Last week, I shared the various encouragements which I had received from our heavenly Father during a season of chastening. I want to expound on one of those here; but before I do, I need to share something about the word “encouragement”.

Words are important and should be carefully chosen. In this case, a more natural word to use would have been “corrections”. So, why did I choose “encouragements”?

Encouragement is something a person does to put courage into someone else, and Christians today need all the encouragement we can get. When we submit to the Father’s chastening, He provides the courage we need to positively respond. Conversely, withdrawing from the Father’s chastening leaves us without the courage we so desperately need in this desperate time. I hope and pray that you will find and receive a large dose of courage as we search deeper into this matter of doing.

Neither restoration nor reformation will come until we stop treating the truths of Scripture like Christian clichés. For me, the challenge of this has come in two well-known passages: “…without Me, you can do nothing (John 15:5)” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).” Think about it.

Have you been thinking about it? If so, I am very interested in what the Holy Spirit has brought to your heart and mind. If you have not had the time or inclination, perhaps I can help. This matter of “doing” requires more of our thinking.

Thought #1: Jesus and Paul chose their words wisely. I am referring to the words “nothing” and “all”. They are absolute and extreme opposites. Read the rest of this entry »

I have just completed a welcomed five-week break from school. During that time, our heavenly Father decided to chasten me on several fronts. Indeed, He is a careful orchestrator of our time and attention. Without getting into the messy details, I would like to share a few encouragements picked up along the way.

Only the humblest person can trust their opinion of themselves. Our subconscious mind gives more attention to ourselves and thinks more of ourselves than we imagine.

Jesus Christ loves His bride regardless of the state of her health. Assessment is best left up to Him. Judgment and correction are dangerous activities when made by any mind other than Christ’s.

God delegates authority and imparts discernment and grace proportionate to our submission as instruments only. We can fake it, but we will never truly make it, until we die to ourselves.

Concern can degrade into hopelessness and cynicism when faith and joy are not nurtured and shared with others. Yes, there is much to be concerned about; but we must trust the LORD and rejoice in the good works He has created us to walk in.

Neither restoration nor reformation will come until we stop treating the truths of Scripture like Christian clichés. For me, the challenge of this has come in two well-known passages: “…without Me, you can do nothing (John 15:5)” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).” Think about it.

And finally, the Father is working in us to will and do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). The Son is making us and building His church (Matthew 4:19 and 16:18). The Holy Spirit is transforming us by the renewing of our minds (2Corinthians 3:18; Romans 12:2). How can we neglect so great a salvation as this?

God bless you with faith and courage for surrender, sacrifice, and submission to the inward work of grace.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

My apologies. After posting and distributing last week’s article, I realized that I had broken one of my cardinal rules: Information and encouragement is incomplete when it is not accompanied by application. It is not good discipleship to leave the reader wondering what to do next. So, here is an addendum to The Discipline of Solitude.

I must also confess that the “discipline of solitude” I am encouraging is somewhat different from the traditional practice, where one separates themselves from all human contact for hours or days. Dallas Willard’s book, The Spirit of the Disciplines provides a great overview of the traditional practice (pp. 160-162). As with all spiritual disciplines, one must be careful when seeking instruction on the subject. A good place to start would be two authors Willard references: Thomas Merton and Thomas a Kempis.

Recognizing the importance of the traditional discipline of solitude, I am suggesting here that finding solitude on a daily basis is also profitable and possible. Essentially, solitude is getting alone with and resting our minds in God. Like all disciplines, solitude involves commitment and practice; but once developed, it requires little effort, eventually becoming a continual mental attitude. The peace of mind that transcends all understanding, once developed in our prayer closet, goes with us into the world.

Most Christians (myself included) struggle with solitude simply because they cannot quiet their minds long enough to communicate, much less commune, with God. Graciously, God has given us the method by which we may quiet our minds; we do so by taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). While this is perhaps easier said (or written) than done, it is not a complicated practice. I can personally testify to God’s blessing in its exercise.

