Archive for July, 2017

“Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 17:4-7)

 

Peter’s offer to build shelters in Matthew 17 might seem strange to you, but he was inspired and didn’t want the moment to end. It was a life-altering moment. Jesus had just revealed His divine nature in the most spectacular way.

 

Peter was ready to camp out and make it permanent.

 

But Jesus’ next move was to instruct Peter and the disciples to get up and follow Him down the mountain where He continued doing ministry by healing a young boy. It had been a powerful moment, but Jesus knew there was more work to be done.

 

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to pause during a powerful moment of God’s presence, you can’t stay there. While here on earth, our responsibilities will always be awaiting us outside our prayer closets, church services, and quiet times. We will always have more work to do and more people to reach. In fact, we are commanded to go and make disciples.

 

I want to encourage you today with this fact: When you leave mountaintop moments in God’s presence, His presence doesn’t leave you. In fact, if you’re willing, the very same Spirit will work through you.

 

It’s great to be inspired, but to make an impact, action is required.

Read Proverbs 23 – 26
Highlights:
Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away (Prov. 25:9-10).
There’s a problem in the world today that has been going on for a very long time. This problem has destroyed the character of many innocent people and has allowed many guilty to thrive. This problem has destroyed marriages, friendships, churches and business partnerships. This problem is gossip.
This problem is as rampant in the church as it is in the world. It may even be worse because of the familiarity of a group of people who are together on a regular basis. The workplace may be the only place that rivals the level of gossip that is found in the church.
This probably comes as no surprise to many, however it should be a huge shock to those of us who are believers and read God’s Word. The Bible provides details as to how we are to handle conflict resolution. Our words should be directed by the Word of God. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile (I Pet. 3:10).
The Scripture that we are focusing on today gives us some of the best instruction possible. If there is a problem with someone, we should talk it over with them. We should not be speaking of this problem to individuals who are not involved in the matter. This is not to say we cannot seek godly advice on dealing with a situation. The first one we should seek counsel from should be God. Pray to God for help. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5).

This Means War!! In Christianity, we’re daily engaged in a fight. Not a fight with gun but a war for the souls of men. Yes, we preach, teach and reach out in love; but when it comes to ensuring that one soul is translated from the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light, the Kingdom of God’s Dear Son, we don’t play cool.

We take it by force! #ThisMeansWar is for all Christendom.

Follow the link, download, listen and ensure every Christian around you hears this message.

God bless you. ARM

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A Deeper Look at Love

When Laura Ingalls was growing up in various places in the American frontier—Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Minnesota and the Dakota Territory—she wanted nothing more than to be outdoors working or playing. She cheerfully helped with harvesting, gardening and caring for the animals.

During the Ingalls’ time in western Minnesota, scarlet fever struck most of the family. The disease left Laura’s older sister Mary completely blind. Mary had to give up her dream of being a teacher. She was still quite capable of doing housework and sewing, though, jobs she had enjoyed even before she lost her sight. Laura often resented Mary because Mary was so good. She was always gentle, patient and uncomplaining. Sometimes Laura wanted to slap Mary for all her perfection.

After the Ingalls family moved west to the Dakota Territory, a minister told them of a college for the blind in Iowa. College was an impossible dream for Mary unless the family could raise a substantial amount of money. The only way Laura could contribute was to do something that went against all her wishes. She could become what Mary had wanted to be—a teacher. If Laura did well in school for the next two years, at age sixteen she could get a teaching certificate.

Laura didn’t want to teach school. The last thing she wanted was to stay indoors and study just so she could eventually stay indoors and teach.

Laura relented, however, because of her maturing attitude toward her sister. On one of their walks, Laura realized that she was changing. She began to admire Mary. As the possibilities rose that Mary could leave for college, Laura realized how much she would miss her. She found she loved Mary after all.

Laura’s first teaching job was at a tiny new school twelve long wintery miles from home. Laura boarded in a tiny shanty with a couple who could barely tolerate each other. The man was nearly silent. The woman hated the isolated pioneer life and had become unbalanced. She resented Laura’s presence, screamed at her husband and threatened him with a butcher knife. Laura’s only refuge was the schoolhouse. Though her students were difficult and she often felt like a failure, being at school was better than being at the shanty.

Back at home on weekends, Laura admitted to her younger sister Carrie how much she hated teaching. She didn’t tell her parents because she was afraid they would make her quit before the year was out. Instead, she doggedly kept at it. What mattered was what was best for Mary. Laura’s pay was enough to keep Mary in college that year and to bring her home the next summer. Only Laura Ingalls’s love for her sister kept her in that first teaching job. Love led her to sacrifice her own ideal plans for Mary’s sake.

