These Are Our Stumbling Blocks

Life is full of challenges.  In class this week we talked about the four things most Christians stumble over.  They are somewhat sequential in our walk to spiritual maturity, but not entirely.

The first thing we stumble over, our first hurdle, is SALVATION itself.  We struggle at the very beginning of the path with the idea that we are sinners, that we cannot save ourselves, that Jesus was the Son of God, that Jesus gave His life on our behalf, and so on.  It’s just not so easy to embrace the whole idea.

The next thing we stumble over is THE WORD.  Learning to read the Bible regularly, to study it, to actually understand it, and to make it a central part of our lives can be so darn hard.  We may not understand how critical the Word is to our lives.  And even if we know it’s important, we still tend to neglect it.  It takes commitment, discipline, practice, and maybe some outside help to become a consistent consumer of the Word.

Then there is the LORDSHIP struggle – the idea that God is to be the most important, all-consuming person in our lives.  There cannot be anything or anyone more important than Him.  He doesn’t want to just be at the top of our priority list, He wants to own our whole life!  Surrendering ourselves, our ideas, and our “idols” is an ongoing, life-long process.  We continue to stumble over this for much of our lives.  We may surrender one part of ourselves, only to discover a few months later that some new idol has cropped up.

And finally, we stumble over PEOPLE.  People can be so hard to love – because we are sinners, they are sinners, and that can make for a fine mess.  Yet Jesus clearly told us in Matthew 22:37-39 that the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord and to love people!  We are not only to love people, we are to make disciples of them and help teach them how to follow Jesus – that was the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20.

So where are you at in your journey?  What are you wrestling with?  Salvation?  The Word?  Lordship?  People?

I challenge you to think it over and discuss it with a friend.  Then decide what you’re going to do about it.  Don’t miss the whole point of your life on earth after you come to know Christ… He has called us to love and to labor.  Let’s do it!

devotional 10/28/2014

The Question That Made Them Laugh

A powerful truth about love emerges from grammer questions during a Hdi Bible translation session. – by Cathy Drobnick

NTMAfricanMen“The verbs for a particular African language consistently end in one of three vowels,” Dennis Farthing writes from the NTM Missionary Training Center. He shares a translation story that a missionary recently shared with him.

“Almost every verb ends in i, a, and u. But the word for ‘love’ was only found with i and a. Why no u?” this missionary wondered.

Dennis says the Bible translation team included the most influential leaders in the local community.

In an effort to truly understand the concept of “love” in this African language, the missionary began to question them.

“Could you dvi your wife?”

“Yes,” they answered, “that would mean that the wife had been loved, but the love was gone.”

“Could you dva your wife?”

“Yes,” they responded, “that kind of love depends on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.”

“Could you dvu your wife?”

Everyone in the room laughed.

“Of course not!” they replied. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water and never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would have to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say dvu. It just doesn’t exist.”

The missionary sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God dvu people?”

Dennis writes that there was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of the elderly men of the tribe.

Finally they responded, “Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, while all that time we rejected His great love. He would be compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”

The missionary noted that changing one simple vowel changed the meaning from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you, based on who I am. I love you because of me and not because of you.”

“God encoded the story of His unconditional love right into this African language. For centuries, the little word was there—unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable,” Dennis writes.

“This is why we minister here at the Missionary Training Center. This is why we teach grammar to the missionary candidates,” Dennis adds.

God is powerfully at work for His eternal glory in many distant parts of the world through Bible translators.

Read the original article here –

Thinking About Hell

DamnedIfYouDoI heard a great sermon on  hell last Sunday.

“Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” – Luke 13:2-5

I’ve been thinking about hell all week – and rereading C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.  Here are a few quotes that have stuck with me,

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened. ”

“The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.  A sum can be put right: but only by going back til you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, ‘with backward mutters of dissevering power’ –or else not.”

Did you get that?  “All that are in Hell, choose it.”  The reoccurring theme here is choices… Little choices, big choices, choices every day and every hour.  Choices to love, to obey, to surrender, to seek truth, to reach out, to engage, to labor…. Or choices to disobey, to turn away, to be independent, to seek our own good, to hide behind falsehood, to ignore, to not love, to be lazy…

Over time our choices will define us and the path that we walk on.

One day we shall come to the end and discover that we have chosen our own destiny.  God, in His grace and mercy, desires that we choose to follow Him… to take the narrow path, the path of surrender and obedience… And if we do He will do everything in His power to help us along, making us stronger, sustaining and encouraging us, and using us to bring about His kingdom on earth.

If we chose not to follow Christ He does not give up on us but continually pursues us… Yet, like a warm coal that is separated from the fire, as it draws farther and farther away it becomes harder and harder to breathe life and flame into it… It cools and eventually there is no possibility of a fire left in it.

God is calling – You choose.  Hell is a reminder that the choices we make matter, right now.

Here’s the sermon: under the title “Hell And Who Goes There”.  He covers what Jesus meant when He spoke of gehenna, God’s love and justice, universalism, exclusivism, and inclusivism, and more.  It’s well worth 30 minutes of your time.

