Firm in the Faith

Last night I heard a PSA (public service announcement) that was very hateful. It got me thinking about how we, as Christians, should live in our nation(s) with their subjective truths and ungodly morals. Then, this morning, I read this verse:

13 Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. 14 And do everything with love.” 

1 Corinthians 16:13

These are marching orders, marching orders for all who claim Jesus as their Lord. How different they are from those we hear in the media. 

Love is Our Command

The last word in our marching orders is “love.” How weird is that! Usually, aggressive marching or a chant ends with words like “hate” or “hell.” Even non-violent protesters usually pit themselves against their enemies, but not those who imitate Christ. We offer to help our enemies, pray for our enemies, to be slaves to our enemies. We commit ourselves to love with true love those people that hate us because those people are made in the image of God.

If you’ve ever loved a newborn baby or a grandchild, you know you could never wish them harm. It’s that kind of love that Jesus expects from us for people that want to be our enemies. So, if they steal from us, offer to give more; if they seek to put demands on us that the unrighteous don’t carry, offer to carry more. When we are oppressed, we pray out of love for our oppressors, and we seek out ways to tangibly demonstrate our love. (Matthew 5:38-45)

Love the Lost

Oh, you may say, “We must stand against the wicked.” I say, “We must stand against the wicked in our churches, against anyone that claims to belong to Jesus but openly rebels against His Holy Bible. But it’s different for the lost. 

12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 

1 Corinthians 5:12-13

The lost will never receive the Good News of Jesus unless they see that His people are uniquely different from their friends and families. Hate always hardens people, but sacrificial love resonates with those who know their hearts need filling.

Our Marching Orders

So, especially during Christmas time let’s embrace our marching orders. Let’s be the people that Jesus desires. Let’s love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and love inexplicably people that desire us harm. Remember, Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

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People Children Child Happy Kids Playing Cute

My Two Friends

I have two of my friends that approach life in Christ quite differently. My one friend has an insatiable thirst for Christ in his life. He spends a lot of time listening to sermons and diligently reading and memorizing the Scriptures. He loves the book of Romans and always finds a way to talk to people about Jesus. He is a church elder and often preaches. I sincerely enjoy and respect him. I am blessed to have him as a friend.

My other friend has focused on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12). He deeply understands the Scriptures, but he rarely quotes a verse exactly when we chat. Still, for the past forty-five years, he has hosted individuals and families in his home for extended lengths of time and consistently seeks out people to share the Gospel and demonstrate genuine love, no matter what it cost him. I sincerely enjoy and respect him. I am blessed to have him as a friend.

My Contemplation

I began contemplating how does Jesus want me to live? For the first 1,500 years of Christianity, most Christians never possessed a Bible; many churches didn’t have one. So, Christians certainly didn’t read through the Bible each year, and they never had the opportunity to use a cross-reference, concordance, or commentary. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit was active in them, so lives were changed, and Christians thrived; massive numbers of people around the world turned their lives over to Jesus. That same Holy Spirit is still actively working today.

So, should I be like the saints of old and not possess a Bible? No! God has given us His Word for our spiritual health and our ministry to others. Why did God not allow Mr. Guttenberg to be born 1,500 years earlier? I have no idea. What I do know is that throughout history, God has continually broadened people’s opportunities to hear the Good News and repent.

Head and Feet

Relief from condemnation and true inner peace is what everyone longs for, but only those who receive God’s salvation acquire them. From the Bible, we learn how we can live with childlike inquisitiveness and how to discipline our bodies like athletes. Is one of my friends more right than the other? No!

19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

1 Corinthians 12:19-21

Good News

The keys to life in Jesus are faith and obedience. We are not faced with a contradiction between striving to live as an athlete for Jesus or living inquisitively as citizens in God’s kingdom. Whatever we do, we must do it in faith and without selfishness. The athlete must not judge the inquisitive citizen, and the inquisitive citizen must not judge the athlete. If we do as Jesus desires, then all of us will receive the “light burden” He promised, and we will know how we are to live our lives for Him.

