more miles than you can imagine. I got them from trusting, trusting people like you! So leave me alone and let me get on with it. If there is freedom from these fears it will have to be of my own doing. And amidst the ever growing sounds of terror, he trudged into the darkness and disappeared from the warm glow of the house. The house where Grace lived.
Not more than a few moments later a new figure appeared on the path. Unlike the first, this man didn’t seem to be struggling much at all. In fact, cloaked in a massive oversized white fur coat, he actually looked to be…strutting. He paused every few steps to gaze at his reflection in the adjacent pond until he was frozen dead in his tracks by the almost mirror-like qualities of Grace’s massive dining room window. Absolutely gorgeous!
Even though the man’s ego was nearly as ugly as his coat, Grace rushed to the front door and warmly greeted this new opportunity with her usual warmth and charm. ”Hello friend! I’ve prepared a feast, will you come join me? I’ve planned a great party and I’m expecting many guests. I would love to add you to the celebration!”
“Eat with such plebes?” he replied with a smirk. “I’m sure they’re far beneath the class of a specimen like me. But I am hungry after this long walk.” And so he brashly sauntered up the stairs, brushing Grace to the side and heading straight for the front door.
“Oh, there’s just one thing,” Grace interrupted as she politely stopped his progress. “Your coat. It stays out here. In my house, all the warmth and covering you’ll ever need has already been provided for you. The only way we dine together is if we see the real you. No coats. No pretense. All that stays out here.”
“But this coat is my pride!” the man violently hissed. “If it stays outside then so do I!” And he stormed back down the front steps (with much less of a swagger this time), onto the path, and back into the woods (only pausing at a few leftover rain puddles for a quick peek at his reflection). His choice was made, and his egocentric silhouette quickly faded into the forrest near the house. The house where Grace lived.
As Grace reached for the doorknob to return to her preparations, she caught a glimpse of yet a third weary traveler struggling up the path. The woman appeared to be carrying a large sack, easily twice as big as she was, and was painfully doubled over under its incredible weight. Grace ran quickly down the front steps and up the walk to offer the poor woman her assistance.
“Dear friend, you can hardly walk! Here, give me your sack, we’ll leave it here. Come in and rest. Let me tend to you. I’m preparing a huge feast and expecting many guests. Join us! The food and drink is overflowing!”
The woman never looked up. Her voice was so soft and shaken she could barely be understood. “This bag is my shame, full of unspeakable sorrow and regret. Skeletons and memories I’ve carried so long they’ve become a permanent part of me.”
Sure enough, the sack had been on her back for so long it had quite literally attached itself to her skin!
“My dear,” Grace replied in her comforting tones, “please come inside and let me help you. I have just the tools to set you free, you only need to trust me. I’ve already done all the work to ensure you don’t have to carry a bag of shame like this anymore.”
“Thank you kind lady,” came the woman’s trembling reply. “But many have tried to help me do just that on the course of this painful journey, and to no avail. Freedom is an illusion I’m afraid. This sack of shame is who I am. If you cut it off I’ll most certainly die. Now let me on my way. I can manage this burden on my own. I’ve been doing it for quite some time now.” And so she slowly set out, following the same lonely path that fear and pride had forged just a few short moments earlier, and leaving the warm glow of the house as nothing more than a distant memory. The house where Grace lived.
The party was a smash! The house was filled with every kind of person you could possibly imagine. Princes and paupers. Businessmen and beggars. Aristocrats and commoners. They came from near and far for this feast of the ages!
No one left unchanged. Grace made sure of it. Cages and coats and large empty sacks littered the front walkway like a graveyard of self-salvation projects. And yet even as she relished in the joy of her miraculous work, Grace couldn’t help but wonder why three exhausted travelers chose to miss the celebration and continue alone. It was so unnecessary. The work had already been completed. All they had to do was come inside.
But the Good News for all weary wanderers is that the warm, inviting, transformational doors of this house always remain open. The house where Grace still lives.
This post was written by Erik Cooper. You can find the original post here: http://beyondtherisk.com/2013/06/11/the-house-where-grace-lived/
BE A MAN.
