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How Should We Then Live?

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Seizing the New Year

yesterday-is-gone-tomorrow-has-not-yet-comeWe’ve all heard the expression, Seize the Day.” Well, a brand new year has arrived on our doorstep, so I say let’s do it one better by seizing this brand new year one day at a time!

In the opening statements to Chapter 9 titled, “Seize the Day,” in Joyce Meyer‘s book titled Seize the Day: Living On Purpose and  Making Every Day Count (2016), Meyer states the following:

From what I have learned over the years, this is a summary of what the word “seize” means: to take hold of forcibly and suddenly, or to grab, grasp, or snatch. It also means to take control of or to repossess. When we seize something we subdue it, and that is exactly what God told Adam to do concerning the earth.

And God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it. ~Genesis 1:28 (AMPC)

If we desire to know how God wanted man to live, we can look to the beginning of time as we know it, and there is no better place to look than Genesis chapter 1. God created Adam and Eve and gave them authority and dominion over the rest of His creation. He told them to subdue it,or, in other words, to seize it and use it in the service of God and man.

Far too many people are inactive, and they wait for something to fall into their laps–[and] they end up waiting until it is too late. They live dissatisfied and unproductive lives simply because they don’t wake up each day ready to seize the day and make the most out of it. (Quote source, “Seize the Day,” pp. 86-87.)

The Apostle Paul (Paul’s conversion is available at this link) has given us some great advice for “seizing the day” in Philippians 3 (taken from The Message Bible–MSG):

To Know Him [Jesus Christ] Personally

And that’s about it, friends. Be glad in God!

I don’t mind repeating what I have written in earlier letters, and I hope you don’t mind hearing it again. Better safe than sorry—so here goes.

Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they’re interested in is appearances—knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it—even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book.

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

Focused on the Goal

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.

But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

The Apostle Paul was never one to shy away from obstacles or mince words. He had the background experience as a Pharisee to know exactly what he was talking about and why he was so passionate about getting this message across to others. And Jesus Christ was more to him than a religion with a bunch of rules to follow. When Jesus made himself known to Paul on the Damascus Road (when Paul, then known as Saul who was a highly respected Pharisee at the time, came face to face with the One who holds life and who clearly let him know he was going down the wrong path), it changed Paul’s life forever from that moment on and for the last three plus decades of his life. When Paul was still Saul the Pharisee, he murdered Christians thinking he was doing God a favor! Think about that for a moment! But Jesus came to Paul after his resurrection from the dead in a rather spectacular way that changed Paul’s life from that moment on. And that’s what genuine Christianity is all about–genuine change from the inside out. Paul didn’t even know he was heading in the wrong direction until Jesus made it quite clear to him that he was [the story of Paul’s conversion is available at this link, which is also found in Acts 9].

With that in mind, let’s take look at what it means to be Christian here in America as we begin 2017. David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons published a new book in 2016 titled, Good Faith: Being A Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme (2016) which clearly describes what is going on here in America today when it comes to Christianity. On the inside front cover the authors make the following statement:

It is easy to feel overwhelmed as we try to live faithfully in a culture that seems increasingly hostile to the Christian faith. With a growing backlash against religion and people of faith, it’s harder than ever to hold on to our convictions while treating friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even family members who disagree with respect and compassion.

Based on groundbreaking research, this timely book by the bestselling authors ofunChristianexplores politics, sexuality, race, gender, and religious freedom, helping you:

  • respond with compassion, clarity, and confidence to the most toxic issues of our day
  • discover the most significant cultural trends that are creating both obstacles and opportunities for Christians
  • know what you believe and why it doesn’t make you a judgmental or extreme person
  • stop being afraid to talk about what you believe and start having meaningful conversations about tough issues
  • understand the heart behind opposing views and learn how to stay friends across differences (Source: inside front cover of “Good Faith.”)