Here is how it works: Read the rest of this entry »

How do we justify distractions which steal away time that we could be investing in our relationship with God and the advancement of His kingdom? Not that He needs us, or our help. He simply wants us to spend time with Him, for our good and the good of those we love. We are the ones suffering from missed opportunities to know Him more deeply through the practice of His presence. Sadly and tragically, we are allowing ourselves to be victimized by the very things from which Jesus Christ died to save us (Galatians 6:14).

Victory in this area requires that we become more aware of our excuse-making, blame-shifting, and compromising carnal mind. We must force ourselves to consciously consider whether we would rather spend time with God or watch a baseball game, movie, vlog, etc. Could we make a better investment of our time and attention outside our favorite radio station, social media platform, or YouTube channel?

Granted, there are times when we just need to rest our minds, and God has given us a spiritual discipline for that; it is called solitude. Essentially, solitude is resting our minds in God. Yes, like all disciplines, solitude involves commitment and practice; but once developed, it requires little effort, eventually becoming a continual mental attitude. The peace of mind that transcends all understanding, once developed in our prayer closet, goes with us into the world.

It is important to recognize that the world offers several drugs to simulate the effect of God’s rest and peace. The most prominent ones are TV and the Internet. One might argue that these are two of the most highly addictive drugs known to man. Don’t believe me? Try stopping them cold turkey, and see how your mind protests. Go ahead, I double-dog dare you.

Lastly, we must be aware of our carnal mind’s deception regarding our deliverance from these addictions. It will say, “That’s just too difficult for you.” Like Satan, our carnal mind uses a little truth to hide the whole truth. Hopefully, we are now smarter than that. We know that all things are possible with God (Mark 10:27), and He will meet us in our desire to find Him (Matthew 7:8). The first step is committing to the process. From there, He will draw us away from the things of this world, just to be with Him.

God bless you with desire and grace for solitude with Him.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

We are settling for far less than we have been offered. We are either very stupid, or we are deceived. I do not think most Christian leaders are generally stupid. We are a well-educated people, and we tend to address our stupidity when we discover it.

On the other hand, a deceived person does not know they are deceived – at least not until someone reveals the deception that has held them captive. Fortunately, the truth will make us free. Here is some, just in case.

God’s Promises

…to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2Peter 1:3-4

The Danger

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation… Hebrews 2:1-3

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work… according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 2Thessalonians 2:7-10

Our Response

Read the rest of this entry »

The cynicism and critical attitude startled me. It certainly did not feel like the “I love the church” that had come from the man at the end of the table. Something had happened to me.

Who am I to judge the bride chosen by my King? Well, I am an elder; there is some responsibility there. But it is surprising how genuine concern can morph into something genuinely unacceptable.

Yes, she has become sickly. She has infected herself with worldly diseases from which her Bridegroom died and lives to make her free. And yes, even her healthier members continue to fight with one another over seemingly limited resources, when her Betrothed has access to supernatural riches. There is much to be concerned about.

Still, the cynicism and critical attitude surprised me; and it shouldn’t have. The critical spirit I allowed and nurtured for so many years, though exposed and deconstructed, has been lurking about in my subconscious, waiting for any opportunity to feed itself. I have seen it before. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

As best as I can discern, here is what happened to me. I love my King, and I want Him to have the bride He desires and deserves. Her behavior bothers me. I know – we all know – she can and will be better. But when? Why has she neglected her preparation? Why has she allowed herself to be distracted and drawn away?

My carnal mind – that sneaky little trickster – stirred up the critical spirit in me, focusing my attention on the ugliness. Loving concern turned to cynicism, and I lost the Lover’s perspective. Now, do not misunderstand me; I am not making excuses. The new man that I am in Jesus Christ is responsible for recognizing and overcoming my flesh and its mind. Diligence is required, and I let my guard down.

