Overwhelmed by the Crashing Waves

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Have you ever been in a raging river or have you ever visited an ocean shore? The waves they don’t stop. The keep coming and crashing and falling. Over and over. The noise so loud that it all becomes overwhelming. Life can be that way. It keeps coming at you and it keeps crashing in. It keeps moving day in and day out. Sometimes I feel like I am standing in that water. The water keeps pushing me without end. It is pushing me so that I might lose my footing. It keeps pushing me under and I pray it does not rise too high or I might be swept away. I feel like can’t catch my breath. I can’t keep up.

Life and the world move so fast while I am being pushed around by these waves. Time never stops and the world keeps on moving. It can be overwhelming when there are people that depend on you when there are things that you want to do. Everyone faces the same reality of the crashing waves and the endless ticking of the clock. No one is immune to these pressures at some point in life.

Those waves did not take me under. I have found a peace in the middle of the crashing waves and the ticking of the clock. Life is hard and I never am able to keep up but peace has found me. Peace has saved me. The Creator of this life and the creator of time itself called to me and said “you are mine”. Does he call your name? Do you hear him calling?

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 ESV

Do you hear him calling you? Do you hear his voice? Can you hear him over the crashing waves and ticking clock of time? When I was 11 years old he called my name and he found me. I was lost but he found me. Do you hear him calling your name? In the rough and tumble of this world. When this world abuses me. When I abuse those around me. When I abuse myself. When the waves seek to overwhelm me that is the moment that I need to stop and realize I am one of his sheep and he has called me to follow him where he goes.

For some of you who know him and have a relationship with him that is the good news. For those of you who are running and consumed by the crushing waves now is the time. Now is the moment to submit to the only person, thing, or God who can save. He is the good shepherd.

Psalm 23 is the famous “lord is my shepherd” Chapter. The second verse is my favorite.

He leads me beside still waters. Psalm 23:2

He leads me. He loves me and he has brought me beside still and calm waters. I am at peace even if there is a raging ocean around me. Life is coming at me so fast but I can rest and sit down because he has saved me. Hear in my mind and hear in my heart he has given me peace. He has given me rest. Submit to his authority, submit to his calling you. Listen to his voice. Rest in Jesus the Lord and Shepherd. Listen for his voice. Cry out to him. He is able to rescue. Only he can save.

 

A Gift to be Free

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Is singleness a “gift”? Is a lack of desire to party and drink a gift? What about the person who has no desire or need for a drug fix? Would that be a gift? Have you ever personally known someone who was a compulsive liar? They just could not help themselves and were always inventing stories and lies as a habit of life? Would it be a “gift” to not have that burden? The fact is restraint and personal boundaries come easy for some but are much more difficult for others. In the middle of Paul’s practical rules for marriage, relationships, and sex he makes an obvious but seldom realized point about the nature of people. We all have different strengths, weaknesses, and “gifts” from God.

7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 1 Corinthians 7:7 ESV

The “gift” Paul is talking about here is a lack of desire or need for a sexual relationship in his life. Paul wishes right before this statement that all men would remain single to focus on their relationship with Christ alone, but he knows in real world practicality that is not possible. William Barclay in his commentary on Corinthians provides solid evidence that Paul most likely was married at one time. Unknown is what happened to his wife. Did they split up over his conversion to Christianity or maybe an untimely death? Whatever the reason the result is that Paul living the brutal road life of a missionary sets an example and he views as a “gift” to be single and singularly focused on God’s priorities.

For me I wanted to be married and I wanted it at a young age. A partner for life to have my back, someone to be relationally and emotionally invested in, and of course the want of sex made it all the more desirable. Restraint and the mercy of God helped me wait until college was complete but it was not easy. If because of religious reasons I followed a path of singleness it would have ended in failure. My strength and my “gift” at that time was not celibacy. So what is the real application here? What point should one take way?

Freedom. God has given us a freedom to be something other than what the world demands we be. The world would tell us that Paul’s “gift” was a curse. How could he live a life of singleness? Sex after all is the most desirable pleasure one could seek after. There must have been something wrong with Paul or he was lying about his own sex life the world will argue. But what Paul is really talking about is Freedom.

