Reposted from Radical Mentoring
Why do so few people read the Bible?
I’m not talking about a random verse pulled out to make a point, I’m talking about the book itself . . . the entity . . . this thing that’s integral to our faith. It’s one of the most important topics!
God’s Word is eternal . . . it’ll last beyond the internet, the Super Bowl, the iPhone, the Final Four . . . everything. In heaven, we’ll recognize the words, the wisdom, and the authors, and we’ll never tire of learning what it all means.
So why bother now? Why not wait until heaven when we’ll have all the time in the world? (. . . or out of the world?) Besides, is this stuff really important? Is it really true? Why do we struggle to ‘get into it’?
There’s the fact that God’s Word has been around . . . unchanged for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and almost half the world’s population believe its essence. A friend of mine was ready to commit his life to the nine ‘insights’ spelled out in The Celestine Prophecy. I asked, “Wow, what if the author changes his mind, or discovers some new truth?” Shortly after, he published The Tenth Insight. My friend later became a Jesus-follower.
Isn’t it smarter to build your life on a time-tested plan? The New Testament approach to life is wise, effective, stable, practical, and true.
“But isn’t the Bible just a compendium of stories and folklore, pieced together by church people with a motive?”
Sounds convincing, until you try to explain how the Dead Sea Scrolls perfectly matched earlier manuscripts and were untouched by church people from their recording until their discovery in the 1950’s. The Bible is true. You can depend on it.
“But is it relevant?” You bet it is! Here’s just one example . . .
You get a new job or have your first child or move to a new church. You’re scared out of your skin! But when you read 2 Timothy 1:7, God reminds you “the spirit of fear is not of God, but God is love, power and a sound mind.” Suddenly, you realize “Hey, I can do this! God loves me! This fear I’m feeling isn’t coming from Him . . . I have His power within me . . . I can discipline myself . . . I have a sound mind . . . let’s get on with it!” You’re no longer afraid.
And one more point . . . the Bible is supernatural! I’m not kidding.
Remember Hebrews 4:12? “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Paraphrase: God will use His Word to help you sort out your thoughts and attitudes regarding what you want (i.e., your “heart”).
I take that to mean when I read the Bible and ask, “God, what are you teaching me here?” or “Lord, what would you have me do?” He’ll often give me wisdom I’m not smart enough to discover on my own.
And then I try to obey. I also write it down in my journal, because I don’t want to forget. I’ve unearthed much of what’s written in my blog posts this way.
So . . . read your Bible. And chat with the Author as you read. Pray. Ask questions. Listen to His answers and instructions.
Reposted from Kristen Wetherell
What are you afraid of?
Between the two of us, I’m sure we could fill a sheet of paper with reasons for fear. I used to be afraid of a failing body and uncertain future, as Lyme disease took its toll on my immune system. That fear has been subdued to a degree, as God has allowed much healing and worked in my heart—but new fears have replaced it.
When our daughter’s due date was approaching, I feared labor and delivery. I feared complications. I still fear something going terribly wrong.
With financial responsibilities increasing, I fear being unable to make ends meet. I fear surprise expenses. I fear we won’t get to fully enjoy the home God’s provided for us, or freely give to those in need.
I still fear the chronic pain in my body. I fear it will never go away. I fear that the rest of my days will be strewn with even minor discomforts, a constant reminder of the disease that’s taken its toll.
Fear is not of God. I’m exhausted simply writing this list of fears, let alone feeling them. I know the enemy of my soul uses fear as a tool to steal, kill, and destroy faith, when Jesus came to give me fullness of life, his perfect love promising to cast out my fears (1 John 4:18). So I’ve been thinking lately, What are some truths we can cling to when fear looms and threatens our faith?
PROMISE #1: GOD IS ALWAYS GOOD.
The psalmist extols God’s goodness in Psalm 119:68: “You are good and do good.” What a simple, yet profound statement. Because God’s character is good—no ounce of unrighteousness dwells in him—all God’s intentions, plans, and works are good. Everything God is and everything God does is wrapped in goodness.
Yes, yes—God is good. We believe this. But this truth is hard for us to wrap our minds around when circumstances seem bad. When the grim news arrives, the tragedy strikes, and our worst fear becomes a reality—what then? Can we still declare, “You are good and do good”?
Here’s how the promise of God’s goodness casts out fear: God is for you in Jesus Christ, not against you. The giving of his Son for the sake of your soul is the ultimate demonstration of his goodness toward you. Not only this, but what happened at the cross proves that what appears bad, God is using for good: Death thought it had the final word, until Christ disarmed it by canceling the record of debt that stood against us (Colossians 2:14-15).
As much as we want to make sense of our situation because that makes us feel in-control, God’s ways and wisdom are higher than ours. Somehow his goodness undergirds everything that passes through his hands to us—even the thing we most fear. To trust in God’s goodness toward us as we walk by faith, not by sight, is the great challenge of the Christian life, with all its trials and sufferings—but it’s also the great, blessed assurance Christ lived, died, and rose to purchase for us.
