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Read the Bible Honestly

While recently attending the Exponential Conference, Matt Chandler challenged us to learn to read the Bible honestly. All of us read the scriptures through our own lens. We must discipline ourselves to read it for what it actually says and not what we want it to say. It would be great if it said that we will never have struggles, trials, and tribulation but it actually stresses the opposite. In Exodus 15 Abram is told of a day that his descendants would be afflicted for 400 years in Egypt.

In this world we will have trouble and there will be difficult days! The apostle Peter reminds us to not “think it strange” when we go through trials in our lives. Reading the Bible honestly demands that we admit that our faith will be challenged and sometimes we will wonder why God is allowing what He is allowing us to go through. All you have to do is listen to Paul or James… and do I even need to mention Jeremiah or Job?

One thing to remember is that in the midst of the mess our Lord is at work. Chandler went on to say that suffering is the Lord’s way of cutting away from our lives what will ultimately harm us so that He can instill into us what we really need. Joseph said to his brothers, “you meant it for evil but God meant it for good.” Peter said that we would be refined by fire. That refining process gives us the opportunity to shine for Christ.

In Uncommon Life Daily Challenge, Tony Dungy shares that when he was hired as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers he desired to coach in a way that honored God. He said that he believed that if he did that, and he did, that he would be rewarded. His reward was getting fired. Yes, God had a plan but it was different than the one he expected. In Matthew 5:10 Jesus said, “Those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

In the song Trust in You, Lauren Daigle puts it this way, “When you don’t move the mountains I’m needing you to move. When you don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through. When you don’t give the answers as I cry out to you. I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you.” She gives us the key to this. “Letting go of every single dream. I lay each one down at your feet.” His plans are not always our plans.

Learning to read the Bible honestly means that God is in control and we can trust Him. Think of what Jesus said to Peter in Luke 22:31-32, “Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” There are multiple truths we need to listen to in this passage.

First, Satan desires to sift us, test us, and devour us. We have an enemy the moment we decide to follow Jesus. We should not be surprised by the devil’s attacks. We must get prepared for battle as Paul admonishes us to “Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the devil.”     

Second, Jesus is praying for us. This truth should be a great encouragement. Just think, He is sitting at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us. In John 17:15 He prays, “I am not praying that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one.”      

Third, He does not pray that we will avoid sifting. We will experience sifting and the biggest challenge is how we will face that process. Will we go through sifting trusting Him in the process? Will we willingly endure testing so that Jesus Christ might be glorified? Sifting builds the muscle of faith in our lives.       

 Fourth, we will have to decide if we will continue to be faithful. In a recent message Jack Graham said, “The faith that does not finish was faulty from the first.” In Sifted, Wayne Cordeiro says, “The process of sifting, coming to that moment when our strength is spent, is how God builds our faith.” Check out James 1:1-4.

Fifth, we talk about our strengths, the Bible talks about our weaknesses. II Corinthians 12:9-10, “Therefore, I (Paul) will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in my weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Wayne Cordeiro shares about a time in his life that he knew that the Lord was saying to Him, “The reason I cannot be strong for you is that you refuse to be weak.” He continues, “…you’re beginning to understand one of the most important keys to successful long-term ministry—that you’re only as powerful as your dependence on God’s strength.”

Why is this so important? Attacks and challenges will come. Unfortunately, it sometimes comes from those who are closest to us. It is not easy to balance the need to be thick skinned while remaining sensitive to people’s needs. Cordeiro talks about the paradox of personalities where we must be “sensitive but not easily offended, empathetic but not weak, flexible and yet filled with convictions.”

How can we do that? Admitting our weaknesses, crying out to Him for help, and allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us, control us, and totally dominate us! Learn to read the Bible honestly by knowing that sifting will change you but you will have to decide how it will change you!

GOD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE

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Last Friday, June 26, 2015, was a sad day for me but it also challenged me to see how Christians and churches would respond to the Supreme Court decision. I began to see what was trending on social media and I must admit I was even more saddened to see some of the hatred and venom being expressed by both sides.