Image by Hai Nguyen Tien from Pixabay

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Stupid The Word Stupid Scrabble Tiles

Are You Stupid?

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.” Proverbs 12:1

The New Living Translation states this verse as: “To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.” Proverbs 12:1

Imagine if you never learned from the corrections your parents and teachers tried to teach you when you were in K–12 schools. You would be of little value to yourself or society. As my dad would threaten me when I was obstinate, “You’ll grow up to be a ditch digger!” [Ditch digging is now a profitable profession, but back then, it was the bottom rung of work.]

This same truth needs to be embraced by every Christian. Besides local church congregations, there are just many Christians in leadership positions who have rejected discipline. As a result, their understanding of Christianity is like Swiss cheese; it’s full of holes.

Consider these statements from Proverbs, chapter twelve:

12 … but the root of the righteous bears fruit.
13 … but the righteous escapes from trouble.
15 … but a wise man listens to advice.
16 …but the prudent ignores an insult.
18 … but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
20 …but those who plan peace have joy.
22… but those who act faithfully are his [God’s] delight.

God has given us marvelous promises, but they all depend on His conditions. We must be righteous. We must be wise. We must be sensible. We must act faithfully. We must have the foresight to make plans that we accomplish. All of these promises are predicated (dependent) on a history of faithful service to God from the person.

It amazes me how many Christians don’t know their own local church’s statements of faith. Or they don’t know that Christianity grew from a handful of believers in Jerusalem to millions of Christian believers when, for the first 1,500 years of the Church’s history, the average Christian didn’t have a Bible and may never have owned even a single copy of one of Apostle Paul’s letters. And they don’t know that there were times when the Protestants and Anabaptists killed people for their Christian beliefs, just as the Catholic inquisitions did. There is so much we, as Christians, need to learn!

For us to learn and grow, God’s conditions require us to receive correction from Christ and His leaders He has placed in His Church – pastors, teachers, elders, deacons, and others that God has anointed to mentor His children. If we try to go it alone, if we try to be our own council, if we reject the people that God puts in our lives to correct us and disciple us through sermons, teaching, and cleaning toilets, then we are stupid.

Image by salmerf from Pixabay

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Man Dancing Hip Hop Dance Dancer B-Boy Fun Guys

Saying ‘No’ to Jesus

You may be familiar with Luke’s account in the book of Acts when Jesus (i.e., the Lord) showed the apostle Peter a vision of a sheet filled with every kind of animal, and the Lord told Peter to kill and eat them. Peter’s response was immediate:

“No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”

Acts 10:14

Peter’s response was based on Jewish law. My response would have been from being grossed out. That’s one of the thousand reasons why Peter is an apostle, and I’m just an old Gentile.

Still, notice that Peter thought he was taking the moral high ground when he told the Lord “no.” Let that sink in. Have you ever thought you were taking the moral high ground when God wanted to lead you into something you called “unclean?”

I can think of many things that my preconceptions would call unclean. Christian hip-hop music – yes, it’s real, and it ministers to a large number of young people. Charismatic churches. I wouldn’t be living for Jesus had it not been for a “full gospel” church. Missionaries to foreign countries. It is shameful how American churches have failed to fund missionaries who labor in humanity’s most impoverished, godless pockets.

Those are just three examples of the “sheet” that our Lord has let down for us to see. He has called these clean, but we somehow believe that our preconception is a higher moral ground than what Christ has plainly shown us. I pray that we will be like Peter and obedient to where He calls us. It would be a sad thing to come before Jesus and say, “But I thought my decision was more holy than what you told me.”

Image by Chris U. from Pixabay

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Ford 9N

As a young man living on a small farm, I learned how to plow a field. We had an old, underpowered Ford 9N tracker. Unfortunately, anything I tried to do would kill the engine every few minutes. There were times when I thought 9N should be pronounced “nein” because its answer to everything I tried was “No!”

