Seeking God: Running the race

Seeking God: Running the race

Read: Psalm 18:1-19, Hebrews 12:1-2

Christ: Please never doubt that I hear your prayers. Every time you incline your heart to Me in prayer and praise, do it with a sure belief that I will answer you. Do not be discouraged by my timing. Recall how limited your reach of mind is, and how unlimited is Mine. Do not fear or be downhearted when something appears to go downhill, for I have already won.

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Think: God does not leave us alone with our faith. It is like an engine which is only powered by His grace and He never stops filling it up for us. Not only that, we are not alone to run the road of endurance all by ourselves; by fixing our eyes on Jesus, we ever strive as a family together toward His will. Who are the people that run alongside me in our journeys of faith? How can I cheer them on today?

Pray: Jesus, thank you for hearing us and being so intimately connected with our struggles at every moment. We want to strip off every unnecessary burden and turn away from every sin in order to follow along the road you have set out for us. For you are my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Amen.


 

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave a comment below or send us feedback at purediscipleblog [at] gmail.com. We love to hear from you!

~The PD Team

Is it a sin not to go to church?

Is it a sin not to go to church?

The convenience of a streaming church service is a double-edged sword. Indispensable to those who cannot leave their bed, but a tool of temptation for the devil.

I heard that whisper this morning: Why get up so early? It’s cold and you deserve a break, and who will notice you anyway? Whether you go or stay won’t make a difference. You’re still going to watch the sermon online, it’s not a sin to miss one week…

It got me thinking about why it’s important to go to church. It doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that it’s an outright sin not to go, nor does the Bible specifically say which day we are to worship.

So why should I go?

Tradition?

To see my friends?

Because Starbucks is on the way and I can get a treat?

Well, what does the Bible say about going to church? There are several reasons from scripture:

To encourage one another:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

To meet with God together:

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20

Friendship with other believers:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42

To mature in faith:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

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As for whether it’s a sin or not, “sin” is a deliberate rebellion against God. That’s between Creature and Creator. Far be it for me to say yes or no on behalf of someone else, I’ll humbly say that in my case, I believe it would have been considered a sin. The reason being that I understand and agree with the importance of church attendance. As mere laziness, I’d be a hearer only and not a doer of the word. (James 1:22).

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I went anyway. And instead of losing comfort, energy, and time, I unexpectedly gained something even better: peace that my obedience meant something to God. I think he is proud of my response. And I can’t wait to obey again next week.

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How would you answer that question?  Bring the question of church attendance before the throne in prayer and ask God for his wisdom in the matter.

[Book Review] Not a fan. Kyle Idleman

[Book Review] Not a fan. Kyle Idleman

Fans are people who cheer someone on from the stadium, but who you’d never see out sweating on the field. They maybe own jerseys of their favorite players, know all the stats, and never miss a game. But when the team has a bad season they are quick to jump the bandwagon and support a team having a more successful season.

Sadly, it’s how we see many fellow Christians. Maybe instead of jerseys they have t-shirts that say “Jesus is my Homeboy”, or sport one of those snazzy WWJD bracelets. They might go to church but then from Monday morning to Saturday night, there’s no evidence of spiritual fruit or that Jesus is indeed their homeboy. For this type of person, it’s more of a hobby than a lifestyle.

Our church most definitely has a disease. It’s not a new one, and in fact it’s been around ever since the days that Jesus still walked around attracting large crowds. It’s called Fandom and I’m guilty as charged of it.

Up until reading this book I would have told you with proud confidence (red flag #1) that I am most certainly a devoted follower of Jesus, not just a “creaster” (which is what he calls people that only attend church on Christmas and Easter). If you are reading this, I’m guessing you consider yourself a follower of Jesus too. But just sit back and imagine with me for a moment that every assurance of your being on the right path to salvation … is wrong. Just, what if – this whole time I’ve been thinking I was right with God but really was confusing my religion for true relationship with Jesus.

That is the premise of his well-written book – centered around the section in Matthew 7 when Jesus, frustrated with the opportunist attitude of the large crowds following him tells them plainly, “Look, you’re all calling me ‘Lord, Lord’, but the day is going to come when the truth will come out and I’m going to say, I never knew you, away from me!”

Whenever I need a slightly louder version to hammer a verse through my thick head, I turn to the MSG version. Just read Jesus in this translation:

13-14 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.

. . .

21-23 “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

Lukewarmness in faith is actually the same as being stone cold in faith. Or as Revelation 3:16 puts it succinctly, “So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth”. Jesus didn’t just want people to “like” his fanpage on facebook, he isn’t interested in your memorized scripture or impressed in how many charity events you coordinate. He wants your whole heart, soul, mind and life, to transform you until you are so much like him you gleam in perfection.

Although please understand, we don’t earn our salvation. Rather, we are expected to recognize ourselves as desperate and empty-handed and wholly in need of an overhaul, and then to allow God to change us through faith in Jesus and the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to work in God’s will for our good and the good of those around us.