In recent years I have noticed Christians embracing things that were culturally taboo a generation ago. Some Christians proudly show off tattoos, others piercings in odd places and social beer clubs through a church. These Christians champion that Christ has made us free to be and do what we want. Paul on the surface seems to advocate the same but it is really a misunderstanding.

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV

I am a Christian now I can live and be anything because the law no longer has power over me. Through Christ I am alive. If I want to drink then I will drink. If I want to watch Game of Thrones then get out of my way. If I want to use profanity at that right moment when it will have the most effect to get my point across then *%$ I will. I have freedom in Christ. Sounds not so wonderful this kind of attitude. But freedom of this kind is practiced in subtle ways throughout the church. The rationalization is that one should relax that legalism is creeping into one’s worldview and that this act, this language, and these images are not hurting anyone.

But this is not the kind of practical freedom that Paul was talking about. Paul’s freedom, his “gift” is the strength and desire to no longer conform to this world. Paul’s freedom was to be removed from the temptation to lust and seek after sexual pleasure. He became transformed through Christ to be a new man.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 ESV

Now Paul’s gift of freedom may or may not apply to the reader. So in all practicality Paul then reinforced the natural plans God had already laid down. God created Men and Women to be supportive loving relationships. Those relationships also allow one to flee sexual immorality by having a spouse to support that ability. Some have one gift others have another.

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 ESV

I do not need to be what I once was because I have now been given the freedom and the gift to flee and turn away from that life. That gift comes from faith and submission to the love Christ has for me. Freedom is not something to be abused for my own selfish gain as if I were still living as one not transformed. Freedom in Christ is the gift and desire to seek holiness in the presence of God.

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11a ESV

Love Me

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What makes a Christian a Christian? Does following Christ restrict life to a burdensome set of rules? Why do followers of Jesus attempt to live lives based on out of date rules of the Bible? Do they do this out of fear of being crushed by a vengeful God? Do they just want to escape hell for heaven?

If one wants to follow God there are two basic motivations for an honest person. The first motivation and the way that most people understand following God is through the Law. The Law is best represented by the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament covenants. It goes like this, and should be familiar to most everyone the world over, if you keep a set of rules then hopefully your good actions will outweigh your bad actions before God. This is religion at the core. Do this or bad stuff will happen. Do this or lightning bolts will fall from the sky. The second motivation for following God that is less understood is the role of faith and what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. This second motivation is real and is God’s actual intention. Christ and what He accomplished, not Religion, is the only motivation that is acceptable to God.

The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 NLT

God called Moses to the mountain where Moses received the laws of God. It was at this time that God’s glory was reflected from the face of Moses even after he had left the presence of God (Exodus 34:29-35). Paul tells us that the new way of faith with a life giving Holy Spirit makes the old way of keeping the law obsolete. This new way of fulfilling the law is accomplished through the work of Jesus and the overpowering love He has poured out on His followers. While the commands of Jesus are founded on the Law of the old way the motivation for obedience cannot be the same as the old way of attempting to follow the rules.

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:9-10 ESV

The natural state of humans is not love, but suspicion, selfishness, and sarcasm (don’t believe me go spend some time on twitter). So where does this love that leads to keep the Ten Commandments come from? That love comes from faith in Jesus by way of the Holy Spirit working in His followers.

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith… For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:5; 10-11 ESV

The motivation of a follower of Christ, a Christian, can be summed up in the depth of this following statement by Jesus to His disciples.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV

I am compelled to follow, listen, and obey Jesus because of love. Fear of hell or condemnation may have been a concern at some point in my life. But I am a Christian because of the overflow of Love that comes from Christ to me. I am overwhelmed by that love. That love comes from the faith I have received from Him. By faith I trust Him and acknowledge His authority as my Creator. Because He loves me I love Him and I pray that my motivation in everything is to obey Him because of love.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3 ESV

*Revised and Edited. First published on Human Effort Sept 2013.

