Faithful or religious?

re·li·gious adjective \ri-ˈli-jəs\

: of or relating to religion

: believing in a god or a group of gods and following the rules of a religion

: very careful to do something whenever it can or should be done

faith·ful adjective \ˈfāth-fəl\

: having or showing true and constant support or loyalty

: deserving trust : keeping your promises or doing what you are supposed to do

Earlier today someone posted the question to me as to whether it is better to be faithful or religious, or if they were in fact the same thing.

My knee-jerk answer is absolutely it’s better to be faithful, and no, these two are not synonyms despite many seeming to use them as such.

Of course, I will explain.

Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful, And fully repays the proud person.  Psalm 31:23

Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.  1 Corinthians 4:2

There are over 130 uses of the word “faithful” within the Bible.  Most, as expected, refer to the faithfulness of God to His people and in keeping His word.  The remaining uses of the word refer to those that are found to lack faithfulness and therefore require chastening from the Lord, or those that are found faithful to reward.

His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’  Matthew 25:21

Conversely, if you search for uses of the word “religious” within the Bible, you will come up with a whopping four uses.  Two if theses that came up in my search are not even Scriptures but rather, headers that were added within the chapters for ease of use and reference.  That leaves a mere two verses!  The first one is in Acts 17 where Paul is addressing the Athenians to share the Gospel, stating that he knows them to be religious in all things.  The second drives home the difference between faithfulness and religion though:

If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless  James 1:26

That verse alone is pretty clear.  But when one takes a step back to look at the verse before, it becomes even clearer:

But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.  James 1:25

So we’re admonished to “continue in” and to be “a doer of the work.”  Sounds like that could just as easily be translated as “be faithful” if you ask me.  Followed by a warning not to rely on being religious.

So why’s being religious a bad thing?

While it is now recognized as a word that refers to things pertaining to a system of beliefs and of faith, but one cannot overlook the fact that it also refers to a methodical system for doing something; a ritual if you will.

Before I go further, let’s take a look at the word used in Acts 17:22 in the original Greek.

δεισιδαίμων at best is pious or religious, at worst, superstitious.

I am religious about my morning consumption of coffee.  If I do not consume adequate amounts, I find it hard to type straight at times, and type much slower than normal.  This can border on a superstition in that it is my belief that coffee helps me communicate better earlier in the morning.  The thing with superstitions is that they are beliefs held by people which are not necessarily based on fact.  I can assert to my coffee consumption being a religious action/ superstition because I know there have been many times where I did not consume caffeine in the morning and yet, was able to type and communicate just as normal.

Yet on the other hand, I strive to be faithful in my attendance at church, my daily reading of the Bible and in prayer.  Rather than just following a hollow routine, it takes effort to be consistently faithful.  It’s a conscious decision.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  Luke 9:23

It’s a daily choice that you must make when you wake up.  Are you going to go through the day, filling it with motions that in the end are meaningless, or are you going to chose to stand for something more?

Matthew West: The Motions

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I’d prefer sticks and stones

We all know the school yard saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  It’s a lie.

When bones are broken, they heal.  In most cases, there is no residual sign of there ever having been a break.  The same cannot be said true of words.  While words leave no physical sign of their presence, (talking long term signs, not crying for a few minutes, etc,) there is also nothing that can directly be done to heal and repair the damage.  Once they’ve gone out, there is no recall button, and you most certainly cannot delete the experience from the memory of another.

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
James 3:8

So what’s got me riled up over something that seems so obvious?  I was the recipient of a message recently that caught me very off guard, set me on edge, physically upset me, and sent me questioning myself.

So, before I post the message itself here, a little background info.

My husband’s grandmother is on social media.  She got a tablet earlier this year and so, initially got sucked into it by the flash games, but eventually took to it due to the ability to ‘check up on people’ (paraphrase of her words, not mine.)  At some point in time, we ceased being “friends.”  Being part of the generation that was raised with technology, I am comfortable enough with social media to understand the ins and outs; how to “unfriend” from news feed or from their page.  Using something for an extended period of time will foster such a level of comfort and understanding.  So when it became clear to me that we were no longer “friends,” it seemed fairly logical to me that the “unfriending” likely happened on her end.

