Faith is perhaps the most central element in the Christian life because it is the means by which we enter into salvation. But that’s only the beginning. From then onward, our faith–or lack of it–shapes our lives and determines what happens to us when the winds of adversity blow. Some Christians never lose their footing even in hurricane-force winds, but others are toppled by the slightest gust. To understand why this is true, we need to examine the source of our faith.
Inherited faith: If you grew up in a Christian home, you probably adopted some of the beliefs of your parents. This kind of godly foundation is a wonderful gift from the Lord, but eventually, each person must assume responsibility for his own beliefs.
Textbook faith: The Bible is the ultimate guide for establishing our beliefs. But that’s not the only source of influence. Books, preachers, teachers, and friends all impact our convictions. Our theology may in fact be sound, but faith is merely mental acceptance until it’s put to the test.
Proven Faith: Only when we trust the Lord through the fires of adversity will we have faith that can stand. It is no longer based on what others have told us or what we’ve accepted as true but on our firsthand experience of His faithfulness.
To evaluate your faith, consider how you react to adversity. Do you cling to the Lord or get angry at Him? Is your attitude one of rejoicing because He’s making you more like His Son, or are you bitter? No one can escape adversity, but those with proven faith will benefit from it.
God is always at work in our lives. Even during seasons of adversity, He wants to accomplish something powerful and good. How should this knowledge affect our response? Today’s passage teaches us to choose to rejoice during difficult times. This doesn’t mean we have to be happy about the hardship itself. Instead, joy comes from drawing close to the Lord and believing steadfastly that through His redemptive power, He is growing and preparing us. If your usual response to trials is anxiety, anger, or depression, the idea of having joy in the midst of a negative situation might not seem logical. However, if you look beneath the surface, you will discover that this biblical directive makes sense for several reasons.
Often, our natural reaction to pain is to run in the opposite direction, and as fast as possible. However, God wants to teach us endurance–much like a long-distance runner builds up strength in training–so that we can fully benefit from what He is doing in our hearts. He uses trials as a refining fire to purify us like gold and bring us to greater spiritual maturity. As we realize that we are actually being made more complete through our adversities, we’ll begin to face challenging times with confidence that He always has our best interest in mind.
While a worldly viewpoint sees hope and joy in the midst of dark times as naïve, a spiritual perspective discerns that we’re really progressing on a journey toward life at its fullest. We can be filled with supernatural joy, knowing that the Lord is making us into world-changing spiritual warriors.
I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant.—Psalm 119:176
Today’s message from “Our Daily Bread” reminds us what it means to be forgiven. Though we continue to sin throughout the day, the devil wants to take away the facts that by God’s grace we are fully forgiven. God’s grace is far bigger than we could ever imagine and the apostle John supplies this note about grace: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin [no inclination to sin], we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7-9).
To “walk in the light” is a metaphor for following Jesus. Imitating Jesus with the Spirit’s help, John insists, is the sign that we have joined with the apostles in the fellowship of faith. We are authentic Christians. But, he continues, let’s not be deceived: We will make wrong choices at times. Nevertheless, grace is given in full measure: We can take what forgiveness we need.
Not perfect; just forgiven by Jesus! That’s the good word for today. —David H. Roper
Lord, I know I’m not even close to being perfect. That’s why I need You and Your cleansing in my life. I’m lost without You.
Today’s devotion hits us hard. It is so simple to get wrapped up in the day to day activities that we forget to wait for God and charge forward. In our current process of moving from Florida to Maryland, trying to keep things in perspective has been a challenge. No job yet, expenses catching up, having to close one house and move to another makes it hard not to be a little anxious. Thankfully God’s timing is always right on, and Dr. Stanley reminds us of the importance of staying the course with God! — Rich
Waiting for God’s timing is neither passive nor idle–it takes discipline and commitment. I can think of four basic requirements for successful waiting.
Faith. The Lord’s ways and timing are nothing like ours (Isa. 55:8-9). From a human standpoint, He usually does things in a totally different way than we expect. But as we trust Him more, we’ll discover that His approach isn’t so strange after all. And when we live in harmony with God’s will, His timing starts to make sense.
Humility. To wait for the Lord, you must be convinced of your need for Him. Submission to His divine will requires humility–you cannot charge ahead with your own plans and at the same time be fully surrendered to God.
