Randy’s Weekly Reads!

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Each Friday, I thought it might be helpful to share what I thought were some of the best articles and stories of the past week. They may be great theological papers, articles that reveal some notable statistics, or simply good human interest stories.

So, here’s my Weekly Reads from this past week:

The Power of Consistency

I love this article by Michael Kelley describing the value and potency of consistency.

The Most Godless City in America

This is a good article sharing critical data regarding the most unreligious cities in the USA.

An Astonishing Revelation from Another World

A brief but moving piece by Jared C. Wilson demonstrating that no one wants to be alone and how glorious it is that God has revealed himself to us!

5 Reasons Christians Need the Local Church

Read this article! It’s an edifying article by author and pastor Scott Sauls.

RA

Counter Culture and the Gospel

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“Consequently, we must be careful across the church not to minimize the magnitude of what it means to follow Christ . . . The gospel is a call for everyone of us to die – to die to sin and to die to self – and to live with unshakable trust in Christ, choosing to follow his Word even when it brings us into clear confrontation with out culture.”

David Platt Counter Culture, p. 180

I recently read David Platt’s new book Counter Culture. Platt, former pastor of the mega church The Hills at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, and New York Times bestselling author of Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream, is now the head of the International Mission Board for the Southern Baptist Convention. Counter Culture is an extraordinary book especially within the cultural milieu the church currently is in. His book is a passionate call to rouse a dormant church in the midst of a culture desperately in need of the gospel, urging for faithfulness to that call regardless of the costs.

In the book he discusses nearly all of the contentious issues of the day, not simply by quoting Scripture, but also showing the rationale and ultimately the compassion of the Christian position. At one point near the end, he references Galatians 2:20:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (NIV)

In this passage, he reminds Christians that a past action (“I have been crucified with Christ) brings a new identity (“I now live by faith”). But with this new identity comes a call that at times the Church seems to minimize, or lessen in severity in a feeble attempt to attract more people to the gospel. That is where the opening quote comes from (please read it again!).

Succinctly, in my view, Platt reminds all Christians that:

  • To minimize the call of the gospel is to distort the gospel;
  • The call of Christ is unmistakable – come and die, so that you can truly live!
  • Obeying this call will bring us into confrontation with culture at large!

Allow me to close by raising a few questions based on these three points:

  • How have you seen the church attempt to minimize the call of Christ?
  • If the call of Christ is unmistakable, and it truly is “come and die”, have you?
  • Why are we so fearful of clashing with a culture that admittedly doesn’t know God?

I pray you’ll wrestle with these questions today as they challenge you to evaluate your call from God, and as soon as you can get Platt’s book, and feast on it!

RA

Trying to Fool God?

winter-barley-10435_1280Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8 NASB)

Sometimes I just enjoy digging into Scripture, getting my hands dirty as I study, and searching for the nuggets of truth revealed within. After that, it’s critical to write down what you’ve discovered and seek to apply it to your life. Today, let’s take a few moments and do that with Galatians 6:7-8.

  • It begins with a warning that can be translated either as Middle or Passive Voice: “Do not deceive yourself” or “Do not let yourself be deceived”. Two things are worth mentioning here:
    1. The word “deceived” literally means “to wander off”, or “to be mistaken”. So we are warned that something has happened and we are “off the course”.
    2. We can wander off or be mistaken either by our own means, or by following the leading of others (influence outside of us).

Regardless of how it happens, this is warning us to pay attention to the next statement, or we’ll wander off.

  • Why are we not to be deceived or wander off? Because “God is not mocked” and will not be mocked! The root of this word is “to sneer at”, or “to turn up your nose at” as in disrespect or contempt. Several commentators have rightly modernized this translation as, “God is to be taken seriously at all times”, or “God cannot be fooled”!
  • The rest of verse seven declares why God can’t be mocked by stating a universal principle of nature: “whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” This agricultural metaphor refers to a farmer scattering seeds in a field, but the principle is relevant in any walk of life, and it is: whatever you do, whatever you invest your time and energy in, that is what you can expect to gain, or receive back.
  • The next verse summarizes this for all of life and emphatically states there are two ways to sow, or live your life:
    1. A person can “sow to his own flesh”, or in other words live to satisfy the desires of his sinful nature. If a person chooses to do this, they can expect to reap “corruption”, which specifically means “to rot” from within, as a corpse.
    2. Or, a person can “sow to the Spirit”, instead choosing to live a life devoted to God by obeying the indwelling Holy Spirit, and reap “eternal life.” This kind of life, exhibited in both words and deeds, reveals itself as the fruit of the Spirit emerges in a believer’s life (which Paul previously discussed in Gal. 5:22-23).

