Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Eat Up His Words

When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
Lord God Almighty.  
Jeremiah 15:16

I visited some friends recently outside Austin, Texas.  One day we were trying to decide where to eat for lunch and I mentioned seeing a place that served Louisana-style shrimp and crab.  My friend exclaimed, “Oooo those are my two favorite foods!”  And off we went!

As our food was placed before us – heaping piles of crab, shrimp, corn and potatoes — I thought I heard my friend moan.  And when she started in, slurping and sucking on her crab I actually did hear her moan!  We started laughing so hard!  That lunch is what came to mind when I read this verse from Jeremiah.  Eating joyously and to our heart’s delight.

Jeremiah was in a pretty tough spot with God and the people of Israel.  He had to tell the people of God’s coming wrath.  You see, God was done being placated by Israel’s rulers.  It was time to pay the piper for their egregious and continuing sins.  But God promised to save Jeremiah after he makes his plea of faithfulness.

Just think if we all devoured God’s word like my friend did her pile of crab and shrimp!  Or like Jeremiah in his plea for rescue!

“The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people.”-

A.W. Tozer

Acute desire.  To yearn to read more about God.  To seek with all our heart ways to serve God.  To sit in mediation with anxious expectation to hear from God.  That’s the kind of love God wants from us.  Like lovers that can’t get enough of each other!

My husband and I started out in a long distance relationship.  He lived and went to college in Colorado and I was in California.  We began calling each other every day.  Spending hours on the phone.  We wanted to learn everything we could about each other.  Then our phone bills started arriving!  As poor college students we couldn’t afford to call each other anymore so we took to writing.  Each day I would anxiously await the mail.  And each letter that came was pages long.   I ate up those words with joy and with a happy heart.

The Bible is like those love letters.  It tells us all we need to know about God’s character.  It regales us with stories of how He makes promises and keeps them.  He tells us about how much He sacrificed to show us love.  And He shows us the way to be united with Him again.

If what we call love doesn’t take us beyond ourselves, it is not really love. If we have the idea that love is characterized as cautious, wise, sensible, shrewd, and never taken to extremes, we have missed the true meaning.

Oswald Chambers

Loving God is not a passive pursuit.  We need to love with abandon.  We need to eat up every word from His lips!  

Then you will call on me and come 
and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 
You will seek me and find me when 
you seek me with all your heart.  
Jeremiah 29:12-13

Friends, the enemy is like that jealous school girl who wants to steal your boyfriend away.  She’d love to see you get a bit complacent with your relationship.  She’ll even find ways to distract you and put a wedge between you.  The difference is, the enemy can only work on one side of this relationship.  God is never distracted.

The presence of passion, faith, and belief in our hearts is a gift.  It’s on loan to our souls. 

Priscilla Shirer, Fervent

In other words, we don’t need to conjure up that passion or desire to eat up God’s Word.  The Holy Spirit is already there, waiting for us to access that burning faith!  We need only to call out to God and say, “I love you, Lord with all my heart!  Teach me everything about you so that I may serve you!”  And He will certainly place a feast before you.

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

The Big Picture

Lesson #2: Commit to the big picture of Christ through the details of His love

So when I come, I will call 
attention to what he (Diotrephes) 
is doing, spreading malicious 
nonsense about us.
3 John 10

My current Bible study, Everyday Theology, has been a great strengthening and clarification of my Christian beliefs.  Starting with what scripture is intended for and delving into the trinity and our role as believers in this big world, the lessons have given my BSGs (Bible study girls) a number of  “ah ha” moments.  We currently are on the section about “church.”  What it is, who is the head of it and what our responsibilities as part of the body entail.  The first question asked was for us to define what we call “church.”  

When I hear media-types chastise the “church” or “Christians” for not condemning some action or stance it makes me wonder what church spokesperson they think will step up to a microphone.  Of course, for Catholics that would be the Pope or a regional bishop.  But in the non-Catholic world we are so dispersed, with varying types of faith, traditions, even morals and values.

In John’s letter to the church elder, Gaius, he juxtaposes the elder’s immense love for his brothers and sisters in Christ with another church leader, Diotrephes.  These brothers and sisters are strangers to Gaius but he welcomes them readily into his home.  These travelers are doing the good work of Jesus – spreading the salvation message.  And then there’s Diotrephes.  John describes this leader as one “who loves to be first.”  He doesn’t welcome strangers but even worse, he refused to welcome John.