Patience. Are you willing to remain in your current position until you receive clear divine direction? Pausing for clarity from God does not mean that you disengage and allow circumstances to fall apart around you. Waiting upon the Lord is a deliberate decision that requires patience.
Courage. Waiting for God often takes courage, especially when there is pressure to act. If you’re not careful, you might stop listening to the Lord and follow other advice. So keep your ear attuned to the voice of Almighty God, and you won t go wrong.
Waiting upon the Lord is one of the wisest, most important decisions we make in life. And contrary to popular assumptions, it is an active endeavor that requires faith, humility, patience, and courage. When you rely upon God and wait for His timing, the various facets of life fall into place.
We live in a world of competing ideas and worldviews. In an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, Christians are more aware of (and influenced by) disparate views than ever. But just how much have other worldviews crept into Christians’ perspectives? Barna’s research shows that only 17 percent of Christians who consider their faith important and attend church regularly actually have a biblical worldview1. So, if Christians are open to nonbiblical perspectives, what are they believing?
In partnership with Summit Ministries, Barna conducted a study among practicing Christians in America to gauge how much the tenets of other key worldviews—including new spirituality, secularism, postmodernism and Marxism—have influenced Christians’ beliefs about the way the world is and how it ought to be. Barna’s new research found strong agreement with ideas unique to nonbiblical worldviews among practicing Christians. This widespread influence upon Christian thinking is evident not only among competing worldviews, but even among competing religions; for example, nearly four in 10 (38%) practicing Christians are sympathetic to some Muslim teachings (an aspect of the study Barna will explore elsewhere).
Here are a few notable findings among practicing Christians:
- 61% agree with ideas rooted in New Spirituality.
- 54% resonate with postmodernist views.
- 36% accept ideas associated with Marxism.
- 29% believe ideas based on secularism.
Before diving into the four worldviews, and as illustrated in the charts below, there are a few key demographic themes that emerge from the data. First, Millennials and Gen-Xers, who came of age in a less Christianized context, are, in some cases, up to eight times more likely to accept these views than Boomers and Elders. The same is true of gender; males are generally more open to these worldviews than women, often at a 2:1 ratio. Another trend is that Americans who live in cities, often melting pots of ideas and cultures, are more accepting of these views than those in either suburban or rural areas. And finally, when looking at ethnicity, Americans of color are, in about half of the cases, more likely than white Americans to embrace these worldviews.
Practicing Christians find the claims of New Spirituality among the most enticing, perhaps because it holds a positive view of religion, emphasizes the supernatural and simultaneously feeds into a growing dissatisfaction with institutions. For instance, almost three in 10 (28%) practicing Christians strongly agree that “all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” Further, the belief that “meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is” has captured the minds of more than one-quarter of practicing Christians (27%).
The New Spirituality worldview has also inched its way into Christian ethics; one-third of practicing Christians (32%) strongly agree that “if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad.” This karmic statement, though not explicitly from scripture, appeals to many Christians’ sense of ultimate justice. For example, another Barna study found that 52 percent of practicing Christians strongly agree that the Bible teaches “God helps those who help themselves.”
Overall, at least 61 percent of practicing Christians embrace at least one of the ideas rooted in New Spirituality.
The secular worldview prioritizes the scientific method as an explanatory framework for life and advances a rational and materialistic view of the world. For the most part, practicing Christians resist scientism and a Darwinian belief: Only one in 10 (10%) strongly agree that “a belief must be proven by science to know it is true.” Believing that human beings are made in the image of God, and not just highly evolved matter, Christians see value as inherent; only 13 percent of practicing Christians strongly agree that “a person’s life is valuable only if society sees it as valuable.”
However, a larger contingent of practicing Christians are more inclined toward materialism, the view that the material world is all there is. For them, “meaning and purpose comes from working hard to earn as much as possible so you can make the most of life,” a view held by one-fifth of practicing Christians (20%). Black (24%) and Hispanic (27%) practicing Christians, as well as Catholics (31%)—who are inclined to embrace a more works-based approach to faith—are the most open to this view. Younger adults and city-dwellers also have materialistic inclinations; Millennials and Gen-Xers (34% and 32%, respectively) are three times as likely to strongly agree with this premise than Boomers and Elders (10% and 11%, respectively), and those who live in cities (31%) are twice as likely as their suburban or rural counterparts (14%).
The researchers found that 29 percent of practicing Christians believe at least one of the secular statements assessed in the project.
