Tag Archive for Christian

Overcoming the World: Part 4–Keeping in Step


Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.  That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse.  We have far more interesting things to do with our lives.  Each of us is an original.  Galatians 5:25-26 (MSG)


The Christian walk is not concerned with how good we feel about ourselves for being Christians.  While we don’t need to do things for God to get His attention, we do still have a part to play.  Even a simple game of follow the leader requires effort.


Grace is the free gift of God, but it did not come cheaply.  If we had no role to play in working out our own salvation, then what would be the point of getting saved in the first place?


The work that God does within us by the power of the Holy Spirit ought to be evident externally.  We have been changed from within so that we may bring change to the world without.  So what does that look like?


In Part 3, we began by listing the nine “fruits” of the Holy Spirit, that is to say, the characteristics that are produced by Him in us, which are the evidence of His existence in our lives.


  1. Love. As we have discussed previously, love is an action word, not an emotion.  Love involves sacrifice, or always putting the needs of others before your own.
  2. Joy. Like love, joy is more substantial than just a feeling of superficial happinessIt is a powerful force that is God’s response to our praise and thanksgiving. This strength renews and refuels us, giving us the proper attitude to carry on with whatever comes our way next.
  3. Peace. More than just an absence of discord, a spirit of peace involves trusting that God is strong enough to bring us through whatever trials await us, no matter how dire they may seem at first.
  4. Patience. I KNOW this one’s coming from the Lord, because it sure didn’t originate with me!  This is the supernatural ability to stay chilled and let things roll off your back.  In many people, this is the first fruit of the Spirit that others notice when they detect a change in a new believer.  Short fuses get a lot longer.
  5. Kindness. Kindness is love in motion.  This is the act of lifting up another who needs it.  Before the Spirit’s work in your life, there were people you might not have even noticed.  Afterward, though, you might find yourself helping these folks out without giving it a second thought.
  6. Goodness. I’ve always wondered why this one was listed after “kindness,” because goodness is the attitude from which kindness flows.  For us to be able to do good for others, we have to first have the general mindset of doing good for good’s sake.
  7. Faithfulness. A person under the influence of the Spirit will live a life of integrity.  He will say what he means, mean what he says, finish what he starts, and always, ALWAYS keep his word.  Lack of faithfulness is one of the quickest ways to spot a fake Christian.  Someone who is timid, wishy-washy, unreliable or just plain dishonest is not living by the Spirit, regardless of how long he or she has been going to church.
  8. Gentleness. Along with patience, this is another very obvious sign that God is working in someone’s life.  If a person has a history of anger issues (as I have), and you see that person holding his tongue, not raising his voice, being less competitive, etc., it’s a good bet that person didn’t learn those techniques from a self-help book.
  9. Self-Control. Along with gentleness, people under the control of the Spirit are able to keep themselves together, hold themselves back, and keep themselves from going to pieces in stressful situations.  Again, when you see someone with a reactive nature not taking the bait and going for the throat anymore when someone tries to start an argument, you know that something’s up that didn’t start with that person.


I can not stress enough that this list is not intended to be a to-do list for you to check off.


The goal here is not to get these things done.  It’s to keep in step with the Holy Spirit by letting His influence in our lives rule our conduct.  If our goal is to live lives of strong moral character and integrity, then the characteristics in the list above will shine through naturally, sometimes without our even being aware of them.


Other people will notice, however, just as they notice when we claim to be filled with the Spirit, but fail to display these characteristics.


Again, the characteristics are not the goal.  The character is.


(For more on living this out, come back for Part 5—As Far as it Depends on You)




Overcoming the World: Part 2–Calling for Backup



I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13 NLT)

Everyone has up days and down days.  Christians are no exception.  When we are in a desert faith-wise, as I have been for a while, it is so important to have people around us that can build us back up.  Also, we should remember the example that these people set for us, so that when we’re back on the mountaintop, we can lift somebody else up who needs it.


Unfortunately, the tendency in these dry seasons of the soul (especially for a cave-dwelling introvert like me) is to pull away from people.  We get used to our misery, and it seems that we would rather prolong it than to have someone tell us what we need to hear.


The problem with that is that when we pull away from people, we pull even further away from God than we were already feeling.  That’s when the old bad habits start rearing their ugly heads again.  One of my biggest fears since accepting Christ is that someone is going to encounter me during one of these bad times and associate what they see in me with Christianity in general.  What if I’m standing at the throne at the End of Days giving an account of my life, and I find out that someone missed out on the Kingdom because of something I said or did that turned him or her away?