In creation and in his Word, God offers us testimony of his love for us. But John says that God has done even more. He has made the ultimate sacrifice: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

If God has gone to the ultimate lengths of love for us, we can only respond by making tangible sacrifices of love for one another. We may express our love in words, but our words are empty if they are not accompanied by actions. We may have warm fuzzy feelings inside, but our feelings remain private pleasures if they do not translate into deeds. We are even called to love others when warm sentiments are absent. Human feelings ebb and flow. True Christian love is not a slave to such emotional fluctuations.

Ben Witherington III writes about love in the Scriptures:

In the Hebrew Scriptures, hesed refers to a sort of love that has been promised and is owed—covenant love, that is—as in Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, I loved him and out of Egypt I called my son.” Covenant love is the love God promised to give to his covenant people, and which they in turn were to respond with in kind, loving the God of the Bible with all their hearts, minds and strength…. Covenant love, like marital love, is neither optional nor unconditional; it is obligatory. This is not to say hesed is compelled—just as in a marriage, love cannot be forced—but it is commanded. . . .

It is sometimes difficult for a modern person, who associates love with uncontrollable feelings, to understand how the Bible can command love of God, neighbors, even enemies. But in the Bible the many terms translated as “love” do not refer primarily to feelings. They refer to decisions of the will. This voluntaristic notion of love is recalled in modern wedding services, where the bride and groom say “I do” and “I will” when they are asked to make their vows, not “I feel like it.” In the Bible, when God’s people are called upon to “love,” they are being asked to do something loving and responsive to the love of God, whether they feel like it or not.1

A young couple lived next door to us, not married, each with a long history of living with various other people. One day the woman announced to us that this current guy was the guy for her, for the rest of her life. There would never be another in the whole world. We asked if they planned to be married. “No,” she quickly responded, “a marriage is too hard to get out of. Too much red tape.” Her boyfriend may have been the only guy for her, but she was already planning her exit strategy. It was no surprise when their relationship soon disintegrated.

By contrast we remember the nursing home where Sandy’s mother lived for several years. Sandy’s father had died several years before, but there were other residents in the nursing home whose spouses were still living. We recall a woman who arrived one day carrying balloons which proclaimed “Happy 50th!” Her husband was in the nursing home, in circumstances neither of them would have chosen. Perhaps at times he did not even recognize her. Never mind; her love overcame all that. She was determined that nothing would stop them from celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

The pure and perfect love of Jesus did not always feel good or make him happy. In the hours before he was arrested, tried and crucified, Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. He was about to give his life for the world. He was there in that place, facing that death, because he loved us. How did he feel? He told three of his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34). He prayed desperately to his Father, “Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

Jesus obeyed his Father when he didn’t “feel like it.” Because he obeyed in spite of his emotions, we are now empowered to love God and each other, as John admonishes us: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

What’s the main idea in this section?

What is one thing you can act on based on this reading?

Notes

1. Ben Witherington III, “From Hesed to Agape: What’s Love Got to Do with It?” Bible Review, December 2003, accessed December 6, 2011, at http://www.basarchive.org/sample/bswbBrowse.asp?PubID=BSBR&Volume=19&Issue=6&ArticleID=7.


Taken from A Deeper Look at the Fruit of the Spirit by Hazel Offner. Copyright(c) 2013 by Hazel Offner. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. http://www.ivpress.com

If you’re longing to go deeper in your understanding of God and his Word, LifeGuide® in Depth Bible Studies are for you. These new studies will meet your need for both rich, solidly researched content and personal application. They’ll meet your need for Bible study that challenges your head and your heart. Most of all, we pray you’ll meet God in them.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: (Ecclesiastes 3:1, ESV)

Classic Commentary

3:1 A season – A certain time appointed by God, which no human mind or action can alter. And by virtue of this appointment of God, all changes that happen in the world, whether comforts or calamities, come to pass. This is here added to prove the principal proposition: All things on earth are changeable – and happiness is not to be found in them – because of their great uncertainty, mutability, and transitoriness and because they are so much out of the reach and power of men and wholly in the disposal of God.

Purpose – Not only natural, but even the voluntary actions of men, are ordered and disposed by God. But it must be considered that he does not here speak of a time allowed by God, wherein all the following things may lawfully be done, but only of a time fixed by God, in which they are actually done.

(Adapted from John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes, The Book of Ecclesiastes: Chapter 3.)

A Thought to Keep

What concerns you more: the transitory, changeable things of this world or trusting in God and His will?

