Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

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EMBRACING JUDGMENT – Mar. 17

March 17, 2014

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”  Philippians 3:17

National Christian Forensics and Communication...

National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have spent the last three days, five if you count travel, with my family in Richland, Washington for the National Christian Forensics and Communication Association (NCFCA), Tri-Windy Speech and Debate tournament.  My son competed in two speech categories and Lincoln- Douglas debate.  However, I think that I was more consumed with this tournament than he was.

These tournaments rely upon community members to be judges for the students.  Parents are used to fill in the judging gaps as necessary.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of gaps to fill at this tournament, so I spent a lot of time judging.  I was responsible for determining winners and losers of debates.  I had to place speakers in a ranking order from 1 to 7 or 8.  I had to have opinions.  I had to have preferences.  I had to judge and reveal my conclusions.

After a speech or debate, I was thanked by each competitor for giving my time to come and be a judge for them.  They welcomed being judged.  While I was there for them, I don’t know if these competitors grasp how much they are impacting the judges that sit before them.  Those who judge cannot help but be influenced by those they are judging.

I am two days removed from the competition but I am still lingering over the spoken words from that tournament:

I am still savoring the tears of compassion elicited by words spoken with a quiet, confident, spirit.

I am still smiling in remembrance of the precious lisp of a voice given to a cricket who just wanted to be a butterfly (I Wish I Were a Butterfly).

I am still feeling the empathy that came from a delicate portrayal of mental illness. (The Yellow Wallpaper)

I am still appreciating how two competitors made a caterpillar come to life.  (Alice in Wonderland)

I am still awakened to the reality of a child soldier. (War Child: A Child Soldier’s Story)

I am still relishing the tears of laughter from the creativity of an interpretation of  Dr. Seuss.

I am still encouraged by the student who endured when his memory failed him.  He fought through to the end with courage greater than the comic-book characters he was portraying.

This tournament was ostensibly about the competitors.  However, there is always so much more happening when an individual embraces judgment.  The judged will inevitably influence the judge.  These competitors are learning the skills of the spoken word.  These are skills that will assist them in influencing their world for the rest of their lives.  However, that influence is not just in the future – I was influenced by their words.  These speech and debate tournaments are less about the competitors than they may realize.  These competitors are influencing the judging adults that sit before them now because of their willingness to be judged.

If they were not willing to be judged,
they would never influence these adults.

Georg Gsell. "The Apostle Paul."

We live in a world resistant to judging.  Often, we will try to protect ourselves from judgmental eyes.  However, we will never influence a world without embracing judgment.  When Paul challenged us to imitate him, he was opening himself up to judgment.  We form opinions about Paul’s life because of his challenge; we have to determine if his example is worthy of following.  Paul embraced the judgment of others and profoundly influenced the world.  If Paul had worried about judgment, he would never have interacted with the world.  He would never have spoken publicly.  He would never have written letters.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul had a profound influence over the world, because he was willing to be judged.

The world watches all of us.
We can either scorn their judgmental opinions or
we can embrace the opportunity to influence.

Going out into the world is a declaration of our willingness to subject our lives to the judgment of the world.

Are you willing to allow your words to be judged?
Are you willing to allow your decisions to be judged?
Are you willing to allow your beliefs to be judged?
Are you willing to allow your life to be judged?

It is not about us; it is about influencing those who judge.   The willingness of those who are willing to be judged are an example to me:

Judge the words I speak;
Judge the words I write;
Judge how I conduct business;
Judge how I have chosen to raise my family;
Judge my faith.

I want to live a life that influences my world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, I embrace the judgment of those who watch.  I embrace their judgment because I know that they will be influenced while they evaluate me.  May we all be willing to stand before the judging eyes of our world so that we may be profound influences upon those who are watching and listening.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me of my fear of other people’s judgment.  Forgive me for relinquishing opportunities to influence this world because I am afraid of a negative reaction.  Help me to welcome the evaluation of my life; use my life to influence the world around me.  Lord, I pray that you will draw others to your Son, Jesus Christ, through the influence that comes from a willingness to be judged.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“POWERFUL WEAKNESS” – July 9

July 10, 2013

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Bicyclists on Flagstaff Mountain
Bicyclists on Flagstaff Mountain (Photo credit: Let Ideas Compete)

“One more hill to go,” was the mantra that reverberated through my mind on the descent.  We were on the tail-end of a 30 mile, “out-n-back,” ride composed of a series of rather steep, rolling hills.  I have been making this ride all season in training for the “Four Summit Challenge” at the end of this month.