But fears like this can actually accelerate the downward spiral.  We might figure, “If I avoid people entirely, then I won’t run the risk of blowing my witness and staining the name of Jesus.”  So we pull even further away, not just from society, but even from the hand that feeds us.



Another manifestation of getting into a spiritual funk like this is that we stop reading the Bible.  Everything we need to adjust our attitudes is right there, and the Holy Spirit is only too willing to illuminate the verses that we need to hear, but again, we are too comfortable in our misery to put forth the effort of opening a book.  I am so grateful to have a wife that will put scriptures in front of me when I am not going to them myself.


Do you have someone in your life that cares enough about you to give you a lift like this whether you want it or not?  If you don’t, then find one.  The best place that I have found for this type of community is in a small group (sometimes called “life groups” or “cell groups”) in a church.  If you are not familiar with this concept, it’s a group usually of 8-15 people that meet regularly to go deeper together in their faith than they would get by only going to church on Sunday morning.


What we need to remember is that we were set apart from the world to be WITH God and His people, not to be hermits in a cabin in the mountains (not that there’s anything wrong with mountains!).


As I mentioned in Part 1, a normal life involves difficulties.  For a Christian, those difficulties include enduring people who mock the Name of Jesus and those who adhere to it.  Sometimes it seems that life would be easier if we didn’t have to endure that, but we have to remember that this life is not all there is.  The next one is a lot longer.


God’s joy and peace are there for the having.  You just have to want it.  But sometimes, you need somebody to remind you that you want it.  So don’t ever be afraid to call for backup.


The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 1–What We’re Up Against

Let's Cut

Lord, save our children.


When did it become not OK for kids to be kids?  There is hardly a child now that by the age of 14 hasn’t either cut themselves, questioned their sexuality or rejected God.  Anyone that tries to lead them to Truth is labeled intolerant, hateful, an ignorant bigot, or worse.


We are even accused of trying to indoctrinate our own children, but only because our parenting gets in the way of the attempts at indoctrination by our accusers.  And they want to call US hypocrites!


How fortunate then, that God already has a plan for these people.  He will have the last word, as he told His prophet Isaiah:


  I stop the highbrow intellectuals in their tracks,
and I show the fault of their reasoning.
  But I stand behind the words of My servants,
and I accomplish what they predict.
  (Isaiah 44:25b-26a VOICE)


We must endure.  As righteous as our anger may be toward our antagonists, we must remember these things:


  1. In our anger, we must not sin.(Ephesians 4:26)
  2. Vengeance is the Lord’s not ours.  (Romans 12:19)
  3. We do have a real enemy, but it is not a human enemy (2 Thessalonians 3:15, 1 Peter 5:8)


Our job is to spread the Gospel.  We can’t praise the name of Jesus and sully it at the same time.  If we take our eyes off of Jesus and start worrying about what other people are doing, then we lose sight of our mission.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his book, Strength to Love:


The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence, you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence, you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.


Our job is to bring the light of Jesus to a darkened world that does not know it is in darkness.


We shouldn’t be surprised when we encounter opposition to the Truth.  This has been going on since day one.  Jesus was crucified, the apostles were persecuted and martyred, and on and on through the centuries.  There may soon come a day when preaching the word of God becomes illegal in this country, as it is in many communist and Muslim countries.


But here’s the thing.  Even if they put us in prison, God’s word can not be bound.  As Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy:


Remember always, as the centre of everything, Jesus Christ, a man of human ancestry, yet raised by God from the dead according to my Gospel.  For preaching this I am having to endure being chained in prison as if I were some sort of a criminal.  But they cannot chain the Word of God, and I can endure all these things for the sake of those whom God is calling, so that they too may receive the salvation of Jesus Christ, and its complement of glory after the world of time.  (2 Timothy 2: 8-10 PHILLIPS)


We are called to persevere under trial and not to give up.  Even if we get tired and weak, God won’t.  So if we trust Him to carry us when we can’t go on, He will be faithful to do it.


We must stand firm, not only for our children’s sake, but also for our own.  Will you join me in praying for our youth today to be Truthseekers and not herd followers?