Jesus was so large of heart, so large of spirit, so endless in consciousness. Like, you don’t even need to think he is the son of God. Just think of him, first, as a man. He was such a man of beauty. Impatient with hate, dismissive of judgement, large of heart. Jesus was a beautiful man. Giving, forgiving, listening, understanding, relating, empathising. He was what some call, a son of mercy. How did his followers get so angry, and faithful and full of the fury of condemnation, and … xenophobia.

It’s all this ‘heretical’ teachings that take symbols and words and twist and bed them to fit whatever prejudice is in vogue in that age. Every generation has had its interpretation of the book of Revelations for 2000+ years. To fit its social context, and in this generation, our apocalyptic influencers insist the job of Christians is to delay the anti-Christ. *Shudders* And delaying the anti christ often means, in their telling, fighting ‘sin’, attacking the ‘sinful’, fighting cultural wars. To do this, they often descend on the book of Revelations and stretch and pull every word and symbol until it fits that assignment.

I have no doubt that they truly, truly believe in what they say, and their hearts may be in the right place. But it’s oh so dangerous. When Christians leave the simple, clear words and teachings of Jesus and the example of his life and witness, to pursue… evil.

Like sometimes I understand why the world is so cynical, so suspicious of Christians and Christian motive. Why they disconnect from our culture, and attack beautiful experiences like worship, or tongues, or prayer. They don’t see what I see when I am in many gatherings and I see the family of God’s children in worship, in fellowship, Connected, broken, emptied of self and ego and ambition, and fear and hate. Ah, worship, it’s a blessing to watch people in worship.

Then, those same people get into the world after service and then they become this judgemental, angry set of people. It really confuses me. Really confounds me. Like, how did you lose that pure state, that Jesus-state, so soon? How did you let it go? How did you let love go? How did you let compassion go?

Jesus was a disruptor. He was a spiritual disruptor. And that disruption was to the Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and all of that of the times the eye-for-an-eye, God-of-wrath stranglehold. His disruption was love. If it wasn’t love, then there was no point of His coming. The religions of the time already had judgement, condemnation down to a part. If that’s what he came here for, then it was unnecessary. But he came because his message was radical and revolutionary.

The way I see it. God was tired of the disruption of his true image for millions of years. He sent Jesus to make it right. To reveal his true nature that prophets and priests had struggled with for years. Jesus came to earth to model God’s true nature. That’s why it’s so difficult to justify a gospel of hate with his life. You can’t use Jesus’s words to justify this self-righteousness. You often have to turn to flawed apostles, or visioners. I’ll stick with Jesus. I’ll always cast my lot with Jesus. Stop “fighting for God”. He doesn’t need your help. What he asked you do is work on your life and bring others to him through that life. 

Listen, Jesus didn’t send the church to fight the devil for him. Nope. Jesus already won that battle on the cross. It is finished.

Anytime the Bible teaches about the Devil, it’s in relation to a Christian’s personal life. Resist the devil and he will flee “FROM YOU”. It’s not for you to carry weapons and go claiming you are fighting the devil. God doesn’t need your help to fight the devil. God needs you help to fight for your salvation and to draw others to him. And his weapon for that is love. The more you spend time fighting the world, the less time you have living a better life as a Christian. 

Matthew 7:5

Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. (NLT) 

When Christians stop persuading and start coercing, we have moved so far from what Jesus thought, we’ve practically turned our backs on Him.  Here’s what Walter Brueggemann has to say about “Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God.” 

I so desperately want people to meet Jesus. To meet this beautiful, incredible guy. All this hate from Christians makes it so hard. 

Important reading: “The Problem with, Hate the Sin Love the Sinner” 

“Using “hate the sin” as a license for cruelty defeats the purpose of proclaiming truth.”

  • Phylicia Masonheimer

The Problem with "Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner"Social media has brought out a dark side of Christianity. Torrents of hate spill into Facebook comments. Names are called. Insults are hurled. And somehow, we’re expected to win people to Christ through all of this. It’s this dark side of faith that the world reacts against so violently; their scapegoat for subjective morality. If Christian love looks like this – who would want it?

Hate the sin but love the sinner.

We use the phrase liberally, but are we liberal with the love?

There are plenty of Christian leaders who see this hatred and say, “No more!” But with the same breath that claims the love of Christ they write off the law that made Him necessary. Blurring the created lines of right and wrong, they “love the sinner” – and lie about the sin. Thus we end up right where we began: Striving for the ever-evasive balance of love and truth.

Our faith is like walking a tightrope. With each step, we are in danger of a wild swing into legalism or compromise. We walk the thin line – this narrow path – only by keeping our eyes fixed on the perfect balance of love and justice: God Himself. For if God did not define these things for us, we would have no measure of right versus wrong. We would be unable to give grace because there would be no reason to give it – without sin, there is no cause for mercy.