Imagine that, a church elder who wouldn’t welcome Jesus’ apostle!  You’d have to think about the reasoning behind this.  This elder even kicks out other believers who welcome new people.  And why? Because, as what Warren Wiersbe calls a “church dictator,” he lost his focus on Jesus’ Big Picture of love and instead became focused on the details of man-made doctrine.

“All true Christians can agree on the fundamental doctrines of the faith and, in love, give latitude for disagreement on other matters.”

Warren Wiersbe

I’ve read there are about 34,000 different Christian denominations in the world.  The Wikipedia page on Christian denominations (Catholic and non) is an almost endless list.  Sub groups within sub groups.  People who have followed a pastor’s or priest’s particular issue with “the way things are done” and split off from their home church.  And as active members of church we have all seen the after effects of a change in leadership – numbers dwindle and people divide.  Some churches survive and even thrive while others fade away.

But avoid foolish controversies 
and genealogies and arguments and 
quarrels about the Law, because 
these are unprofitable and useless.
Titus 3:9

The Greek word zelos means something very fervent as with Spirit-fueled zeal to serve the Lord. Zelos is used both negatively (“jealousy”) and positively (“zeal”) in the Bible.  

For where you have envy and 
selfish ambition (zelos), there 
you find disorder and every 
evil practice.
James 3:16

Because when we put our ideas about “the way thing should be done” above the big picture of Jesus and His commandment to love one another as He loved us, we will fail every time.  And what is showing that love? To live in obedience to His will.  

As I’ve worked through studying the Bible, I keep coming back to my knowledge of how churches work and how they don’t.  I’m mystified by the lack actual Biblical based decision making.  And how so many people forget the message of 1 Corinthians 13 — the people in our church or faith family are all gifted by God but the use of those gifts must be in love.

If I speak in the tongues of men 
or of angels, but do not have love, 
I am only a resounding gong or a 
clanging cymbal.
1 Cor 13:1 

I once sat on a church marketing committee that included a wide variety of talented people — many of whom had been members of the church for eons. The pastor welcomed us and gave us our charge. I asked a few questions seeking clarification. Within seconds of him leaving, so we could move on with more planning, an older woman who sat across from me immediately pointed a finger at me and said, “Who do you think you are? And what makes you think you know anything about what needs to be done?” Fortunately I was comfortable enough about my background (I have worked in public relations and marketing) that I almost laughed. You see, because I wasn’t part of her “known” circle I was a nobody to “her church.”

We are so often led by the flesh – what sounds good, what feels good.  That’s how someone like Diotrephes was allowed to be a dictator at his church.  He said enough of the right things to convince enough people to support him.  Had they backed up in their thinking and measured his actions against Jesus, the Truth would’ve been revealed.

Notice this Life Lesson isn’t just about the Big Picture.  It says, “through the details of His love.”  As Christians we must be students of the Word.  If not, we are easily led by apostates and dictators and anyone else in our church who appears to be in charge.  Jesus didn’t come to erase the Law.  He reminds us of the simplicity of the Mosaic Law, without all the human-made rules and regulations placed on it.  He constantly chastised the Pharisees for behavior that we find today throughout our Christian churches.

Woe to you experts in the law, 
because you have taken away the 
key to knowledge. You yourselves 
have not entered, and you have 
hindered those who were entering.
Luke 52:1

Remember that question in my study about theology?  What is the church?  It’s you and it’s me.  It’s not just a pastor or priest or committee of leaders or even the clique of volunteers.  We need to take ownership of our membership in the church body.  When we see one of our body leading people astray we are to remind them of Jesus’ Big Picture.  And we are to be knowledgeable enough about His Word to help set the church body back on track.  A dictator or false teacher is only successful with willing followers!

Read the verse again in 3 John 10: “So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us.”

Notice John will confront Diotrephes face to face.  He feels the responsibility of keeping the ship on the right course.  He steps in out of love of the Truth.  He doesn’t say, “I’m coming to fire him” or “I’m getting everyone together to run him out of town.”  John also doesn’t tell Gaius to just go start his own church.  It’s an intervention of sorts.  That sounds a lot like Jesus.

Imagine a Christian world where the more than 3 billion of us were one body.  Where our focus was on obeying Jesus’ teachings and His Big Picture of Love.  Imagine the impact we would have on this broken world.  Imagine if we could just get our own heart and our own local church soundly on that Big Picture path.