For years I toiled under the weight of a “works” oriented salvation. I believed that to please God I had to work to earn His favor and His grace. When I did good things I believed my deeds were pleasing to God and, for the moment, I had gained His favor. But, when I sinned (and I did. A lot) I believed, even when I repented, God would make me pay with some consequence or retribution. I considered it, “Waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
It was a miserable way to live. I went about my day trying to figure out what the
shoe would be. Would it hurt? Would it drop when I least expected it? Would it drop when I was enjoying pleasant times? Would it drop on my friends? When it dropped would my friends abandon me? Would it grieve me or cause me emotional pain? Would I suffer?
Then in August, 2000, I learned my true identity in Christ. God showed me His grace and taught me I didn’t have to pay for any or all the sins I committed. He told me, “They’re all already paid for. Stop waiting for that shoe and let me show you how much I love you.”
I’ve never worried about that shoe again.
Which Bible looks more like your Bible? Continue reading
“Well, [pause] yes,” he said. [Pause again] “Sometimes you may have to.” Continue reading
A Jewish lady answered a knock at her door. The young man asked her if she wanted her house painted. It needed painting, so she took his card. She noticed a fish symbol on the card and asked him what it meant. “It means I’m a Christian painter,” he said.
In my opinion, calling yourself a “Christian” anything presents two problems. First, no one has ever explained to me what a Christian is in Biblical terms. Any definition fails to capture what Jesus taught us about following Him.
And second, using “Christian” to describe a “painter” does not help me learn anything about the person holding the brush and ladder. Does a “Christian painter” paint differently from a “Catholic painter” or a “Muslim painter” or, “atheist painter”? The woman wanted her house painted. All she cared about was whether or not the guy could paint.
Too many times I think folks use “Christian” to describe their business to persuade their customers they’re more honest or ethical than “non-Christian” businesses. That somehow their “Christian business” ethics or integrity or quality of work is superior to their competitors who don’t flash a “Christian” label in their front window or on their business cards.
Too often we hear stories of bad experiences some consumers have with “Christian” businesses who flash their fish symbols then act just like the world in the market place. Those “Christian” business folks drive people away from The church and away from Jesus. One bad “Christian” business deal can destroy dozens of potential good business deals with authentic followers of Jesus who take Jesus to work every day.
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. Colossians 3:23
Authentic followers of Jesus don’t have to flash a “Christian” label to attract more customers, or to describe one’s integrity or character. Authentic followers of Jesus don’t have to convince others of their faith. The way we love others is all we need to bear witness to our integrity and our character.
Editor’s Note: I ran across this post on Writinggomer’s blog and wanted to share it with my readers. Greg has some of the same issues I have expressed on this blog before about the state of the church today. Is the church more like a harlot or the Bride of Christ?
Published on his website: Believing God Today
How would you like your eggs today, over-easy, scrambled, fried, sunny-side up, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, poached, or shirred?? How about your steak; rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, or well done?? Choice of potatoes? This sounds like questions for a meal in a restaurant right?
Can you relate the above questions to today’s Church? Depending on the meal you choose when eating in a restaurant, you, the patron, sometimes have Continue reading
By Dr. John Ed Mathison
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries
One of my good friends in ministry was Dr. Bill Hinson. We knew each other in college, and we were in seminary together at Emory. He became the pastor of the largest Methodist Church in America at First Methodist in Houston, Texas. I had the privilege to work with him on a lot of things for renewal in The United Methodist Church. He retired early to North Alabama; sadly, he suffered a heart attack and died.
Bill was a great preacher. I’ll never forget his telling about lion tamers who go into the cage with lions. They carry a four-legged stool. They also carry whips, poles, and pistols, but the purpose of the stool is fascinating.
The lion tamer always holds the stool by the back and points the four legs toward the face of the wild animal. The animal tries to focus on all four legs at once. When he does this, a kind of paralysis comes over him, and the animal becomes weak and disabled because his attention is fragmented and is unable to focus.
Too often we try to focus on too many things, and we become victims of discouragement and disappointment, and ineffective living. A lack of focus is destructive.
One of my favorite passages is Hebrews 12:1-2. The backdrop is an athletic event, the race. The writer describes that the runner always runs with focus and purpose. He says, “We must keep our eyes focused on Jesus, who is the Alpha and the Omega of our faith.”
You never see a runner win who is multi-focused while he is running. You don’t see him waving to people up in the crowd, or “hot-dogging.” The runner who wins focuses on the finish line and runs straight towards it. He doesn’t look at his competitors! He doesn’t get distracted. He is focused!
One of the big differences in success and failure is how well we are able to focus. Someone has said, “The successful man is the average man – focused.”
When a football team goes out of town for the big game, much of the planning centers on how to keep the team focused. Play off and championship games carry with them many distractions. The more focused a team can be, the better it will perform. Last year a German soccer team immediately changed hotels for its training camp. They found that a beauty contest was taking place at that resort hotel with 400 Russian models. Smart coach!
There is a convicting Old Testament story about a guard who was looking after an enemy who had been captured. His responsibility was to focus on keeping the prisoner secure.
When his leader came to check on him, they discovered the prisoner had escaped. The leader wondered how that could happen. Was the guard overpowered by the prisoner, or did some colleagues come and help the man escape? He asked the guard to explain. His explanation was, “While I was busy here and there, the prisoner escaped” (1 Kings 20:39-40). The guard had not stayed focused on his duty!