Emerging as a critique of rationalism—the belief that everything can be explained objectively through the scientific method—postmodernism advances the idea that there is no such thing as objectivity. Postmodern thought argues that claims on ultimate reality are subjective by virtue of their context—that is, we are all limited by our experience, and at best we can know only what is true for ourselves.
For example, almost one-fifth of practicing Christians (19%) strongly agree that “no one can know for certain what meaning and purpose there is to life.” A similar perspective also resonates with many Christians when it comes to views of morality: Almost one-quarter of practicing Christians (23%) strongly agree that “what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.” Less educated Americans (high school or less) are more likely to affirm this view than their college-educated counterparts (31% compared to 21%).
Compelled by a larger story or metanarrative about the world, Christians are more inclined to defend objective truth, but are somewhat sympathetic to the postmodern insistence that capital “T” truth claims lead to oppression. Just 15 percent of practicing Christians strongly agree that “if your beliefs offend someone or hurt their feelings, they are wrong.” Black practicing Christians, historically on the receiving end of hurtful ideologies, are more likely to agree than white practicing Christians (22% compared to 13%).
As a whole, more than half (54%) of practicing Christians embrace at least one of the postmodern statements assessed in the research.
Bernie Sanders came very close to winning his party’s nomination last year in the democratic primaries. Running on a platform of democratic socialism, he won a great deal of support (particularly among young voters) by tapping into a deep discontentment with the economic realities of capitalism. Marxism as a worldview stands in opposition to the economics of capitalism and falls more in line with socialist or communist political ideologies. Marxism, though, is also founded on an irreligious—or even religiously hostile—foundation. Though not a single practicing Christian says they would actually vote for a communist party candidate (0%) and only 3 percent for the socialist party, some of the key economic and political tenets of a Marxist worldview are supported by practicing Christians, though less so than other worldviews.
For instance, only one in nine (11%) strongly agree that “private property encourages greed and envy.” This is more pronounced among practicing Christian Millennials (20%) and Gen-Xers (22%), who are four to six times as likely to believe this when compared to Boomers (4%) or Elders (5%). For socialists, reigning in greed is the purview of the state, and 14 percent of practicing Christians strongly agree that “the government, rather than individuals, should control as much of the resources as necessary to ensure that everyone gets their fair share.” Black Americans are twice as likely to affirm this economic view than are white Americans (23% compared to 12%). Furthermore, one in six practicing Christians (15%) strongly disagrees that “if the government leaves businesses alone, they will mostly do what’s right.” In other words, this proportion believes significant government regulation is necessary for the good of society. Again, a lack of trust in the impartiality of economic policies or businesses is more common among black Americans than white Americans (26% compared to 12%), though it could be seen as a pushback against a political and economic system that has failed them, rather than a rejection of biblical perspective.
In total, Barna found that 36 percent of practicing Christians embraced at least one of the Marxist statements assessed in the research.
What the Research Means
“This research really crystalizes what Barna has been tracking in our country as an ongoing shift away from Christianity as the basis for a shared worldview. We have observed and reported on increasing pluralism, relativism and moral decline among Americans and even in the Church. Nevertheless, it is striking how pervasive some of these beliefs are among people who are actively engaged in the Christian faith,” Brooke Hempell, senior vice president of research for Barna, says.
“What stood out most to us was how stark the shift was between the Boomer and Gen-Xer generations,” Hempell remarks. “We expected Millennials to be most influenced by other worldviews, but the most dramatic increase in support for these ideals occurs with the generation before them. It’s no surprise, then, that the impact we see today in our social fabric is so pervasive, given that these ideas have been taking root for two generations.
“The challenge with competing worldviews is that there are fragments of similarities to some Christian teachings, and some may recognize and latch on to these ideas, not realizing they are distortions of biblical truths. The call for the Church, and its teachers and thinkers, is to help Christians dissect popular beliefs before allowing them to settle in their own ideology,” Hempell says. “Informed thinking is essential to developing and maintaining a healthy biblical worldview and faith as well as being able to have productive dialogue with those who espouse other beliefs.”
About the Research
Research with practicing Christians (who go to church at least monthly and consider their faith very important in their life) included 1,456 web-based surveys conducted among a representative sample of adults over the age of 18 in each of the 50 United States. The survey was conducted in March 2017. The sampling error for this study is plus or minus 2.4%, at the 95% confidence level. Minimal statistical weighting was used to calibrate the sample to known population percentages in relation to demographic variables.
