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It is frustrating to discover something at sixty that you really needed to know when you were thirty. Of course, I might not have listened, or the information may have had little application in my life at the time, but I still wish someone had made the attempt. Maybe they did and just I don’t remember.

Those of us that place an importance on obeying the Great Commission would do well to ask God, “What does this person I am discipling need to hear right now that will dramatically change their life?” God will answer that question, over and over again. I hope and pray you will consider the following as one installment in that process.

Enemy #1

Perhaps the most important thing every disciple of Jesus Christ needs to know is the identity of their number one enemy.

Most would suggest that Satan is the number one enemy of God and His children. “The devil made me do it,” popularized by Flip Wilson in the 1970s, has found its way into the Western church. It is the way we like to think. The devil is our most popular enemy. In our confusion, we have ignored one of the most astounding claims in all of Scripture:

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7

Satan has no power over the resisting Christian! Perhaps something else is inhibiting our resistance.

Other well-meaning Christians point to the world as our number one enemy. The government and big business are particularly favorite targets. Turning to Scripture, we again find a flaw in our thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

Several years ago, we published a series of articles entitled These Sayings of Mine. The table of contents for that series is posted here. For those who prefer something more succinct (or a checklist), the following contains a brief summary of the 50+ commands Jesus has given for those who desire to become houses that stand in the storms of life.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25

How can you do “these sayings of Mine,” if you do not know them? Are we foolish enough to think that we are exempt from the commands of Jesus because we have not taken the time to study them? Will our house stand because we have been purposefully ignorant?

Of course, these questions are rhetorical. Christianity is not a passive, laissez-faire religion. If we love Him, we will obey His commandments, including those found in the Sermon on the Mount.

Storms have come and storms are coming. Tribulation is promised to every Christian (John 16:33). Is your house standing? Will it stand? These questions are not rhetorical. They are two of the most important questions Christians should be asking themselves.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey (J. H. Sammis; 1846-1919).

As we consider the list, let’s call on the One who is willing and able to assess the soundness and security of our house. Participating with Him in the inspection is quite simple: for each saying, answer the questions, “Am I doing what Jesus commands here? Am I living my life according to His will?” Read the rest of this entry »

In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul’s instruction for community life begins with “Let love be without hypocrisy… (Romans 12:9a).” All that follows is built on this foundation, from the twelve additional short commands (through v. 13) to the end of the epistle.

The breadth and depth of this command presents more of a challenge than one might experience in a cursory reading. Indeed, these may be the five most challenging words in the Bible.

With all due respect to Bible reading plans, the Scriptures contain matters of truth that simply do not fit earthbound self-imposed schedules. “Let love be without hypocrisy…” is one of those truths that should blow up our reading plans. We will spiritually injure ourselves (with collateral damage to those we love) if we diligently press on to the next verse (or, in this case, phrase).

We need to sit here for a while. Our Father in heaven is bringing many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10). We participate with Him when we invest the necessary time to search out the truths He has hidden for His children.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
Proverbs 25:2

Let’s begin with a couple of definitions. First, as we have considered previously, God’s love (agapē) is more than “unconditional” (as so many teachers have popularized). In fact, it is not unconditional at all. God’s love is something more; it is better described as sacrificial. God so loved the world that He sacrificed His son, that those who believe (a condition) might be saved (John 3:16). We manifest God’s love when we sacrifice for others.

“Without hypocrisy” comes from the Greek, anypokritos. Blue Letter Bible’s Outline of Biblical Usage defines anypokritos as “unfeigned, undisguised, sincere.” Synonyms (from Oxford Dictionaries) include genuine, true, honest, authentic, unforced, wholehearted, deep, transparent, palpable, and audacious. Consider each of these and you will understand why I am stuck on “let love be without hypocrisy.” If we cannot get this right, how can we move on to the rest?

Searching further, we find John encouraging and describing our sincere love. Read the rest of this entry »

I am afraid we are going to step on some toes with this article. Please don’t let a little toe pain put you off. Your carnal mind will try to distract you with offense and excuse. As an ally of the world, it will do what it can to prevent or limit your consideration of what follows.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

The first thing we have to ask ourselves about this passage is whether or not it contains commands or electives. This decision is important, so engage your mind. Reckon it to yourself. If you agree that every imperative statement in the Bible is a command, then say to yourself, “Self, God commands us to seek those things which are above, and to set our mind on them. Furthermore, He commands us to not set our mind on things on the earth.”

Next, we must decide: What is the difference between setting our mind on things above and on the things on this earth? Is it a gulf, a gully, or a hard line? In other words, is there some gray area between the two, where we can let our minds play? As you make this decision, be careful to differentiate between what your carnal mind is trying to tell you and what you believe from your heart to be true. I suspect the answer here may be different for different people, but be careful; gray areas often equate to compromise.

Next question: How and when do we set our minds? Does this automatically happen, or is some discipline required? Minds are set at the very beginning of our day. First thing.

So, what are you watching? What are you reading?

Ouch? Sorry, sometimes the truth hurts. I write from experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Luke 16:14-15

Is there anything worse than “an abomination in the sight of God”? In the immediate context, Jesus is addressing the love of money. But is that all that qualifies? Can you think of anything highly esteemed among men which is not an abomination in the sight of God?

Seriously, this is not a rhetorical question. Make a list; force yourself to think.

In defense of our culture, honesty and integrity may come to mind, even sacrificial love. But really, are these highly esteemed among men? Or is that what we would like to believe? If the Christian virtues are so highly esteemed, why are they so much the exception, rarely celebrated, like exotic animals trapped in a zoo?

Come on, think!

Now, let’s take something of a different course. We can safely assume Jesus is not including the things of God’s kingdom as abominations in His sight. That narrows things down a bit, but still leaves us with much more than money to consider. Here’s an example from A. W. Tozer, just to make the point: 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

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