Learning to Appreciate the Silence

Silence is uncomfortable. Well, sometimes it can be. I believe it’s so, because silence gives us opportunity to think, to ask questions, to contemplate the world around us; and that makes us uncomfortable. Therefore, we tend to avoid it. Instead, we fill the air with the sounds of music, television sets, YouTube videos, or our own voices, and our mindseye with images from Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram (just to name a few). We’d rather listen to (or read, or view) insignificance than be forced to ponder anything of real importance. However, as believers, it’s often in these moments of silent contemplation that God reveals to us His greatest lessons.IMG_3503

Lately, I’ve been reading “Missional Motherhood,” by Gloria Furman. In one section of the book she talks about how God created us to be consumers of His Word. However, the devil, knowing that God designed us to be consumers, works at getting us to feast on things other than the Word: on stuff. Let’s face it, between social media and television, there’s no lack of exposure to “stuff.” Whether it’s material things, relationships, vacations, children, new recipes, organizational hacks, or makeup how-tos, there’s no shortage of “stuff” to preoccupy our time, energy, or thoughts. In fact, in our attempt to avoid silence and our own thoughts, we’ve become very good at silencing and drowning out the voice of God.

I know I’ve been guilty of this. Particularly as a new mom, it’s easier to sit in front of the television with a sleeping baby, or mindlessly scroll Facebook or Pinterest while nursing, than it has been to turn the pages of my Bible or talk with the Lord. But this needs to change. If we want our children to seek the Lord, then they need to see and hear their parents seeking the Lord. If we want them to have a heart for the lost, then they need to see our heart for the lost, His heart for the lost. If we want our children to live the Word, love the Word, and be consumers of the Word, then that’s what they need to see in us!

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ~ James 1:22-25 (ESV)

Yet, let’s not stop there, the gospel message is something our children should both see evidence of and hear.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (ESV)

In conclusion, let’s not be afraid of the moments of silence in our lives. Let us instead, appreciate them, make more opportunities for them and use them appropriately. This year–and every year, for that matter–let’s strengthen our relationship with the Lord, let’s listen intently for His voice, and let’s teach our children to do the same.

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Book Review – I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian

I picked up a book back in December, by Thom Rainer, called “I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian,” but it wasn’t until recently that I actually took the time to read it. It’s a short read–just a little over 100 pages–so this is going to be a really quick review.

wp-image-1867108290jpg.jpgI’m not sure what I expected when I picked up the book, but I think I thought it was going to be more about missions. So, I was a little surprised to find out that it’s actually directed towards believers.

It’s no secret that the state of the American church is in disarray. As Rainer put it, “Somewhere in the twentieth century, believers, particularly in America, began to shift from an attitude of self-sacrificing service to God and worship of God, to consumer-focused, self-servicing attitudes” (p. 30). This statement pretty much sums up the purpose of the book: to make believers aware of this fact (if we weren’t already) and to show us the way back.

Rainer talks about our attitudes as believers; the importance of being a growing member of a church, and worshiping in community; serving (both in and outside of the church); being a giver; sharing the gospel; and avoiding the traps of what he calls Churchianity— which he defines as “practicing our church and religious beliefs according to human standards rather than biblical guidelines” (p.93).

Overall, I think this is a good book for believers who find themselves often complaining or are unsatisfied with the churches they attend. If you find yourself constantly complaining about the music, the message, the parking, the ministries, etc., then perhaps you may want to pick up a copy of this book, take a step back, and rethink the purpose of the church. (Honestly, I think that most believers have felt frustrated with the church at some point in their walk, but our attitude and how we react–whether or not we allow God to change our heart–makes all the difference.)

After reading this book you should come away asking what you can do for the church, rather than what the church can do for you. So…what will you do?

Take care, and God bless!

Recalling Our Example: Christ

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve observed a number of people express their feelings towards others, in a way that can only be described as un-Christ-like. The funny thing is that every one of these individuals claims to be a Christian. Therefore, I decided to remind us all what being a Christian ought to look like.

I’ve been reading the epistles of Paul to the churches at Rome, Corinth, and Galatia, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m really fascinated by Paul, and I really I love reading his letters. He was such a wonderful writer, and I see so much of my style in the way he wrote. Usually his words have me praising God in agreement and/or laughing because I just get a kick out of his use of sarcasm.