Whose Money Is It Anyway? (Part 1–Stewardship)


Whoever can be trusted with small things can also be trusted with big things.  Whoever is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in big things too.  If you cannot be trusted with worldly riches, you will not be trusted with the true riches.  And if you cannot be trusted with the things that belong to someone else, you will not be given anything of your own.  Luke 16:10-12 (ERV)


Take a moment to consider this question:  What do you have that wasn’t given to you?


We use words like “earn” and “create” to maintain the illusion that we alone are responsible for everything that we have.  However, if these things were really ours, then we couldn’t lose them, could we?


Sure, we work for our money, but then someone else has to give it to us.  Then either we give it away to someone else by spending it, or we hold onto it forever and die, at which point we don’t take it with us.  There’s a reason you don’t see hearses towing U-hauls!


So if it’s not really “our” money, then whose is it?  King David answered that question emphatically after taking the offering to build the temple in Jerusalem:


To you, Lord, belong greatness and power,
honor, splendor, and majesty,
because everything in heaven and on earth belongs to you.
Yours, Lord, is the kingship,
and you are honored as head of all.
  You are the source of wealth and honor,
and you rule over all.
In your hand are strength and might,
and it is in your power to magnify and strengthen all.

  (1 Chronicles 29:11-12 CEB)


Everything in heaven and earth (yes, even the money) belong to God.  Therefore, we don’t really “own” anything.  Rather, we are stewards of everything currently in our possession.


Simply put, a steward is someone who is placed in charge of someone else’s stuff.  The principle at work here is that at some point, the steward will have to give account of how he or she has managed the property belonging to the Master.  A steward that proves faithful is rewarded, but those who aren’t . . . not so much.


You see, how we handle money is an indicator of how we will steward all of the other blessings in our life.  Money is just the easiest one to track.  So how do you track this in your own life?


The best way to gauge that for yourself is to figure out who it is that you really serve.  Are you putting your trust in the provider or the provision?   As Jesus said in the verse that comes right after the passage at the top of this post:


You cannot serve two masters at the same time.  You will hate one master and love the other.  Or you will be loyal to one and not care about the other.  You cannot serve God and Money at the same time.  (Luke 16:13 ERV)


If you are primarily interested in serving God by stewarding HIS wealth, then your needs will always be met.


However, if your hope is in the money itself, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment.


(Come back for Part 2—Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt)


Whatever We Ask: Part 5–Unstable

unstable rock

But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.  But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.  (James 1:5-8 NABRE)


Back in 2012, we ran a series on Doubt, in which we discussed that doubt could be healthy if you put it to work for you by testing new information in your search for Truth.


Nevertheless, doubt is not always a healthy thing.  It is one matter to doubt one person’s interpretation of scripture or another individual’s worldview.  It is quite another to doubt God Himself.


God knows what you need.  He knows it before you know it.  He is not only capable, but also willing to meet your needs.  Yet, it is not your need that He responds to when you pray.  It is your faith.


Prayer is based on trust.  We ask God to meet our needs and hear our petitions because we believe and trust that He will handle the situation.  If we didn’t believe that, why pray at all?


But we still do that sometimes, don’t we?  Have you ever offered up a prayer because it seemed like the thing to do, but you didn’t really expect that your prayer would be answered?


Jesus’ brother James is not one to mince words, as you can see in the passage above.  He explicitly says that someone who doubts when he prays will not get the answer to their prayer that they hope for.  The key word there is “hope.”


There are two different kinds of hope.  There is expectant hope, where you are welcoming an event in advance that has not yet come to pass, and there is “I don’t know if this is going to work or not, but I sure HOPE it does.”


Again, what is the point of praying if you don’t expect an answer?  Do you believe that God is God or don’t you?  If we offer up a prayer from a position of worry, then we are literally “of two minds.”  One mind is thinking of God answering the prayer, and the other is thinking of a Plan B.


When we do this, what we are really doing is making God the Plan B, because worry and anxiety will always cut in line ahead of whatever else is present.


So clearly, it is a daunting task to hold both kinds of “hope” in your mind at the same time.  Just as you cannot serve two masters, you cannot persevere on two different paths in life simultaneously.


So when James says that a person who does this is “unstable in all his ways,” he is not only saying that this person is indecisive, but by extension, that he cannot be trusted.


That sounds inordinately harsh, but think about it.  We’re talking about Christians here.  If we can’t even make up our minds about relying on the God we claim to serve, then who would ever rely on US to follow through on anything?  A person who spends their life in an endless “What If?” loop never gets anything done that needs doing.


So if that’s what unstable looks like, then what about stable?