 

The Groans of Prayer

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Prayer is difficult for me because most of the time I do not like the answer. Even still I know God knows better than me and I have on many occasions been driven to my face on the floor before Him in anguish, pain, frustration, desire, and anger. Prayer in those moments has been raw and mostly wordless. Paul describes the prayers of the Holy Spirit on our behalf as groanings. Prayer for me at its most powerful moments might be described that way.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 ESV

The only other time this word for groanings is used in the New Testament is in Acts when Stephen who is about to be martyred is recounting the Jewish history to his accusers. Stephen says that God sent Moses to free the people after He heard their groanings within the bonds of slavery.

34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’ Acts 7:34 ESV

We are simple people limited in time space to right now. Our vision is limited our knowledge is limited. How do I know what to pray for? How could I know what is right for me? When Israel prayed to God it was from desire deep within them to be free. God answered that through Moses but I guarantee none were praying for Moses to rescue them. So it is with us. How many times has God provided an answer that was not the way one would have solved the problem? The Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf and prays for us what we would want to pray for and about if we knew it.

Additionally notice the end of the verse in Romans “according to the will of God”. The Holy Spirit is not praying our will with a groaning. The Holy Spirit is praying for what we should be praying according to God’s will for us. The Holy Spirit is not groaning that I win the lottery because that is what I desperately want. A pastor of my youth once said that prayer is not the time that you change God’s mind but the time God changes yours. The more time you spend in prayer the more the mind of God through the Holy Spirit is revealed to you. Prayer results in a longing to be with God. Prayer before God shapes the person praying in the image of Christ. Prayer opens our eyes to the eternal perspective that this life is not our home. Our hope and expectations look to more than a job, spouse, kids, and money because we start to see the world through the eyes of God Himself.

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:22-23 ESV

As we pray we start to groan with all of Creation with the realization that this world is temporary and there is a desire and anticipation for something better and more wonderful. The Holy Spirit aligns the heart with a desire for God and the things that are important to Him. The Holy Spirit testifies that we are children of God to whom we can cry out Father!

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Romans 8:14-16 ESV

It is this groaning that leads people to become radical for God. The kind of people who quit jobs and move family to the ends of the earth. The kind of people who put family above worldly success. The kind of people who have love and compassion for the unlovable. Prayer of this kind is a dangerous thing that will make one ruined for ordinary self-absorbed living.

Daily Devotion: Relational

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God is a relational Creator. He made you to be in relationship with Him. He wants to talk with you. He wants to be involved in your life. He loves you because He made you. Because He is a relational God He also made you to be in relationships with other people specifically with people who are also in relationship with Him.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42 ESV

Who are your closest friends? Are they in a relationship with God? Do you ever talk about Jesus and His impact in your life with these friends? If not then you are missing out on one aspect of Jesus that is essential for encouragement and maturity in the relationship with your Creator.

Do your friends push you toward God or pull you away? If they pull you away then I encourage you as a friendly voice that wants only for all the children of God and followers of Christ to take make a few adjustments to build that relationship with your Creator.

9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Ecclesiastes 4:4-9 ESV

  1. Pray and ask God to provide to you a friend or circle of friends that would be there to encourage you in Christ. Pray this every day for a month write it down and be intentional. Earnestly seek God out.
  2. If you are not in Church then add Church to the prayer list and start visiting. Ask God where he would have you to connect.
  3. Look around and ask this question of all the people you know. “If I spend time with this person would they push me toward God or pull me away?” If the answer is push toward then consider ways to spend time with this person and get in their orbit. You might also need to do the opposite with someone who is pulling you away. Spend less time and remove yourself from that orbit.

Christ Only Always

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I teach on Sunday each week and I have a rule in my classes that if I ask a question the response must be real not the “church” answer. The running joke is that if no one knows the answer or wants to answer the hard question because it is a little to real and close to home then I get the church answer “Jesus” and everyone laughs because it is most likely the right answer but not the answer we usually live life by. Barclay in his commentary for 1 Corinthians notes that in the first 10 verses Paul uses Jesus, Christ, or some combination of those names 10 times. The Corinthians were divided and they were struggling internally. So Paul is trying to get their attention with that intro. Church the solution, the answer, the resolution, and everything you need is Jesus. Why can’t we as people who call ourselves followers of Christ turn to Him first, consistently, and always?