He offers a very helpful set of questions to diagnose fandom, and help separate it from the outward “doing” part of religion. Each section should be read thoughtfully, and soberly. I definitely want to go back with a pen and spend more time answering his questions. Not only does Mr. Idleman address the state of the lukewarm Christian today, his writing style is enjoyable and easy to read. I have to be honest, I initially picked this book up because it was on sale for $2, expecting some punchy and quick encouragement to what I already thought I knew. What I found was a response to the disease of assuming. (you know what happens…) The answer: Don’t assume you’re good to go to Heaven holding your badge collection. The process of sanctification is far sweeter and far more worth the trouble.

You can get Not a fan. at Amazon here or at his site where he has small group studies and an accompanying journal.

A Sweet Answer To Miscarriage: My Decision to Sponsor a Child

A Sweet Answer To Miscarriage: My Decision to Sponsor a Child

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:26-27

My first time sponsoring a child in poverty

I truly believe that God works out everything for the good of those who love him. I love God. Therefore, I trust that he will not allow my miscarriage to be for nothing.

You see, when I first believed that Jesus died for me, He poured the Holy Spirit into me, refreshing, remaking, and revitalizing my heart. No longer was I the same crusty selfish person… I was and am now free to let go of all the striving and effort the world requires of me. The shackles came off and the sleeves went up. 

Instead of striving and struggling for my own salvation, I have all the time in the world to throw myself, heart and soul, into the hard and sticky business of loving people.
My heart now points to true north. With divine guidance it knows exactly where it should be heading at any moment. I am not perfect yet! And my journey towards sanctification sometimes takes a sour turn. But it’s opportunities like sponsoring a child through ministries like Compassion International, that help me to remember again how much I need to be growing, giving, and point others to God.

The Bible says that everything that we do flows from the heart. My heart beats in health and clarity. My heart knows what will glorify God when it crosses my path.

I still long for a child of my own, but in the dog days of waiting patiently and expectantly on the Lord, I can take up the cause of “the least of one of these” and practice being a mother with the most powerful superpower ever given to me: Prayer. I am going to pray diligently as if this little girl was all mine, with overflowing, sacrificial, unconditional love.

And then if or when He decides to make me a physical mama, I’ll only have that much more love to give.


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Sunday worship: Are you a dancer or a statue?


raised-hand-during-worshipThere are two kinds of people in the Church – those who dance all around with arms raised to Heaven, and those who stand still awkwardly.

And let’s just get one thing straight — I’m totally awkward!

Although I’d like to defend myself somehow by saying, “I just don’t feel like worshiping that way”, or ” I truly worship in my heart”, I actually learned today that God wants us to worship him both in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24). AKA. Internally AND externally.

We are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, all our mind, all our strength. Add to that our whole body.

One of my favorite stories about King David is this one from 2 Samuel chapter 6. After having been stolen for a time, the Ark of the Covenant was finally on its way back to its home in Jerusalem. [The Ark was an ornate chest, designed by God Himself, in which to keep the sacred tablets which contained the 10 commandments. People died on the spot by just touching the Ark with an unclean heart — serious stuff!)

As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window [David’s first wife, daughter of Saul, not a believer]. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

To anyone looking in from the outside of the faith, David was making a complete fool of himself. Michal thought he was being undignified and she hated him for his enthusiasm. When he got him, she scolded him for his display:

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

But David didn’t care – he was so concentrated on God’s mightiness and love, he couldn’t care less about how the world was seeing him. He replied:

“It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

When I’m worshiping, I often don’t “go all out” in my worship style, simply because I’m only thinking of what others are going to say behind my back. It’s time to decide who we are worshiping here: God or man.

God LOVES it when we worship him in our hearts and minds, as well as externally with shouts of joy and loud clanging cymbals. He loves when we clap, dance, bow, kneel, shout, raise our hands. It honors him but it also is good for us. 

Look at Psalm 150, a virtual instruction manual of who, what, why, when, and how to praise and worship God.

1 Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;

   praise him in his mighty heaven!

2 Praise him for his mighty works;

   praise his unequaled greatness!

3 Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;

   praise him with the lyre and harp!

4 Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;

   praise him with strings and flutes!

5 Praise him with a clash of cymbals;

   praise him with loud clanging cymbals.

6 Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

Too many times, our relationship with him is about what he does for me only – God help me, save me, please work a miracle for me. We forget that it’s a love relationship and it has to go 2 ways. Psalm 57 says “My heart O God is steadfast. I will sing, awake my soul…” We are danger when our souls go to sleep.

Worship is what wakes us up! He sees us asleep and grabs our hands to lead us to his wonderful plans and future for us. God tells us not to look back – take the step of faith and I’ll protect you, I’ll give you grace, come with me. How can we not worship a God so great?