1Barna has tracked beliefs that make up a “biblical worldview” since 1995, with the data included in this article (17% of practicing Christians have a biblical worldview) coming from an OmniPoll conducted in an online study of 1,066 U.S. adults in July of 2015. Barna defines “biblical worldview” as believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.
Barna asked if Americans agree that scripture says “God helps those who help themselves” in a January 2013 survey sponsored by American Bible Society, including 1,005 telephone surveys of U.S. adults.
This research was commissioned by Summit Ministries, a worldview-apologetic outreach in Colorado. For more information about their newest book, The Secret Battle of Ideas About God, go to summit.org and secretbattlebook.com.
Barna research is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2017
In the book, “The Battle Plan for Prayers” (Kendrick, 2015), answered Prayers aren’t merely highly unlikely coincidences. They are finger prints of a loving, loving God who invites all of us to draw close to Him, the One who made us and “is not far from each of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17.27-28, NKJV). Also take from this book I would like to share some powerful statements to encourage your prayer life.
- Prayer can accomplish what a willing God can accomplish.
- Prayer is our armored tank.
- Prayer is a major assault weapon in battle.
- Prayer can do anything, because with God all things are possible (Matthew 19.26).
- Prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5.16).
- Prayer provides an unlimited spiritual data plan, meaning we never need to worry we’ve drifted out of range from the signal tower.
- Prayer is privileged access to the God of the universe, bought and paid for by the blood of His Son on our account for all those who freely receive Him as Lord.
- Prayer enables us to rest and trust.
- Prayer is like a standing counseling session, 24/7, no appointment necessary.
- Prayer is all things and more – as we know and will come to see.
- Prayer is what infuses all our efforts and the genuine concerns of our hearts with God’s boundless ability.
- Prayer is what frames our pressing, short-term issues with God’s eternal perspective, showing us just how temporary — and endurable, and winnable — even our most intense battles truly are.
- Prayer means hope.
- Prayer means help.
- Prayer means relief.
- Prayer means power.
- Prayer aligns the body of Christ with her Head.
- Prayer is simply too wonderful and important not to do it.
- Prayer at its heart, is communicating with God.
- Prayer is serious business.
- Prayer is communion with God in order to:
- Intimately know, love, and worship Him.
- Understand and conform our lives to His and ways.
- Access and advance His kingdom, power and glory.
- Prayer allows us the priceless privilege to not only know Almighty God better, but to join Him in what He is already doing among the nations for His glory.
- Prayer is not about prayer; it is about a Person – God Himself.
Prayer should become your first plan of attack in all of life’s battles!
But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
If it’s broken, throw it away. This is how the world handles brokenness, whether it is things, strategies, or even people. The Japanese art form of kintsugi, “golden joinery” or kintsukuroi, “golden repair,” flies in the face of this conventional wisdom. Shattered pieces of pottery are carefully reunited into a whole using a costly lacquer containing powdered gold, silver, and platinum. Transformation is the result. Common pieces of pottery are transformed into unique pieces whose value skyrockets past what they were formerly worth. What a beautiful picture of God’s redemptive work. Whether our brokenness is the result of circumstances beyond our control or our own regrettable choices, Jesus beckons us to Himself. As the Creator and Artist of the world, He gently reunites us to God, our true selves, and one another. He promises to use us for His glory and to make us whole. What shattered area of your life will you bring to Him today?
“How do you know when the gold is purified?” we asked him, and he answered, “When I can see my face in it [the liquid gold in the crucible] then it is pure.”
Oswald Chambers said, “Has God trusted you with His silence— a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers. Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking Him for a visible answer?”
While we often think God’s silence means He has abandoned us or left us, that is not true. God’s silence does not equal God’s absence.
But what do we do in those moments?
God is inviting us into something through His silence, just like He does through His leadings, promptings and moves in our lives.
Philip Yancey in his book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? gives some helpful steps on how to handle the silence of God or what seems like unanswered prayer:
- Do I have any sins to confess?
Many times our distance with God is because of unconfessed sin. When we struggle to move forward in relationships, when we struggle to hear God, to find freedom in our lives, it is because of our sin that we are carrying around; bitterness we haven’t let go of, people we still blame, situations we replay in our minds, and secrets we keep hidden.
- What are my motives for prayer?
Many times we pray to get something, to become rich or to have an easier life. We want God on our terms, and when this happens we miss God. This is why God feels distant. We aren’t looking for God, we are looking for a version of God we’ve created.