I swept up the base of this remaining obstacle as gravity turned from a pleasant companion to an uninvited burden.  I responded by dropping a gear and immediately felt the pressure migrating back into my thighs.  I dropped another gear and pushed into the pedals, working to keep my pedal cadence high, trying to transfer as much speed up the hill as I could.  The road soaked up energy as I had to drop into the middle chainring.  I was not even halfway up the hill and my legs had already made their emergency call for oxygen and my lungs were struggling to meet the demand.

“One more hill . . . One more hill . . . ”  I was at that point where I either had to drop another gear or stand and charge to the top.  My mind said, “This is the last hill,  why not!”   but my legs had a list of reasons as to why not.  The victor of this mini-debate was declared as my legs popped me out of the saddle and started the strange little pedal dance of a cyclist desperate to get a climb’s summit.  I quickly crested the hill but the damage was done.  I was gasping for air as I circled around, waiting for the other riders.

“Oh mama, that hurt.”

Giro d'Italia 1991

Giro d’Italia 1991 (Photo credit: ta_do)

After we gathered ourselves, a fellow rider paid me the nice compliment, “You are much strong than even at the beginning of the year.”  I guess all of the riding and climbing has started to pay some dividends.  I had just charged up a hill that I have had to crawl up in the past.  However, I was not feeling like I thought I would feel when I was a “strong(er) climber.”  That ride wasn’t any easier than the first time I had tried it.  In fact, that last little hill had put the hurt on me just like it had always done.

This experience reminded of the quote from three time Tour de France winner, Greg LeMond:

“It never gets easier, you just get faster.”

I have a tendency to think that strength will make things easier.  Whereas, strength does make things easier it also leads to doing harder things.  My little training course has not become easier because my increasing strength has allowed me to go over it faster, which makes it harder.  That is the way strength works.

Strength has to be challenged.  Strength has to be forced to the point that it is once again relatively weak.  Any amount of strength that I have gained this season will begin to deteriorate the moment that I start making my training course easier.  I will be at my strongest only when I am pushing myself to weakness.

My strength begins to ebb when I never experience weakness.

Many have a tendency to think that once they become spiritually stronger then following Christ will be easier.  I have followed Christ for more than thirty years and I can attest to the fact that following Christ has not become easier.  What I thought was hard thirty years ago is no longer as challenging.  However, I still have enough challenges in my spiritual walk that my weaknesses are a constant reminder.

This knowledge of weaknesses, rather than deficiencies to be scorn, actually is evidences of strengths being challenged.  It is at our weakest when we experience real strength.  Paul was given a thorn in his flesh to remind him of his weakness and the sufficiency of God’s grace.  Paul needed to remember his weakness so that the power of God could be perfected through him. Paul never laid back and rested in his strengths.  He never lived like following Christ was easy.  Paul went and did hard things.  He endured the hard things of insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.

Relative to me, Paul was incredibly strong.  However, he was well aware of all his weaknesses through the challenges of doing difficult things for the glory of God.  It was by embracing his weaknesses that the power of the Spirit continued to give him the strength that he needed.

For when he was weak, then he was strong.

There are many who have taken the easy route.  They have become secure in their spiritual strengths.  They no longer push their strengths to the point of weakness.  Beware when you feel strong.  Beware when following Christ becomes easy and comfortable.  You should be concerned when your weaknesses are not before you.  The reality is that the strength that you have may just be ebbing away.  The power of Christ does not rest upon those who think  they are strong.  The power of Christ rests upon those who acknowledge their weaknesses and need of Christ.  The power of Christ rests upon those who feel their weakness.  The only way to feel your weakness is by doing hard things.