David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons are no strangers to what is going on in America today regarding Christianity. On the back cover they state (to a Christian audience), “You are no longer part of the majority. Your response will shape the future of Christianity in America.” As Christians, do we take that statement seriously? If so, it’s time to “seize the day” and not just sit back and think that someone else will do it for us. In the not-too-distant past a nation fell when the general population was too busy doing other things to notice, and it happened when they weren’t looking or paying attention, or worse yet, ignored the signs taking place all around them.

David Kinnaman is the president of Barna Group, a leading research and communications company that works with churches, nonprofits, and businesses ranging from film studios to financial services. Since 1995, Kinnaman has directed interviews with nearly one million individuals and overseen hundreds of US and global research studies. He is also the author of unChristian and You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith.” (Source: Inside back cover of Good Faith.”)

Gabe Lyons is the founder of Q (Q Ideas), a learning community that educates and mobilizes Christians to think well and advance “good” in society. Called “sophisticated and orthodox” by The New York Times, “Q” represents the perspective of a new generation of Christians. Lyons speaks on cultural issues where faith intersects public life. He is the author of unChristian and The Next Christians.” (Source: Inside back cover of Good Faith.”)

seize-the-daySome of the contents of this book, Good Faith,” might shock those of us who aren’t connected to the younger generations (and that includes parents) in a meaningful way. Much like the authors’ book, unChristian,” (published in 2007), the news that Christianity isn’t seeping down into the younger generations nearly as much as we might suspect even if they grew up in their parents’ church might be a bit unnerving to deal with, and the “cover up” can be a rather insidious surprise if it was revealed. When lightweight Christianity is sold to the young, they can find many reasons to walk away while still looking connected to their parents’ religion as well as others in the church. I wrote a blog post titled, Something To Think About,” in June 2016 on some of the findings found in unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity . . . And Why It Matters.”

For now, their latest book, Good Faith: Being A Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme (2016) is the topic for this blog post. Looking irrelevant and extreme has always been attached to Christianity and Christians down through the centuries since Jesus Christ claimed to be the Son of God (see John 3 regarding his conversation with a Pharisee named Nicodemus); died at the hands of the Jewish religious rulers; and rose again on the third day, just as he predicted that he would do (see Mark 8:31-38; Luke 18:31-33). Believing in Jesus Christ requires faith. And that’s it. See John 3:16-18. The rest of the world will always mock what it does not understand and refuses to believe by faith. That Christianity may no longer be in the majority in America, as the authors state in “Good Faith,” doesn’t change what it means to be Christian whether we are living here in America, or in Syria, China, Russia, Iran, or any place else in the world.

As Kinnaman and Lyons state in Chapter 1 titled, “Bad Faith, Good Faith,” on p 15:

The aim of this book is to make a case for good faith. Christianity has managed to survive and thrive as a minority religion countless times throughout history–and does so in many places around the world today. So we hope you’ll gain confidence that holding tight to biblical conviction is not only worthwhile and critical but also absolutely doable. Despite the faults we Christians bring to it, Christianity practiced well helps people thrive and communities flourish. Together, we want to discover how Christians can do good for and with the people around us.

“Good Faith” will prepare you to be smart and courageous and to live faithfully in a changing culture that is no longer particularly friendly to faith.

At best, diverse, pluralistic cultures, like that of North America today, are indifferent to people of faith; they accept only the most tepid, inoffensive forms of religious expression. At worst, they are actively hostile toward religious practices and beliefs (one recent op-ed called them “superstitious rituals” and “comically outlandish claims”). This book touches on many topics that crowd the intersection of faith with the wider culture: sex and sexuality, politics, race, religion and public life, morals and virtues, and many more.

When it comes to good faith, everything must be on the table. (Quote source “Good Faith,” p. 15.)

Obviously, I cannot do justice to any book in the few words written in a blog post. If there is one book Christians should give thought to reading at the beginning of this new year, it is Good Faith.” To not fully understand the issues at hand going on in our society today because we tend to surround ourselves with fellow Christians is to do a grave disservice to ourselves and the Christian community at large. If ever there was a time to “seize the day,” and not just bury our heads in the sand or ignore the signs all around us, it is now. . . .