Last month I heard a prominent leader of a national movement of mostly white Christians give a talk in which he compared his group’s beliefs to various other Christian groups (including more ethnically-diverse groups). While extolling the virtues of his group’s beliefs he proudly proclaimed, “We have the best version of the Gospel.” Now I’m not interested in busting any one person’s (or group’s) chops, and in fact, I give him a lot of credit for saying publicly what many of us say behind closed doors and in our hearts. But as a minority group member sitting in the audience, I found his statement to be unfriendly to diverse voices.
Most blatantly, the statement violates the metaphor of the interdependent and multifaceted body of Christ. How can a gospel that is mostly (if not entirely) interpreted and articulated by a homogenous group of people (in this case, white, well-educated males) be the “best version”? But in a more subtle way, his statement sent a clear and powerful message to all of the diverse people in the room (e.g., women, people of color, people without advanced degrees, etc.). No need to join our movement; we don’t need diverse voices. We’ve already got the best version of the Gospel and we only needed white, well-educated men to figure it out. Diverse people need not apply.
Again, this guy simply said aloud what a lot of other people say privately or inwardly. But whether we make such audacious statements aloud or not, people of all cultures run the risk of alienating diverse people if they mistakenly believe that their homogenous group has basically figured out how to think, worship and live.
We might say we want diverse people to participate in our group but we are often too enamored with our own culture (e.g., our version of the Gospel) to invite diverse people to influence it. Rather, than actively seeking input from diverse people, we require them to assimilate to and bow down to the dominant culture. This approach might work to attract people who look diverse (in terms of race/ethnicity, etc.) but it will repel people who offer culturally-diverse perspectives.
Non-majority members who attempt to exert diverse cultural influence are often ignored — or worse, silenced and shunned. How dare they try to change our little utopian culture? we ask ourselves. How dare they challenge our perfect version of the Gospel? HOW DARE THEY?
I think we adopt a defensive and uninviting posture towards diverse others when we idolize our cultural group identity. When this happens, minority group members are not truly invited to participate in the community as valuable members of the all-inclusive we. Rather, they are invited to participate in the group as them—subordinate group members and second-class citizens.
Is cultural idolatry the source of this problem? If so, how do we avoid it? If not, what is the problem?This post was written by Cristena Cleveland. For the original post with comments, go to: http://www.christenacleveland.com/2013/05/we-have-the-best-version-of-the-gospel-diversity-repellent/
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
It’s happened to most of us. We’re cruising down the street, singing along to Justin Bieber’s sweet new jam when all of the sudden, some imbecile swerves in front of us and cuts us off. Not only does this give our hearts a shock, it usually unleashes a little monster we like to call “road rage.”
Our knuckles whiten, we grit our teeth, we may even let a dirty word fly out of the side of our mouths. We give our horn a long, harsh push or—even worse—we slip up that one finger that tells this reckless renegade exactly what we think of their driving. It’s so easy to lash out since, after all, we don’t know this person. They’re just some anonymous moron drifting in and out of traffic as they please.
This scenario is a classic American experience: we believe we have the right of way, someone compromises that right, and we take offense, often reacting in impulsive, unwise ways. And it doesn’t just happen on the road.
When you think about it, the same thing happens to us all the time in the public square—anywhere, really, where ideas are presented, debated and shared. And on the Internet, particularly, it happens a lot.
As with any large gathering of souls, the Internet consists of many different people from many different upbringings offering up many different opinions and beliefs. And for those of us who are fortunate to live in countries that afford us the freedom to live and believe as we choose, we’re granted the right to choose where our loyalties in religion and politics lie. Those choices aren’t taken lightly nor held loosely, and most of us defend them with our very soul. This being the case, the Internet often disintegrates into a hotspot of disagreement and offense; bursting with arguments, insults and accusations with little or no warning.
We’ve seen it happen recently in discussions of gay marriage, gun laws, abortion, gender roles and more. Someone posts something that offends our beliefs, and a counter is quickly posted elsewhere. It’s as if those attacking our beliefs and opinions are actually attacking us personally, and that’s something we just cannot and will not allow. What once had the supposed potential of a calm discussion soon turns into slurs and insults being tossed back and forth, growing more and more hostile as witnesses enter the fray to defend their friends and own opinions. Names are called, orientations are attacked, and opinions are ransacked—until it all descends into digital chaos. All because someone took offense to an individual’s opinion and acted out.