We are all at our strongest when we are at our weakest.  Let’s go do some hard things and be reminded of how weak we really are.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my weakness so that the power of Christ might rest upon me.  Father, keep me from seeking the easy route.  Push me to use the strengths that You have given me.  Challenge me so that I may know my weaknesses.  Sustain me through my weakness – your grace is sufficient for me O Lord.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“MARRIAGE OF THE CONTROL IMPAIRED” – June 7

June 7, 2013

“But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.  The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.”  1 Corinthians 7:2-3

wedding in church

wedding in church (Photo credit: Brian’s Tree)

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the presence of this company, to unite this groom and this bride in holy matrimony. Marriage was ordained by God in Eden and confirmed in Cana of Galilee by the presence of the Lord Himself, and is declared by the inspired Apostle Paul to be honorable among all men. It is therefore, not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, soberly and in the fear of God.  Whereas, it would be good for these two to remain single as Paul was single, they have determined it is better for them to marry because they can no longer exercise self-control.

These two are inflamed with a passion for one another that is beyond their self-control to resist the temptation of sexual immorality.  Therefore, this groom and this bride come before us to enter into this concession we call marriage as a safeguard against the temptations of Satan due to their lack of self-control.  It is fitting, therefore, that we should on this occasion, begin by asking God’s blessing on this marriage service. Let us pray.

I have never been to a wedding ceremony that started out this way but most adults understand the practical advice that Paul is giving us.  We need to build into our lives safeguards to help us fight temptations in areas where we know we are weak.  One of the roles of marriage is to provide an appropriate avenue for inflamed passions.  An important role of marriage is sexual purity.

I realize that there are a lot of couples who enter into marriage without sexual purity being one of the reasons.  There are a lot of wonderful blessings and reasons God has given us the institution of marriage.  However, it is a mistake for couples to forget about this important and practical function of marriage that safeguards both the husband and wife from sexual temptation.

There have been countless examples of marriages and families being shattered by a spouse who sought the satisfaction of their passions beyond the bounds of marriage.  The need for self-control never subsides.  For most, the fact that they are married is an acknowledgement to their lack of self-control.  The marriage bed is part of the discipline that marriage people should use to keep their bodies under control.

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.  1 Corinthians 9:27

It is a disgrace, the number of ministries and witnesses that have been damaged due to Christians failing to discipline their bodies and keep them under control.  This is not limited to the marriage bed.  A married couple is a team.  A man and wife should be striving together in all aspects of their lives to assist each other in disciplining their bodies to the glory of God.

If one lacks self control of their tongue, the other should help them in keeping it shut.

If one lacks self control regarding a substance, the other should give up their freedom to help them beat that addiction.

If one lacks self control in overeating, the other should limit their self to help them.

If one lacks self control in their responsibilities, the other should encourage them not to be a sluggard.

If one lacks self control of their anxieties, the other should speak the truths of God’s promises.

San FranMarried couples who are walking together in faith have a huge advantage in the disciplining of their bodies.  We all have our weak areas.  A spouse should know their partner’s weaknesses.  A loving spouse will want to help their partner have victory over their particular weakness.

I want my wife to run her race of faith well.  I want her to finish well.  I want her to receive the prize.  Therefore, I am committed to helping her.  She wants me to help.  It is an expression of my love for her.  She doesn’t need help with her strengths.  She needs help with her weaknesses.  I need help with my weaknesses.  I need her to help me in those areas of my live where my self control is lowest.  I want her to help me.

We show each other love by supporting each other in our respective weaknesses in order that we will both be better at disciplining our bodies as we run our race of faith.

