“People try to persuade us that the objections to Christianity spring from doubt. That is a complete misunderstanding. The objections against Christianity spring from insubordination, the dislike of obedience, rebellion against all authority. As a result people have hitherto been beating the air in their struggle against objections, because they fought intellectually with doubt instead of fighting morally with rebellion.”
As a minister, I hear a lot of personal stories. Some joyous, some sad, many conflicted. Lately, it seems Satan’s been working overtime, and I’ve heard an awful lot of the latter. As you try to offer wisdom, a listening ear, and pray with and for people, one of the challenges is to remember that one of the fundamental truths in life is that there are two sides to every story (at least). As Solomon said, “The first to speak in court sounds right—until the cross-examination begins,” (Proverbs 18:17). A good listener isn’t just one who knows how to hear sympathetically, but one who is willing to listen with discernment, and to more than one point of view if real healing and growth is ever to take place.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:5-7, ESV
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Ga 5:19–23). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
I’ve recently posted the study we just finished on Wednesday evenings, “Rise Up, Men of God – A Study of Leadership in Nehemiah”. We had some great discussion, and as I have every time I’ve spent time in Nehemiah, I came away with some great principles and pointers for leadership, and a deep appreciation for the man himself. You can click “Small Group Studies” above to download the pdfs.
You’ll also find there a new study of Ecclesiastes, “Finding True Depth in a Shallow World”. These are being posted as we progress, so a new one will pop up every week (ch. 1 & 2 now available).
For the month of June our message series at the Early Church of Christ was on generosity and giving. While this topic is one that I probably preach too little on (I’m a native West Texan, avoiding it is in our blood), I really enjoyed the study and challenges in this series. I hope that you find these encouraging; the lessons are meant to come at this important Christian value (Jesus spoke on it all the time) in a very positive way.
Blessed to Be a Blessing – II Corinthians 8-9 “God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it, ‘He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out.'” –II Corinthians 9:8-11, The Message
The Prodigal Father – Luke 15:11-32 It is said that charity begins in the home, and in the parable of the prodigal son, we see that charity began in the heart of a loving, generous-beyond-reason father.
Imitators of God – Acts 4:32-35 “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” Acts 4:32-35, NIV