Paul intrigues me because he was a man that grew up in the church. He was incredibly knowledgeable of the Word, and practiced what he preached. He was so firm in his beliefs that when the first Christian believers began sharing the news that Jesus was the Messiah and had raised from the dead, he whole-heartedly believe they were blaspheming and attempted to snuff them out. He thought he was doing the right thing. But on the road to Damascus, his whole world was changed. He came face-to-face with Jesus Himself! The very person whom he had denied! (You can read more of his transformation, beginning in Acts 9.)thCA0DHMHN

His combined knowledge of the Word and his relationship with Christ could have made Paul prideful. However, it had just the opposite effect. Paul recognized that it wasn’t his knowledge of the Word or his actions that saved him, but the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins.

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. (Romans 3:25-27)

Now, Paul wasn’t saying that our faith in Christ trumped the law that God established in the creation of the 10 Commandments, but was making the point that we can’t do anything to save ourselves. Jesus did all the Work!

Therefore, it angers me to see certain individuals (I’ll call them P1) believe that because they’ve lived the “right way” their entire lives (or so they think), look down on those who’ve sinned in the past (I’ll call them P2), even after P2 has accepted Christ as their Lord and savior has been allowing God to transform them day by day! The truth is, as Paul said, we have nothing to boast about, because we didn’t save ourselves! Even if we never broke any of the commandments—which only ONE individual could ever honestly claim—we were still born into sin, because sin is passed on through our father’s bloodline (Romans 5:12)!

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24) [emphasis added]

How dare we believe that we are any better than any other individual, when Christ died for us all!

Okay, so that was just part one, of what I have say (lol). Here’s part number two…Just because we are saved by faith and not by works, does NOT give us the excuse to not follow the law. Jesus Himself said that He didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17)—and He actually had even higher standards (Don’t believe me? Read Matthew 5:21-48)!  And Paul states in Romans that the law is not nullified by our faith, as well (Romans 3:31).

The purpose of the law is to show us our sin, the purpose of Jesus dying on the cross is to save us from that sin, but we’re not supposed to go back to wallowing in our filth one once we’ve been redeemed of it (Romans 6:2)!

    • For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:6-7)
    • Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
    • But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22-23)

Furthermore, Jesus and Paul, both explained to us, very clearly, that while we can (attempt to) uphold the law and have an established relationship with God, the greatest commandments aren’t actually explicitly written in the law. And ‘what is that?’ you might ask. L-O-V-E.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

This request that we love, doesn’t nullify our faith or obedience, it enhances it. The fact that God loved us in our sin enough to send His Son to die for us, reveals just how great His love is for us. Our natural response, once we come into the knowledge of Christ and establish a relationship with Him, should be to lavish upon Him with a grateful heart full of love, and obedience.  And the stronger our relationship with Him grows, the more our hearts are transformed by the love of God, then the more our love ought to overflow into the lives of the people around us! (For more on this topic you may want to check out some of my other posts: Multiply: Week 3, Burning One, and All-Embracing Love)

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

A mistake that we often make, is believing that we can have faith in, and love God, without allowing God to penetrate our hearts and make any sort of change in us. Then we go around telling the world that we’re a believer, even though James explicitly states that faith without deeds is dead!

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

Basically, James says “we have a group of people, who say they have faith and believe, but where is the proof of their faith”?! He goes on to talk about Abraham who had so much faith in the promises of God that he circumcised  himself and all the male members of his household (he took action!), before he even had evidence that God would accomplish all that He said He would (James 2:21-24; Genesis 17). We must ask ourselves, what do our actions and lifestyle say about what we believe?

Of course, we are also reminded in 1 Corinthians 13, that we can do all sorts of goods things in this life, but if our actions don’t stem from love, then it’s all meaningless. This is why we have to humble ourselves and allow God to change us from the inside out. Because, if we try to do things out of a desire to earn God’s grace, rather than out of love for God and people, then our faith and works are useless.

And lastly, although, He loved all, Jesus really made it a point to reach out to those in the most desperate of circumstances. He reached out to those others ignored: women, children, tax collectors, the sick, the poor, and even those who openly lived in sin. Jesus lived during a time when it was taught by the teachers of the law that those who struggled in lowly circumstances suffered because of sin in either their lives, or the lives of their parents. (Which is funny if you think about it, since practically all of Israel worshiped idols at some point or another.) But, there He was, God-in-the-flesh, meeting sinners right where they were. And what was His response when the Pharisees asked Him about His actions…”It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13).

Mercy. What is mercy? Mercy is showing compassion, kindness, and understanding towards others.