May our marriages be all that they were intended to be including a safe haven for bodies which are control impaired.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my wife.  Thank you for giving me a person who loves me and wants to help me follow you better.  Thank you for giving me a person who is committed to my well-being.  Father, may your blessing pour out on her.  May your face shine upon her.  May your Spirit fill her and abound in her.  Lord, help me to help her.  Give me wisdom in how I can practically support her in her weaknesses and may you give her the desire to help me in my weaknesses.   Father, we want to give you all the glory in our marriage.  We want to run well as a couple and as individuals.  We want to finish well.  Lord, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“SETTING THE PACE” – June 4

June 4, 2013

“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.  I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.”  1 Corinthians 3:1-2

Pace is difficult to gauge.

SwimmingIt is particularly difficult to gauge in swimming.  The problem is associated with being unable to see your accumulating time.  I never know my time until the last stroke of my set is finished.  Many times I have anxiously touched the end of the pool in anticipation of a new personal record (PR).  My swim felt great.  I felt faster.  The water just glided past me as I slipped through its restraints.  During those sets, I have day dreamed of race days in the near future; days when the pace I was swimming would keep me from being dropped by the real triathletes.  I tickled the thoughts of running into a transition area with most of the bikes still on their rakes because my swim was that good.

Those dreams of grandeur have been dashed more than once by the reality of my watch.  I get to my self-imposed finish line and stare down at my watch through fogging goggles.  That can’t be right.  I pull the goggles off to see better but that does not change the numbers.  I felt so much faster but my time is about the same as always.  I wonder if I lost count of my laps.  Maybe, I swam a couple extra laps without knowing it.  I make excuses for all my little lapses along the way.  Five seconds here and there to check my lap counter.  A three-second pause to spit out a gulp of water.  Two seconds for slipping on a turn.  None of my excuses add up to much time.  I am not as far along as my senses had convinced me.  The timer does not lie. Progress cannot be determined based on feelings.

Progress needs a gauge.

I have had another day dream.  I have wondered what Paul would have taught those immature Christians of his time.  I want to know the solid food that he held back because they were not ready for anything more than milk.  I am so disappointed in those early Christians for not staying on pace in their sanctification because they deprived us all of Paul’s teaching.

I have tickled the thoughts of listening to Paul teach the secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory (1 Cor. 2:7).  How wonderful would that be?  Just imagining this solid food of God that Paul could teach us.  I feel like I am ready for that solid food.  I feel like my pace of sanctification has been enough to keep from being dropped by the really mature believers.  I imagine that I am sufficiently mature to be prepared for the advanced class that Paul denied those early Christians.

However, Paul told those early Christians that they were not ready for the deeper things of God because they were still of the flesh.

For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?  (1 Cor. 3:3)

It is when I stop for a moment and really examine myself that I am all too aware of the myriad of actions in my daily life that are all too human.  I like to think of myself as mature and I know that I am in comparison to some.  However, I don’t know if I am all that much more mature than those early Christians.  I realize that the Church in Corinth had some huge problems but the Church in America has just as significant of problems.  We need to be very careful not to allow our feelings to be the metric of our sanctification.  The progress of our faith needs a gauge.  We are told to examine ourselves but that examination is not measured in comparison to those around us.

Spiritual progress is gauged by the scriptures. 

We need to periodically look at our lives in the reality of scripture to see how we are doing.  Is there progress?  Is the fruit of the Spirit more evident in your life?  Are you desiring God more?  Spiritual maturity is not measured by days on a calendar.  It is measured by the Spirit of God continually transforming us into the image of Christ.  Are you more Christ-like than you were a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago?  If you have been keeping pace in your faith, you should see a difference.

We need to periodically make an assessment of where we are and then get back to work.  This is where good pace-setters are helpful.  Most of us will dog-it when we are on our own.  It is so helpful to have someone more mature in their faith help us by setting a spiritual pace that is more aggressive than what we would have set on our own.  Now, we are not gauging ourselves based on this pace-setter but we are using them to see what is possible.

We will find ourselves in a lot of different situations throughout our lives.

swimming

swimming (Photo credit: Jim Bahn)

Swimming – In the group I swim with, I am the pace-setter.  The other guys are not as fast in the water so they are using me to push themselves.  They don’t like to be lapped.  So, they pick-up their pace when I am swimming beside them.  They end up going much faster.  I end up going faster because I don’t want them to catch me and I want them to get better.  I end up swimming faster when I am setting the pace.  It is the same in a spiritual sense.  There will be times when people are watching us and determining what spiritual maturity looks like based on our faith.  We have a responsibility to be setting a scriptural pace for them because they are imitating us.