In this, are you listening to God or just talking to God? Too often our prayer life is one way, me just telling God what I want, what I need, what He can do. I’m not asking Him questions, I’m not listening to Him.
Another one I’ll have people say is, “I asked God about ______ (and in the blank is always something God has already told us the answer to in the Bible), but He didn’t answer.” Of course not; He’s already given you an answer. Why does He need to tell you again?
- Am I pursuing results rather than closeness with God?
I said earlier that the writers of Scripture spend little time answering why suffering happens and more time on what suffering, pain and silence produce in us. It produces perseverance, character, patience, hope, joy and so on.
- Is God preparing me for something?
Often God is using our spiritual dryness for something in the future. I read once that a vintner refuses to irrigate his vines because the stress caused by occasional drought produces the best, most tasty grapes. Seasons of dryness make the roots run deep, strengthening the vine for whatever the future holds.
- Pray with others.
This is the power of community, praying together and sharing evidences of God’s grace. When you sit with your RC and share how you have seen God work in your life, and you can’t think of any, but the person next to you shares several, yes, you will get mad at first. Why isn’t God moving in my life like He is yours? Why isn’t God answering my prayers? But you will also start to see that even when you can’t see God at work in your life, He is at work.
I saw this in my life about 18 months ago. Our church was growing, we were meeting on the east side in a school and things were going well. We were outgrowing our space, so we moved to a larger school, and in six months half our church had left. It hurt. People I was close to said everything had changed and left. It rocked my confidence, made me question my leadership. Should I quit Revolution? Did I make a wrong choice? Was I a bad leader? During this time, every pastor I met was leading a church that was growing. I was watching ours shrink.
I asked God why, and nothing.
Slowly I stopped asking why and I started asking God what He wanted to show me and what He wanted to invite me into. I began to see His invitation to know His love for me, which seemed like an odd answer because at the time it had very little to do with Revolution. And yet my relationship with God is deeper than ever before, my heart towards God and people is softer than ever before. Could that happen without losing my confidence? Maybe, but God saw that as the best way forward for me. Many times God’s perceived silence is to draw us deeper into Him. The dark place you are in might be God’s invitation to you to meet Him there. You will not walk out the same.
Henry Blackaby said, “You can respond to the silence of God in two ways. One response is for you to go into depression, a sense of guilt and self-condemnation. The other response is for you to have an expectation that God is about to bring you to a deeper knowledge of Himself. These responses are as different as night and day.”
James, the brother of Jesus, says in the New Testament, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James does not give us a time line on this promise, just that it is a promise.
Too often the reason we miss God is our rush for something to happen, for something to change.
Frequently God’s silence is an invitation for us to stop, to slow down, to meet God and do some hard heart work. This can be painful and is often why we try to skip out of it. Yet, just like we will miss out on God’s best if we don’t follow His leadings, we will miss out on His best for us if we don’t follow His silence.
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Perhaps our greatest need in the church is to get into God’s Word. Many people have shared their opinions on this matter, but now God wants to speak.
Finance, fitness and food goals are important, but no goal is more important than sitting before God with an open Bible and a humble, teachable heart.
This is the posture a Christian is to assume his or her entire life. Salvation may happen in a single moment of belief, but learning to live as a Christian and fully follow Jesus is the adventure of a lifetime. We continually learn to follow Jesus through his Word, the Bible.
R. A. Torrey, a close associate of D.L. Moody, once said, “Christians who pray for power, but neglect the Bible, abound in the church. But the power that belongs to God is stored up in the great reservoir of his own Word, the Bible.”
D.L. Moody himself had much to say about the Bible, and was always pointing His hearers back to the Word:
“The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.”
“The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”
“I never saw a fruit-bearing Christian who was not a student of the Bible. If a man neglects his Bible, he may pray and ask God to use him in his work; but God cannot make use of him, for there is not much for the Holy Ghost to work upon.”
I don’t know about you, but reading D.L. Moody’s encouragements to read the Bible are soul-stirring! He gives us a window into what it means to treasure our Bibles.
The Bible has much to say about itself, as well. Here are five Scriptures that will super-charge your Bible engagement.
1. Meditate on God’s Word day and night (Ps. 1:1-3).
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”
This is one of my all-time favorite Scripture passages.
Planting yourself in God’s Word is like planting a tree by water. There is an abundance of life giving nutrients to give strength for a lifetime.