In the last chapter of the book, Chapter 18 titled “Faithful in Exile,” The authors open it up with the following conversation:

“It’s like we’re living in a modern-day Babylon.”

I recently overheard two Christian friends discussing today’s seemingly out-of-control culture. One of the guys felt like an ancient pagan civilization was the closest analogy he could find.

And his friend immediately agreed. “Definitely!”

Babylon.

Why would Christians reference an ancient culture to describe today’s society? If you had to describe mainstream culture in a single word or phrase, what would  you choose?

  • Complicated.
  • Accelerated.
  • Complex.
  • Pleasure-seeking and narcissistic.
  • Spiritual but godless.
  • Strong and powerful yet corrupt and immoral
  • Confused about right and wrong

In ancient times, Babylon was an empire that, like empires before and since, overwhelmed other lands and peoples with military and commercial power and sought to obliterate competing cultures. In the 7th Century BC, the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, laid siege to Jerusalem, and the kingdom of Judah fell to the empire. To complete Babylon’s dominance of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar took captive most of the noble families, craftsmen, artisans, soldiers, and other prominent citizens, carting them all off to the empire’s capital.

One Hebrew, in particular, stood out.

Daniel, a member of a Judean noble family, was human plunder of a military conquest, a victim of human trafficking. He came from the ethnically and religiously homogeneous culture of Judah and was taken by force to the cosmopolitan and religiously plural capital. It was something likeThe Hunger Games,” if you think about it. All the “districts” of the Babylonian Empire were coerced into sending their best and brightest to serve the interest of the capital.

It’s not hard to imagine that Daniel and others who were taken captive felt outnumbered, dislocated, and culturally out of step–the very feelings many Christians and other believers are experiencing today.

We believe our faith community today faces an emerging social context that demands we learn to be Christian a new way, described best as being “faithful in exile.” We are no longer the home team, even though our physical location hasn’t changed. We’re playing on Babylon’s turf. (Quote source, “Good Faith,” pp. 253-255).

This chapter describes several lessons we can learn from the life of Daniel, who spent his entire life from the time he was taken captive as a teenager until he died in his 80’s serving the Babylonian kings without compromising his faith. The Book of Daniel in the Old Testament is taken from Daniel’s life in exile and how God used him in astonishing and amazing ways.

I’ll end this blog post with the final lesson the authors state from the life of Daniel from Chapter 18, and how it relates to us today (pp. 260-262):

The final lesson we learn from Daniel relates to following the call of God on our lives. It’s unlikely we would know about Daniel at all if he had not pursued his vocation. He essentially because the secretary of state for one of the most pagan civilizations in human history. He served at the pleasure of three kings, leaders of a triad of ungodly regimes that rose to power in quick succession.

Our love and orthodoxy brings good to society when we pursue our God-given calling. This includes our career–entrepreneurs, public officials, scientists, writers, teachers, pastors, dental hygienists, and so on. But it also encompasses how we parent, how we practice hospitality, how we steward our sexual lives, and how we engage in conversations. We are called to be faithful in all of life’s complexities. Our love and belief should compel us to become agents of God’s reconciliation through Christ in whatever sphere of life he has called us to inhabit.

Jeremiah’s [an Old Testament prophet] how-to-survive-in-exile instructions are as applicable today as they were thousands of years ago: plant gardens, build houses, and plan to stay. Work for your city’s peace and prosperity, for its flourishing will be your flourishing. As a community of God, work for the common good: that which is orderly and right, abundant and generous, beautiful and flourishing with life and relationships (see Jeremiah 29:4-7).

Hopeful expectation in exile is a biblical perspective. Not only do we have example of actual exiles like Joseph, Esther, and Daniel, but much of the New Testament also calls us to live “in the world but not of the world.” Peter says we are sojourners, strangers in the world. Paul and the writer of Hebrews offer practical wisdom for fine-tuning the church’s role in relation to the wider culture. “Bless those who persecute you,” Paul writes. “Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. . . . Live in harmony with each other” (Romans 12:14-16). “Work at living in peace with everyone,” Hebrews says, “and work at living a holy life” (Hebrews 12:14). . . .