Now, I have heard of the “bug” that randomly “unfriends” people.  In some digging, however, I am not so convinced that it’s as rampant as some wish to claim.  (It does make a good cover for those that genuinely wish to stop seeing posts that they deem annoying but do not wish to deal with the confrontation that may come from being called on “unfriending” when the other party asked what they did and wishes to make amends.)  In this situation, I never doubted that it was an accident, regardless of how it happened.  Never once did the thought that it was actually malicious cross my mind.  I’ve known her nearly as long as I have my husband and have always gotten along with her.  So I didn’t think there would be any harm in joking with her some about the event before confirming the resent “friend” request.

I see that you want to be friends again… but I’m not accepting until you tell me what I did to make you remove me in the first place.

I’d think that anyone that has known me for any amount of time, would not take that as serious under any circumstances.  Putting aside the fact that the use of the emoticon with the tongue (by internet protocol) makes the joking intent clear to anyone that has been online for any length of time.  Evidently I was gravely wrong because two hours later I received her response.

I did not remove you! I have two friends that I didn’t request to be friends but somehow a request was sent them when I was scrolling their pages. These things happen which I’m sure you know. If you’re done with me that’s your choice but I won’t play these kind of games with you when the person who would be hurt and put in the middle is [my husband].

Once I read that, I remember blinking a few times and putting down my cell as my stomach churned. I had been hungry moments before, (logical since I hadn’t eaten all day to that point- about 2pm,) but that hunger had evaporated.  For the first few minutes it felt as though I had just been kicked in the gut.  I didn’t know what to think or say.  Eventually I told my husband about it and read her comment to him before telling him how her response made me feel.

Within a few minutes I was asking him if I was wrong.  Was I the one that, in fact, was overreacting?  Was I the one that was making this into a big deal?  Was I seeing something where there was in fact, nothing?  He reassured me that it wasn’t me, but that wasn’t enough for my brain.  It actually wasn’t until yesterday afternoon that it seemed to finally click with me as to why this affected me so much.

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
Matthew 12:34b

Hate to admit that it took me almost 24 hours to realize that was the heart of why her response hurt me so much.

To elaborate, I realized that the person that I thought I presented to the world is one that is loving, easy going, friendly, quick to take an opportunity to joke and consistent.  Her response made me realize that clearly, that’s not what she has seen from me, evidently.  It seems that she has instead, seen someone that is judgmental, quick to cut people off entirely, spiteful, derisive, and looking to drive a wedge between my husband and his family.  I spent the most of yesterday questioning whether or not my own view of myself could possibly be so far askew from the reality of what she experienced.

For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
1 Corinthians 11:31

In the end, the only thing that I found going through my head was:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

And suddenly it made sense to me why it was the man that had to do the leaving.  Women are drama.  (Okay, stop laughing, I know it’s obvious.)  But truly, where there are women, there is drama.  But if, by chance there is none, just give it time and they will create it.  Bringing a new woman into a family structure creates a power struggle where each one must complete against the others to assert their power and importance.  Especially when there is a man that is being “competed” for.

But God directs the man to step away and be joined with his wife.  Not to have her mesh into his family, but to have him create his own family with his wife (the two become one,) thereby becoming more a part of her family than it appears she would become of his family that he left.

So before long, I understood that the problem was on her end.  She had an issue with me where I saw none.

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5:23-24

I want to be reconciled with her, but right now, I truly am not sure how to go about that.  Later in the evening after getting her message, I wanted to reply, but I felt I needed to gird my tongue or well, in this case, fingers. (Proverbs 21:23).  I couldn’t bring myself to respond directly to her comments because escalating things is not something I ever care to do, but I also felt that I couldn’t reply with anything along the lines of, ‘I’m not sure you realize what you’ve said, but know you’re forgiven,” because I felt that that as well could escalate things.  So I remained silent and just “confirmed” the request.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about how last night would go.  It was Bible study, which she had her husband have only rarely missed since starting to attend.  Since she has not always had the best concept of appropriate times and locations for discussions, (she once delayed a women’s Bible study class for several minutes to tell me about a discussion she had with her husband about kittens my husband and I had been fostering,) I was concerned that she would wish to do the same thing last night to clear the air.  While I wasn’t concerned so much about getting things cleared up, I didn’t feel it was something that needed to be discussed in front of close to 20 other people.  Of course I went to God with my concerns, and it turned out I was worried for nothing; they didn’t show up last night, and there was, (I guess not surprisingly,) not text to say they were not going to be there.