There’s a skill one has to develop to plow effectively. Plowing takes work, especially with a 9N. I was constantly adjusting the depth of the plow over uneven terrain, keeping the furrows straight, adjusting the speed of the tractor to create consistent furrows while compensating for varying densities of the ground, varying moister content and other factors, all of which requires an unrelenting focus. And, I had to set my sight on something at the very end of the field and then plow my way to that place, never wavering.

As I grew older, I grew careless. I thought I had mastered this skill. I would let my mind wander, and then I started making mistakes. Even worse results occurred when I’d get in a hurry because I had someplace else I wanted to be. I put my hand to the plow but looked back (or ahead in my case). I would get to the end of the field and discover I missed my mark by three feet; trying to fix it was just an act of futility. Look what Jesus said about this problem:

Luke 9:62 (NIV) Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

It is perilous to tamper with the world; we must not look at its pleasures or seek its society. I’m not implying losing our salvation, but I am saying we can miss out on our reward in God’s kingdom. Our disqualification from a work Jesus has called us to rarely is due to actually returning to the world, but rather a reluctance to break from it. Christ will not accept “conditional service.”

Neither hardship, nor bereavement, nor home ties are an acceptable “absence from work (see Luke 14:25-33).” Let’s keep our focus where it belongs, not for fear of what we might lose but for the joy set before us to join with Jesus in His work “while it is still called today (Hebrews 3:13).”

Larry Norman wrote a song about this condition called “I am your servant.” Here’s Honeytree singing this powerful song:

I am Your servant

“Ford Ferguson 9N tractor 1942” by Charles01 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons


The law of discipleship

Sometimes difficult teachings contain joy in them. This devotional is one of those teachings.

Note: I use myself in this brief commentary out of ignorance. I don’t know what you or others do to practice the law of discipleship. Therefore, I’m left with me. That is sad. Please feel free to add in the comments section how you practice this law.

First, let’s look at this primary law of discipleship from Jesus: Luke 9:23-24, Then he [Jesus] said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

This concept is so important that it is also recorded in Matthew 16:24 and Mark 8:34 as well as Paul’s declarations in Romans 8:36 and 1 Corinthians 15:31. It’s so crucial that Meyer’s NT Commentary points out that the phrase, “whoever wants to save their life will lose it,” in the Greek can be translated, however, shall have lost himself, or have suffered damage.” 

The idea that Jesus proclaimed goes far beyond denying ourselves some pleasure or profit. Nevertheless, denials can serve as reminders, hence the reason for “Ash Wednesday” and Lent leading up to Easter Sunday. So, here’s what I try to do, daily, all year. It may seem dumb to you and please know I am NOT saying these are what you need to do.

  • In the morning I make it a point of reading a Scripture before I read anything else. Yes, even Facebook. 😉
  • I make it a practice not to eat before I read at least a passage of Scripture and pray.
  • I typically write my devotionals during this time. I may eat while writing, but occasionally I feel that the Holy Spirit wants me to stay focused, so I delay breakfast.
  • I make it a point to daily pray the Lord’s prayer, not because I believe it is an ecumenical mandate but because I want to spiritually join all the other Christians in the world that are praying the words of Jesus to our Father.
  • Throughout the day I look for ways to put the law of discipleship into practice. That may including talking to a stranger about Jesus, working on my devotional websites instead of my two technical sites, and so forth.
  • Praying to our Father for the guidance, promotion, health, and welfare of those on my prayer list – this includes you and each person that has taken their time to read a devotional on my site.
  • Ministering, if God so chooses to use me.
  • Other stuff that is for Christ but I won’t share lest I lose my blessing in them.

Any day that I fail to put into practice this law of discipleship is a day wherein  I suffer damage. My prayer is that you make this is a day of gain and blessing; take up your cross for Jesus.

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

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