With the above examination of Galatians 6:7-8, let’s consider some of the truths discovered in this passage:

  • It is incredibly easy to be misled and wander away from the truth by following our own inclinations, or the leadings of others. We should proactively guard against this by abiding, or remaining in the Word of God daily!
  • When we don’t respect God, or treat him with contempt, there will always be consequences for such an action.
  • Ultimately these two verses categorically disclose that the life you live will reveal whom you love; or to put it another way, what you do will confirm what you are truly devoted

And finally, think about these questions:

  • Have you deceived yourself by believing something about God that isn’t true, or biblical?
  • How have you recently mocked God, or treated him with contempt? In other words, has there been a time when you haven’t treated God with the respect and reverence he deserves? Or even this, are you trying to keep things hidden, or a secret from God (as crazy and preposterous as that sounds)?
  • Does what you do daily declare who you are devoted to?

Based on what was just discussed, I like the Contemporary English Version translation best for Galatians 6:7-8:

“You cannot fool God, so don’t make a fool of yourself! You will harvest what you plant. If you follow your selfish desires, you will harvest destruction, but if you follow the Spirit, you will harvest eternal life.” (CEV)

RA

It’s What We Do That Matters!

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In the last few days, I came across these two incisive and profound articles. Check them out below:

The Biggest Misconception about Apple

3 Ways to Engage Culture

As the first article explains, Apple is routinely described as an innovative company, and in one respect it is appropriate to describe it as such. But in reality, it develops innovative products and then spends years refining and perfecting those products, making them the best they can be. As Ben Taylor declares, specifically that’s not innovation, but iteration, which means to do something again and again.

I believe this is a great reminder for Christians! A mature Christian life consists of doing the same practices daily, yet seeking to do them better, and becoming stronger and more intimate with our Lord and Savior in the process. And, let’s not forget, Christians are to pattern their lives and practices after a man who lived over two thousand years ago, because he exemplified the perfect Christian life! So think of it this way, for Christians, innovation can be a good thing, but iteration is a virtue!

In the second article, Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of Lifeway Research, calls for Christians to engage in culture in at least three ways (some say more ways are possible, but that’s a discussion for another day.). Thankfully this article caused me to reevaluate how I currently engage culture, but as I read this article, honestly my greatest fear was realizing that many Christians are not engaging culture because they are too busy enjoying culture by participating in all its offerings and diversions.

Both of these articles steered me to the Scriptures and these seminal verses in James:

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds . . . You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. James 2:18, 24 (NIV)

May this remind all of us that what we do matters in so many ways!

RA

Just Say No . . . to say Yes!

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When we think of success or greatness in any field, whether it’s entertainment, sports, education, or business, a trait of greatness that is often forgotten is the ability to say no. All leadership gurus affirm this – and so does Scripture.

Read Titus 2:11-12:

 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, (NET)

What is Paul saying to Titus about living a successful, or life pleasing to God? I believe several key points can be discerned by studying this passage of Scripture:

  • “The grace of God has appeared”

God has shown his unmerited favor to mankind by sending Jesus to live the life we were meant to live, and to die the death we deserve to die. We do well to remember Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you’ve been save through faith . . .”

  • “bringing salvation”

This one-word adverb in the original language describes the kind of grace that has appeared – a grace with saving power – and available to all whom believe!

  • “[and] instructing/training us”

This is crucial – grace appeared not only to save us in the future, but also to instruct and train us now “in this present life”. This is a present active participle emphasizing the ongoing nature of this training. Never forget – we have something to learn spiritually everyday!

  • “to reject ungodliness and worldly passions”

Notice Paul’s counsel here: you can’t live the life you were meant to live until you first say no to your former life – a life focused on “godlessness” and “worldly passions”. Grammatically, the word “reject” is a participle emphasizing that we “said no” or “denied” these things in the past, and that decision should continue each day! The words of Jesus should also come to mind, as recorded in Mark 8:34: “If anyone wants to be my follower, he must deny [“reject” or “say no to”] himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

  • “we can now live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives”

Since we said no to those things, now we must fill our lives with new things. One of the great misconceptions in 21st Century American Christianity today is the belief that God saves us only because he wants us with him in heaven one day. Unfortunately (I don’t mean to burst anyone’s bubble), this is an unbiblical concept (on second thought –burst away!). God did not save you to spend time with you one day in heaven; God saved you to empower you to live the life you were meant to live with him NOW! He presently desires to live with you, and what does that life, or ‘walk’ look like? God wants us to live:

    • “self-controlled” or practical, sensible lives
    • “upright” or just lives
    • “godly” or well-devoted lives to him!

So in other words, our lives, instead of being godless and chasing after worldly passions (or as the Message translation says, living a “godless, indulgent life”), can now be lives in which we live appropriately with ourselves (living self-controlled), with others (living justly in our relationships with others), and living rightly with God (godly).

Is there a better, more successful kind of life? I can’t think of one. So that just leaves one question: what do you need to say no to?

RA