Diet and Exercise

A week or so ago, I was talking with a friend about how prayer, Bible reading, increasing faith, and building trust in God all go with each other. Each one causes an increase in the others, further increasing each one in a productive circle. We came to the conclusion that it’s just like diet and exercise: Eating right makes you feel more energetic and like exercising, and exercising makes you feel more like eating healthy.

When becoming more like Jesus and building your life around God, you don’t just do one spiritual thing to the exclusion of the others, you do all of them. You may focus on only one at a time, but they all build on each other. Reading your Bible will make you want to talk more with God, and talking with God will make you want to read more of His words. It’s as if we were made to both pray and read our Bibles. It’s as if we were made to diet and exercise.

Word Ripples

I’ve heard sayings and a song about how words are like stones tossed into water, causing ripples to form that reach farther than the stone did. Toss a word of anger out, and its affects can last a long time in more places than you thought it could. Toss a word of kindness out, and its affects can last a long time in more places than you thought it could. So frequently we disregard the power words have, both with others and ourselves.

Sometimes I’ll just toss a stone into the water and don’t watch all the ripples. I do this with words sometimes, too. I may not know just how far those ripples reached, but reach they did, good or bad.

Sometimes a word hits or disturbs something under the water, causing more than just ripples. You might awaken something that needs to be awakened and moved, and now it swims around productively. Or you might injure something that writhes in pain, thrashing and disturbing the water more. Whatever it is, it can stay that way long after you’re gone.

Be careful of the stone you toss into the waters. Proverbs 13:3, 18:21; Matthew 12:36-37; Ephesians 4:29; Luke 6:45

Suffering for Jesus

In Sunday School yesterday, we talked about dying and suffering for Jesus. We all like to think we’d make the right choice under threat and die for Jesus, and we probably would. But are we willing to suffer for Jesus before then?

If I die for Jesus, then it’s all over and I don’t have to worry about it. But suffering means I have to be doing something about it and making some life choices. In class the questions were asked: Am I willing to lose my job, my livelihood, for believing in Jesus? Am I willing to put my family in danger for Jesus? Am I willing to have my children, even very young children, taken from me because I believe in Jesus?

People across the world who don’t have the freedoms I do, they are suffering for Jesus already. And regardless of when you believe the Rapture will happen, I get the idea from the Bible that things are going to get very, very bad before then, regardless of location or previous freedoms. Suffering for believing in Jesus isn’t new, and it didn’t go away after the “olden days” of early Christians.

Jesus told us we’d suffer and He told us it would get bad, but even that will be good and Jesus will still be with us. (Luke 21:12-19). Remember that last part: Even in the midst of suffering and persecution, Jesus is with you! (See also the story of Stephen in Acts 6-7.)

More on the topic:
Is This Persecution?
What You Sign On For
A Bit on Suffering
Strikes Me Interesting – Persecution
Persecution? Hooray!
Present and Future Persecution

Foresight and Procrastination

This morning I was moving things from my room to another room, in preparation for new floors to be put down. While moving things I had to put them away in a different place, with the knowledge that I’ll be moving them again when the floors are done. I left some of it on my bed in the temporary room, telling myself I’d put it away later. But then I thought, “Will I want to do it later? Will I regret putting it off when I could just do it now and not have to worry about it? I’m going to have to do it anyway, whether it’s sooner or later.”

I’m great at procrastinating. If I don’t have to do something right away, I probably won’t. But I’ve also picked up some foresight as I’ve grown, and sometimes that encourages me to do something sooner than later. If I leave something out or undone, I’ll just have to think about it later. What if I don’t have time later? Maybe someone else will be stuck with it. Unless I’m willing to live with that or have it hanging in the back of my mind, I’ll just take care of it while I’m there and thinking about it.

Whether it’s moving stuff, doing work, cleaning things, bettering yourself, or whatever good and productive thing that needs doing, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tom– I mean, don’t put it off, just do it now! The sooner it’s done, the less you’ll have to think (or worry) about it. And then you’ll be done!