This reminds me of a hymn Have Thine On Way, Lord. Where the final verse of the final stanza concludes with Christ only, always, living in me.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

Church, why not turn to Christ always and only? I grew up in a large denomination that I still identify with internally today. God has called me to serve in a non-denominational church and I am good with that because hey Christ only, always. A friend once told me to major on the majors and minor on the minors. Meaning that the organization of the church is not something to argue over (the minors). Let people be where God has called them, but where division should occur is where Christ stands on what is right and wrong like the trinity and abortion (the majors). What a challenge Paul put before this early church. Here are those first 10 verses calling out Christ only, always.

1 Corinthians 1 ESV

  1. Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
  2. To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
  3. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,
  5. that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—
  6. even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—
  7. so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
  8. who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  9. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  10. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Giving up on You

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Who am I as a Christian? Am I a Conservative Christian? Blessed (materially) Christian? American Christian? Bible Believing Christian? Family first Christian?

Paul in his Letter to the church at Corinth provides some insight into the approach he took when preaching to this wealthy, hedonistic, and idolatrous merchant city.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ESV

Paul could have come as an orator with lofty speech. Certainly he was trained to be that. In fact that is how Paul approached the people of Athens and their stoic philosophers (Acts 17). Paul is the intellectual elite of his day. He has all the privilege of the ruling class and the discipline to be successful at it.

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Philippians 3:4-6 ESV

What confidence do I as a Christian today have in the flesh? I am wealthy (relatively speaking). I never hunger because food is not available or too expensive. Income is possible for me through several avenues even though the economy is not that great. I have the right to defend myself and my home, but I live in a low crime area where the government has provided reasonable law and order (relatively speaking). Basically I can live without fear of those around me. It is no effort or sacrifice to be Christian daily in my community (however I notice some isolated individuals who have lost their job or business because of Christ). I have much to be confident in the flesh. I am highly educated and believe myself to be above average intelligence. Is there anything I can’t do if I put my mind and labor to it? Can I set aside all of that to be a Christian who knows only Christ?

Paul comes not with self-help and categories of Christian. He does not come and divide the people into groups based on the color of their skin, how blessed they have been, or if they work harder than everyone else. He sets all that aside and says he has come to know nothing before them but Christ crucified. Did you follow all of God’s rules? Great. Did live a life of selfish pleasure? Fine, but now come together and see that we are all are dying not living because this world will end. Christ and Christ Crucified alone brings life to these petty identifiers and the short life on Earth.

Maybe you know someone who talks about Jesus too much? Are they annoying and unbearable? Maybe they are or maybe you are seeking the approval and pleasure of this world a little too much? Maybe someone calling you Christian with no other identifier is just unbearable? If God tells you that being black is of no consequence and to leave that heritage behind could you do it? If he tells you to walk away from the gay life style because Christ first is more important would you pause to even consider? What if God called you to walk away from the grievance of “white genocide” and not be concerned with maintaining the “white race”? Could you know nothing but Christ Crucified? Is it possible to walk away from being a Republican or a Democrat and be simply Christian? If Christ called could Tiger Woods walk away from golf? The answer is yes because Paul did just that. If you are saved by Christ then life is where he calls and draws us. What Hillary calls irredeemable and Romney calls the 47% can become children of the King before Christ. Paul walked away from the Jewish and Roman privilege he had enjoyed all his life. God changed his name from Saul to Paul and he became a suffering servant called by God to speak the gospel of Christ. Why did Paul give up all of his strength and approach the Corinthians so humbly?

5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 ESV

Paul the intellectual elite with wealth and power could have written books and done all the talk shows extoling his strategies for being perfect at anything in this life. But he did not do this in the city of Corinth. He wanted the Corinthians to be persuaded that faith, power, and wisdom comes only from who they are in Christ. Power comes from God and God alone. Power of the flesh no matter how privileged or educated is weakness in service to God.