This begs the question: What right do we have to be offended at someone else’s opinion or beliefs in the first place? We certainly have the right to disagree with another’s stance, but to take a personal affront to the beliefs of another speaks to something else entirely. It’s as if we’ve adopted the type of selfish mindset that expects everyone to shape their every thought and response to what we’ve chosen to believe.
Who are we to assume that our opinions hold more value than those of another? In reality, each of us possesses the equal right to believe as we wish. We may not agree on faith or politics or a million other things, but we can be centered enough to realize that differing opinions are not a call for anger and harsh actions.
Even so, some feel it is their right to incite us to anger—or to be incited to anger themselves. If we’re honest, we sometimes take the stance that our taking offense is a spiritual posture—one of speaking truth, combating lies and championing What Is Right. This may be true or it may not be, but in the words of Paul, if we have not love, we are “nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
These interactions can lead to bruised feelings and angry responses, simply because that’s our first reaction as human. But as Christians who seek to be examples of God, it is our responsibility to turn away from those who would offend and malign us with aimed insults. Is it easier to respond in anger once we’ve been offended? Without question. But because we are called to love this world and to be more through Him, we should not only refuse to engage those who come at us with hate, but choose to look upon them with grace and a loving heart as well.
At the very root of our Christian identity, we are called to love this world as God loves us, and that means without condition. We are to show the kind of love 1 Corinthians 13:5 describes as not rude or irritable nor insistent on its own way. The disagreements aren’t going anywhere. We just have to accept the call of loving the naysayers anyway.
In the end, it’s not easy to respond well to that which offends or hurts us, but if we choose instead to fill our hearts with the love and grace of God, there will be no room for the pain or offense this world brings. Speaking out of offense rarely brings about good things. But speaking out of love—that’s what can move mountains.This post was written by Corey Copeland of Relevant Magazine. For the original post with comments, you can go to: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/taking-offense-not-part-christian-calling
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
It is strangely ironic that the freedoms and affluence we enjoy in our society are the very things that stand to ruin our children if not addressed early and effectively.
The consumer-credit industry is doing all it can to get your kids to fall for the buy-now, pay-later lifestyle. If you do nothing to intervene, statistics indicate that your child is headed for a life that will be severely impacted not by credit—credit is not the problem here—but by the debt it can create.
When the following three characteristics occur at the same time in the heart and mind of a child, they create a kind of “perfect storm” that has all the likelihood of creating a disastrous situation:
For our debt-proofing purposes, “entitlement” is that demanding attitude that says, “I deserve it now even if I haven’t earned it or cannot pay for it.” Some call it the gimmes, others the I-wants. No matter what you call it, this attitude is running rampant, and not only among kids. Entitlement affects kids and adults alike.
- attitudes of entitlement
- financial ignorance
- glamour of easy spending
Entitlement is subtle. It creeps into our lives when we compare our lifestyles and possessions to those of the people we respect and want to be like. It shows up in new parents who throw all caution to the wind when it comes to nursery furnishings and “mandatory” equipment. It shows up in two-income families who, because they work so hard, feel they deserve to have nice things. It shows up in adults who feel compelled to conform to society’s relentless ratcheting up of standards.
Entitlement is the standard message of marketing and advertising. Look carefully at everything that shows up in your mailbox this week. The message to keep up is relentless. The push for conformity creates attitudes of dissatisfaction and entitlement.
At every turn it seems something or someone is fanning the flames of entitlement in our lives—and our children’s lives too.
Attitudes of entitlement, both yours and your children’s, are an enemy that, if not dealt with, will surely sabotage your efforts to develop financial confidence in your kids.
A frugal lifestyle, where you live below your means, is the best environment in which to raise kids. When children observe their parents consuming carefully, making wise spending decisions, choosing not to buy the biggest and the best, and not living on credit, they begin to assimilate those values.
By telling your children, “We don’t choose to spend our money on that,” you send a positive message that you have money but make intelligent choices about how to spend it.
Clearly, attitudes of entitlement are a serious problem. But they are not terminal. Diligent parents who are willing to be consistent examples and limit setters will find success in tearing down attitudes that have the potential to do great harm.
