Consistent Christianity

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The greatest argument against Christianity is not the problem of pain or the lack of miracles in our world but rather the inconsistency of Christians. Too often our actions contradict our message. We proclaim grand truth but live mediocre lives.

Although we as Christians often grow accustomed to this discrepancy, unbelievers do not. They recognize the inconsistency in our lives and often use it to discredit our God.

Two years ago I stumbled across a tract by an atheist that profoundly challenged me. Although he is an atheist, this man has a clearer understanding of what the consistent Christian life would look like than many Christians. The tract reads as follows:

“Did I firmly believe, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, religion would mean to me everything. I would cast away earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my first waking thought, and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I should labour in its cause alone. I would take thought for the morrow of Eternity alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences should never stay my hand, nor seal my lips. Earth, its joys and its griefs, would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon Eternity alone, and on the Immortal Souls around me, soon to be everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable. I would go forth to the world and preach to it in season and out of season, and my text would be, what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

This is the consistent Christian life. We claim to believe that earthly life holds little significance in view of eternity but do we truly live it? We claim to love those who don’t know Christ but how much can we really love them if we believe they are lost without Christ and yet are unwilling to preach the gospel to them?

As believers, we are called to give up everything for Jesus. We are called to be sold-out for Him. But are we? Our lack of evangelism condemns us. Our dusty Bibles condemn us. Our empty prayer meetings condemn us.

Where are the bold Christians who are willing to lose everything for Christ? Where are the Moseses of our day—the humble leaders? Where are the Esters of our day—the bold intercessors? Where are the Pauls of our day—the suffering servants?

Our world needs bold Christians who are willing to spend and be spent for Christ. May we become those Christians.

“Rise up, O men of God! Have done with lesser things; Give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of kings. Lift high the cross of Christ; Tread where His feet have trod; As brothers of the Son of Man, Rise up, O men of God!”
William Pierson Merrill “Rise up, O men of God.”

 

Trial Before Deliverance

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There were mountains on either side, the Red Sea in Front and the Egyptian army behind.

Can you imagine the terror of that moment, the fear that must have gripped every Israelite heart? Wouldn’t it be exciting to have been there when God came to Israel’s aid by parting the Red Sea before them?

Imagine watching God work like that in your own life. Wouldn’t you love to have your own “parting of the Red sea” story to tell?

In our desire to see God move mightily in our lives, we often forget that trial comes before deliverance. If the Israelites had not been trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red sea God would not have needed to part the waters in front of them.

Think of all of the great stories of Scripture. If the children of Israel had never run out of food, God would not have provided Manna for them. If they had never run out of water, He would not have brought water out of a rock.

Over the course of his lifetime, George Muller opened multiple orphanages that collectively cared for over 10,000 orphans. His orphanages were run on faith and prayer alone. He never asked anyone for money even when his ministry was in the most desperate need.

One morning the housekeeper of one of the orphan houses came to George Muller and informed him that there was no more food in the house nor was there money to buy any. When the orphans assembled for breakfast, George Muller bowed his head and prayed, thanking God for the food that He would provide. As He finished, a nock was heard on the door. A milk cart had just broken down outside the orphanage. Since the milk was liable to spoil before it could be delivered the driver wondered if the orphanage could use it. George Muller joyfully dispatched several of the older boys to carry in the milk. A moment later a second nock was heard. This time a baker stood outside. He explained that he had been unable to sleep the night before because the Lord had impressed the orphans upon his mind. He had spent all that night baking bread for the orphanage.

I don’t know about you but I want that. I long to see prayers answered and impossible situations turned on their heads. But in order for God to deliver us so miraculously, we first need to be trapped in an impossible situation.

Far too often when things go badly I become fearful or frustrated. I forget that these are the very moments when we get to see God work.

Psalm 46:1-2 says, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;”

The psalmist declares that he will not fear even in the midst of the most extreme circumstances. Why? God is our refuge and strength. He is our help in trouble.

As believers, we never need to fear because our God is a very present help in trouble. We can rejoice in trials because our God is working in and through them to bring glory to His name.

The Problem with Missionaries

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Jesus said go and make disciples of all nations. He did not say send someone else to go and make disciples. Jesus never intended for the work of His kingdom to be relegated to “professionals”. While it is wonderful that we have pastors and missionaries who devote themselves to ministry full-time, Jesus has called every believer to make disciples.