Many believers have fallen into the trap of surrounding themselves with nothing but other believers, much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. This is not completely wrong. Our closest friends, those we go to for advice, to whom we turn when we’re in need of accountability, prayer, and encouragement should be fellow believers. However, those who need to hear God’s truth don’t ever get to experience the goodness of God’s love unless we tell them and show them! We cannot completely separate ourselves from them. God calls us to shower them with love, compassion, kindness, and to show understanding as we speak Truth into their lives (**Note, that we cannot leave this last part out**).truth_in_love[1]

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:12-15)

Jesus told us to go into ALL the world and preach the gospel; a command that was issued not to just a few isolated believers, but to all who believe; so that we might reach men and women from every nation, every background, and from every circumstance, showing no partiality (Mark 16:15; James 2:1-9).

The Word

As I drove home from work Wednesday multiple thoughts flew across my mind. I thought about God’s Word; the book of Romans; an article I read earlier that day on Louie Giglio & the presidential inauguration; the church & Christianity, in general; and lastly, I thought about Paul. (Yes, I know it’s a lot to think about…this is what happens when I let myself think, smh. Sometimes it gets overwhelming and I have to ask God to just give me a break and quiet my mind.)

Regarding God’s Word, I thought about how blessed we are to have it! Imagine trying to live life without any sort of direction or guidance. (I know many people try to do it, but frankly it’s impossible and leaves one with a meaningless, purposeless, lawless, and selfish existence!) I thought about all our brothers and sisters in Christ, around the world, that are without Bibles, and how they will do anything to just have a few verses or lines of Scripture, even risking their lives to obtain it. And I thought about how we often take God’s word for granted. We are so blessed in America to have the freedom to read God’s Word, but how many of us choose not to!? Then we wonder why we feel so lost and unsure of our beliefs…Love Story Bible

Regarding the book of Romans, I thought about how chock full of information it is! As I study it, questions arise—which I jot down until I get the opportunity to ask someone (preferably a pastor) about them—and I find myself intrigued, amazed, grateful, and passionate about every verse and chapter. The book describes the purpose of the Law, our need for a Savior, the love God has for us (as revealed in the fact that Jesus came to earth in the form of a man to reconcile us to God), and how even though we (Christians) now fall under grace and not the law, we’re still expected to uphold the law and live our new lives—as our old lives passed away with the death of Christ on the cross and our new lives arose with His resurrection (Romans 6:6-7)—glorifying God in everything we do and say. And, I’m only finishing up chapter 8!!

Regarding the article on Louie Giglio & the presidential inauguration, I thought how sad that we live in a country where the minority is slowly influencing what the majority believes, says or does. Free speech has now come to mean “you can believe or say what you want as long as it’s the same as what I believe and say.” That’s not free speech! Free speech is that everybody has a right to believe and say what they want (in a respectful way, of course). If you don’t like it, that’s just too bad, because that’s freedom of speech!

Regarding the church and Christianity in general, I thought about how so many of our churches have fallen away from preaching upon certain subject matter, currently inflicting our nation and how anemic “Christians” are running around preaching a message that is not God’s message. We need to stop basing what we believe about God based on our own feelings/thoughts or upon what our pastors are telling us. Instead, we need to open up His Word and read the Bible for ourselves!! (Now you’re seeing how my thoughts have run full circle ;)) And because we have so many churches/pastors not teaching the full gospel, those that do teach the full gospel are criticized because they talk about God’s laws, and nobody wants to hear it! We have to hear about His law and His grace. We can’t learn only about His love because we’re going to find ourselves in trouble when we find ourselves face to face with His just wrath because we didn’t follow His commands which are found in His WORD. On the other hand, we can’t talk only about His law because then we’re facing legalism and the idea that we can earn our into heaven all on our own (which is impossible!). All of His word must be taught, read, studied, learned, understood, and LIVED.

And at this point is where I thought of Paul. I believe the reason God used Paul in the manner that He did was for one major reason. Paul—as Saul—was a major proponent of the law. He knew it inside and out. He studied it. He lived it. He was passionate about it. So much so, that when the early (Christian) believers began preaching that Jesus was the Messiah, Saul accused them of blaspheme and went from town to town having them imprisoned and even stoned/killed. When Saul came face to face with Christ on the road to Damascus, his life was forever changed (hence the name change to Paul). You may be wondering, “I still don’t understand, why Paul?” Paul was a murderer—he gave approval to the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr—and there was absolutely no way that he would ever be able to “make it up” to God. Jesus’s grace was the only way to have his relationship with God restored. Paul understood God’s grace as well as His justice.

Whether we’ve failed a little or failed a lot, we’re all in the same boat. God’s word says we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God and not one of us is perfect/righteous/ in right standing with God (Romans 3:10, 23). But that doesn’t mean we ignore God’s law because we can’t live up to it or change it so that it’s easier for us to live by. Nor does that mean that we ignore the fact that God loves us all the same and wants all to come to repentance, and turn our back to those we think are “undeserving” or “too sinful.” For God’s word also says that His grace can cover it all and His grace has no limit (Romans 5:20)!