When I was saved a miracle happened. The Creator God of the universe intervened in my march to eternal death and gave me new life in Christ. I was nothing and had no ambitions. Raised in a single parent home I had the freedom to be a deviant in all kinds of criminal ways. I had the freedom to fail out of school. I had the desire and the ability to be selfishly depraved and would have been content to be hidden away with nothing. Christ has called me into the public. He has acted in me to lead others. He pulls me out of my selfishness to serve him in ways that are beyond my natural ability or desire. It is supernatural and it is a faith that rests not in me, my heritage, my country, or my politics but in the power of God.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to place Christ and his priorities first. Paul wanted them to humbly submit to God and like Christ who has gone before choose the plans of God. Father I pray “not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36 ESV)

Then once we have humbly submitted to God and forsaken the identifiers and the wisdom of this temporary age Christ is able to live through us in the power of God. Paul becomes one of the most influential figures in all of history because Christ lives through him. Countless others throughout history have impacted world in a positive way that points to Christ because they gave up their own ambitions and their own identifiers and recognized them for what they are. Tools and things of this world to be used in service to Christ.

From Darkness to Light

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God loves His Creation even a creation that is cursed, broken, and rebellious. Thankfully the creator God understands that mankind is weak and slaves to the sin nature and curse that invades every thought and action.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:8-14 ESV

He has written the most perfect rules of engagement like the Ten Commandments and this Law convicts our heart, makes us aware of our shortcomings, and brings us to account before our Creator.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 ESV

For example take this picture. On one side is a clear perfect section that represents perfectly following the law or doing the right thing in every thought and action. On the other side is a darkness that represents perfectly breaking the law and obscuring the clarity of God’s purpose and love for each of us. What do we find in the center? A murky gray area where most people try to live. How close can we get to the dark area without actually crossing over? Where is that line in every thought and action?

wright or wrong

The problem with us and our thinking is that God is perfect and holy. He does not play games with our sin and selfishness. While we try to be good His law demands perfection. If we do not live in the perfectly transparent and perfectly just section then we have broken the law.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24 ESV

God in his loving mercy promised to give people a new heart that would break for Him. A heart that would have faith in Him. A heart that would serve Him over the desires of this world. Now is the time to put your faith in Him. Serve Christ, be born again and he will melt the heart of stone and provide you a new heart that wants to move away from the darkness of rebellion and isolation. You can trust this Creator because he created each and every one of us. So put away the law and have faith in Him by stepping out and repenting of whatever you serve today that is not your Creator.

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20 ESV

 

 

* Revised and Updated. First published on Human Effort Sept 2013.

Luke 4:16 | His Custom

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When Jesus was born he was born into a Jewish family that kept the customs (ethos) of that religion and that family structure. Jesus was raised according to the laws, rules, and customs of Hebrews in his day.

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. Luke 2:41-42 ESV

Now when it states that the family went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover that celebration was a custom of the family. It was a religious observance that Jesus as a child in that family was forced to follow. Maybe he liked that custom and maybe he hated some other customs but in reality he had no choice but to participate. This kind of custom (ethos) is in the name of religion. It is the kind of custom that one might identify with by being born in a Christian home or nation.

13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” Acts 6:13-14 ESV

Not following the religious customs will separate people and like Stephen, the first martyr, might even get one killed. The religious identity of the Pharisees was wrapped up in their customs.

Personal experience tells me that most youth when they leave home for college never return to the church they were raised in. I have even asked some high school teens directly if they had a choice would they be in Church each Sunday. I have also asked if they plan to continue to go to church after high school and the honest response from many is “no” to both questions. Some of those youth do find a church home wherever they live however many simply never return to any church. Even though they attended church as a youth it was never their custom (ethos). The feasts and celebrations might be kept because hey who does not enjoy a good holiday but the custom of actually attending a church or participating in some type of small group is not likely.