Here’s a more modern illustration. A missionary to Africa has said, “Christianity, boring? So is the best TV show if the set isn’t plugged in. Be plugged into God and you won’t be yawning.”
We plug into (or put our roots into) God and his purposes for our lives through engagement with the Bible and obedience to what God has spoken. If we don’t do these two things (read and obey the Bible), we will always be lacking in our spiritual fervor and vibrancy. If we do them, we will be on an adventure of a lifetime, and our spiritual life will be moving in the direction it needs to be going.
2. Let the Word dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16).
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Maybe you already love your Bible … but are you giving enough time or consideration to it? Let the Bible dwell in you richly—not poorly, not half-heartedly—but richly. Build your life on it. Make it your most important daily habit. Stake your future on it.
3. Remember that the authors of the Bible spoke from God (2 Peter 1:20-21).
“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Scripture is not fanciful tales, or incorrect history. It is pure, true and trustworthy because it has come to us from our faithful God. Archeology has consistently proven the accuracy of the Bible, and all doubt cast on these points by secular society fall flat to the honest scholar. There is far more evidence pointing to the accuracy of the Scriptures than we could ever fathom.
The Bible is not just nice words from men and women. It is not simply the oldest and most accurate history book. It is not just the bestselling book of all time, packed with wonderful stories.
The Bible is God’s words to us today, and every day. God has spoken and is now speaking through the Bible. The Bible is wisdom, peace, comfort, correction and direction for your tomorrow. The Bible is the lifeblood of the Christian, drawing him or her ever closer to Christ. The Bible is the greatest book in all of humanity, and our greatest potential opportunity to know God more.
4. Remember that all Scripture is useful (2 Tim. 3:14-16).
“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
The Word of God is not just lofty prose. It contains various forms of literature and tells powerful stories, but it is far more than this. It is useful for you and your everyday life. It is helpful to show you the way to God and how to live in light of the reality of God.
There are a thousand insights in the Bible that could help you right now in practical ways in your everyday life, but they will never benefit you if you don’t open the book. A pastor recently shared, “How many times the wisdom we needed for the day was in the Bible passage we didn’t read that morning.”
5. Do what it says (James 1:21-25).
“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it–not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it–they will be blessed in what they do.”
A. W. Tozer said, “We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”
Scripture gives this warning. Don’t be “deceived”—or, how another translation words it, ” you are only fooling yourselves.” We need to obey.
Is there an area of your life that doesn’t line up with what the Bible says, and you know it? Don’t keep looking for another solution when you know what you need to do. Repent, turn from ways you know are wrong, and obey what God has spoken to you through his Word.
This is the real power of the Word of God—when we allow it to transform the way we think, speak, act and live.
Continue in the Word. Don’t forget what you’ve heard. Do it. And you will be blessed in ways you cannot begin to imagine.
Matt Brown (@evangelistmatt) is an evangelist, author and founder of Think Eternity, an evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands of people with the gospel each year through live events and online. This article was originally published on Matt’s blog at ThinkE.org.
Obeying authority is hard. We bristle anytime we hear someone say: “You must do this. You ought to do that.” We want to be able to say: “Don’t tell me what to do. I want to do what I want to do.” We want people to empower and entitle us. We hate receiving mandates. That’s our nature. In light of this, I like to talk about a Christian worldview and how it differs from a pagan worldview. One way to differentiate the two would be to consider each worldview’s understanding of responsibility toward authority. If I were not a Christian, I certainly wouldn’t embrace submission to authority. But being a Christian makes me hesitate before I live in active disobedience to those whom God has put in authority over me. To understand why, we must look at the New Testament’s explanation of the origin and function of government under God. This issue is clearly dealt with by the Apostle Paul in the thirteenth chapter of his epistle to the Romans.
Romans 13 begins: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment”(vv. 1–2). Paul begins this study of the government with an Apostolic command for everyone to submit to governing authorities. This lays a framework for Christian civil disobedience.
Paul’s teaching in Romans 13:1–2 is not an isolated instance in the New Testament. Paul is simply reiterating here what he teaches elsewhere, what is also taught by Peter in his epistles—and by our Lord Himself—that there is a fundamental obligation of the Christian to be a model of civil obedience. We as the people of God are called upon to be as obedient as we possibly can in good conscience to the powers that be. Remember that Paul is writing this to people who are under the oppression of the Roman government. He’s telling people to be submissive to a government that would eventually execute him. But he doesn’t do so in a blind sense that precludes any possibility of civil disobedience.