I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again, we really must teach truth in love. Even then, we need to remember that the truth often stings, and we, therefore, must be prepared for backlash, and keep in mind what Jesus said about the world hating His disciples because we bring the message of hope to a dying world and bright light to a darkened room (John 17:14, 3:19; 8:12).

Live in the Word. Breathe in the Word. Allow it to transform the way you view the world and the people around you. Let it transform you: your reactions, your actions, your words, your life! You cannot survive on 1 or 2 pieces of cake each week (I call it cake because it gives you a momentary “spiritual” high); you need your daily bread, your meat, your living water!

Multiply: Week 2

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)

Part I: Living as a Disciple MakerWhy-is-the-Earth-round[1]

2: The Command to Make Disciples

When Jesus rose from the grave He left His disciples with one final command: to take His message to the world (known as the Great Commission). Can you imagine what would have happened if the disciples hadn’t been obedient? Christianity would have ceased to exist before it began! The disciples took Jesus’s words very seriously, traveling, teaching, and baptizing many; turning what began as a tiny off-shoot of Judaism, into Christianity, as we know it today.

Francis Chan writes, regarding the Great Commission:

Reading the New Testament , it’s not surprising to read that Jesus’s followers were focused on making disciples–it makes sense in light of Jesus’s ministry and the Great Commission. The surprise comes when we look at our churches today in light of Jesus’s command to make disciples.

Why is it that we see so little disciple making taking place in the church today? Do we really believe that Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the twenty-first-century church to do something different? None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a church culture where the paid ministers do the “ministry,” and the rest of us show up, put some money in the plate, and leave feeling inspired or “fed.” We have moved so far away from Jesus’s command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple making looks like. (Chan & Beuvig, 2012, p. 30)

Ouch! It hurts to hear the truth, doesn’t it? Next, Francis Chan goes on to talk about how “The Great Commission uses three phrases to describe what disciple making entails: go, baptize people, and teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded” (p 31).

But the simplest things to understand are often the most difficult to put into practice. Let’s start with baptism. In your church setting, baptism may not seem like that big of a deal. Maybe that’s why so many Christians today have never been baptized. But in the early days of the church, baptism was huge. Baptism was an unmistakable act that marked a person as a follower of Jesus Christ. As Jesus died and was buried in the earth, so a Christian is plunged beneath the surface of the water. As Jesus emerged from the tomb in a resurrected body, so a Christian comes out of the waters of baptism as a new creation…

Just as baptism is more significant than we might have thought, so teaching people to obey Jesus’s command is an enormous task. Realistically, this will require a lifetime of devotion of studying the Scriptures and investing in the people around us. Neither of these things is easy, nor can they be checked off a list. We are never really “done.” We continually devote ourselves to studying the Scriptures so that we can learn with ever-greater depth and clarity what God wants us to know, practice, and pass on . (Chan & Beuvig, 2012, p. 31-32)

I find this part so important. I’ve realized that the more I study God’s word, the more I want to share it, and pour it into the lives of others. Right now, as I study the book of Romans, I find myself sharing things not just with my blog followers, but with coworkers, family members, and my brothers & sisters in Christ. We cannot disciple others if we don’t know what God’s word says and aren’t putting it into practice in our own lives!

However, I’m also going to admit to you, that this has been no easy transformation in my life. I grew up wanting to be loved and accepted by everybody. Now, I’ve come to the realization that I’d rather be hated for speaking truth into the lives of others than to keep my mouth shut and let those I love and care about be left behind when Christ returns, or even worse, find themselves in the pit of hell; all because I was afraid of not being liked. It seems rather selfish, doesn’t it? We have to remember that we are not of this world.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:18-20)

Right now you’re probably thinking of all sorts of excuses as to why you can’t minister to others (I know, because I used to think the same way and still struggle with this sometimes), however, “as convincing as these excuses may seem to us, Jesus’s commands don’t come with exception clauses. He doesn’t tell us to follow unless we’re busy. He doesn’t call us to love our neighbors unless we don’t feel prepared” (p. 35). As Francis Chan states:

God made you the way you are; He has provided and will continue to provide you with everything you need to accomplish the task. Jesus commands you to look at the people around you and start making them into disciples. Obviously, only God can change people’s hearts and make them want to become followers. We just have to be obedient in making the effort to teach them, even though we still have plenty to learn ourselves. (Chan & Beuvig, 2012, p. 35).

Thanks for joining me for this week’s look at Multiply by Francis Chan & Mark Beuvig. I hope you’ll return next week for chapter three. Take care and God bless.