Tonight is another women’s study.  As things sit right now, (after last night,) I would be surprised if she shows tonight.  Right now I am concerned that she will use this perceived “issue” as an excuse to not attend Bible study or even church.  Nothing and no one should ever be able to come between your relationship and your obedience to God.

I will say though, that I have already witnessed some good coming from this.  My husband called me this morning just before 6:30 am.  He begins work then, so you can imagine my first question of “What’s wrong?”  He expressed that it seemed as though this whole thing with his grandmother was affecting him physically and asked for me to call her to try and work things out.  I told him that I had thought of going over to their house to talk to her face to face, (because I was concerned that, if she could so easily misunderstand an online communication, I was concerned that the same could happen over the phone,) but I didn’t feel that would be received well.   He concurred, suggested calling to see if it was okay for me to go over and talk to her, and then recanted.

He started to open up about his own frustration with his family; not just his grandmother, but his own mother as well.  He explained how their obsession with protecting him and trying to make sure that nothing hurt anyone within the family was actually causing more pain.  Then he said that he personally (not wanted,) but needed to talk to her about it.  I hadn’t thought it possible, but in that moment, I think I started to love him a bit more.

but, speaking the truth in love,
Ephesians 4:15a

We cannot hide in a hole our entire lives, afraid of causing a hurt or for fear of being hurt.  Hurts will happen in this life.  We are all human and we all make mistakes.  They are unavoidable.  What makes the difference is how one responds.  Will you lash back, or will you seek to cover the transgression with love, showing compassion and continuing on?

He who covers a transgression seeks love,
But he who repeats a matter separates friends.
Proverbs 17:9

Because hurt is inevitable, that is not permission to conduct yourself as the bull in a china shop, (despite Mythbusters debunking).  We should always still conduct ourselves in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord and shows love for others.  But you must still live and fulfill the mission that God has for you.  Just pack a box of band-aids.

 

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Must be counter-intuitive

I’m having one of those nights were it’s very hard for me to not seek someone out just so that I can rant about what’s rolling through my head; what’s been rolling through my head most of the day.

Yes, I am going to “pick on” Catholicism yet again.  (Blame Yahoo for running another story about Francis’ latest statement.)

“The Church, all of us should divest ourselves of worldliness,” a visibly emotional pope said, adding: “Worldliness is a murderer because it kills souls, kills people, kills the Church.”
“Without divesting ourselves, we would become pastry shop Christians, like beautiful cakes and sweet things but not real Christians,” he said.

So, I know that this is going to sound insane but, for the sake of argument, let’s consider this thought.

Lead. By. Example.

I am not saying that I do not agree with his statement that the things of the world should absolutely not be the focus of the church.  I agree entirely with that.  My complaint is that it is fine and dandy for him to say anything he wants from his position of power and influence.  I will even commend him for staying in a cheaper abode than the palatial residence usually enjoyed by the Pope.

But just not using it, does not mean that he is working toward a church that has left worldliness behind.

A much louder statement would be a papal decree ordering that all gold, silver and gemstones be stripped of the idols within each and every Catholic church around the world so that they may be used in tangible expressions of love to those that are hurting and in need.  I have no doubt that between Compassion International’s Water of Life filter and the worldly contents of even just a few cathedrals virtually everyone on the globe would have clean drinking water, (unless for some reason, they refused the gift.)

Words are empty without actions to back them up, and if you want someone to follow, then you must first be willing to lead by example.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
1 John 2:15-16

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Matthew 6:24

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

 

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Oh the irony…

So in my reading tonight I came across the term ex cathedra, referring to the “infallibility” of the pope.