While we ought to send and support missionaries it does not let us off the hook. As believers, we are all called to be missionaries wherever we go.

When was the last time you shared the gospel with someone?

Sadly many American Christians go for weeks, months, possibly even years without sharing the gospel because we do not recognize that it is our responsibility as believers to do so.

In the United States today, believers and especially young believers are obsessed with finding the will of God for their lives. Where does God want me to go to College? Who does God want me to marry? What does God want me to do with my life? These are all questions that many people are asking. But in all of our seeking after the will of God, we often miss the fact that God has revealed His will for our lives in His word.

According to 1 Thessalonians 4:3 the will of God is that we would be sanctified. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us that the will of God is that we would rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in everything. Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:19 that making disciples of all nations is the will of God. Scripture declares what our lives, as believers, are to look like.

What is the will of God?

It is that we would live according to Scripture in every area of our lives, that every believer would be sanctified and shaped into the likeness of Christ and that others would be reconciled to God through us. God may call you to a specific job or ministry but regardless you are called to become more like Christ and to make disciples.

The problem with full-time missionaries is that we believe that it is their job to make disciples when in fact it is our job as well.

Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Are you making disciples? Are you seeking first His kingdom? Or are you seeking all of these other things because you believe that His kingdom is someone else’s responsibility to seek?

 

Tested by Fire

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Do you trust God?

When the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the sky is clear it is easy to say that we trust God. When we have everything that we need and want and all of our dreams and desires are fulfilled it is easy to say that we trust God. When the road ahead is clear and smooth it is easy to say that we trust God.

But what about when things are not easy, when all of our dreams go up in flames, when life becomes painful and confusing?

In the good times, it is easy to say that we trust God but it is in the hard times that our trust is tested and proven. If we can only trust God when life is easy, we do not truly trust Him at all.

1 Peter 1:6-9 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

In this passage, Peter tells us that we are grieved by various trials so that our faith may be proven genuine. According to this passage then, if our faith fails us at the time of trial it is not genuine.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Faith is something that is seen in response to something that is not seen. We cannot see God but we can see a believer’s calm assurance in the midst of pain, peace in the midst of chaotic circumstances and trust in the midst of heartbreak.

Just as a candle’s light seems brighter the darker its surroundings, so a believer’s trust in the unseen God shines brighter the darker their circumstance. Candlelight in the middle of the day is barely noticeable. In the same way, a believer’s confidence in God when all is going well is hardly striking. True faith is not snuffed out by trials instead it shines brightly in the midst of them.

Our faith is proven genuine and displayed for all to see when it is tested by trials and difficulty. The underground church in China has a saying, “real gold fears no fire.” Real gold is not destroyed by fire. It is purified by fire. In the same way, true faith is never destroyed by trials. It is only strengthened and purified by them.

What about you? Is your faith genuine? Is it built upon the unchanging character of your God or upon the changing circumstances of your life?

Embrace Foolishness

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Become a fool.

This command found in 1 Corinthians 3:18 seems absolutely ludicrous. Most of us spend our entire lives seeking to grow in wisdom but here in 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us to become fools.

If you study wisdom throughout Scripture you will discover that there are two types of wisdom. There is the wisdom of this world and there is the wisdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul tells us that we must become fools in the eyes of the world that we might become wise in the eyes of God.

1 Corinthians 3:18-20 says, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.  Likewise, the wisdom of God is foolishness to this world. As hard as we may try we will never be seen as wise by both our God and this world. We must choose between the two.

What is the wisdom of God?

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul contrasts the wisdom of this world with the wisdom of God. He begins by telling us about ministry that will last for eternity and ministry that will fade away.

1 Corinthians 3:10-13 says, “ According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”

Paul then goes on to tell us that we are temples of God and that if anyone defiles the temple of God God will destroy him because the temple of God is holy. The idea behind the word defile seems to be to distract or draw away from devotion to Jesus. If anyone distracts or draws another believer away from devotion to Christ he has defiled the temple of God.

Paul seems to be saying that if your ministry points others to Jesus and causes them to focus on Him you are building with gold, silver and precious stones whereas if your ministry distracts them from Jesus you are building with wood hay and straw.

Finally, we come to our passage on wisdom. Paul tells us that if anyone seems to be wise in this age he should become a fool so that he can gain true wisdom. What is this true wisdom? It is Jesus.