For now, I want us to see that Paul is setting the stage in Romans 13 for explaining why the Christian is supposed to be particularly scrupulous and sensitive in civil obedience. Paul begins to set forth his case by saying, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” Why? “For there is no authority except from God.” Peter puts it another way. He tells us to submit ourselves to the earthly authorities for the Lord’s sake (1 Peter 2:13). That means that if I show no respect to a person whom God has set in authority between Himself and me, my disrespect carries beyond that person and ultimately lands on God as the giver of the authority. The biblical concept of authority is hierarchical. At the top of the hierarchy is God. All authority rests ultimately in God, and there is no authority invested in any institution or in any person except through the delegation of that authority from God. Any authority that I have in any area of my life is a derived, appointed, and delegated authority. It is not intrinsic but extrinsic. It is given ultimately by the One who has inherent authority. Within this hierarchy structure, God the Father gives all authority on heaven and earth to Christ, His Son (Matt. 28:18). God has enthroned Christ as the King of kings. So if Christ is the prime minister of the universe, it means that all the kings of this world have a King who reigns over them and that all the earthly lords have a superior Lord to whom they are accountable. We know that there are vast multitudes of people in this world who do not recognize Christ as their King, and because His kingdom is invisible right now, they say, “Where is this king? I don’t see any reigning king.” In light of this, the task of the church is of cosmic political proportions.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus gave a mandate to His disciples: “And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). They were to be witnesses, but witnesses to what? The immediate context of this verse is a discussion about the kingdom. Jesus was going to heaven, but He said, “In my absence you are to bear witness to the transcendent, supernatural truth of my ascension.” That’s why our first loyalty as Christians must be to our heavenly King. We are called to respect, honor, pray for, and be in subjection to our earthly authorities, but the minute we exalt the earthly authority over the authority of Christ, we have betrayed Him, and we have committed treason against the King of kings. His authority is higher than the authority of the president of the United States or Congress or the king of Spain or any ruler anywhere else.
If you don’t like the president of the United States, remember that the One who cast the deciding ballot in his election was almighty God. Of course, God doesn’t sanction or endorse everything that the president does; neither is it the case that God turns the authority over to the president and says, “Go ahead and rule these people however you want.” Every king is subject to the laws of God and will be judged accordingly. It may be that the president is completely ungodly, but for reasons known to God alone, God has placed him in that seat of authority.
I always thought the X in Christmas was a way of taking Christ out of Christmas. However, Dr. Sproul introduces a different and interesting perspective on the use of the X.
The X in Christmas is used like the R in R.C. My given name at birth was Robert Charles, although before I was even taken home from the hospital my parents called me by my initials, R.C., and nobody seems to be too scandalized by that.
X can mean so many things. For example, when we want to denote an unknown quantity, we use the symbol X. It can refer to an obscene level of films, something that is X-rated. People seem to express chagrin about seeing Christ’s name dropped and replaced by this symbol for an unknown quantity X. Every year you see the signs and the bumper stickers saying, “Put Christ back into Christmas” as a response to this substitution of the letter X for the name of Christ.
There’s no X in Christmas
First of all, you have to understand that it is not the letter X that is put into Christmas. We see the English letter X there, but actually what it involves is the first letter of the Greek name for Christ. Christos is the New Testament Greek for Christ. The first letter of the Greek word Christos is transliterated into our alphabet as an X. That X has come through church history to be a shorthand symbol for the name of Christ.
We don’t see people protesting the use of the Greek letter theta, which is an O with a line across the middle. We use that as a shorthand abbreviation for God because it is the first letter of the word Theos, the Greek word for God.
X has a long and sacred history
The idea of X as an abbreviation for the name of Christ came into use in our culture with no intent to show any disrespect for Jesus. The church has used the symbol of the fish historically because it is an acronym. Fish in Greek (ichthus) involved the use of the first letters for the Greek phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” So the early Christians would take the first letter of those words and put those letters together to spell the Greek word for fish. That’s how the symbol of the fish became the universal symbol of Christendom. There’s a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.
I easily become overloaded, overburdened, and go overboard with busyness. I’ve often thought to myself that life would be perfect if bad times had fast forward buttons and good times had pause buttons. I’d also like to clone myself to get more done and never have to sit back and wait for anything. But is that really what I want?