Following the link from the Catholic Encyclopedia to the Vatican Counsel in which the ex cathedra was affirmed as doctrine, one will find the following explanation:

“Faithfully adhering, therefore, to the tradition inherited from the beginning of the Christian Faith, we, with the approbation of the sacred council, for the glory of God our Saviour, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion, and the salvation of Christian peoples, teach and define, as a Divinely revealed dogma, that the Roman pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when he, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, decides that a doctrine concerning faith or morals is to be held by the entire Church he possesses, in consequence of the Divine aid promised him in St. Peter, that infallibility with which the Divine Saviour wished to have His Church furnished for the definition of doctrine concerning faith or morals; and that such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not in consequence of the Church’s consent, irreformable.”

Now bearing that in mind, let’s turn to the scripture that is always cited as being the basis for the line of popes and the authority of Rome

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18

In order to understand the true meaning of this verse, however, we need to take a look at the original Greek for “this” which was ταύτῃ.

5026. taute tow’-tay, and tauten tow’-tane, and tautes tow’-tace dative case, accusative case and genitive case respectively of the feminine singular of 3778; (towards or of) this:–her, + hereof, it, that, + thereby, the (same), this (same).

Last I checked, Peter was not a female.  So what possibly, would “this” in that statement refer to?  Let’s look back two verses.

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 16:16-17

That which is being referred to and is feminine?  Peter’s confession that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God.  This is the stone upon which the entirety of the church has been built for without that fact, there is no church.

 

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Attention to detail

Last night was Bible study.  For the last few months, we’ve been making our way through Exodus and last night, we finally got to chapter 30.

Until yesterday, the last time I had read this particular chapter was some time back in the first part of the year with the “Bible in a year” plan I have been working through.  Before the study itself though, I skimmed through the chapter so that I could figure out a fitting verse to upload on the church’s social media page.  I remember when I was skimming that my eyes danced over the portion of verse 3 where Moses was directed that they should “make for it a molding of gold all around.”  “It” in this chapter, of course, referring to the altar of incense for the Tabernacle.

At the time, however, my attention focused in on the fact that Aaron was to burn incense and morning and evening when the lampstand was tended.  Which after a short time lead me to Psalm 55:16-17

As for me, I will call upon God.
And the Lord shall save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
I will pray, and cry aloud,
And He shall hear my voice.

So hours passed and eventually it came time to sit down and get back into Exodus chapter 30.  Again, the molding jumped out at me.  I thought for a moment and quickly flipped back, skimming over the other items of the Tabernacle until I got back to the Ark of the Covenant, or the ark of Testimony.  From my skimming, it seemed as though the altar of incense and the ark were the only two items with molding.  I knew at that time, that there was something to that similarity, but then was not the time to try and figure it out as I was already starting to fall behind the discussion.  So I highlighted molding in both chapter 30 and 25 (where it’s in reference to the ark,) and made a mental note to look into it later when time, (and proximity of the Interlinear and Concordance) allowed.

So the first thing that I did this morning was pull up Bible Gateway and search for “molding.”  The results cam quickly as there are only ten instances of that word appearing in the entirety of the Bible, all of which are in the Old Testament, and all of which are within Exodus.

Reading through the ten verses showed me that I was close, but not quite in my first through.  I was missing one item for the Tabernacle that had molding on it; the table of Showbread with it’s frame.

So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is the fact that of all the items made for the Tabernacle, only three of them were directed to have molding.  Now, everything in the Old Testament foreshadows things to come in the New.  In order to make sure that this post doesn’t turn into a tome of its own, however, I will be as brief as I can in going through these three items.

Now we all know about the ark of the Covenant, or the ark of the Testimony.  What bears mentioning here is that the cover on it was called the mercy seat.  This was constructed of pure gold (symbolizing not only purity obviously, but deity,) and had two cherubs on it, each at one end of the mercy seat.

And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
John 20:12

So there is a clear relationship between what was seen by Mary and what the Israelis had been directed to build.  And to make the point even clearer:

And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony  about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.
Exodus 25:22

So yes, essentially, the mercy seat was a representation of the Throne of God

So then, what’s the deal with the table of Showbread?  This was a table that was constructed to hold 12 loaves of bread (think of any reason 12 would stand out?) which would be replaced every Sabbath, but were to constantly be present within the Tabernacle.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
Matthew 26:26

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
John 6:32-33

Shouldn’t have to say anything more about that one.  So, onto the altar of incense.

Throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testament, incense represents prayers of the saints, the believers.

Let my prayer be set before You as incense,
The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
Psalm 141:2

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lam, each having a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Revelation 5:8

So here’s where the Interlinear Bible comes into play.  I went through and looked up the original Hebrew word for each of the ten occurrences of molding.  Each of them were the same original word, zer.  (The e is supposed to have a tilde above it, but without swapping to the international keyboard, it doesn’t seem that I can get that specific accent.)  Anyway, by looking up the number associated with it in the concordance, you get this bit of information:

a chaplet (as spread around the top), i.e. specifically a border moulding:- crown.

It’s that last part that really got me.  Crown.

Of course God and Jesus have crowns.  They are οὗτος. But for the altar of incense to have a crown as well when it has a direct correlation to the believers themselves? Well-

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Romans 8:14-17

Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.
Revelation 3:10-11

But wait! It’s the holy trinity… not just two and us feeble humans. Aah, but the Holy Spirit is there also-

“Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight he shall burn incense on it; a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations.
Exodus 30:7-8

How do you burn incense, but with fire. It’s the fire that represents the presence of the Holy Spirit within these three items. As the Holy Spirit dwells within us, it also is pivotal in our prayer life.

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Romans 8:26

So there you have it. One little word, but with so much impact.

 

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♫♪♫ Jesus Christ is on your side ♫♪♫

I realized earlier today that fits perfectly with the Nationwide jingle, which I find rather ironic because well, that’s what it seems many treat Him as; an insurance policy.

We all know those that when put on the spot and asked, will say, “Sure, I know Jesus, and He’s my savior,” but the remainder of the time, act as they always have, showing no outward signs of an inward change having taken place.  Could very well be that I am speaking of you.  (I know I myself was guilty of the above in my life.)

It’s as though they feel protected by having taken a single moment to pray for forgiveness but feel no need to really be changed and instead, continue as they had before, believing that because they told God they’re a sinner and need help, that they’re good.

What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not!  How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
Romans 6:1-2

You know the ones.  When life is good, you never hear them utter a word about prayer or church, but once they scrape along rock bottom for an inch or two, turn back to God and ask for guidance and help.

He’s not an insurance policy that you purchase, set aside, and only call on in case of emergency, and He is most certainly not a life insurance policy that you purchase while alive and only see the benefit of once you die.

“But why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”
Luke 6:46

See that?  It’s pretty simple, really.  If He is truly Lord in your life, you do the things He says, follow His example, and have a regular relationship with Him, thereby showing your love of the Lord.

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
John 14:15

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome.
1 John 5:3

But be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
James 1:22

“You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.  Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
John 13:13-17

The blessings don’t come merely by knowing of Jesus.  Even Richard Dawkins has heard of him.  The blessings come by following His example and living for Him.  By taking the steps necessary to move from being a sedentary hearer into the realm of actively doing.  Sure, if I stay inside, out of traffic, away from obnoxious drivers, I am most certainly not hating people (thereby committing murder in my heart because of the mere thought, Matthew 5:28) but I am far from showing God’s love for people.  After all, we were not charged with abstaining from becoming aggravated with others, but rather, to love others.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
Luke 9:23-24

So yes, it is a daily choice that each must make as to which master will be served each and every morning; the world or the Lord.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammom.
Matthew 6:24

Pretty cut and dried.  Not to be taken lightly as one does when they get an insurance policy.  Once the coverages and deductibles are set, the premium is oftentimes set up on a direct payment method, (just for the additional discount that grants,) and then not given a second thought.

Rather similar to those that realize at one point that they need God and willingly accept the gift of His salvation through the blood of Christ.  They will even confess their transgressions to God and, for a time, attempt to reconcile themselves not only with the Almighty, but also with others.  Soon, however, the premiums of regular fellowship with other believers, reading of the Bible, and prayer seem to be too expensive a price to pay.

What happens when you don’t pay your insurance premium?

Your policy lapses and no longer has effect.

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place- unless you repent.”
Revelation 2:4-5

If I regard iniquity in my heart,
The Lord will not hear.
Psalm 66:18

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.
Isaiah 59:1-2

It’s a daily choice to follow Christ.  We are called children of God, and as with earthly children and their parents, there is regular communication and fellowship.  It is not to be any different between us and our Heavenly Father.