Jesus on the other hand became infused with the faith. God is real to him and he feels a call to ministry. After returning home briefly at the start of that ministry Luke writes that Jesus picked up in the home town synagogue right where he left off. Luke says that Jesus “as was his custom” (ethō) was in attendance at worship.

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. Luke 4:16 ESV

Jesus acted and participated. Jesus of his own desire and mind choose to be in worship reading scripture with others of like mind. Jesus was engaged. None could say Jesus was simply part of a religious custom (ethos) and ordinance required by his family, the religious leaders, or society. Participating in church had become the manner and custom (ethō) of his life. Jesus was living out a pattern of life that he had adopted, identified with, and had become accustom to living.

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, Acts 17:2 ESV

In the same way Luke describes Paul as living a lifestyle of engaging with scripture before men. Paul’s life is engaged and in tune with the desires and service to God. Paul is not fulfilling a duty but he is living a life as is his custom.

One has several choices about how to engage in life and what things about life to make customary. Many people make the temporary pleasures of life their custom. But why? Because one can receive fleeting pleasure? Why not look eternally to see the example that Christ set and seek to make a relationship with God an integral part of daily life?

15 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. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17 ESV

Despising the Shame

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Shame means different things to different people. Sex and nakedness might be seen as shameful to some but celebrated by others. Honor to avoid shame even unto death is the type of shame Hollywood once made movies about. There is even a term called fat shamming to shame people who are fat into eating less. People every day in every culture are made to feel shame. Shame is not intended to be an abusive thing. In fact shame is a result of the fall and curse of man. In his book Future Grace John Piper lists shame before God as something of a cornerstone of Christian faith.

He states that shame is a results of a realization that we have offended God. In the Bible shame is a foundational concept from the beginning with Adam and Eve being “naked and not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25 ESV) to the end when Jesus tells us that nothing shameful will be allowed in His holy city (Revelations 21). Shame from sins against God, the rebellion in a heart, and all the ways of selfish ambition that humans pursue cling to people and manifest itself in different ways. Adam and Eve’s natural state was unashamed because they were not under any judgment before God. That unashamed state changed after they rebelled, but the good news is that God has undone that shame through Jesus to one day restore the unashamed state of creation. Although sins are shameful, through Christ one will not be put to shame by God. I myself am reconciled to my Creator because of His love, mercy, and grace.

For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. Romans 10:10-12 ESV

If Christ has removed my shame before God then why does society continually trying to shame others and why do I personally feel shame before other men? In this Piper lists a second kind of and this shame is not from God, but from ourselves because of the pressure we feel from society. The author of Hebrews writes that Jesus despised the shame that society placed on him. The shame of being beaten, the shame of a conviction that led to Him dying between thieves, the shame of betrayal by the hands of a close friend, and the shame of mockery from the crowd as they placed the crown of thorns on his head. He despised this shame directed at him by the culture and society.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV

This might be one of my favorite descriptions “despising the shame” in the Bible. Like Jesus Christians must realize that as they obey and love the Father they too will face shame. That shame may not be death on a cross, but society will place shame on the follower of Christ. Insults of being stupid to follow a magical sky god or being backward in thinking that marriage is a unique relationship between a man and woman. Fellow believers it is time to learn to shake it off and even learn to despise the shame heaped on us by society so that we too can see the “joy” set before us. Paul in his letter to Timothy encourages Timothy to not be ashamed of the prison that Paul is in and to not be ashamed at the suffering that would come from sharing the good news about Jesus.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. 2 Timothy 1:8 ESV

When I think of this shame that society brings it is a personal shame that is very real for the person that must bear up under the glare of being pushed out of the market square. It is a shame for refusing to condone the sexualized nature of society, and a shame for believing that God is the creator and not a randomness that the every so sure atheist “scientist” demands everyone follow. However the most real and intense shame that I must learn to despise is that of sharing Jesus to a culture that thinks such things should be kept private.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 ESV

Shame is not part of God’s plan for His children. It is time to stop placing shame on ourselves because of what other people think and remember that the only real shame has been undone by what Christ did on the cross for us.

* Revised and Updated: Originally published on Human Effort 2013