Throughout the Bible, the image of a rock is used to denote stability.  God Himself is referred to as the Rock on many occasions.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also uses this image to describe a life lived by faith:


Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock.  The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. (Matthew 7:24-5 HCSB)


Notice the “and” in Jesus’ statement.  It’s not enough to hear what He’s saying and answer with a “yeah, but. . .”  Stability and security come not from passive hearing, but from active LISTENING and the follow-through that accompanies it.


Now having used the word “security” there, I am reminded of one more issue regarding the answering of prayers.  One that is particularly sticky to us here in the USA.


(Come back for the conclusion in Part 6—Prosperity)


Whatever We Ask: Part 4–(Un)answered Prayers


All prayers are answered.  Sometimes the answer is, “No.”—Bono



One of the pitfalls of the Christian life is how easy it is to backslide from “highly favored child of God” to “spoiled brat.”


We have seasons of life where everything seems to be going our way, and we give God the glory for that.  But then life throws us a curveball, and the whining starts.


“Why isn’t God answering my prayer?  He said He’d give me anything I ask for.  Haven’t I been ‘doing it right’?”


The truth is that God does answer prayer, but not always in the way that we expect.


Sometimes we get excited and run up ahead when He needs us to hold back and notice something He wants to show us.  Sometimes selfishness creeps in and the “desires of our hearts” become more like the cravings of our appetites.  And sometimes, we simply don’t recognize the answer for what it is when it comes.


God is not a vending machine or an ATM.  We exist to serve Him, not the other way around.  For this reason, the point of prayer isn’t primarily to address our own needs.  Jesus explained it this way:

 Don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them.  Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants.  Then all your other needs will be met as well.  (Matthew 6:31-33 NCV)

Prayer is your Out box.  When you put something in your Out box at work, do you pull it back and put it in your In box again?  No, you put it in the Out box because you are finished with it.


Whatever it is that you are praying for, God has a plan for it.  It may not be the plan you would have scripted for yourself, but think for a minute.  Who’s smarter, you or God?  Don’t you think it might be possible that Father knows best?


There’s more to it than that though.  Logic alone will tell you that God is bigger, more powerful and more able to meet your needs.  The question is, “Do you TRUST Him to do that?”  Do you believe that He not only knows what’s best for you, but that He WANTS what’s best for you?


How you answer that question will determine how you respond to His answers.  If you really believe that God’s way will lead to a better result than anything you could have come up with, then it becomes a lot easier to roll with the changes when they do come.


(But what happens if we don’t?  Come back for Part 5—Unstable)


DN=: Part 9–Brainwashing


Brainwashing (n.)

1: a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas

2: persuasion by propaganda or salesmanship

 (Merriam Webster dictionary)


 Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth,
    bend your ears to what I tell you.
I’m chewing on the morsel of a proverb;
    I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths,
Stories we heard from our fathers,
    counsel we learned at our mother’s knee.
We’re not keeping this to ourselves,
    we’re passing it along to the next generation—
God’s fame and fortune,
    the marvelous things he has done.

 He planted a witness in Jacob,
    set his Word firmly in Israel,
Then commanded our parents
    to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
    and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
    so their children can trust in God,
Never forget the works of God
    but keep his commands to the letter.
Heaven forbid they should be like their parents,
    bullheaded and bad,
A fickle and faithless bunch
    who never stayed true to God.

(Psalm 78: 1-8 The Message)



When you see a child who behaves well in public, what is it you always say?  “The public school system sure has made a great citizen out of that boy?”  Or, “Our governmental programs have certainly taught this young lady how to be a good American?”


No, you say, “Their parents must have taught them well.”  If the parents are present, you might thank them directly for being such good parents.  Lord knows if the kids AREN’T behaving, it’s the parents you’re going to blame, right?


So if it is this obvious that everything a child is and does is shaped by the examples set by his or her parents, then why does our culture get so bent about Christian parents setting a Christian example for their kids?


I don’t want to get to deeply into the issue of homeschooling here, because I have no personal experience with it, either as a student or as a parent.  I’m just talking about the natural education every child receives from daily observation.


Education, of course, is a good thing.  If we never learned anything, then we wouldn’t know anything (duh).  And common sense, that is, the collective wisdom of all the I told you so’s from all the parents ever, tells us that the primary source of any child’s education is at home.


Face it; we’re all home-schooled, no matter what our diplomas say.