We have a lot of work to do. At times, you may feel irrelevant or be labeled extreme. But you are in good company. Throughout the ages, the Christian community has faced pressure–even persecution–and endured.

We are called not to determine the outcome but to be faithful.

Led by love, grounded in biblical belief, and ready to live as a counterculture for the common good, we trust that our good faith will be used by God to renew the world. (Quote source: “Good Faith,” pp. 260-262.)

Good Faith will not only inform you of the changes going on in our culture, but also give you hope and inspiration for the new year ahead of us. . . .

UPDATE January 4, 2017: I have just become aware of another book that is a “must read” titled, You Will Be Made To Care: The War on Faith, Family and Your Freedom to Believe,” (2016) by Erick Erickson and Bill Blankschaen. Read some reviews at this link; and longer review is available at this link.

Get both books. . .

Read both books. . .

And SEIZE THE DAY. . . .

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Seizing the Day

Seize the Day1In the movie, Dead Poets Society (1989), starring Robin Williams as John Keating, a new English teacher at an “all boys” preparatory school, Welton Academy, in the northeast United States in 1959 (source here), Keating makes the following statement:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be? (Quote source here.)

“The human race is filled with passion” . . . and, obviously, Keating was speaking about the positive side of passion when he states, “poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” And he quotes Whitman regarding the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these?” And the answer, of course, is “That you (meaning us, too) are here–that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.” And the question for us to consider, and consider seriously, is this . . . “What will your verse be?”

What will our verse be? At one point in the movie when he is talking with his students, he tells them, “Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!” (Quote source here).

“The longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all.” For those of you who might be closing in on my age range or older, do you think it’s too late? Well, listen up! Grandma Moses (1860-1961), an American folk artist, lived to be 101 years old and she didn’t start painting until she was 78. 78!!!

In looking at some of the the well known Biblical characters who were used by God in dramatic ways in their older years the list is remarkable. In the Old Testament there is Noah, who was quite old when he started building the ark (see the entire story in Genesis 5:32-10:1). Abraham was 75 when God told him to “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (see Genesis 12). Sarah, his wife, gave birth to Isaac, God’s promised child, when she was 90 (see Genesis 21). Moses and Aaron were 80 and 83 respectively when they led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt (the account of the Exodus starts in Exodus 1); and it was Joshua and Caleb, both in their 80’s, who led the Israelites into the land of Canaan (the Promised Land–the account starts in Joshua 1). And Daniel was 80+ at the time he was made one of three governors over Babylon, endured the lion’s den, and then prospered under Darius and Cyrus (see Daniel 5-6). He also received a series of visions (including an end times vision) in Daniel 8-12.

In the New Testament we have Zechariah and Elizabeth, who at a very advanced age became the parents of John the Baptist (see Luke 1); and Simeon and Anna, who were both quite old at the time they came to the temple where the infant Jesus was brought to be circumcised, and both had spent years waiting (in Anna’s case, many years praying and fasting in the Temple) to see the birth of the promised Messiah (see Luke 2:22-40). Of course, one of the most famous people in the New Testament is the apostle Paul, who was a Pharisee before his conversion on the Damacus Road in his early 30’s, and who spent the next several decades of his life serving Jesus Christ and writing several of the books in the New Testament (see Acts 9-28).

PrintIn all of these cases, it is not the size of the task or the length of time involved that was the most important issue, although what they each accomplished dramatically changed the course of events in their lifetime. What mattered most was the attitude of their heart and the wholesale giving over of their lives to what God would have them to do. It’s not that they were perfect (after all, no one is), but that they were willing–even if at times they appeared to be somewhat disbelieving, like Sarah, Abraham’s wife, who first laughed when she heard that she would be giving birth to a son a year later (after all, she was 90 at the time and well past childbearing years).