The enemy that lies within is too easily underestimated. Without the grace of God, we are all dangerously exposed. His grace brought me out of this deception. It is important to note that His grace came in fellowship, at a meeting I was not that excited about attending. His grace got me there, and His grace exposed my cynicism and critical attitude. By His grace, I now enjoy an attitude adjustment. I am grateful.

Is the bride sick? Yes, that is certainly a fair assessment in this part of the world. I was not the only one at the meeting that expressed concern. But, and this is the point, their concerns were wrapped in love – their love and the King’s love for the bride.

I love the church. That is my renewed profession. By God’s grace, she will be stunningly beautiful. The King will have the one He desires and deserves. Loving judgment is a part of her preparation. Always loving.

God bless you with love for your King, and loving concern for His bride.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

I recently participated in a Facebook “conversation” regarding the value of Christ’s death in our salvation. Trying to encourage the other participants to look beyond the cross to the life that saves us, I referenced Romans 5:8-10.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Confusion ensued, ultimately leading to this question: Rob, do you accept that one can have assurance of their salvation?

As most of you know, I try to “just be the pen” in everything I write. God was faithful to direct my fingers in the following response. I hope it encourages you to share with others. We need to be having these kinds of discussions in the body of Christ.

Our Answer (slightly edited): Of course you can have assurance of salvation, assuming God’s conditions are met (e.g., endure to the end (Matthew 10:22), abide and bear fruit (John 15:1-8), do not bury your talents (Matthew 25:24-30), avoid falling away (2Thessalonians 2:1-4)). In case you were wondering, I do not see these as the Christian’s work to procure salvation. They are the work of God appropriated by our continuing faith (which is also a gift, Ephesians 2:8-9).

Still, salvation requires participation (Philippians 2:12-13 describes this beautifully). Striving to enter is necessary (Luke 13:24). We must be diligent to add to our faith and make our call and election sure (2Peter 1:5-11). This is only possible in Christ and by the power of His resurrected life.

I fear that many are loitering around the cross, either worshipping the instrument of death or trying to worship a savior who is no longer there. They are not being instructed and encouraged to move on down the difficult road that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:14).

The old man must be buried and the carnal mind subdued – both works of the Spirit, requiring our submission (Romans 8:13; Romans 12:2; 2Corinthians 3:18). We must walk in the newness of life that has been offered (Romans 6:4). That life is not our own (Mark 8:35). It is the resurrected life of Jesus Christ. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live… (Galatians 2:20)

And so, the bottom-line answer is: The one who continues to surrender, sacrifice, and submit their life to the lordship of Jesus Christ can have certain assurance of their salvation. Read the rest of this entry »

The Lord is trying in this life – during our time on Earth – to prepare us for the age to come, to guide our investments for the most heavenly gain, and to secure the greatest opportunity for service in the kingdom of God for all of eternity (Matthew 25:14-30). We have limited time to benefit from God’s good work in us, individually and corporately.

Faith is given in measure (Romans 12:3). God is a generous giver, but I dare say He is not wasteful. Perhaps we receive in proportion to the measure we give back in surrender, submission, sacrifice, obedience, etc. Our participation with Him requires time and attention. We do not understand the opportunity cost of earthly distractions, or we are simply foolish Christians (you can think immature, if you wish).

…we have such a short time to prepare for such a long time. By that I mean we have now to prepare for then. We have an hour to prepare for eternity. To fail to prepare is an act of moral folly. For anyone to have a day given to prepare, it is an act of inexcusable folly to let anything hinder that preparation. A. W. Tozer

For example, why do we labor to make more money than we need on this side of eternity? Not to dismiss the potential value of inheritance, but how much is enough? Only God knows what will benefit or harm those that remain. As with all important decisions, we must leave our vocation and its length in God’s hands. We are in desperate need of spiritual ears that recognize God’s voice.

Personally, I will be 60 years old this year. Jesus has been my savior for almost 50 years, and I have been submitted to the Father’s work for more that 35 of those. That seems like a long time. Still, I have not matured as much as I would like. I have allowed too much distraction and compromise.