Paul tells us that our lives and ministries ought to point others to Jesus. If we think that we have anything else to offer we are foolish. If we are trying to give people Jesus and something else we are foolish.

Jesus is the solution to human hurt. He is the answer to the brokenness and the pain in our world. A ministry that will truly make an eternal impact is a ministry that points people to Jesus.

The wisdom of God is Jesus. Anything that goes beyond Him or away from Him or distracts from Him is foolish in the eyes of God. Jesus—this is the wisdom of God. May we never get past Him. May our lives and ministries be focused on Him and consumed with Him.

 

Willing to be Spent

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If God poured out the life of His Son why can He not pour out your life as well?

Many Christians believe that because God is good, their life should always be comfortable. A self-centered mindset permeates much of modern Christianity. Far too often we speak and act as if Christianity is all about us.

God’s greatest concern, however, is not our comfort and ease but rather the souls of men and women. Jesus suffered and died in order to bring people to Himself. His entire concern in coming to earth was the rescue of lost people.

1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.“

Jesus is the embodiment of this verse. He never sought his own well-being. He did not come to earth for Himself. He did not suffer and die for His pleasure. Jesus came seeking our well-being. He bled and died for us.

We are called to live as Jesus did, seeking the good of others. We are not to live self-protective lives. We are to give of ourselves.

When we come to Jesus we lay down our rights and relinquish control giving our lives to God to spend just as He spent the life of His Son.

On January 8, 1956, five young missionaries—Pete Fleming, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian—were speared to death while trying to reach a violent tribe in the jungles of Ecuador with the gospel. Some years later one of the widows, Barbara Youderian, was asked the question, “when you found out that your husband had been speared to death and you asked God why, what did He say?” Barbara replied, “It never occurred to me to ask God why.”

If we have surrendered our lives to Jesus we have given them to Him to spend in any way He might choose. Barbara understood this. She and her husband had surrendered their lives fully to Jesus. They were sure that he was leading them to reach out to the Waodani. They knew the danger but they trusted Him with their lives.

When her husband was speared, Barbara did not have to ask why. She had surrendered her own life as well as that of her husband to be spent by God. If God spent the life of His son why would he not spend Roger and Barbara’s lives and ours as well?

Are you willing for your life to be spent by God?

 

Weak Things

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For 40 days Goliath had boasted. For 40 days Israel had trembled. For 40 days the name of the Lord had been blasphemed. Finally, on the 41st day, God raised up His chosen vessel to defeat Goliath—David, a little shepherd boy.

David was not the warrior that you would have expected. He was a youth, not a soldier. Yet he had tremendous faith in the power of his God. His brothers, King Saul and Goliath all doubted his ability to fight but through it, all his faith did not waver.

For Seven years Israel had been oppressed by Midian. They lost their crops to their enemies and suffered famine. They hid in dens and caves and strongholds. Finally, God raised up an army to fight for Israel and drive their enemies away—Gideon and a mere three hundred men.

This tiny army is not what you would have chosen to go against the Midianites and Amalekites. They were too few. They were too weak. But they trusted in the mighty God they served.

Our God uses weak things and foolish things. He uses little shepherd boys to take down giants and tiny armies to defeat mighty nations. When little David triumphed over Goliath and when Gideon and his 300 routed the Midianites and the Amalekites all of the glory had to go to God. It is clear that it was not Gideon and his men and David and his stone but rather their God who won their battles.

All throughout Scripture God used unlikely people—David, Gideon, Mary, Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Rahab, Ruth. He used fishermen, tax-collectors, prostitutes, and shepherds. He uses unlikely people because He receives glory. He chooses the foolish things and the weak things to accomplish His impossible plans.

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 says, “ For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

Often we are terrified to do anything that is bigger than us but we must remember that what is impossible for us is possible for God. He wants to call us beyond our own ability. He uses weak things and foolish things because He gets the glory. He calls us to do the impossible because He longs for us to depend fully on Him.

What is the impossible call of God on your life? Are you willing like David to step up and fight when everyone thinks that you are crazy? Are you willing like Gideon to send your troops home, purposefully putting yourself in a vulnerable position because God asks you to?

Too Busy to Pray?

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We live in a fast-paced, noisy culture. We are always going someplace or doing something. We are constantly being bombarded with noise, the radio, the television, text messages, phone calls.