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
Matthew 22:37

The reality of the situation is that once you fully grasp what Jesus did for you on the cross, it is completely life altering and there is no way you can, (or certainly even wish,) to go back to the way things were before God.  Being on fire for God comes naturally.

You begin to see fellowship, both with other believers, and with your Savior as something that you look forward to actively participating in instead of something that you view more as a job that you are required to check into and punch a time clock at.  It’s the life altering difference between “have to” and “get to.”

“Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Matthew 7:14

“So the last will be first, and the first last.  For many are called, but few chosen.”
Matthew 20:16

“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Matthew 22:14

“For God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
John 3:16-17

So again, it’s pretty clear.  God desires for all to be saved through His Son, Jesus, but clearly expresses that while He calls to everyone, not everyone will heed His call and find the narrow path to salvation.  One of the reasons not many make it to the narrow path is that they treat God as an insurance policy instead of as Abba, Father.

He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.
Matthew 12:30

“I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
John 15:5

This is not a situation where you are able to sit on the edge of the pool dangling just your feet into the water to obtain the best of both worlds.  This is either all or nothing.  Either you are fully committed to God, or you are still a slave to sin living in the world.  What happens when you try to mix a fresh pot of coffee and ice cubes?  You get melted ice and coffee that is cold in spots, but still hot in others; overall, a beverage that is neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm.

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Revelation 3:16

Sitting on the edge of the pool is not going to cut it.  You’re either sunning yourselves on the lounge chairs, or cannon balling into the deep end shouting for joy all the way in.

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.  Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as the lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
Philippians 2:9-16

See that?  God loved you, the broken sinner that you are, so much that He became sin for you and died so that you may now turn to Him and choose to live.  You do not work to earn your salvation.  It’s already been given freely, the moment that you accept that gift from God.  Instead, you now go out and work because of the gift of grace you have been given.  Paying a monthly premium does not cut it, and God will not be treated as an insurance policy.

 

CPB

 

Two months and counting

Two months ago, I had dinner with a long time friend.  While she thought it would just be two friends getting together to enjoy food and small talk, I freely admit I had ulterior motives going into this.

There were some things that had been eating away at me for a while and I had finally worked up the courage to follow the prodding of that little voice in the back of my mind telling me that something needed to be said.  Whereas I will generally run away from any kind of confrontation, (especially any that does not directly involve me,) this time I was walking right towards it.

I’ve known her since elementary school.  We used to be in the same Girl Scout troop, and went to the same schools all the way through High School.  While we were not always the closest of friends, we were always able to talk to each other.  After High School, as oftentimes happens, we lost track of each other for a number of years.

Over a year ago, she tracked me down on social media and we started talking again.  Messages soon turned into texting which soon turned into regular phone conversations.  We caught up on what we’d done in our lives since High School and where we were now, what was going on in our daily lives, and all the small stuff in between.

It wasn’t too long before she mentioned that in the intervening years she had come to be a follower of Jesus, sometimes went to a good Bible teaching church locally to her, and when she was in my city, attended a church that my husband and I had been attending for a while before falling away from it for, (among other reasons,) a lack of content.

Awesome!  Someone else that I could talk Bible with and get a female’s perspective of different things on.

Several months ago, she ended up relocating to my city.  It took a while, but I was finally able to get her to come out to check out the church that my husband and I had found in the interim; an honest to goodness Bible teaching church with some amazing people to boot.  She was all smiles after as the three of us had lunch together, saying that she had enjoyed it and would “definitely come back again.”

Then she and a guy that she had been on-again off-again with, started talking again and soon, were ‘dating but not going to talk about it because that creates issues.’

Without going into all of the gory details, they were soon involved in a very dangerous relationship and soon essentially living together despite them both possessing their own apartment leases.  Not surprisingly, she suddenly had no time for church.  The amount we communicated dropped dramatically and it became clear that, in her mind, since she had a guy, everything was perfect and she neither needed anyone else, nor especially, God.

Therein lies where the feeling that came over me sprouted from concerning the need to talk to her.

