Archive for the 'Practical Christian Living' Category

Busy Bible Reading

When I was a young mom, reading the Bible regularly was always a challenge for me. I went in spurts and starts. I always loved reading the Bible, but not enough to make it happen every day. I remember I used to wonder what it was that hindered me. After all, I made dinner every day even though I didn’t always feel like it. I showered. I brushed my teeth. I did countless other duties day in and day out. Why was Bible reading so hard to fit it? Actually,  I  made it way too hard on myself and set up ridiculous and unrealistic standards and hurdles.

First of all, I was tempted to stop and analyze my problem. “Why don’t I read my Bible more? I wonder what the problem is?” What  I should have done instead was say to myself, “I know! Rather than trying to figure out why I don’t read my Bible more, why don’t I just pick it up and read it right now?” If only I had thought of that back then. Even if I had only read a verse or two, it would have been much better than contemplating the causes of my erratic Bible reading.

Second, I think I was coming to the Bible trying to be a super-Bible-reader. I was going to the Bible looking for a “devotional experience,” and I seldom had one. So I figured that I must not be reading deeply enough or thoughtfully Continue reading ‘Busy Bible Reading’

Over-Hope

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“I hope to over-hope and over-believe my troubles” (Samuel Rutherford).

Troubles can make a person feel very alone. Does anyone really know how you feel or what you’re up against? The answer is no, no one can really know. Except Jesus, who is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He knows your troubles, and He walks with you through them. He is the foundation of all our hope. We believe in Him. So when we hope to over-hope, it is not a vague kind of hope that is embroidered on a pillow or painted on a coffee cup with a little picture of a bird. We don’t hope in hope. We hope in God who raises the dead. We don’t believe in belief. We believe in God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. In Him we can over-hope and over-believe our troubles because we know He works it all for our good and His glory. We wait expectantly to see the outcome He has for us in Christ. And this gives us gospel hope.

Work is Fruit

Recently, I think it was in answer to a question, my husband said, “Work is fruit.” We often think of the fruit as the result of our work rather than the work itself. We think the fruit is the harvest, not the plowing and the planting. So bend your mind around this with me.

When we are made new in Christ, we realize our redemptive and creation purpose, which is to do good works. Look at Titus 2:14: “Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” He saves us from our bad works and sets us doing, eagerly doing, good works. That’s death and resurrection in a nutshell!

We work out what He works in (Phil. 2:13). We do not work in order to gain our salvation or to gain God’s good opinion of us. His good opinion is freely bestowed on us in Christ, while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). But having received grace and forgiveness, we are made to be diligent and fruitful, and both the work and the fruit are gifts from God.

For me, this means I can look at my day and the work I have to do in it with a different attitude. Zealous for it. Eager to get started, eyes open. Good works are not drudgery, not monotonous, not menial if I see them as fruit. What kind of works does God have for us? His ideas include those of the worthy widow in 1Timothy 5:10: “”if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.”

These are broad categories that include millions of opportunities and details. Hospitality. Child-rearing. Homemaking. Service to the saints. Reaching out to those who are hurting. And everything else. This gives us tremendous scope for understanding what we were redeemed to do. And now we have been made to be eager to get to work. We are His own special people, chomping at the bit for the good works He has laid out for us each day (Eph. 2:10). Each one is a gift, an opportunity, a sign that we have been made new and that we belong to Him.

This means we are to be outward focused with our eyes peeled for the good works that are waiting for us each day. Look at all the good works God has specially made for you. Be zealous to do them. Not because you have to. Not because you’ll feel guilty or look bad if you don’t. But because you are redeemed and purified, ready for fruit.

 

Time for a Falling Out

James tells us not to be on friendly terms with the world: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (4:4). It is as though he is saying, “Don’t you get this?  Don’t you know this yet?” He goes on to finish the verse: “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

He is not being very diplomatic here. He is not trying to strike a bargain between God and the world so that we can be chummy with the world and still be on good terms with God. It’s all or nothing. We have to think of this as a war. The world is the enemy. If we are consorting with the enemy and wearing its uniform, then God is against us. If we are friends with God and wearing His uniform, the world is against us. Which way do we want it?

The Apostle John tells us the same thing: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

So here we are living in the world, which is just where God wants us, and the world’s apostles and evangelists are forever preaching and pushing their agenda on us. Are we listening to them? Are we a captive audience? Are we being “conformed to this world” or are we being “transformed by the renewing” of our mind (Rom. 12.2)?

How do we become conformed to this world? It comes of listening to the world and Continue reading ‘Time for a Falling Out’

Two Houses

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I must have learned the little song about “The wise man built his house upon the rock…” (complete with hand motions) way back in my Sunday school days. It’s  so familiar that we can (at least I can) miss some very important details. It comes at the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Let me repeat the text here for reference:

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

The first thing to notice is that Jesus is using this metaphor of the two houses to describe two kinds of people: those who hear Him and do what He says, and those who hear Him and and do not do what He says. Our first question ought to be, “Hear Him say what?” Since this passage comes at the end of His Sermon on the Mount, it is safe to say it applies to the whole thing. If we hear the words of His sermon and do them, we are building a rock-solid house. If we hear the words and brush them off, we are putting ourselves in a mighty dangerous position. Continue reading ‘Two Houses’

Curlers (and stuff)

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Have you ever noticed that when people self-describe they’re almost universally wrong?

Well ok, perhaps I’m being a bit pessimistic with “almost universally.” Suppose we re-phrase that into something a little less off-puttingly negative. I’m going to take another stab at it, and this time I’ll be much more encouraging and optimistic.

Have you ever noticed that when people self-describe they’re very often wrong? (I think that was much more delicately and tactfully phrased.)

I don’t mean when people say things like, “I just finished reading a book on gardening,” (which I did, coincidentally) or “I cleaned the bathroom today,”  (which I ought to have), but more when they say things like, “I’m just a really ___________ kind of person.”

This can manifest itself in anyone from the marriage counselor who’s had 4 divorces (“Seriously! I’m an expert on this! Let me offer you some life-coaching!”) down to the lovely and well-meaning woman who always brings that rather revolting casserole to church potlucks because she’s convinced that it’s her specialty. (“I just knew that everyone would be so disappointed if I didn’t bring my famous Nevada Pie with extra kidney beans!”) And then of course everyone at the potluck takes a helping because no one wants to hurt her feelings, and mothers plop a serving onto their offended childrens’ plates while shooting them That Warning Look . . . and the poor deluded woman goes home perfectly satisfied in the knowledge that her Nevada Pie is treasured and loved.

I’ll never forget the man who announced that he was the “musically gifted brother” in the congregation, Continue reading ‘Curlers (and stuff)’