English: Military cyclists ride in a pace line...

Biking – In the group I cycle with, I am not the pace-setter.  There is one guy who is much faster and stronger on the bike than I am.  He can keep a pace on flat stretches that exhaust me.  He can accelerate up hills when I am down-shifting.  He sets the pace for me.  I work much harder when I am trying to cling to the back of his tire.  He shows me that I can get a lot better.  He encourages me to want to get better.  We need people like that in our spiritual lives.  We need people to show us that we can go deeper with our Lord.  We need those people who will challenge pace complacency in our lives.  We need flesh and blood examples in our lives that will encourage us to go harder after our Lord.

so [alone]

so [alone] (Photo credit: Wsobchak)

Running – I run alone.  This is the hardest of triathlon disciplines for me because I have no one to train with me.  I run my routes in solitude; alone with my watch.  There is one stretch where I run into the sun, that is about two miles long and I can see it from one end to the other.  It can be a discouragingly endless section.  I have a horrible time keeping pace on this section.  I have no one pulling me along.  I have no one lapping at my heels to spur me on.  This is when I pull the visor of my hat down.  I look about twenty feet in front of me and I just run into the sun.  I check my watch a lot more frequently.  I count the number of strides in 15 seconds; all to help me keep pace when I am all alone.  There will be times in our Christian walk when we will be alone.  We won’t have a good pace-setter and no one is setting the pace off of us or it seems that way.  It is easy to start dogging-it.  It is easy to lose the pace of our sanctification when we feel that we are alone.  This is when we need to dive into the scriptures even more.  Paul told us to imitate him (1 Cor. 4:16); we are to be imitators of Christ.  When we are alone we need our gauge even more.  When we feel like we are all alone, we need to just keep walking into the Son and checking ourselves much more frequently with the scriptures to make sure that we are on pace.

I want to stay on pace in my faith.  I want the solid food that is given to the spiritually mature.  I want to run the race of this life well, to the glory of God.

Let’s see if we can pick up the pace a bit.

PRAYER: Lord, I don’t want to be an infant in Christ.  I want to being maturing in you.  I want to know you more.  Yet, I know that there is so much of me that is still tangled up in the web of my flesh.  Father, please continue to free me of my sin.  Continue to transform me more into you.  Lord, give me pace-setters in my life to encourage me; allow me to be a pace-setter for others.  Help me to be an example that is worthy of being imitated.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“…BUT I’M RIGHT” – May 28

May 29, 2013

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.”  Romans 14:1

English: St. Augustine arguing with donatists.

English: St. Augustine arguing with donatists. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A discussion about the subtleties of particular theological positions can feel like a mine field.  I have some family members with whom I have agreed to an armistice regarding certain branches of theology.  They never seem to go well; just hint at predestination and the tension in a Sunday School class will escalate.  Most of us have experienced discussions that are religious in nature which have quickly turned into various degrees of quarrels.  After one of these chats, my wife no longer accepts my explanations that start with, “All I said was…”  It is why I am effectively banned from such discussions at most social gatherings.

I don’t know why I get myself in those situations.  It is the rare occasion when I have one of these discussions with a person with whom I disagree and I walk away feeling uplifted, encouraged, and joyful.  I wonder how often God is glorified in these intense theological discussions.

The list for which we Christians have drawn hard theological lines is very long:

Bible Translation             Style of Worship   Eschatology                    Predestination
Days of Celebration  Baptism    Clothing          Alcohol  Tobacco         Days of Worship

We get all worked up about them because we are so convinced in what we believe.  Yet, I wonder how many of these quarrelsome issues will really matter in the end.

The fact that we are so convinced is actually a good thing.  We should be convinced about how we live our faith.  Our faith should matter to us enough that we have at least an opinion.  We should be confident about how we walk in the Spirit.  We should be decisive in the decisions we make regarding that which we partake and abstain.  It is a good thing to have conviction.