Due to a certain “success” mentality in our culture today that permeates much of what we try to accomplish in our own lives, we often become too focused on the “outward” signs of success and ignore the inward calling of God (often unintentional as there is much to distract us at every turn). The celebrity status of many well known Christians in America today leads us to head in that direction or at least following in their path, and even if we don’t attain their same level of success (and most of us won’t and don’t), we still want the outward signs of success such as high paying jobs, fancy career titles, upward mobility, and the accolades that go with it to include a nice big house in a popular suburb and hobnobbing with other Christian “up and comers.” After all, nobody wants to be a nobody. And we forget that without warning, life can turn on a dime. We just don’t think it will happen to us.

As of this posting, the National Debt Clock shows that the current US National Debt is chiming in at over 18 trillion dollars. That is unsustainable over the long haul to any nation, and that certainly includes us. The total US debt is over 59 trillion dollars, with a per citizen debt of $186,231, and a per family debt of $729,368. These figures, which are constantly changing, are available here. If we are constantly putting our efforts into acquiring The American Dream,” which is “a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work” as stated back in 1931 (quote source here), that ideal is fading fast, and the facts are clearly before us. And appearances are deceptive.

The attributes Keating assigned to passion and “seizing the day” back in 1959 at the fictional Walton Academy included “poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” Nowhere stated in his comment to his students is the quest for material possessions or running after “The American Dream.” He was talking about elements that are timeless; that won’t run out when the National Debt Clock finally stops ticking.

God calls us to look beyond the material to the eternal. “Seizing the day” doesn’t mean trying to keep hold of our houses or our jobs or our status in society. It means letting Him have everything that we own, everything that we think we want in our lives, everything we hope to become, and laying it at His altar. If we do this without holding anything back, He will give us what He desires for us, and use us in ways we cannot imagine; and it might not look like anything we think it should look like from our “Americanized” viewpoint on life.

If we look over the list above of the Old and New Testament folks who made a impact on their world, it wasn’t by their own choosing. It was by God’s choosing. And it wasn’t in the “outward trappings” of their societies, but in a heart devoted to God. Often in Christian circles in America we live with a divided heart–what we want versus what God wants for us. And at some point the two will collide, just like at some point the National Debt Clock will finally stop ticking.

“Seizing the day” has nothing to do with “The American Dream” or what we can get in this life. It’s focus is outward and not inward; it looks for the good in others and not just focusing on self. In Galatians 6:2-10 we are encouraged to:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Keating instructed his students to “find their own voice.” As Christians, our voice is tied in with God’s voice. We are His instruments in this world, and we should be seeking His will and not our own. If we are constantly striving for the things in this world, we will miss what it is God wants us to do. And the longer we put off listening to Him, the less likely we will ever hear His voice at all . . .

Don’t let that happen to you . . . .

Seize the Day . . . .

YouTube Video: “Seize the Day” (A Tribute to Robin Williams) by Melodysheep:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Carpe Diem – Seize the Day

Horace, a Roman poet (65 BC – 8 BC), coined the term, Carpe Diem,” which is popularly translated as “Seize the Day”; however, the original phrase (in latin) was actually a bit longer–Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero” – “Seize the Day, putting as little trust as possible in the future” since the future is unforeseen (quote source here).

The phrase was made popular in the 1989 film, Dead Poets Society,” starring Robin Williams as an English instructor at the conservative and aristocratic Welton Academy in Vermont in 1959 who inspires his students through the teaching of poetry regarding the dangers of conformity and going along with the crowd and, instead, to “Seize the Day” by thinking for themselves and not following after the status quo (see my blog post, Risky Business,” for a discussion on this topic).

This same message should be heeded by Christians today regarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ (see my blog post, There Is No Other Gospel). We should not automatically follow after the many “Christian celebrities” that have arrived on the scene in the past few decades just because they call themselves Christian and teach a message you want to hear. While some are quite legitimate, many are not and preach a “different gospel” as addressed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians.

