Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts from Life

Fulfilling True Religion

What comes to mind when you think of your “Christian duty”?

We can all probably come up with a long list of ways we are pressured to do our duty by the world around us, whether our society or the church as a whole. Love everyone and do not judge are two common, general ones. But, there are also several ways to serve that are encouraged and emphasized within the body of believers.

– Be a foster parent and/or adopt. There are thousands of children who have nowhere to go, and it is our Christian duty to care for orphans in their distress.
– Give to a long list of ministries. All of them are good, and they are worthy of your money.
– Serve in a homeless shelter or food kitchen, or find some other way to volunteer in a way that ministers to the less fortunate.
– Engage in prison ministry.
– Go on a short-term mission trip.
– Move to the mission field, whether it be among a specific social group in your own country or overseas.

I’ll stop there, but the list could go on and on and on. You are probably already thinking of several to add to the list, whether they are services you engage in or some you have been “encouraged” to be a part of.

Now, before I go any further, let me just emphasize that we are all called to serve. In some way, shape, form, or fashion, we are meant to surrender our all to the leadership of the Lord Jesus Christ, becoming His bondservants and serving for His glory. That means sacrifice. That means a measure of discomfort. That means being stretched and grown.

But the truth is that none of us was meant to serve in every single capacity. We have to prayerfully select what ministry to support with the finances God has entrusted to us because we do not have limitless cash flow. There are times when we cannot open our homes to foster care or adoption simply because God is using our homes or our families for other purposes. And just because we are serving in a ministry that is not widely visible does not mean we have to also step into a food kitchen or a prison just because that is the currently socially acceptable means of service within the culture or our Christian communities.

Yet, we are often made to feel guilty because we do not share the passion of others around us. We may quietly give financially to numerous ministries, but we’re not going on mission trips. Or, we may serve weekly in a crisis pregnancy center, but we’ve never adopted a child. Or our ministry might look completely different, not matching the norm in any way. Yet we feel torn in a gazillion different directions and fear we are not doing enough simply because we do not respond to every passion.

I will go ahead and dare to say that sometimes “Christian duty” is trumped by the way God is currently using our energies.

Please hear me when I say that I am not giving any of us license to make excuses. If we find ourselves constantly making excuses for why we are not actively participating in an area of service, then we are being disobedient. Plain and simple. But, sometimes we don’t have to offer the excuses because we know in our hearts we are right where God has told us to be. We are serving Him in obedience, even when it does not fit into the picture of service that society or our community has created. They might not understand, but that’s okay. We can just say no, knowing – because we have an active relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ – that we are living and acting in full submission to His lordship.

My friend, the biblical commands to give, serve, care for orphans and widows in their distress, and take the Gospel to the ends of the earth will not always fit into a societal mold. Sometimes it will look strange. Sometimes it will be odd. Sometimes it will be misunderstood. And, it might be that no one else shares our passion; that we have to settle for being supported in faith by the community rather than actively working alongside others in our community. Our job is not to fit a mold. Our job is to serve in obedience. Our job is to make sure that we are actively responding to God’s instruction, not society’s expectations.

What does your obedience look like today?

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts, Thoughts from Life

Joy in the Doing

I didn’t want to sit down to write tonight.

I’m tired.

Between school and work, my brain has been stretched greatly this week.

My back and shoulders are tight.

I honestly just wanted to curl up on the couch and read or watch TV. Instead, here I am writing.

Is it because I feel I have to? Nope. That’s not it. It is my blog, created to be an outlet for the thoughts that swirl around in my mind. While I do, as I have mentioned many times, think better when I tap out my thoughts into coherent written form, I do not feel like I have to write on my blog. Especially when I do have other outlets for writing.

So, why am I writing tonight, even though I did not feel like it?

Because I really do find joy in it. I might not think so at the beginning when I am tired and would rather do something more brainless. But once I get into it, I am always glad I did. Already, less than 200 words in to this post, I feel better.

Spiritual discipline works much the same way.

Any believer in Christ knows that this life is hard work. It takes constant effort to stay on top in the spiritual warfare that rages all around us. Sometimes we just do not want to exert the energy necessary to be obedient. To be disciplined. To be Christ-like. To allow the fruit of the Spirit to shine through us.

And honestly, we have the choice. We can “relax.” We can determine that we just need a break.

But we’ll regret it.

If I had not decided to sit down and write tonight, I would be disappointed tomorrow morning when it was time for a post to go live and there was not one to publish. And it would be that much harder to sit down and write next time.

A choice to “rest” from spiritual discipline has an infinitely more profound effect. Instead of feeling rested, we feel weighed down. Instead of relaxing and being refreshed, we find ourselves depressed and struggling. Instead of making our load lighter, we struggle with obedience that much more.

Until the day we join our Savior in eternity, there will always be something we are neglecting to just buckle down and do. There will always be some area requiring more discipline. And it will always be a challenge to take that step and just do it.

But as soon as we do, we know the joy of obedience and discipline. And, oh, what joy there is to have!

Will it always be easy? No.