We are told that everything that does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23b)

Therefore, we should have very strong opinions about our faith.  What we believe about all the minor issues of our faith does matter.  We should not be wishy-washy about theology.  I have be told by friends that they have no intention of becoming convinced about a certain theological position because they are going to follow Jesus and Jesus alone.  I do not see where Paul is encouraging that sort of non-committal approach in order to avoid conflict.  Faith is center to our lives.  Everything that we do that does not come from faith is sin.  That is serious.  So, we should know what we believe and why we believe it.  We should have strong opinions about how we live our lives.  That is what it means to be fully convinced in our own mind.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. Romans 14:5

The question is how we are to handle these strong opinions?

As Paul teaches, we all are going to give an account of ourselves to God.  I will stand before our God and you will stand before our God and we will both have to give an account for all of our strong beliefs and how we lived them out.  The implication of this teaching is to lead us to conclude that there can be more than one right answer.

Just because something is wrong for me does not mean that it is wrong for you.
Just because something is right for me does not mean that it is right for you.

 I don’t like that very much.  It does not fit into my tidy, black and white, world.  I like things to be right or wrong.  My comfort is found in crisp distinctions.  I would prefer there to be one correct answer.  How can I be glorifying God in my actions and a person doing the direct opposite also be glorifying God?  That just messes with my head.

I think that the reason our discussion rise to quarrels is because we are fully convinced that there is one right answer.  Think about all of those conversations that you have had on theology that seemed to go in circles and were so wholly unsatisfying.  Maybe, they were so unsatisfying due to the fact that the equally right answers already resided in each of your hearts.  The fact that two people with opposite opinions can both be right is a concept that I have to be continually reminded of.

Therefore, we can relax when it comes to one another.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?  It is before his own Master that he stands or falls.  And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.  Romans 14:4

The real issue that we should be concerned about is whether someone is saved; whether someone has been welcomed by God (Romans 14:3b).  The essential issue is whether someone is justified by faith in Christ Jesus.  If they are saved, then they are responsible for their own faith before God.  The good news is that our Lord is able to make all of His children stand before Him.  Just think about what an incredible promise this is.  Every follower of Christ is empowered in Christ to stand before God.  We just need to learn to trust God to complete the work that He has started in our lives and the lives of others.

That is why we can chill-out about all these non-essential theological issues.  God has it all under control.   God is the founder and perfecter of both of our faith.  He is more than capable to uphold his own children.

Our strong convictions free us to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

It is because of our strong opinions that we are free to really love one another and seek their well-being.  The reality that we can both be right should motivate us to lay aside those non-essential issues and seek our brother or sister’s well-being more than being right.  Being right does not matter nearly as much as someone feeling welcomed and loved.  Our goal should be for them to feel welcome and encouraged rather than judged.   In fact, the confidence that we have in the Lord, by being fully convinced of what we believe, obligates us to bear with the failings (differing opinions) of our brothers and sisters  and to to not seek to please ourselves(Romans 15:1).

Also, we are set free  from other people’s opinions.  Ultimately, my faith is between God and me.  It is not subject to community polling.  This does not mean I can kill people to the glory of God; commit adultery to the glory of God; or cheat on my taxes to the glory of God.  This does not free me to be a false teacher or to embrace heresy.  However, it frees me from the opinions of other on non-essential issues.  I have felt judged by others on how I live my life (spend money, take vacation, hours worked, etc.), but I was not convinced in my own heart that what I was doing was wrong.  This sort of judgmental attitude by our brothers and sisters in Christ can really steal our joy and rock our faith.  We are freed from their opinions because we can both be right.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit Romans 14:17