Stay focused on your purpose. A huge traffic jam recently occurred in Alabama where a truck driver took his hands off the wheel to pull out a loose tooth. He crashed his 18-wheeler along Interstate 20. While he grabbed hold of the troublesome tooth, he lost control, jack-knifed and veered off the road. He forgot about driving and focused on pulling his tooth. The highway patrol verified his dilemma when he said, “He had the tooth in his shirt pocket as proof!” But that did not untangle the traffic jam or fix his truck.
Remember, a lack of focus can paralyze you. Stay focused!
What is your FQ – Focus Quotient?
John Ed’s blog posts appear in For His Glory each week.1
Contact: JAM Executive Suite 4,4131 Carmichael Road, Montgomery, AL 36106 Phone: 334-270-2149 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to John Ed Mathison's one-minute daily devotional on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/johned.mathison/ and click “PLAY" on the audio YouTube in order to listen. Or you can go to his ministry page at https://www.facebook.com/JohnEdMathisonLeadershipMinistries/
But church folks can minister to families struggling with mental illness in effective, loving ways. Continue reading
Someone once told me we’ll be able to pick out the Baptists when we get to heaven. They’ll be the ones toting the covered dishes. Eating has always been a hallmark for us church folks. We love to eat and gather around the dinner table.
The trouble is, it seems to me the church is guilty of treating church like a pot luck supper. More and more we’re ignoring God’s banquet table and cooking up our own “kitchen religion”. The church would rather eat whatever tastes good than feast on God’s Word. The church would rather roast a bunch of rules and regulations than feast on the Bread of Life. The church would rather gorge on opulence than taste obedience.
“I’ve made myself available
to those who haven’t bothered to ask.
I’m here, ready to be found
by those who haven’t bothered to look.
I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’
to a nation that ignored me.
I reached out day after day
to a people who turned their backs on me,
People who make wrong turns,
who insist on doing things their own way.
They get on my nerves,
are rude to my face day after day,
Make up their own kitchen religion,
a potluck religious stew.
Isaiah 65:1-3 MSG
Even Mr. Smith found it impossible to function honestly in Washington. Continue reading
By James Corwin
James blogs over at DirtyHands.com
Which commandment do we all break?
Typically for the sake of clarity we condense and number them. Different groups of Christians number them slightly differently. I won’t get the why and how of that now. It’s interesting but not important to the overall question. This is how I learned them.
- You shall have no other gods. (no idols)
- You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
- Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
- Honor your father and mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
So back to that first question. Which commandment do we all break most often?
I’ve heard many people say it’s numbers 9 and 10; coveting. Living in an affluent North American context this is obviously a problem. Our whole economic system would collapse in about ten seconds if we all gave this one up. After all our economy is built on consumerism; buying things. Companies spend literally billions of dollars to make you want what is not and in some cases should not be yours. But coveting isn’t the most frequently broken commandment.
Few people ever say it’s numbers 5 or 6. The reasoning goes like this, “Sure some people do murder or commit adultery. But those are the outliers. Most people don’t have serious issues with these two.” That reasoning works unless you happen to consider what Jesus says about numbers 5 and 6 in Matthew 5. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” And, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you everyone who looks at a woman (or man) with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” OK. So, seen in that light numbers 5 and 6 are broken more often than we would think at first. But they still are nowhere near the commandment we break most often.
The commandment we all break is the first. “You shall have no other gods.” Martin Luther once said the fundamental problem in law-breaking is always idolatry. In other words, we never break the other commandments without first breaking the commandment against idolatry. (A Treatise on Good Works parts X, XI) Let that sink in a moment. In his explanation of the first commandment he wrote, “You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” And so anything that you fear, love, or trust more than God has become an idol for you.
When a person steals and breaks the seventh commandment, they have already broken the first. Their desire to have what they stole grew out of a violation of the first commandment. They did not fear, love or trust in God above all else. And so to fill their desire they took what was not theirs. And you can go down the list like that with all the other commandments. Each violation can be traced back to a breaking of the first commandment; “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
Idols aren’t only or necessarily funny little statues made out of wood or metal that the unenlightened people of the past prayed to, but that we have outgrown. An idol can be anything. Anything you fear above all else. Anything you love above all else. Anything you trust above all else. The gods of today that vie for God’s place in your life are so ordinary and commonplace that many of us don’t even give them a second thought. The false gods of today don’t go by the name of Baal, or Molech, or Ashtoreth. They are our retirement funds and bank accounts, they are our homes and our families, and they are our countries and our smartphones. And we do our bowing and kneeling to them with our schedules, our credit cards, our imaginations and our work.
Yes, we all break the first commandment. And we break it often. The good news in all of this is that the Big Ten were never meant to be a checklist to get into heaven. God doesn’t attach a percentage to them and say, “If you keep them 90 percent of the time, or 60 percent, or 40 percent, then I’ll let you in. No. They do detail how God wants us to live. But in trying to keep them we learn not only the depth of our sin, but also our utter incapability to keep them.
Once Jesus was asked by a young man seeking to justify himself, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus expertly opened the young man’s eyes to the idol that was standing between him and God. The thing he feared, loved and trusted above all else was his wealth. He walked away sad, unable and unwilling to give it up. The disciples, watching from the sidelines, and realizing their own failings said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus responded, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:16-30)
Yes we break the first commandment most often. We break it every day. How should we respond? By repenting and trusting in Jesus, the one who from the cross said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”