Excerpted from Raising Financially Confident Kids by Mary Hunt (Revell, 2012).
To go to this post on Mary Hunt's site, click here.
BE A MAN.
So often, a person only reveals a difficult period of his or her life after the event, while reflecting on the event. This is especially true of "testimonies" given at church. A person stands to thank the Lord for seeing her through a dark period of life; meanwhile, many people stare in wonder how most of the rest of us were unaware of her living through such an event. I, too, used to live a privatized life. If I was struggling through a rough patch in my life, I would keep it all to myself, unwilling to share my pain or difficulties. Part of the reason for my privacy was fear, part of it was shame, and another part was pride. I have decided not to live my life like that any longer. I intend on being transparent about my struggles. I think that in doing so I can honor the Lord, live a more honest and thus healthy life, as well as give comfort to anyone who may be experiencing the exact same feelings.Over the last month or so I have felt loneliness unparalleled -- never have I felt this lonely. This lonely period began when I discovered that the only friend I had (in my area) was not really a friend, in the true sense of the word. Our relationship, unbeknownst to me, has never been one of true friendship but of convenience. If this certain person could not find anyone else to spend time with, then I would do. I was unaware that our so-called friendship was in this sad state of affairs. Now, in other periods of my life, I would have responded differently to this tragic state. But at this vulnerable point in my life, when I most need a close friend (with whom I can spend time and confide and share my thoughts and feelings, as well as reciprocate), I am left all alone and very hurt. The friend I thought I had was not really my friend at all.I often picture loneliness as a chasm because that is how it feels -- like a space of emptiness that needs filling. "But the Lord should fill that chasm," some say. Well, that sounds nice; that sounds like the typical, Christian, spiritual-yet-superficial pat-answer to every situation. But I cannot see the Lord, nor can I audibly hear His voice, or hug or touch or punch and be playful with Him like I would a friend. The Lord gives us like-minded friends who can excite the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell (hopefully pleasant). "Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one's nearest kin" (Prov. 18:24 NRSV). In my present situation, little did I know that I had the former but not the latter. This present loneliness is also coupled with a deep sense of rejection. The one is as hard to bear as the other. What I am learning from this experience is how to choose a friend more wisely in the future. The saying is true: we cannot choose our family members, but we can choose our friends. Nor can we choose if or when loneliness will visit us: all of us, no matter our age or social status, are susceptible to a brief encounter with loneliness (or depression or rejection). Spouses and members of large families often sense loneliness as much as any single person; so the mere presence of people in our lives will not guard us from its grip.Some people, when experiencing loneliness or depression, merely endure it instead of praying or calling someone or watching a movie or going for a walk; they merely sit and endure the grief and pain, the emotional and mental torment. For some, enduring these times is all they can do; they feel paralyzed by their emotions or mental state.I know firsthand that there are many people in the world today, Christian and non-Christian, who are lonely and depressed. I know so because I receive their emails. None of us should deny the fact that at certain times in our lives we must drink the cup of loneliness. We do not like this cup. We try to avoid drinking the contents of this cup. But often we are forced to take this cup, press it to our lips, and drink.I think the aversion we sense to such an experience is natural. We should not feel guilty because we try to avoid feeling lonely or depressed. However, Henri Nouwen has some sound advice:Whenever you feel lonely, you must try to find the source of this feeling. You are inclined either to run away from your loneliness or to dwell in it. When you run away from it, your loneliness does not really diminish; you simply force it out of your mind temporarily. When you start dwelling in it, your feelings only become stronger, and you slip into depression. The spiritual task is not to escape your loneliness, not to let yourself drown in it, but to find its source.1Why finding the source of your loneliness is so very important, he admits, is because "it leads you to discern something good about yourself."2 For me, that goodness is grounded in the fact that I consider myself worthy of friendship, with much to offer a friend. I despise this loneliness because it reminds me that I actually have been rejected, and it hurts. During Jesus' darkest hours in the garden at Gethsemane (lit. "the place of pressing"), He confessed to being deeply grieved, to the point of death, praying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me" (Matt. 26:39). Do we not pray the same prayer when we are facing some of the darkest hours of our lives? We all want our respective cups to pass from us. This cup of loneliness is mine to drink for now. No one else can drink from this particular cup. I must drink it, and I must drink it alone. A time will come when the contents of this cup will be depleted. I can then wash the cup, dry it, and place it back into the cupboard. I look forward to that day. 1 Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom (New York: Image Books, 1998), 36.