God Will Fight For Us

In the midst of great opposition, under threat, and with rubble frustrating the rebuilding project Nehemiah stopped to pray.  He organized guards to watch over the builders (4:9).  And when he saw their fear he gave a motivational speech:

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” – Nehemiah 4:14

Indeed our GREAT and AWESOME God frustrated the plans of the opposition.  God took care of the problem for them.

How quickly we forget and collapse in a heap of tears, trembling because we are afraid!

“Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!” – Nehemiah 4:20

God will fight for us.  This phrase, repeated throughout the Bible, was a promise that those who were doing what God called them to do, those who walked in obedience – would see God’s intervention on their behalf.

God will fight for us.  What does it mean to you personally?

Let us be inspired by Nehemiah’s unrelenting belief and trust in God.  He was certain that God would fulfill the vision given to him, inspite of opposition and troubles on every side.

Romans 8:31-39 “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Take just a minute or two to listen to this Chris Tomlin song and let this great truth sink deep into your soul – Our God is Greater, Our God is Stronger…

– Nehemiah, a Bible study by Kelly Minter.

Daring to Be a Courageous Parent

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—  “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:1-4

We’re doing a parenting Bible study that coincides with our Vacation Bible School (VBS).  We picked Dr. Kevin Lehman’s series called “Making Your Children Mind Without Losing Yours” which is Biblically based, but not overwhelming to a non-churched crowd.

Lesson 1 was about developing the courage to do what is best for your kids!  Here are some key thoughts:

AUTHORITY.  God has placed you in authority over your children.  They are to obey you.  This is right.  You must be the parent (which is different from being the friend).  Exercise your authority.

LOVE and DISCIPLINE go hand in hand.  “Just loving” your kids is a recipe for disaster.  You must also discipline them.  True love involves training and discipline.

HAPPINESS IS NOT THE GOAL.  It’s ok for your children to be unhappy sometimes.  That is the reality of life.  Children need to learn from difficult periods.

Reality Discipline is an action-oriented way to make your children ACCOUNTABLE for their actions.  The goal of this is to develop children who are able to deal in practical ways with: (1) Accountability, (2) the Authority of God, and (3) the Realities of life.  … more to come on that topic!

How do we keep from provoking or exasperating our children?  “Get behind their eyes and see the world as they do.”  Have clear rules and clear/fair consequences.  Be consistent.  Train your children to do what is right, not just punish them when they do wrong.  Do not parent in anger.

Cute little baby?  She’s a hedonistic (pleasure-loving), selfish, little sinner!  Like all of us – who either hide it better or have been reformed by the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives.

As Dr. Lehman says, “Children are like wet cement that must be formed early, before it hardens!”

‘Children obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord.  Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:20-21

The Rude Tongue (#19)

“Love is patient and kind.  Love is not… rude.  Love does not demand its own way.” I Corinthians 13:4-5

Rudeness – showing a lack of courtesy to others, lacking manners, unkind.

Remember the Golden Rule?

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

Others?!  We don’t even have the time to think about others!  We are totally absorbed with our own agendas!  Why are we in such a hurry that we have to run over everyone?

Know that when you are rude, you have made a very selfish and ungodly decision that your needs or concerns are more important than everyone else’s.  Rudeness stems from a self-absorbed heart and the blatant disregard of the rights of others.

To whom (individual or group) are you most likely to be rude or unkind?  Why?

Think about that for a minute…..  I came up with (1) other drivers, (2) people who are on their cell phones, and (3) my own family members and especially my husband.  Who did you come up with?

Here are some examples of rude behavior – Are you willing to admit to any of these?

  • Cell phone use – while talking to others, at the table, in the checkout line, while trying to multitask
  • Not giving someone who is speaking your full attention (Guilty!  esp. with my kids!)
  • Making fun of someone’s appearance, clothing, or other “shortcoming”
  • Cutting in line (whatever ridiculous excuse you have)
  • Using foul language in public
  • Piling your plate high with food at a party when others have not eaten yet
  • Failing to say “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me”
  • Not greeting people because you are in a hurry
  • Changing the subject while someone else is talking
  • Monopolizing the conversation
  • Leaving a mess for others to clean up
  • Any others come to mind?

How about this?  A few years ago my husband and I were reading Love and Respect by Dr. Eggerichs.  I really do respect my husband, but apparently my behavior does not always communicate that respect very well.

So I followed the instructions in the homework and asked him, “What one thing do I do that communicates disrespect to you?”

His answer – You interrupt me all the time.

Oh.  Yea.  I do.  He’s right.

So I have been working for years to let him finish his own sentences…  To not presume I already know what he is going to say…  To not cut him off suddenly…  And also not be on my phone or the computer when he is talking to me.

Kindness.  Respect.  Manners.  Common courtesy.

Notice the focus on how we treat other people.  God’s people are to be patient, considerate, and kind – thoughtful of others.

There is never a justification for being rude.

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment… Honor one another above yourselves. ” Romans 12:3, 10

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue, a Bible study by Deborah Pegues

*cartoon by Pirero 10/25/11 circulating on Facebook