In worship and awe,

Molly

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A party becomes a mission field

I dreaded going out to the party last night. Back home I practically never go out at night because I have a job that requires an extremely early start time. In addition to that, I don’t really care for being around large groups of people who are drinking. It’s just not my favorite thing; I much prefer a book, or at the most, hanging out with 1 or 2 people. But not a huge house party, and not with people I don’t know. But while I’m on vacation with my friend, I am hardly in a position to say no to a party.

Not wanting to have a miserable night waiting for it to end, I decided to ask God to give me a purpose for being there, and to minister to whomever he put in my path. Which is silly because he does that all the time. But I just tried to be aware of it, and as always, He came through!

I spent some time talking with 3 different girls during the course of the party. I don’t remember all of their names, but one was from Colombia, one from Argentina, and one who had just moved here from Santa Monica (talking to someone from LA made me feel much more at home!). They all had vastly different stories but all struggled with similar pains: moving away from home, and trying to figure out how to fit in. I didn’t have giant pearls or wisdom or anything, but I ministered, as the varied grace of God permitted (1 Pet 4:10) which means I gave them my whole attention and listened. The one girl from Colombia said she desired to find a church community. I found her a bunch on my iphone, and then because we’re in the South, and she’s Catholic, she asked me my opinion on the general religion in this area.

I would say in general the US is probably more protestant, but in the South, it’s even more so. Then she went on to ask what the difference was. This is the second time I’ve had the opportunity to explain the difference. Not wishing to persuade her for my own agenda by making one sound attractive and the other unattractive, I simply stuck to the basics of salvation, nothing more. It can get very convoluted if you hang on to the details, and this is something I have and still have a hard time with but at the root, it’s like this. Protestants believe you are justified as soon as you believe in Jesus’ grace; Catholics believe you are only justified if, after living a life of faith and works (which of course are not possible on your own), you die in the state of grace.

It’s crazy to think that God had planned it from the beginning, that little ole me, who is so ignorant and so struggling, could fly 2,000 mi away from home just to be a listening ear to someone who wanted to find a church but didn’t quite know where to start. I’m pretty comfortable finding a church wherever I am and just going by myself. It was wonderful to share that confidence with someone else. Praying for many more opportunities like that this week!

Does God lead your writings?

Happy Sunday dear readers! I bring you an exciting and challenging realization…

We are starting a new sermon series at my church for the summer, going through this book. I am barely through the first part of the first chapter and I had to set the book down and blog about it! 😉

From the title, one can gather that the thrust of the book is about what makes a healthy church. At first I wasn’t so sure I’d be interested in such a subject, but the more I think about it, there is nothing more important to be aware of than the health of your church. After all, the Church is the hands and feet of Jesus in the world! We are the eyes and ears and hearts of God sent out to love in His name. If we and our congregations are on the path to destruction and blindness, we immediately become workers on behalf of the enemy. C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters come to mind. In that book (another one I encourage you to read!) demons are on a mission to cultivate an underhanded type of misunderstanding; humans sin but think they are doing the right thing.

If you are reading this and you don’t exactly belong to one specific church, or perhaps you don’t believe it’s necessary to belong to a church, I pray that God put it on your heart to still read this book! (Or feel free to listen to my excellent pastor’s sermons on the book starting next week at CBCSB.org)

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Now, the reason I’m so excited about the first chapter: Mark Dever says, an important mark of a healthy church is Expositional Preaching. Expositional Preaching is the practice of taking a passage of scripture and “throwing light” on it. [This is in contrast to Topical Preaching, which is the practice of choosing a topic and then going into the Bible to find all the supporting evidence for that topic.]

The difference is that Expositional Preaching looks to God’s Word first, and gleans all the nuggets of truth, versus already knowing what you want to say and going and finding verses to back yourself up. I realized, or God revealed to me, the major implications this concept has for the art of writing blogs!

If you have your own God-centered blog, this is especially for you: If you’re like me, you’re going through your day constantly mulling over in your mind anything that might be ripe for a post. Learning this tiny piece of Seminary 101 knowledge has completely changed the way I think about forming blog posts. What if…I didn’t already have an idea of what I wanted to write about, but let the Word of God lead me? Have you ever had a friend who dominated the conversation so much that you avoided talking to him at all? How much better if the other person were made to feel included. I’ll be the first one to admit my tendency to dominate my conversations with God, and leave him little room to respond to me.

Disclaimer! This is not to say that topical preaching is bad! In fact, we all need to hear what the Bible has to say to us on a particular topic. And like I mentioned before, I’m not halfway done with the chapter yet. So don’t stop your topical devotionals by any means! I only mean to bring attention to the type of thinking of which I myself am guilty – selfishly writing on topics that only interest me, and with which I am comfortable. My intention is to be more mindful of how I write and with what motivation.

Hopefully this idea is inspiring to someone! At any rate, I know that God works his power in us mightily, no matter what.

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose  for which I sent it. ~Isaiah 55:11