Be not afraid; God is always good.
PROMISE #2: GOD WILL LET NOTHING GO TO WASTE.
This promise has comforted my heart and given me strength to trust God: He uses everythingfor the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). In Christ, all things work together for our growth in holiness and the exaltation of his name—all things meaning both life’s joys and sorrows. In God’s infinite wisdom, nothing that touches us goes to waste.
As for sorrow and suffering, the outcomes we most fear, God reminds us that he redeems our most difficult circumstances: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Affliction prepares us to enjoy glory all the more as it loosens our hold on this world; it teaches us how to submit to God’s will, conforming our desires to his; and it causes us to yearn more fully for the day when every tear will be wiped away in the presence of Christ. This doesn’t mean affliction is easy, but that it’s ultimately worth it.
Be not afraid; God will let nothing go to waste.
PROMISE #3: GOD WILL PROVIDE EVERYTHING YOU NEED.
When God gave Paul an incessant thorn, the apostle pleaded with him three times to remove it and wrestled with what he was doing through it:
But [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 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)
Because he knows that Christ is somehow more glorified through his thorn than without it, Paul is able to say, “I am content.” Yes, God, do what you know is best; only give me what I need to trust you in the midst of it!
The Christian whose faith is upheld by Christ in suffering is a display of his all-sufficient strength to the church and the world. Trust in God’s promise to supply for our every breath is a testimony that he is indeed enough for us, through the most incessant thorns and unceasing storms of this life.
The truth that “when we are weak, he is strong” casts out the fear that we’ll be left to our own devices and resources, that we won’t make it through the darkest night of the soul. But Jesus passed through the valley of the shadow of death at Calvary so we would never walk alone. He knew the darkness of forsakenness so we would never be forsaken. And he held the victory over sin and death so our hope for eternal life would be in him.
Be not afraid; God will provide everything you need.
LET NOT YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED
So go ahead. Make your list of fears—but don’t stop there. Hear Jesus say to you, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
Meditate on the promises of God that have the power to cast out your fear and uphold your faith, and praise him that these promises are for you through his Son.
Reposted from Radical Mentoring
About 173 million Americans identify themselves as Christians. If you’re reading this blog, odds are you’re one of them. Now I’m neither smart nor well-read enough to explain the various criteria used to validate one’s claim to being identified as a Christian. The theology is thick. Are you a John 3:16 kind of Christian, betting the farm that Christianity is just about believing? That might be risky in light of James 2:19 which says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” Is baptism a requirement? Does childhood baptism count or do you have to be passed ‘the age of accountability’ (I’m still looking for those words in a verse!). Do you have to belong to a church and attend regularly? Must we do ‘Christian work’? James seems to say so. In chapter 2, verse 17, he says, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Is ‘Christian’ a noun or a verb?
The word “Christian” has undoubtedly become a brand in today’s culture, with Christian movies, Christian music and Christian food (that’d be Chick-Fil-A!). Is Christianity a value system that guides a lifestyle? Or could it be a ‘tribe’ of people who salute the same ideals?
Oddly enough, the word “Christian” only appears three times in the Bible. And each time it shows up, it’s used in reference to Jesus’ disciples.
But the word “disciple” shows up 269 times in the Scriptures. 269 times! Clearly, God’s Word puts a lot of weight on being a disciple of Jesus.
Somewhere back in time, someone told me that a disciple is a learner and follower of Christ. For me, that means learning everything I can about Jesus, His life, His message and His Father. It means learning from my mistakes . . . looking back at my screw-ups and asking God to teach me better ways for the future . . . turning those mistakes into evaluated experience. That’s learning.
But following Jesus may be more important than learning about Him. Sometimes, I know how to follow Him by knowing Scriptures and how He handled similar circumstances. But sometimes I need more. I need special instructions . . . personal guidance and direction. For example, in navigating parenthood and grandparenthood, I need the leadership of the Holy Spirit because Jesus didn’t model that part for me.
Now, while I still think that understanding of a disciple is accurate, I’ve come to see that being a disciple is more than just “learning and following Jesus.” I like the National Discipleship Forum’s definition . . .
A disciple is “a person who is following Christ, being changed by Christ, and is committed to the mission of Christ.”
“Following Christ” . . . we just talked about that. “Being changed by Christ” says a disciple is a learner but not just head learner. He’s a heart learner, opening himself up so God can change him from the inside out. It means transparency and vulnerability. It means introspection, repentance, and a continuous pursuit of Godliness. It means living out the ‘Platinum Rule’ . . . loving others the way God loves you and me.
And the last phrase . . . “committed to the mission of Christ” resonates deeply with me and all of Radical Mentoring. Jesus’ instruction to “go out and train everyone . . . in this way of life” (Matthew 28:19 MSG) is the mantra of mentoring.
As we move into 2018, let’s commit to being true disciples of Jesus. Who’s with me?
Scripture: Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7)