We need to be convinced of our faith in our own hearts and live the faith He as called us to for the glory of God.  We need to walk faithfully in the Spirit and bask in the peace and joy of our faith.  Our faith is not a burden.  Don’t let the opinions of other people make it a burden.  We are called to live in the joy of our King.  Let’s embrace the freedom of the hope of God to live in all joy and peace of believing with a fully convinced heart.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for for setting me free in Christ Jesus.  Forgive me for those times where I have made a fellow brother or sister feel unwelcome and judged.  Forgive me for caring more about the rightness of my doctrine rather than your righteousness, peace, and joy.  Forgive me for not loving my fellow heirs of God like you do.   Lord, help me to see your children as You do.  Help me to love as you do.  Make me a man who pursues peacemaking for mutual upbuilding.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“CASTING HOPE” – April 26

April 26, 2013

“…since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” Acts 28:20

Hope is the state which promotes the confidence in a good outcome related to swirling circumstances in our lives.  Most everything that we do is based on a hope.

I crawl out of bed in the morning based on a hope of the new day.  I drive into work based on a hope of the income that will result from my employment.  I proposed to my beautiful bride based on a hope of spending my life with her.  We adopted children based on a hope of having a family.  I have friendships that are based on hope of enjoyable fellowship.

It is hope that drives all that we do.

I give up when I lose hope.  I have abandoned business strategies when I have lost hope in their effectiveness.  I have fired employees when I have lost hope in their ability to do their job.  I have stopped dieting when I am no longer motivated by a hope in a thinner me.  I have abandoned fitness programs when my hope in their promises has faded.

We can do the incredible when hope is alive and well.

We can fail at the simplest when hope has died.

Fishing at BlenhiemMy problems arise when I draw my hope too close.  My hope begins to die the more I reel it into my selfish world.  I am not willing to endure much of anything when my hope is for a comfortable and pleasurable life.  I can give up on most of the instruction of the Bible when my hope is based on me.  Is that not what most temptation is?  Most temptations are an enticement in the hope of self-love.

The love of self is poison to true sustaining hope.

What sort of hope do you think motivated Paul to wear chains?  Paul had an easy escape from his captivity – deny Christ and he would be free.  If Paul’s hope had been in a comfortable and pleasurable life, then he would never have endured.  He would never have endured.

mist castingI am at my strongest when my hope is the farthest away from me.  It is when I cast my hope into another world that I am on the surest footing.  My desire is to cast my hope onto the promises of God and secure it firmly on the foundation of Christ.

Hope that is embedded in Christ will sustain us as we are reeled to that hope.  We are not reeling Christ in toward us.  He is reeling us through all the temptations, trials, and suffering of this world towards Him.  He is the solid rock.  We are the ones floating in trouble seas.

Is your hope secure?  Is it alive and well or has it be poisoned by the proximity to your troubled heart?

Cast your hope far from you, onto the only One with whom it will thrive.  Set your mind intentionally on the things of the Spirit and the resulting hope in our Lord and Savior will pull you through all trials and suffering of this world.  It is hope in the glories that will be revealed to us that will sustain us through all the incomparable disappointments, temptations, trials, suffering, and persecution of this world.  Hope in Christ will never disappoint.  It is through our hope in Christ that we will endure to the end.

PRAYER: Father, in you alone I place my hope.  You are my light, my strength, my song. You are my cornerstone and solid ground in this troubled world.  Thank you for sustaining me.  Thank you for guiding me.  Thank you for giving me true hope.  There is nothing that can break your hold on me as I cling to the sure foundation of your Son, Jesus Christ. My hope is found in Christ alone.   Thank you for making me yours.  I praise You and pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“NOBLY PERSUADED” – Mar. 24

March 24, 2013

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Acts 17:11

My son participates in a local club of the National Christian Forensics and Communication Association.  His latest assignment was a team policy debate.  I helped him think through his argumentation.  I gave him some direction on where to research the evidence to support his position.  We considered how some of his research might be used to counter his resolution.  It was great fun.

I appreciate debate since it is not about spinning a position.  Debate is the skill of presenting evidence to a listener in a manner that is the most persuasive. Strong evidence should triumph over pure persuasion in every debate.  The speaker who wields overwhelming evidence just has to present his argument in an understandable manner and the evidence will speak for itself.  Therefore, persuasion does not have to carry the day when evidence can speak for itself.