Will we really have the energy? Not hardly.

Will the sailing get smoother the farther we go? No, it won’t. There will always be something more challenging around the next corner.

We’ll still be tired. We’ll still want a break. But oh will we have the joy!

What discipline can you exercise today? Yes, today, at the end of the week when you’re tired and just don’t want to do anything. It is worth it! Will you choose to buckle down and do it?

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts, Thoughts from Scripture

Obedience of the Small

During my time in the religion department at Ouachita Baptist University, I had the privilege of taking a biblical interpretation course. Dr. Hays taught us to take a passage and see its layers. Simply by reading, reading again, and reading yet again, he showed us how new details could stand out to us even when we thought we had exhausted every avenue of thought in a verse or passage.

Noticing Details

I have not always exercised that developed eye for details, keeping it in shape to see the depths Dr. Hays taught us to see. Even so, there are times when things jump out at me because I have learned to take a second, third, and fourth look at passages.

Take this verse, for instance:

So they established a decree to circulate a proclamation throughout all Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to celebrate the Passover to the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem. For they had not celebrated it in great numbers as it was prescribed. 2 Chronicles 30:5

This continues the story of Hezekiah we discussed a couple of weeks ago. The people have been purified, and they are ready to celebrate a nation-wide Passover for the first time in many generations.

So, what stands out to me here? The very end of the verse. “For they had not celebrated it in great numbers as it was prescribed.” (emphasis mine)

Do you know what that means?

Some still celebrated.

Celebration of the Few

The temple had been in various states of disrepair over the decades, and many years passed with priests completely unable to perform their duties. Yet some people still faithfully celebrated the Passover.

How must it have felt year after year for those few? They were being faithful. They were being obedient. Yet I cannot help but think that some of them must have longed for something they had never experienced – a Passover like God’s people held in the very beginning. A Passover with the whole community. A Passover in great numbers.

But they did not let those longings keep them from obedience. They persevered. They celebrated. They worshiped. They persisted in obedience. Even when the great numbers focused their attention and energy elsewhere.

We have no details showing us how life was for the small numbers who continued in worship. There is no story chronicling their faithfulness. They are not mentioned at all until this moment, and even here it is just a passing statement that only infers their existence.

What About Us?

It is not glorious to obey in small numbers. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is lonely. It is challenging. It goes unnoticed.

But it is worth it.

Are your numbers small right now? Obey anyway. Do you feel isolated? Stand strong anyway. Is obedience challenging? Obey anyway.

The world may never notice. History may never record your perseverance. But it is worth it. Keep going! The day will come when the great numbers will join you. And I guarantee your joy will be complete in that day!

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts, Thoughts from Scripture

Leading the Leaders

The reign of Hezekiah has always thrilled me. If I had to pick a favorite king of Judah, he would be the one. After generations of sinfulness and disobedience, Hezekiah decides to do it right.

He wastes no time beginning reforms.

In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites and gathered them into the square on the east. Then he said to them, “Listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place. 2 Chronicles 29:3-5

Who’s in Charge?

There is something I find interesting in this story. Hezekiah instructs the priests and Levites right here in the very beginning. Yet all through the reforms, a certain theme is repeated:

But the priests were too few, so that they were unable to skin all the burnt offerings; therefore their brothers the Levites helped them until the work was completed and until the other priests had consecrated themselves. For the Levites were more conscientious to consecrate themselves than the priests. 2 Chronicles 29:34

For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month, 3 since they could not celebrate it at that time, because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient numbers, nor had the people been gathered to Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 30:3-4

Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth of the second month. And the priests and Levites were ashamed of themselves, and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the house of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 30:15

For Hezekiah king of Judah had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep, and the princes had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep; and a large number of priests consecrated themselves. 2 Chronicles 30:24

Do you see the progression here?

– Hezekiah initiated.
– Some of the religious leaders responded, but not all.
– The people responded in greater numbers.
– The religious leaders slowly came around, feeling convicted because of the response of the people.

There are a couple of lessons to learn from this.

First, our positions mean something! Hezekiah should not have been the initiator. The people should not have been ahead of the priests and Levites. It was their job to instruct the king and be spiritual leaders for the people. They failed and then had to play catch-up when they should have been leading.

Fortunately, others stepped up! This leads directly to the second lesson.

Don’t wait for the “right” person to act! Leaders do not always lead as they should. Sometimes they get complacent. That does not give followers an excuse. Sometimes people must be willing to motivate their leaders to action.

You might not see yourself as a leader, but you still have no excuse. If you are choosing to sit around and do nothing simply because your leaders are not acting, then you are living in sin. You are jointly responsible. And you are capable of instigating a change!

The priests should have been the ones to direct the king and mobilize the Levites. The Levites should have been the ones to teach the people, stirring them to action. Instead, Hezekiah pushed the priests and Levites. Then he stirred the people to action. The Levites got a more decent start than the priests, but it was only the amazing responsiveness of the people that truly lit a fire under the sluggish priests. The ones who should have started everything were the last to respond.

Where will you and I fall? May we be the first!