Let’s read what Paul had to say in his opening lines in his letter to the Galatians: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all [emphasis mine]. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-10).

1 John 4:1 (MSG) clearly states, “My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.” And, there is a huge crowd of folks following after these false teachers and false prophets in our world today.

So how do we become discerning Christians so as not to be easily duped by the many different messages being thrown at us from all directions in our society? Romans 12:1-2 has the answer, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

We are admonished to no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world, so let’s start with the physical aspect of these two verses. When was the last time you thought about offering your body as a living sacrifice to God as a spiritual act of worship? And what exactly does that mean? It means that everything we do with our bodies should be done with the knowledge that our bodies, while given to us, belong to God (if we are Christian) and everything we do with them should be God-honoring. That should give us pause for thought every single day as to how we are treating our bodies regarding how we eat, how we dress, how we physically interact with others, how we take care of it or how we abuse it.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent most of my life not even considering a lot of the ways in which I abuse my body–for example, by overeating. In the past year I’ve started taking a lot more consideration towards this body of mine and how I can honor God with it and stop abusing and using it for selfish purposes. A big part of that for me has been to stop eating most of the “crap” food I’ve filled it with for so many years (I’m still not perfect at this but much improved from past years) and exercise on a regular, consistent basis (previously, exercise wasn’t even in my vocabulary and was as good a definition for anathema as any I’ve ever known). I now do a 55-minute non-stop exercise DVD pretty much seven days a week (and at least five days a week without question). And I’ve lost 50 lbs so far from my top weight in April 2010, and 35 of it just this past year.

So, give it some thought about how you can start honoring God with your body–yes, your physical body. Ask Him to give you wisdom to know what to do. He’ll give it to you if you are really serious (see James 1:5-8).

Now let’s address the second part of these two verses–being transformed by the renewing of our mind. There is only one way to stop being conformed by this world and all of its messages and start being transformed by the renewing of our mind and that’s through daily prayer (literally talking to God through His Son, Jesus Christ) and reading the Bible (really reading–meditating–and not just blowing it off quickly as something we have to do). Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The Message Bible states it like this, “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.”

Recently, I read an excellent devotion by Dr. Charles Swindoll regarding this very topic of spending time with God and I want to share it with you:

Time With God

Exodus 3

I was raised to believe in the importance of a “quiet time” . . . .

The Scriptures are replete with references to the value of waiting for the Lord and spending time with Him. When we do, the debris we have gathered during the hurried, busy hours of our day gets filtered out. With the debris out of the way, we are able to see things more clearly and feel God’s nudgings more sensitively.

When David wrote, “Wait for the LORD: be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14), he was intimately acquainted with what that meant. When he admitted, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1), it was not out of a context of unrealistic theory. The man was hurting, in great pain.

Time with God? Who experienced its value more than Job after losing it all? Remember his confession? What makes it even more remarkable is that he stated it while surrounded by those who accused him: “But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:10-12).

That’s it! That is exactly what occurs when we remove ourselves from the fast track and keep our appointment with Him who made us. What great thoughts He has for us, what insights, what comfort, what reassurance!

And the best part of all is that such divine breakthroughs come so unexpectedly. Though you and I may have met in solitude with God morning after morning, suddenly there comes that one day, like none other, when He reveals His plan . . . and we are blown away.

Understand, those phenomenal moments are the exception, not the rule. If God spoke to us like that on an everyday basis, burning bushes would be as commonplace as traffic lights and ringing phones. Fact is, never again in all of time has the voice of God been heard from a bush that refused to be consumed with flames. You see, God is into original works, not duplicated recordings.

But never doubt it; He still longs to speak to waiting hearts . . . hearts that are quiet before him.

Keep your daily appointment with God.
It’s the one meeting you can’t afford to miss.
Don’t be late!

Source: Day by Day by Dr. Charles Swindoll, p. 174
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000

So what are you waiting for?

Go out there and SEIZE THE DAY!!!

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