Not Just for Preachers

Preachers, pastors, and missionaries are all expected to have a strong and deep knowledge of the Bible and what it means, but for some reason we often feel that preachers and the like are the only ones expected to really study and know these things. While a preacher, pastor, or missionary should certainly have and continually cultivate their Bible knowledge and God knowledge, it isn’t just for them, it’s for all Christians! We all need it! And honestly, if we’re really serious about God and we really love Him, shouldn’t that show up in a desire for Him?

You and I aren’t going to know God more if we don’t apply ourselves to seeking Him in daily prayer and Bible reading. We won’t deepen our knowledge of God’s Word if we don’t read it regularly. We won’t easily call specific Scriptures to mind when we need them if we don’t memorize them. We won’t really know the beautiful, intricate details of what God has done and what He has to say if we don’t study the Bible and pray.

Knowing God deeper and knowing His Word better are not exclusive to preachers. All Christians need and should desire to know God and the Bible better. We all have different ways and paces of learning, but learn we should!

The Strength for Humility

When you think about it, responding with pride is easy. Pretending you’re not as bad as you really are is automatic. Denying or covering up that you made a mistake is the reflexive thing to do. Shifting the blame onto someone or something else so you look better is natural. Snatching up what you think you deserve, even if you do deserve it, is normal.

But humility is unnatural to us. It takes effort to make humility the automatic response instead of pride. To admit you made a mistake, to apologize for it, and to make yourself vulnerable and accountable for it, that is difficult. To take your full and personal responsibility is uncomfortable. To hold yourself back from something, even when you may be within your rights to take it, is grating.

The Bible talks in several places about God hating pride but loving humility (Psalm 119:21, 138:6; Proverbs 16:5 & 19, 21:4; Isaiah 57:15; Matthew 18:4, 23:12; James 4:6 & 10; 1 Peter 5:5-6), but still we struggle between the two. Considering the monumental effort it takes to respond with humility, we’re going to need God’s help.

God knows we need help, so He gives it to us. After all, God Himself is acquainted with humility, with making Himself lower than He really is. In the Old Testament God bound Himself by covenants and promises to humans who frequently disappointed Him and even blatantly rebelled against Him. In the New Testament God the Son came to be one of us, restricting His godly nature and becoming a servant to die for our sakes, submitting Himself to God the Father’s will and not taking His own way. God has never once been proud. Without losing His holiness, God has made Himself low enough for us to reach.

God lowered Himself for us out of love. We should be lowering ourselves for others to show them what God’s love is like. Humbly taking what you don’t deserve is a noticeably strange thing to do. Letting yourself be lower than you really are is a higher calling. In God’s kingdom, being lower is actually being higher (Mark 9:35; Hebrews 11:24-27). You don’t lose when you choose humility, you gain (Proverbs 15:33, 18:12, 22:4; James 4:6-7).

More on humility:
The Master, His Servants, and the Washing of Feet
Meekness
Being Right

God Owning Your Whole Life

When God saves you, He saves all of you. God doesn’t just save your soul, He saves all the rest of you too! Your body, soul, and everything that makes you who you are, these are one woven piece that God Himself constructed, and when He saves you, He saves your whole being, your whole life.

When God saves you and begins transforming you to be more like Him every day, this must include your whole being. If God does not have all of you, then He doesn’t have you at all. When God redeems someone, He redeems the soul, the spirit, the body, the mind, the heart, the emotions, the thoughts, the entire life and the processes and activities thereof!

Sometimes we don’t think enough about how our bodies, lifestyles, and life decisions belong to and should be controlled by God. Read 1 Corinthians 6:13-20. When we get saved, when God redeems us and buys us, we turn ownership over to God. But don’t think of it as God taking full control and removing your personality and everything enjoyable from your life! While God’s work in your life will build you into something you could not otherwise be, God does not buy you to make you an unrecognizable husk of who you used to be. God buys you to make you more into who you are supposed to be. God knows how you’re built and how you’re naturally inclined, mentally, spiritually, and physically. He made you in the first place, He knows what’s best for you to become, and you will love it! Will it be difficult sometimes? Yes, but it will be every bit worth it!

God is not a harsh master. He is good and He is fair. When God owns your life, He removes the broken, corrupted pieces and builds in the goodness He made specifically for you!