In the midst of all of our busyness, it can be difficult to find time to pray and study the Word of God.

As Christian’s, it is easy to spiritualize our busyness. We can become so busy with church and church activities, so busy serving God that we never spend time with Him.

This spiritualized busyness shows that deep down in our hearts we believe a lie. We believe that we, in and of ourselves, are capable of serving God.

In truth, we are not.

All effective work for the Kingdom of God is born out of absolute dependence upon Him. If we are not spending time in the Word of God and in prayer, if we are not abiding in Him and depending on Him, then although we may be busy serving Him we are not being effective in our service.

If we only knew how desperately helpless we truly are we would never let a day go by without spending time on our knees.

Jesus said in John 15:4-5, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Apart from Christ, we cannot do anything. In Jesus, we must live and move and have our being.

Recently I was convicted of the fact that I had slipped away from spending time in prayer and in the Word of God. I was so busy serving God and doing good things for God that I did not have time to spend with Him. The Holy Spirit showed me that I can only serve Him well if I am spending time in His presence. I can only love others well if I am first loving Him well.

I know the power of prayer. I have seen God intervene in my life in glorious ways and yet there is such a temptation to neglect prayer.

I know that I cannot accomplish anything of value without the grace of God and yet there is such a temptation to do things on my own.

If we truly understood the spiritual realm we would realize that it is impossible to be too busy to pray. In fact, every single one of us is too busy not to pray.

We are helpless. We are insufficient. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. He is our sufficiency.

Our God is Able

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Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,”

Do you believe that our God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think? If I listened to your prayers would I know that you believed it?

Often we pray very small prayers and if we are honest we do not expect God to answer them. Too many Christians pray because it is a good thing to do rather than because they expect God to respond.

Is our God too small?

Have we forgotten that we serve the God who parted the Red Sea, supplied bread and water in the wilderness and drove out nations before His people?

Do our prayers demonstrate faith in the power of our God or do they demonstrate a lack of faith?

Mark 4:35-41 says, “On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Jesus rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith. Why? They did the right thing. They ran to Jesus. Doesn’t that show that their faith was in Him? Why did Jesus respond to them this way?

The disciples came to Jesus but what was it they were asking Him to do? I do not believe that they asked Him to calm the storm. Judging from their reaction it does not seem like the thought that Jesus might calm the storm ever crossed their mind.

Why then did they come to Jesus? Is it possible that they were asking Him to bail water with them?

The disciples went to the right place. They ran to the One who could save them but it seems that their request was too small.

What about us?

We go to the right place. But are we asking Jesus to calm the storm or are we asking Him to bail water? Do we have faith in our miracle-working God? He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine. Do we believe it?

Living as a Spiritual Athlete

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During the 2016 Olympics, there was a commercial featuring a US gymnast—Simone Biles. In this commercial, Simone says that she could choose to hit snooze but she doesn’t. She could choose to take a day off but she doesn’t. She chooses instead to rise to the challenge. Simone is talking about the reality that if she is going to be the best gymnast that she can possibly be she must make sacrifices. Excellence is a choice.

This commercial caused me to think about my Christian walk. If Simone Biles takes gymnastics that seriously if she works that hard for medals that fade away, how hard should we as Christians be working for our imperishable reward, how seriously should we be taking our Christian lives?

It isn’t that there is anything wrong with hitting snooze or taking a day off. Simone merely understands that if she does those things she is saying no to time spent practicing and refining her skills as a gymnast. She has given herself to gymnastics and she is arguably the best gymnast in the world.

There is nothing wrong with hitting snooze but often that snooze button robs us of time spent with our God. As Christians, we should be fully given to God. Are we as committed to our Lord as Olympic athletes are to their sports?

We are called to live as spiritual athletes.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Are we living this way?

When it comes to our Christian walk it is far too easy to be passive. We do not see the urgency. The physical realm is so real that it is easy to get caught up in it and forget about the spiritual realm. In reality, the physical realm is merely a shadow of the much more real and important spiritual realm.

One day when we die we will see that this is true but it is my desire to see it now so that I can live for what matters. I do not want to get caught up in the fleeting foolish fancies of a fading world. I want to live to glorify and honor my King. I want to be a spiritual athlete, running hard for what truly matters, spending every breath for the glory of my King.