2 Ibid. This truly honest post was written by William Watson Birch. You can find the original post with comments here: http://www.classicalarminian.com/2013/01/the-cup-of-loneliness.htmlBE HOLY.BE A MAN.
Yesterday, we were at a restaurant with a couple of friends. We had great conversation and it was fun to be with them. They brought their children and we brought our son, and baby in utero. If you have ever raised a toddler you know that one does not simply take a child this age to an eating establishment…parents bring the child along with an “eating kit” of sorts (bib, utensils, sippy cup, etc).
Our food had come, and everything looked delicious. After we got everything situated, I turned to my son to put his bib on him. At that moment, my son turned into Mr. Independent and wanted to do it himself. “MY TURN!”, he yelled as he ripped the bib from my hands. He wanted to put the bib on himself. He did not want any help. Within seconds he had it all knotted up and asked for help to get it on.
Sometimes we do this same thing to God. We think we can handle all of our problems, and even become offended when help or support is offered. We want to do things ourselves. We want to have the power to fix what is wrong with us. Often, when we take this course of action, we end up with a tangled mess.
What would the world look like if we looked at God as the first resort instead of the last? I have a feeling things would work a lot smoother. Pride would not be a dominant issue in our lives and we would find peace in the midst of our problems.
Trust in God today…he can fix it….Whatever “it” is.This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. You can find his original post here: http://other-words.net/2013/02/11/my-turn/
If you stumble into sin, believer, don't give up; don't allow hopelessness to consume you, the deceitfulness of sin to blind you, or the weight of shame to defeat you. In the morning and evening prayer we pray, in part, the following: "I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not fall" (Ps. 16:8
). Christ is
at your right hand, and this fall shall not be final for you; He took the final fall.
Yes, you may feel as though your worst day has cast a shadow over you that will never break to show the light of day, but, happily, you're wrong. God, in Christ, has declared you to be righteous (2 Cor. 5:21
). Of the righteous we read: "for though they fall seven times, they will rise again" (Prov. 24:16
NRSV). You will rise, friend, because Christ will lift you up. He took the ultimate fall in order that you should rise.
No one knows how many times I've had to encourage myself, thinking these thoughts, repeating the words of this post to myself. How I didn't play dead but arose from sin is a testimony to God's sheer grace. This post is as much an exhortation to myself as it is for anyone else experiencing difficulties or tragedies, whether self-caused or otherwise.
What do you do on the worst day of your life? Rise: not because you're inherently worthy of being named righteous. Rise because the one who took the ultimate fall declares you righteous. Rise because, though you sinned, though you deserve the fate of the wicked like the rest of us, there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1
But rise, too, because you neither honor the Lord nor serve the body of Christ by remaining fallen. Don't play dead, possum. In Christ you have been made alive (Col. 2:13
). Play dead to your old, sinful nature or past. But in Christ, even when you sin, don't play dead -- don't remain defeated. In Him you are more than one who has conquered all spiritually negative realities (Rom. 8:37
). "So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1
You can avoid re-offending others by rising, and thinking healthy, spiritual thoughts: "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil. 4:8
). All offenses begin with thoughts. We are instructed to destroy arguments raised up against the knowledge of God.
But the apostle Paul also added, "We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle
raised up against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor. 10:5
NRSV, emphasis added). How many thoughts rise up against the reality of God's holy existence and righteous standards? We are taught to destroy such thoughts, to take them captive and make them obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5
I picture such thoughts as personified. I imagine capturing them, putting them into a prison cell, while Christ stands watch over them as Guard. If I fail to do so, then I may entertain such thoughts, have them affect me emotionally, and then obey them. When I obey them, I sin. "But one is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved" (James 1:15-16
But when you sin, no matter the degree, take it immediately to Christ. "If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9
NRSV). Don't let sin drag you into a hopeless, despondent, dejected place, out of which you feel impossible to escape. By His grace and forgiveness you rise up, and you keep rising up. You don't rise up only once. You will need to rise up every time you fall.