Our parents have us from day one, when we are completely empty glasses.  From them we learn to walk, talk, eat, pee and poo where we’re supposed to.  Sometimes they even teach us to read, write and count before we start school.


Most importantly our parents, and specifically our fathers, are the primary shapers of our value system, our moral compasses, our sense of right and wrong.


So is this education or brainwashing?




Look back up to the top at the dictionary definition of brainwashing.  It’s not just indoctrination, or even FORCED indoctrination; it is forced indoctrination designed to replace one way of thinking with another. 


Parents are teachers, not indoctrinators.  They are filling empty glasses.  A child does not yet have a way of thinking or a value system to replace.


Therefore nothing, let me say that once more for emphasis, NOTHING that a parent teaches his or her own children can possibly constitute brainwashing.  This includes the passing on of Christian faith, the bedrock upon which the family has been established generation after generation.


So if giving your own children a Christian education is akin to pouring the Water of Life into their empty glasses, then by contrast, cultural brainwashing is coercing an educated person of any age to pour out their water, smash their glass, and take a deep drink from this brand new glass of fruit juice.


What do you mean it tastes like Kool-Aid?


(For an alternate beverage choice, come back for Part 10: Affirmation)


DN=: Part 5–Discrimination




Discernment is the divine enablement to distinguish between truth and error, good and evil, right and wrong.  A person with this gift can differentiate pure from impure motives, identify deception in others, determine authenticity of messages from God, recognize false teaching and sense the presence of evil.  (Paraphrased from “Network” by Bruce Bugbee and Don Cousins.)


In other words, discernment is God’s B.S. detector.


Have you ever known someone who saw something fake or sinister in a person’s character before anyone else did, and was later proven right?  Have you ever had a friend who told you what you were thinking when you couldn’t even explain it yourself?  This is discernment at work.

(Remember back at the beginning of this series when I talked about people talking in code?  I didn’t forget about that.  From here on out, we’re going to defuse political correctness one code-bomb at a time.)


Another word with a meaning similar to discernment, in the literal sense of having the ability to distinguish differences, is discrimination.


While discernment is a spiritual gift, given by God to whomever He chooses, discrimination is a natural skill that can be learned and developed by anybody through careful observation and judicious contemplation.


It would seem, then, that discrimination should actually be a positive thing, since being UN-able to recognize differences would be a sign of a lack of intelligence or observance.


Nevertheless, this word has gradually become associated with “bigotry,” even though those two words really aren’t connected.




There’s a big difference between distinguishing the differences in people and treating people differently.  Paul wrote:


In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:28 The Message)


And also:

[In this new creation all distinctions vanish.] There is no room for and there can be neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, [nor difference between nations whether alien] barbarians or Scythians [who are the most savage of all], nor slave or free man; but Christ is all and in all, everything and everywhere, to all men, without distinction of person]. (Colossians 3:11 Amplified)


In making these statements, Paul is instructing these early churches that although the Church is made up of all kinds of different people from different backgrounds, it is much more significant that Christ is our common ground.  Being the original Truthseeker, Paul discriminates by noting the differences, but does not show favoritism, because Christ does not show favoritism.


Looking at it this way, we can clearly see that bigotry is defined by emphasizing differences with the motive of boosting one’s own status over that of another based solely upon those differences.  Bigotry may START with discrimination, but it ends somewhere else entirely.


So how do you know when you’ve crossed the line?  In a word—labels.


Whenever you refer to another person with a label instead of their name, that’s a pretty clear sign that you are crossing over to the dark side of discrimination, because you are now seeing that person not as an individual, but as part of a subset of humanity, most likely one to which you do not belong yourself.


Once you have identified the difference and affixed a label to it, the emphasis of that difference comes naturally.  From there, it’s a very short walk to bigotry, simply because our human nature is to justify ourselves, and the easiest way to do that is to lower our view of others.  Labels just streamline that process.


So how does discernment fit into this?


From the definitions we have already discussed, discernment is essentially God-level discrimination.  But since we have already seen that God sees all of His followers as equal in Christ, then it should be obvious that the purpose of discernment is not to enable bigotry by labeling humans and dividing them into groups.


Discernment is not about judging character or outward appearances, but rather motives and the behavior that arises from them.  Which leads me to my next DN=.


(After vacation, I will return with Part 6–Judgment)


DN=: Part 4–Holy

set apart matchstick

Another troublesome churchy word is “holy.”  Like “righteous,” the word “holy” also has some unnecessary baggage attached to it.  What I mean is that just as some people see the word “righteous” and think “self-righteous,” some people see the word “holy” and think “holier-than-thou.”