What should the Christian reaction be? How should we respond to this after our emotions settle down? I must admit the cliche of a few years ago came to the forefront of my mind, “What would Jesus do?” Really, what would He do?

Here are several of the repsonses on social media that are worth sharing:

  • “Gay marriage is now legal. The sky has not fallen, churches have not been padlocked, and we must live on mission! …Remember, after #SCOTUS and every day, you can’t hate a people and reach a people at the same time! …The focus must not be panic… or anger… or fear… or disdain. Our focus must be mission. Again.” -Ed Stetzer
  • “Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.” -Warren Weirsbe
  • “The temptation is to go off and sulk in our holy corner. Or to dig in our heels and fight harder. Or to lash out in anger. Or to despair. We can do better. Like taking to heart especially the Beatitudes……Our homophobia has revealed our fear and prejudice. Biblical inconsistency—our passion to root out sexual sins while relatively indifferent to racism, gluttony, and other sins—opens us to the charge of hypocrisy. Before we spend too much more time trying to straighten out the American neighborhood, we might get our own house in order. Blessed are the poor in spirit who mourn their sins (Matt. 5:3-4).” -Mark Galli
  • “As expected, the Supreme Court made its disastrous ruling. This just galvanizes our commitment to honor the Lord and do what’s right!” -Dr Michael Brown
  • “Of this, be sure: No declaration by a government can change a definition from God.” (Gen. 2:24) – David Platt “Salvation isn’t something you can legislate. Now friends move on and move out…the clock is still ticking….” -Jeremy McLaughlin
  • “Ok American church, now is the time to realize that you can in fact share the gospel (probably more effective) in a place where you don’t hold the political power cards…Accept the fact and get to work!” -Klinton Silvey
  • “What has really changed when it comes to the sovereignty and mission of our God? When we wake up in the morning our call is still to go and make disciples of all nations (and that includes North America)!!! -Chris Driver

We have a choice to make. We can either look outwardly in fear or we can look upward in faith!!! In a Sunday School class I attended in east Texas recently this is what I heard. “You cannot fear the Lord and fear man and the future at the same time!” What great wisdom! If we have the proper Biblical fear of the Lord then we will not fear man nor will we fear the future.

A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

When we fear the Lord Psa 34:7-9 says, “The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! You who are His holy ones, fear Yahweh, for those who fear Him lack nothing.” God is still on His throne and we are still called to obey Him.

While much in society has changed God has not changed. The Great Commission has not changed nor has the Great Commandment; “Love your neighbor as yourself!” So, where do we go from here? What do we do now? How should this effect us?

  • First, remember He is still on His Throne! He is a holy, all-powerful, all-knowing, never changing, just, and good God! I Sam 2:2, “There is no one holy like the Lord. There is no one besides You! And there is no rock like our God.” We don’t get to decide who God is!!! We don’t get to define who God is, He already defined Himself! We don’t get to determine what rules He wants us to live by, He already wrote them down!
  • Second, we can trust Him because He loves us! Psa 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!” God is the only being who is good by nature! He has proven His love for us by Jesus coming and dying on the cross for our sins. He has provided a path, there is only one, by which we can spend eternity in heaven with Him. Just read John 3 and that path is very clear.
  • Third, while many things have changed in our culture our mission remains the same! We are called by God to live on mission for Him. We are to declare His fame and Glory to every nation, every tongue, and every people group. We are to live as missionaries in our zip code by sharing the love of Christ with those in our circles of influence. That means reaching out and serving everyone no matter who they are!

No matter what decisions or laws are made, the King of Kings has called us to love Him and then to love others the same way He has loved all of us. When we live by His word and love others the same way He loves us then it will make a difference in people’s lives. “Christians can never condone what God condemns. We cannot encourage or endorse what God rejects and opposes. We simply cannot.” -DannyAkin

But we can and must live on mission, again!!!