However, evidence has a surprising quality.  It is malleable. Evidence has to be handled with an intellectual integrity to avoid forming it into an alternative form.  Careful editing can cause a study to support an inadvertent conclusion.  The emphasis of specific words can imply a meaning that was never intended.  The order of findings can represent a cause-effect that is unsupportable. A quote taken out of context can portray a person as a villain or a hero.

the CNN-Youtube Republican DebateUnfortunately, we do not live in a world where persuaders adhere to an ethical standard in their argumentation.

The eloquent opiate of persuasion is what passes for debate throughout our society, particularly at the highest levels.  Facts and evidence get manipulated and molded to conform to agendas.  I listen to one political party present their argument and my ears tingle as my intellect leans towards them.  As their opposition weaves the counter argument, I am induced in the reverse direction.  I feel like the cobra wavering from side to side as competing enchanters vie for my devotion.  The problem is that this dance of persuasion is absent the integrity of evidence.  These enchanters present evidence that has been molded beyond recognition.  They can both use the same evidence to support widely different conclusions.

I believe that every person wants to be persuaded by true and trustworthy evidence.  However, the determination of the evidence’s accuracy or relevance is ultimately the responsibility of the listener.   It would be nice if we could rely upon the integrity of our persuaders but this is not the world we live in.  It never has been.  The listener is responsible to identify and examine the evidence and then decide if they are persuaded.Raphael, St Paul Preaching in Athens

This examination of evidence can take a lot of time and effort.  It is time and effort that most of are not willing to expend.  The result is the formation of camps.  We congregate in special interest groups and accept the examination of people who we trust.  One end of the political spectrum will trust the examination of MSNBC and CNN.  The other end of the spectrum will trust FOX News.  We do this with special interest advocates, companies, authors, athletes, and celebrities.

The Church is obviously a place of belief congregation.  However, the Church is not absent its own form of persuaders.  There have always been those who have the ability to speak to a generation in a manner and form that is deeply persuasive.  These teachers were in the early Church and have persisted throughout Church history.  There are several of these gifted teachers active in the Church today.  They produce books, videos, conferences, and podcasts.  There are some who I believe base their persuasion on trustworthy and true evidence and others who rely upon their gifts to tickle the ears of their listeners and mold evidences to support their preconceived postulates.

How can we tell the difference? What are we to do?  Whom can we trust?

It is not a matter of trust.  We have never been called to blindly trust any human leader.  It is a matter of responsibility.  We either take responsibility for what we believe or we defer it to someone else.  God has not left us as helpless sheep in a world of wolves.

The Jews in Berea had this problem.  These two men named Paul and Silas came to their synagogue and began to persuade them about Jesus who they claimed was the Messiah.  Why should the trust anything that Paul and Silas told them.  What were they supposed to do?

The Jews of Berea did not defer the responsibility of examining evidence.  That is what made them more noble than those in Thessalonica.  They listened to Paul and Silas.  They were not swayed by eloquent speech.  They identified the evidence that these new persuaders presented and then examined it against the scripture to see if the evidence that was being present was true and trustworthy.

The Bereans were active listeners.  That is how they were able to identify truth and be persuaded toward righteousness.  As followers of Christ, we desire to be persuaded by our leaders and teachers toward righteousness.  It is a dangerous path to subjugate that responsibility to another fallible person.  We all need to accept the responsibility of being active listeners.

Let’s not be persuaded by anyone just because it sounds good.  May we not sit in pews being enchanted in whatever direction our Pastor woos us, whether towards truth or a mangled form of it.  Let us be respectfully engaged in what we are being taught, with all eagerness, receiving the word that is present and then taking that word back to our Bibles to see if it is so.

That is the path of the nobly persuaded.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for your scripture and your Spirit that shows us the way of trustworthy truth.  Father, thank you for the example of the Bereans.  Lord, keep me from the laziness of just accepting what I am taught.  Give me an eagerness for your word and a deep personal responsibility to examine all teaching with your holy words.  Amen

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