Wait is a tough word to deal with in today’s busy world. Being too busy can distract us from the really important things in our lives—people. Do I really like being so busy that I’m worn out by noon? No. I know deep within my heart that being overloaded is a way for the enemy to distract me from those most precious to me. If I’m really honest, I would have to admit I learn more during those calm and peaceful times when my heart, soul, and mind all unite to seek God’s will than I do when I’m stretching my mind to hold more and more while I’m falling apart. One thing I have to remember on a daily basis is that wait is not an ugly word and “busy” is not a spiritual gift. After all, God says in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Isn’t being still waiting? When you have a personality like mine, it’s hard to be still, but it is only during those moments alone with God that I can truly feel a peace that surpasses all understanding. Busy is the enemy of peace. Busy steals precious time. Busy robs my blessings.
Waiting Time Is Never Wasting Time
In this fast paced, jungle-like world we build for ourselves, we rarely have “waiting” time anymore. We expect instant gratification and instant results—at lightening fast speed! We become so engrossed in paperwork that we delete all the “people” work in our lives. We become so busy that we can’t remember the last time we took a full day off or sat at the dinner table with the family.
Life can bring about big storms and the waves hit hard if we don’t slow down. Busy can beat upon us like a drum. When those closest to us have stopped asking for our time, it’s because they know we are too busy for them. That’s crushing to the heart. We all need “waiting” time, whether we think we do or not. Waiting time is when we say adamantly, “It can wait!” and we step back and do what is really important.
I discovered this after I found myself checking my appointment book to see if I could squeeze in lunch with my 18-year-old daughter. I knew then that I had to back up and take a good look at my priorities. The world would momentarily stop if something ever happened to her, so why can’t I stop when she wants me to have lunch? It’s amazing how busy I allow myself to be. To actually clear my schedule for a day or two feels impossible. I feel as if everything would fall apart if I said, “No, I’m sorry. I can’t do that task,” or if I refuse to answer my phone. God puts his healing hand under my chin and assures me of one thing—he will never leave me and he wants me to trust him as he helps me clear my overloaded plate to a manageable amount.
The storm that rages inside me is shouting, “Slow Down!” and demands my attention. But if I heed that call, the Creator of peace will shower me with a peace that surpasses all understanding if I just trust him. The fragrance of grace and mercy will overflow in me when I come to peace with being less busy. Breaking old patterns is hard, but God reminds me that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Morning by Morning New Mercies I See
I began to sing the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” as I awoke each day. I asked the Lord to help me give up a life of unbridled busyness and to show me how to achieve balance between worshiping God, loving my family, and enjoying my work. Somehow during the course of my life, I mixed those up and put work at the beginning. From this day forward, busy was not going to win out any more. Busy was not going to push me around till I was worn out from the struggle. I stood up tall, held my shoulders back, and smiled. I began to seize the opportunity to truly listen to God’s plan for my life. Someone once told me peace smells like cupcakes. Step back and welcome that smell. Let your house begin to take on the odor of a bakery and watch how you begin to see and taste that the Lord is good once you grow still and begin to slow down.
If you are in a season of fast-paced insanity, no fun frustration, and running around like a road runner, I encourage you to seek God with all your heart and ask him to help you clear the unnecessary chaos that you have brought to your life. Sit and wait as he begins to show you the things to remove, and be ready to listen. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes. Do you love some of the things he might remove? Yes. But trust him and hang on to your faith with an iron fist as you seek to glorify the Lord with your life. Begin to say, “Use me, Lord!” not, “Why me, Lord?”
God is going to see you through and when he does, you will stand taller and bolder, and be more faithful. You’ll begin to smell the roses, taste the rain, laugh more, and not miss out on the important things in life. You’ll overflow with good things rather than be drained from exhaustion. You’ll come out of the desert singing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and knowing that God is in control after all. It’s such a relief to not have to try to control everything. And the best part is that one day, as you awaken to sunshine peering through your window, you’ll feel the joy of the Lord has returned to your life. You’ll know that joy comes in the morning when you realize that busyness is not a spiritual gift.
The ultimate peacemaker said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled …” (John 14:27). He releases you to run free from chaos and to break free from busyness so you can experience a peace that surpasses all understanding. So, when your heart is calm, thank him. And once you’ve done that, go to lunch with a loved one and don’t forget to turn off your phone.
Tammy Whitehurst, a Christian speaker, is the founder of Joy for the Journey Ministries. You can read more about her at tammywhitehurst.com.