As I mentioned before, I have been working my way through the Self-Confrontation course compiled by the Biblical Counseling Foundation for a while now.  During the few weeks leading up to the eventful dinner, verses kept jumping out at me and bringing to my mind my friend.  Eventually, I started writing these verses down on a note card.  Before long, I had a list of more than twenty verses and could not shake the feeling that something had to be said.  She professed to be a believer.  She was currently living in a very un-biblical way, and I felt as though I would be remiss to allow her to continue down this path without trying to help her turn back to God and do things His way.

And before you cite the core verses of the course, Matthew 7:1-5 asking who am I to say anything about how she lives her life, let me assure you that I have been there, done that, bought and then burnt the shirt.  I am not proud to admit it, but I have been where she is, and know too well the damage that comes from it.  Thankfully, God was strong when I was weak and has helped me past it.  Once I finally accepted that my attempts to run my life were in fact just ruining it and surrendered completely to His will, things began to fall into place.  I soon realized that I may think I know what I want, but He has better than I could ever dream planned.

So anyway, I continually prayed about this impending dinner and studied the verses I had on my note card.  It was clear there was a theme.

“But why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and not do the things which I say?
Luke 6:46

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We dwell come to him and make Our home with him.  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.
John 14:23-24

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him.
1 John 2:3-4

And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
1 John 3:22

They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
Titus 1:16

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Romans 8:5-8

And the list goes on.

I had over 20 verses that I kept seeing over and over that did nothing more than bring her to mind.

So I tried as best I could to discuss with her that I was not judging either her or her boyfriend, but rather, doing my best to be a fruit inspector and that I felt there were several things that she should take a look at, pray about, and seriously consider.  I started by mentioning to her the fruit of the spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

I explained the importance of the fact that the word is fruit, singular, not plural.  That when the Spirit is present, all of those are as well.  Not just one or two.  And then I mentioned what she had told me about her relationship and how nothing pointed to any of the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit.  What she had told me about were lusts, strife, arguments, self-seeking, and the list goes on.

I told her that I had been where she was.  That I had thought I was doing fine running my life on my own, finding my own happiness, but that eventually I came to realize I wasn’t running it, but rather ruining it.  I pointed out to her that it’s not always that you immediately get what you want, but that by following God’s commandments and serving Him, He does provide what you seek.

And whatever we ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
1 John 3:22

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Matthew 6:33

But of course, she didn’t want to hear any of this.  So far as she was concerned, they were going to continue their relationship as they were regardless of what anyone else had to say about it.

I conceded that in the end, it was ultimately her choice and I could not change anything, but that I would have been remiss had I not spoken up, and that I would continue to pray for her.

She stated that they were going to proceed with their intents to purchase a house, (all on her credit,) and would likely at some point get married.  She said that she was perfectly fine with her and her boyfriend seeking out their religious paths together and attempting to find their own way; that they didn’t need help.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:23-25

But by this point, it had become abundantly clear to me that she wanted nothing of what I had to say.  I will, however, give her credit for at least attempting to make it look as though she was listening and containing her eye-rolling for the most part.

As we parted, she said several times that she was not mad at me, and that the way I had addressed her was okay because I had not come off as “preachy and judgmental” as she alleges someone else had done with her when addressing the same things.  But I could see the truth.  She was pissed.  Maybe even livid with me.  But walking in, I knew that this was the likely response.  At one point, I had even addressed that with her stating that I knew what she was hearing was upsetting her but that in reality, she wasn’t mad at me but rather, mad at God.

So a few days ago was her birthday.  I hadn’t spoken to her in any depth since that dinner, and part of me wanted to reach out to he and offer to take her out to dinner for her birthday.

But I didn’t.

The lesson that I began, just days before her birthday, (which curbed my desire to reach out to her to take her out,) was on biblical responses to the sin of another.  Yeah, pretty directed, huh?

But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner- not even to eat with such a person.
1 Corinthians 15:11

But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.
2 Thessalonians 3:6

And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.  Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

So needless to say, I left it at a message wishing her a happy birthday and nothing more.  I know that when this relationship inevitably combusts I will hear from her again, but until then, I can only sit and pray.

 

CPB