If you’re not familiar with the term, “holier-than-thou” is used to describe the attitude of a Christian condescending to non-Christians based solely on church affiliation or some other man-made construct (such as denominations) apart from the grace of God.


Naturally, this attitude is very off-putting.




The word “holy” simply means “set apart for God’s purpose.”  It can refer to a day, a place, a nation or an individual.  Mostly, however, it refers to God Himself.  As Isaiah wrote:


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

(Isaiah 55: 8-9 NIV)

God is holy, or set apart, simply because He’s God, and we’re not.  When people put their faith in Jesus Christ, trust in His saving work on the cross to make them righteous, and make Him the Lord of their lives, then they also become holy.  They are still human beings, but now they have been set apart from the rest of the world to do God’s work.


It is critical to understand the progression here.  God makes us righteous through JESUS’ work, not ours.  In the same way, God makes us holy only when we realize that we AREN’T made righteous by the good that we do.


If a person claims to have faith in Jesus, but still lives as he did before being saved, then how has that person been set apart?


He hasn’t.


Christians are SUPPOSED to stand out.  We are SUPPOSED to be different from everybody else.  Otherwise, what would be the point of being one?


The irony of holiness is that just as we were set free in order to become servants, we were also set apart to become unified—not to the world, but to each other.  As Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus about Jesus:

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.  But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.  (Ephesians 4: 11-16 NRSV)


When Paul refers to “saints” in this context, he is referring to all believers, not people (such as himself) who are referred to with a St. in front of their name.  The “work of ministry” for which said saints are being equipped is the service to which we are called upon having been made free.  Still with me so far?


In addition to the teaching, preaching and shepherding gifts Paul mentions above, there are many other spiritual gifts that believers receive when they are made holy.  I’m not going to go into all of them here, but in light of the sudden aggressive turn our culture is taking lately, I feel it necessary to expound upon one of them—discernment.


(And I will do that in Part 5–Discrimination)


Doubt: Part 10–Religion



 14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?  15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  19 You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.  (James 2:14-19, 26 NIV)



Even though I believed in God on that day in 1989, I had programmed myself for too long to be independent.  It was all I knew how to do.  The feeling of God’s peace, love, warmth and comfort only lasted a minute that day.  Obviously, I have never forgotten it, but a seed planted takes time to grow, longer if you don’t water it.  I didn’t.


Instead, I pushed forward, finished college, and entered the work force.  Full steam ahead, stick to the script.  Living the American Dream by golly!


Except my American Dream was a nightmare.  After failing at my first three jobs, I tried to start my own business instead, because obviously, the problem was them not me.


Then an interesting thing happened.


Many of my business contacts were Christians.  Not the robotic, going-through-the-motions churchgoers that I had observed growing up—these people lived differently, and they were like that all the time.


They reminded me that I really needed my Daddy, the one that my second-grade Sunday school teacher had tried so clumsily to tell me about.  Except this time, it felt genuine.


I heard miraculous testimonies and saw people living lives that I could not explain, except by one thing—remembering that October afternoon at the cemetery.  I had already been forced to acknowledge that God was real, but this was something new.

God was Abba, my Daddy, and he actually cared about me.  He wanted to protect me from harm, and he wanted me to lead my family.  And my spiritual maturity took a big leap forward.  But this is still not the happy ending.


You see, at this point I am in my mid-20s physically, but still a child spiritually.  I am cracking a Bible for the first time.  I don’t know anything about salvation except for the fact that it’s Jesus’ job.  I am going to church with my family now, and have us all baptized into the same religion, but I am still running the program of everything-depends-on-me.  I know there is a God and I know that He cares, and I am grateful for this, but I have still not acknowledged my dependence.


Sometimes when we won’t let go of our pride, God will use circumstances to knock us down to the point where the only place to look and move is upward.


Eight years later, my marriage failed.  I was going to church every week and was active in music ministry, but it was still just religion.


And all religion is is a churched-up way of repeating the same old pattern of trying to meet our own needs through our own efforts.


Sure, we wrap it all up in God-speak, but Jesus already called our bluff 2,000 years ago when He said to the Pharisees:


 “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”  Mark 7:6-7, (quoting Isaiah 29:13) NIV


(To be concluded in Part 11–The Death of Doubt)