I wonder how much I have missed and squandered. Paul encourages us to run the race to win. I feel as though I must pick up the pace if I am to finish anywhere near what winning looks like. Based on the promises and expectations revealed in Scripture (e.g., John 14:12), I am under-achieving by a considerable margin.

By the way, we are not competing against others for the winner’s prize, but with ourselves, with what God has determined is our potential (one, five, or ten talents).

This may be heard as a “do more” injunction. That is a dangerous notion (and I am not exaggerating). The Bible’s encouragement is to know God more and to participate more in what He is doing. There is an “even more” life (Romans 5:8-10). Seeking God with our whole heart requires time and attention, not more doing. Read the rest of this entry »

I am going to resist the temptation to restate the thesis of this three-part article and direct you back to Part One. There you will find a useful introduction and the individual application of what we are calling the anchor (think house, not ship) of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome.

Part Two explores the bridge between the individual application of Part One and the community application we are exploring in this last part. The order is important – individual application working its way into the corporate body. So, once you have read Parts One and Two, you should be ready to dig in here.

Community Application

As we begin, it is important to note that, as it is with individuals, fellowships small, large, and in between, are also instructed and encouraged to offer themselves to God – to be used as corporate instruments of His sacrificial love. Furthermore, resisting conformity with the world and being transformed are best accomplished in community. In fact, it is impossible for individuals who are “members of one another” to be transformed separate from one another.

Now on to Romans 12:4-8.

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:4-8

The “for” found at the beginning of this passage connects our humble and sober thinking to our functioning as God intends in the community of faith. Some members may have more visibility or a seemingly more important function; others, less. In humility, we recognize that this is an unimportant consideration. Indeed, as we learn from 1Corinthians 12:23, greater honor is bestowed on those we think to be less honorable. This is sober thinking.

There are three considerations here that warrant our attention. First, there is our unity. We are not only members of “one body in Christ”, but “individually members of one another”. Spiritually, regardless of function, there are no boundaries between us. Our unity is a mystery beyond reason; only by faith and practice do we know it to be true.

Through faith, we function together in the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God (Ephesians 4:13). This is the desire, vision, and attitude of Jesus Christ. As we lay hold of the mind of Christ, we are anchored to the theological foundation, in Romans one through eleven, that He has established for our life in community. Read the rest of this entry »

Reading through Part One of this article, I discovered an oversight. Having referenced Romans 12:1-3 as the personal perspective of the Romans “anchor”, I failed to comment on verse three. As it turns out, verse three can be viewed as a bridge. So, rather than go back and update Part One, we will cover it here before exploring the church-in-fellowship perspective of Romans 12:4-8 in Part Three.

Those of you that have not already read Part One will find it a useful introduction. The order is important – individual application working its way into the corporate body. Furthermore, there is a connection between the renewal of our mind (Romans 12:2) and the way we are to think in the community of faith.

Humble and Sober Thinking

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:3

As we endeavor to transition from theology to its practice, we must consider our mind and how it thinks. We have already learned from verse two that our mind requires renewal; it is not prepared for the life our theology requires. For many, this is a bitter pill to swallow. We have been encouraged since our formative years to trust our minds and our innate ability to reason. Our carnal mind has convinced us that it deserves the control most of mankind has given it.

We think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. We desperately need to sober up and recognize that much of our thinking is humanistic. Even in the church, we have come to rely on the doctrines of man. We attempt to live out of our reason, rather than our faith. It is high time we become suspicious of the way we think, because much of our thinking is outside the faith.

Consequently, the introduction of faith at the end of the verse above would seem strange to many in the church. What does a measure of faith have to do with the way we think? Our perplexity demonstrates how far we have drifted from the truth concerning our heart and mind. We have allowed our blame-shifting carnal mind to convince us that our heart is corrupt.

But, how can this be? What do the Scriptures tell us? Read the rest of this entry »

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