I’m the first person to call us to a higher standard of holiness. But as we navigate this sharply divided world, both online and in real life, we need to ask ourselves the following questions:

DO WE ACTUALLY HATE SIN, OR DO WE SIMPLY LOVE JUDGMENT?

Using “hate the sin” as a license for cruelty defeats the purpose of proclaiming truth. The gospel needs no help causing division; it is foolishness to those who reject it (1 Cor. 1:22-24). Because the gospel will divide based on its exclusive nature, our job is not to further that division but to simply love the Lord our God with all our hearts (emotions), souls (being), minds (thoughts), and strength (effort). Our second directive is to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.  (Matt. 22:37-40)

God hates sin because He is holy. Sin is contrary to His nature and prevents humanity from approaching Him. But because God is also loving, He desires a relationship with humanity. Jesus was the solution to the problem of sin, atoning for our unholiness and making possible what would otherwise be an impossible relationship with God.

Thus, God doesn’t hate sin arbitrarily. He doesn’t take joy in condemnation (2 Pet. 3:9). He judges because He is holy and sin must be judged. Yet it is by God’s mercy that any of us are able to claim the name of Jesus today. We are called to discern right from wrong in the world, but we are not called make judgment our hobby. To hate sin doesn’t mean we point it out at every opportunity, finding satisfaction in the failures of others. Our hatred for sin should be a direct result of our love for gospel hope. We only hate sin because it prevents a relationship with God. God is the judge; we are just the messengers, and we would do well to remember that.

SEE ALSO: 5 Ways to Protect Your Marriage on Social Media

DO WE HATE SIN IN THE LIFE OF OUR NEIGHBOR BUT IGNORE IT IN OUR OWN LIVES?

This question convicts my heart whenever I scroll through social media. Rife with animosity, Christians go to battle against even more malicious commenters in a never-ending debate about homosexuality, abortion, alcohol, and politics.

Yes, we should stand for what is true. But if we really hate sin, we will hate all sin, starting with the sin in our very own lives.

It’s really easy to point fingers at people who live a lifestyle devoid of God. It’s not so easy to see the sin in ourselves. Modern Christians, we are a speck-picking bunch. In the name of “truth” we seek out sin and we point at it like an over-eager hunting dog, waiting for God to pat us on the back. We are not called to seek out sin but to seek out those who need the gospel (Matt. 28:20). In the process of presenting the gospel, sin must be addressed. But hating sin is not our Christian day job.

The best way to understand, recognize, and address sin is to hate it in our own lives first. That means knowing the Word of God – really knowing it. Really studying it, not just proof-texting passages for Facebook debates, yanking phrases out of context to prove a point. We hate sin best when we love God most, because only His hatred for it is a direct result of His love for mankind.

SEE ALSO: How Sin Kills the Pro-Life Mission

DO WE ARGUE OVER THE DEMISE OF SOCIAL MORALITY WHILE IGNORING OUR OWN LACK OF HOLY LIVING?

Lifestyles of sin are celebrated in cultures worldwide. It seems to be all the rage. Morals are relative. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes. Society is indeed descending into moral chaos. But before lamenting the rapid descent, we should check our own moral thermometer. Are we ignoring the same heart attitudes that have been our culture’s demise?

Pride. Selfishness. Anger. Materialism. Envy. Lust: “…after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:15) Our world is dying because of the idolatry of desire. Where self replaces God, there is no room for abundant life. The eternal is replaced with the material, and separation from God is the inevitable result.

We bewail politicians and feminism and Common Core but the harsh reality is that this society is the way it is because of human hearts just like ours. We cannot expect a transformed culture when we have not transformed our very own minds. We cannot expect society’s sins to be conquered when we refuse to acknowledge our own transgressions.

So before arguing about abortion online, shut off the sexually promiscuous TV show.

Before bewailing the demise of the family, respect your husband. Love your wife.

And before burning sinners on a verbal stake in the name of “hating sin”, ask yourself: Does this action reflect the holiness of God? Am I really presenting the truth in love, or have I lost my love in zeal for truth?

I’m preaching to myself here. Instead of repeating, “Hate the sin, love the sinner”, I’m telling myself something else:

“Hate my own sin, love the way God does.”

Mercy is what draws us to repentance; it is the hope of our gospel. It’s the most lasting, loving way to truly hate sin.

This article originally appeared on phyliciadelta.com. Used with permission. 

Phylicia Masonheimer blogs at Phylicia Delta, where she teaches women how to preach the gospel with their lives: proclaiming Jesus in work, love and home. Her eBook Christian Cosmo launches March 1st, 2017