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
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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.”
Editor’s Note: When I read this post on Shannon’s blog, I left her a comment saying everyone needs to read this message. In my opinion it goes to the heart and soul of the solution to many of our world’s social ills. Enjoy.
By Shannon Moreno
Blogger over at Revelations in Writing
Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.” – (John 4:7,9-10)
I so appreciate this exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. He models for us how we can break down social and cultural barriers, and approach people where they are. Though society would have deemed her unworthy – to acknowledge, let alone speak to – Jesus approached her directly and spoke to her face to face. He was kind, honest, and offered the hope she had so long been looking for. As followers of Christ, we are called to do likewise. Our job is to break down barriers that society deems necessary, and show the world that they are not. We must touch the “untouchable“, love the “unlovable“, give voice to the silent, and meet the needs of those without. So many are misunderstood, misrepresented, and labeled as a result of their circumstances. May we be the ones who answer the call to love our neighbors as Christ has loved us – no barriers, no limits, just love.
Shannon is a long-time devoted blogger since 2011. I read her thought-provoking posts regularly. Shannon is a career teacher and coach and is raising two teenage boys. which in and of itself is a full time job. Read her posts on her blog at https://revelationsinwriting.wordpress.com
By Ken Chester
Blogger over at Grace Gripped
Editor’s Note: Ken Chester is one of my favorite bloggers on the Internet. His grasp of God’s grace is singularly brilliant. I know you’ll be blessed today by his thoughts.
“But you dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is unending life, the real life!” Jude 20-21 Message
What a life Jesus Christ has called you into. It is a life unlike any other .. holy .. wide open with God’s love .. all blemishes wiped clean .. “real life”. He calls you by name personally. He knows the sound of your voice and heals all the broken places in your life so that you can know the sound of His voice. There is grace .. a lifetime of learning just how incredible the love of God is .. beginning at the cross .. a day to day walk by faith .. and discovering that your life is His method for reaching the world around you. Jesus is going to come back one day. It is as certain as the empty grave He left. It is right around the corner. And the life you are called to live is exactly the life the He lives in you. Anything less will always feel like less. Jesus hasn’t left you here to worry or live anxiously. He’s left His Spirit to guide you and grow you in grace. He’s left His Spirit to remind you every day of how much you are loved. He’s left His Spirit to work in you all that Christ is for you. What a life Jesus Christ has call you into .. today. He only takes a moment …
“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:42 NASB
Ken Chester: Grace-Gripped is sent to Waiting-Willing-Walking followers of Jesus(email@example.com)
By Dr. John Ed Mathison
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries
In life we have two choices – we can focus on the bad things that happen or we can focus on how good God is.
Our tendency is to focus on the negative, but that can play tricks with our minds. The Bible reminds us that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Ps. 23:7). Our mindsets govern our actions and attitude.
There is a book in the Old Testament called Lamentations which addresses a negative mindset. In the first three chapters, Jeremiah gives a long litany lamenting how bad things are. His beloved city, Jerusalem, which “once thronged with people, was silent now. She sits like a widow broken with grief alone in her mourning. She was once a queen of nations, is now a slave” (Lam. 1:1).
Jeremiah describes his initial reaction. “I begged my allies for help. False hope, they could not help at all. Nor could my priests and elders. They are starving in the streets while searching through the garbage for an ounce of bread” (Lam. 1:19). “There is no one anywhere to help” (Lam. 1:21).
He continues, “I cried until tears no longer came. My heart is broken as I see what has happened to my people:little children and tiny babies are fainting and dying in the streets. They cry out, ‘Mama, Mama, we want food’ and then collapse on their mothers’ shrunken breasts. Their lives ebb away like those wounded in battle” (Lam.2:11). Jeremiah describes himself like one who “cannot escape. I am fastened with heav chains. My path has been filled with detours” (Lam. 3:7).
In the midst of this sad litany, Jeremiah changes his way of thinking. The key word is in Chapter 3, verse 21, when he says, “Yet.” I love that word “yet.” It means that change is fixing to take place. He says, “Yet there is one ray of hope. God’s compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. God in His faithfulness, His loving kindness begins afresh each day” (Lam. 3:21-22).
The quality of life we enjoy sometimes hangs on the ability to use that word Yet. Read my blog from July 15, 2015, about the prophet Habakkuk regarding the Yet mindset. Habakkuk knew how to let the Yet mindset govern his thinking and actions. When you get down, get up to the Yet mindset that focuses on His compassions and His mercies and His faithfulness. (Tweet this)
One of my favorite hymns, based on Lamentations, says – Great is Thy faithfulness /Great is Thy faithfulness / Morning by morning new mercies I see / All I have needed Thy hand hath provided / Great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me.
This hymn is a great witness of how faithful God is. We discover it every day. The last verse says – Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth / Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide / Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow / Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.
That’s a Yet mindset! It doesn’t deny the fact that things can be tough, but it affirms the fact that God’s faithfulness is stronger than our toughest situation, and His blessings are in the thousands!
We have a choice. A choice determines a consequence. You can choose to live on the negative side – and focus on how bad things are – and you can be completely overcome. Or you can say “Yet” and let God help you change your thinking to the positive side – to focus on how faithful and merciful He is. The Yet mindset makes possible unbelievable results!
Let God help you get a Yet mindset!!