A little more: Lord of My Life

Paul’s Prison Ministry

Before we begin, if you’d like a quick overview of Paul and how God called him, read here: God’s Forgiveness – Paul the Apostle.

In Acts 9:15, we see that Jesus has plans for Paul to preach to the Gentiles, to kings, and to the Children of Israel. That’s a wide group of people, and to mention kings specifically sounds very important. That’s a great work! But in the next verse we see that suffering is involved. Ministry was hardly ever glamorous for Paul. In fact, the way Paul ended up speaking to kings was by being arrested for preaching about Jesus, then appealing his case to Caesar! On top of that, it took a long time to even get him started on his way there, and he was shipwrecked on the way!

But Paul didn’t let imprisonment dampen his zeal and ministry. God doesn’t waste our time where He puts us, and while waiting to see Caesar, Paul got right on board with God for a prison ministry! I wonder what it was like for the soldiers that took turns guarding Paul while he was imprisoned. Whether people were coming to visit Paul or whether he was between visitors, the guards were a captive audience! I wonder about the interactions between Paul and a guard. Did they ever banter about who was the real captive here? Was there any joking about Paul not realizing he was a prisoner? How much did each soldier enjoy or dread guarding, hearing, and talking with Paul? Since eventually Paul was likely being held near or on palace grounds, think of the people he had access to and the conversations he had! In Philippians 4:22, we see that he had even gotten the gospel into Caesar’s household, and they were greeting fellow Christians through Paul’s letter!

Fresh and New Again

It’s Vacation Bible School week! I love seeing how much fun the kids have every year. Today was only the first day, and we’re already having a blast! It got me thinking about the way kids look at and experience things, especially the youngest ones. Everything is all so new and amazing! And hearing about Jesus? That’s just awesome!

Then I started thinking about how sometimes I lose my wonder and excitement. Jesus is always awesome and amazing, but sometimes I just don’t think about that because I’m so used to hearing about Him and what He has done. It’s important to talk to God about keeping things fresh, otherwise you might forget just how great God’s wonders are! I can try to freshen things up on my own, but that usually falls flat and short, and it doesn’t usually last long. God is the one who always brings something newly wondrous to me when I lose my wonder. God is the one who makes things come alive in a different way whenever I need it and look for it!

Reaching to a (Previous) Enemy

In Acts 9 we see Saul going out to continue persecuting Christians, intending to go out expressly to bring them back bound. On the way Jesus Himself stops Saul, blinding him in the process. The men with Saul help him continue on to Damascus, then Saul doesn’t eat for three days.

About then the Lord tells a Christian man named Ananias to go see Saul because Saul has been praying, and has seen in a vision that Ananias is going to come and his sight will be restored. By this point Saul isn’t an enemy anymore, but Ananias doesn’t know that. Understandably, Ananias seems to ask God if He’s sure He means that Saul, the actual enemy of Christians. God replies He does in fact mean that Saul, and that He has chosen him for a special and specific purpose.

So in faith Ananias goes to visit Saul. As Ananias puts his hands on Saul, Ananias says that Jesus sent him. Saul receives his sight and since he was saved by this point, he went and got baptized.

After this Saul starts spending time with the Christians in Damascus. What a surprise that must have been for them! The very man they feared was now on their side. Jesus had a hold of him, and now he was preaching about Jesus in the synagogues!

But there were still those who wanted the Christians gone, and now that Saul was on that side they were going to get rid of him. Hearing of this, Saul’s new friends helped him escape town in a basket let down over the city wall. He then headed back to Jerusalem, but the Christians there were afraid of him and wouldn’t reach out to him, because they didn’t believe he was now a Christian. But a man called Barnabas reached out to Saul, befriending him and bringing him to everyone else, letting them know Saul really was a changed man. From then on, Saul continued to zealously take off with Jesus!

It’s important to reach out to people with Jesus, even if they happen to be your enemies, and especially if God tells you to. You may find these people aren’t your enemies anymore. God is doing His work, and He calls us to do our work with Him. Be an Ananias and a Barnabas.