More than that, you will need to rise up every time you think
about a past fall. Such thoughts about your past have a tendency to paralyze you emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Paralyzed, you will play dead. No: in Christ you must rise up from the guilt of your past. Though you fall seven times a day, you will rise -- you must
rise (Prov. 24:16
The Lord foreknew every sin you would ever commit when He by grace through faith in Christ saved your soul. You don't ever take Him by surprise by any thought, desire, or action. In Christ He has already declared you holy, sanctified (set apart from the world and for His service and care), and righteous. You don't let Him down because you don't hold Him up.
You are becoming more and more like Christ (Rom. 8:29
), slow as such may seem, and your heavenly Father understands completely all of your eccentricities, particularities, and unique qualities. This is how, you see, you keep on rising. Give your defeats to the One who defeated sin, death, and hell (1 Cor. 15:56-57
; 1 John 3:8
). Give your hopelessness to the God of hope (Rom. 15:13
). Whatever you do, don't play dead, possum, but rise. This post was written by William Watson Birch. You can find the original post with comments here: http://www.classicalarminian.com/2013/01/saturday-devotion-dont-play-dead.htmlBE HOLY.BE A MAN.
In 1992-1993 we were missionaries in Ecuador. I have worshiped with people from many different cultures and have enjoyed the different ways that Christians engage in worship. I remember one service in Esmeraldas that had a very African flavor to it and another in Guayaquil that was a tropical, Latin mix. I thoroughly enjoyed both and could tell that these were ernest Christians who REALLY enjoyed worship.
On another occasion we went to Riobamba to a church high in the Andes mountains. What I experienced there was quite different. We had traveled there to visit some people from America that were on a work trip to the area and wanted to make some friends. We had eaten supper together with them and the Quechua folk of that church. When we went to worship, we were fortunate to have a teen choir lead us in worship. The worship was more formal and the singing was in a very nasally, high voice. It was in the Quechua language so I had difficulty understanding what they were singing.
I was young, proud and had my wife and kids with me. After the service one of the Americans came over to me and we were talking about the service. I said something about the service that I shouldn't have said. I said, "that music was gross!"
It popped out and I didn't take it back. I was instantly convicted but was too stiff-necked
to listen to God's Holy Spirit's chastening. After all, I was the missionary, they were just people visiting.
I have thought about my bad comment over the years, trying to analyze why I would say something like that. Now, I know that one of the tricks that Satan uses is to keep reminding Christians of their faults and sins to keep them feeling condemned and ineffective. I have been forgiven for my statement and my attitude and when I think about what I said, I still get a twinge of guilt but then I am reminded that was in the past and forgiven.
I recognized that I had in my mind certain ways that I approved of how worship was to be done. This third church, in Riobamba, stretched me and didn't fit my preconceived notions. I was clearly wrong.
I have prayed that the young American that I talked to (I have no recollection who he was) would not remember my insensitivity but the good things of his time in Ecuador.
Now it is 2013 and I am miles aways and 20 years away from that event. I have worshiped in several other cultures and other churches and have come to believe that I have put away such preconceptions. I no longer have the feeling that a certain style of worship is gross. I have matured. I have become more Christlike.
But have I? Have I really progressed?
I was recently at a worship service where we were lead by a worship team that had a decidedly "country" flavor to it. Part way thru this experience, I excused myself. As I walked past the sound booth, a friend asked me, "how do you like the worship team?" I said, "I am not a fan of country music..." I felt instant conviction, very similar to how I felt in Riobamba when I ignored the Holy Spirit. I immediately followed it with, "but I see that others are worshiping and the team is really doing a good job, so I can't complain. I'm trying to worship too."
OK. That was a bit better.
Then I was reminded of a statement, I don't know where I heard it, that says, "If your life is divided up between what you like and don't like and you just do what you like & avoid what you don't like, you're gonna have a miserable existence."
That statement is sooooo true. I close myself up to God's ability to work in my life if I just simply become opinionated about everything and complain/avoid things I don't care for.
So, I'm trying, I'm improving, I'm getting better, my intent is improving, my heart's getting into it....
but I still have a long way to go...Tomorrow,
we will talk a little bit about how to discern when God's Holy Spirit is speaking to you.BE HOLY.BE A MAN.