how far we’ve come

Category : bible, choice, faith, living a life of faith, reader comments, taking action

It’s hard to believe that R3 is entering its 4th year!  (well technically “calendar year,” R3’s anniversary is in a few months).  I never dreamed that I had enough to say to generate three posts a week.  I find it amazing that I can do that.  But that’s not the only thing that makes this 4th year so remarkable.  It wasn’t that long ago that blogging didn’t exist.

Think about that one for a while!

The internet has been a great technology for growing people’s relationships with God.  There is no other technology that allows someone to write in their spare time in Kansas but influence Christians in Australia, Indonesia, or even China.  Or someone from Africa to influence people in Europe or America.  The internet has had a profound impact on living a life of faith.

While religion blogging is dominated by several “big name” bloggers there has been more than enough room for smaller writers to develop a community.  There are so many talented writers that I could spend an entire day simply surfing the internet reading.  Now if only someone would pay me to do that…

But blogging isn’t the only change.

How we study the Bible has also changed.  I can easily pull up Bible verses and do keyword searches online.  If you own an iPhone you can download Bible apps and get the same thing.  Never before has the Bible been so easy to access.  While I still read a paper version of the Bible every day, I rarely use it for quick searches or to look things up.  It just takes too long.  Digital is the way to go.

And still there is more change.

Even the way we do Bible studies is different.  There are online studies on hundreds of topics.  Churches are giving away much of their own materials away for free.  And now there are “social sites” popping up like EXAMEN.me.  All dedicated to providing high quality Bible studies and devotionals.

There has never been a better time to learn about living out a life of faith.  There has never been a time where so much has been available to so many.  And I, for one, can’t wait to see what the future holds.

As we go into the New Year, here is my challenge to you: find a new way to study the Bible and follow it for the next 30 days.  As you go through it, come back here and let us know how it’s going (I’m opening up the comments).  Did it work?  Was it a disaster?  Did it revolutionize your life?

reader comment: the power of prayer

Category : God, prayer, reader comments, taking action

I got this email from Chris who writes Got-Fruit.net.

Your post [about the power of prayer] has many wonderful thoughts about how we’re to relate to God and others.  I read that the point is; that we should be just as if not more concerned for the spiritual welfare of others as we are about our own necks.

I too have been trying to get into a better habit of writing down prayer requests more often, as well as how they’re answered.  As you mentioned, it’s not to track when God is blessing me, rather to have a broader view of how and when God is working His will; how I’ve been privy to seeing Him work I suppose you might say.

My experience(s) have been that sometimes the Lord’s work in others is done not just for their sake but for mine as well; I’ll get a glimpse of how He’s blessing or working in another person’s life and I then begin to relate & understand better; my relationship with Christ – where I’m faltering or where I might need to add or delete an activity for example, to adjust to the Lord’s will.

Prayer is something that is remarkable.  It’s a unique chance to communicate with God.  We don’t need fancy clothes, special rituals, or a go-between.  We simply need to take the time and say “hey God” and start a conversation.  What’s not to like about that?!

reader comment: will the evildoers never learn

Category : Jesus, faith, living a life of faith, reader comments, sin

Chris, over at Got-Fruit.net, had a good addition to Friday’s post “will the evildoers never learn:”

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1st John 1:9)

Perhaps this is a case of semantics, but I would say that it’s not that we’re captives of sin but rather that as you later say in your post; “it still lingers” ie;  we still struggle with sin even though we’ve been sanctified and justified by the blood of Christ.  In my own experiences as a Christian I can recall being so occupied with being good; not sinning, that I missed the point of Christianity, that Christ has already done all of the work, therefore there’s nothing that I can do to add to it. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

When you enter into a relationship with God, you are most certainly set free from the final bondage of sin (something I should have made more clear in that post).  Yet it seems that on some level we are willing to pick that bondage back up.  We seem to want to be put back into slavery. And the truth is, we do this willingly.

So while we are fully sanctified and justified by the blood of Christ (something I agree with, and believe the Bible teaches, and am grateful to Chris for pointing out) I think we are at least perceptually controlled by sin, if not in actual reality.  And as most psychologists would tell you, perception is reality. We live by how we see the world.

I don’t know where I fall on this fine line of semantics.  Maybe this is just a word game, or maybe it’s meaningful theology.  But what I do know is sin destroys people’s lives.  And if we’re not careful, even though Jesus’ death atones for our sins, we end up living out a life as if it didn’t.

reader comment: trusting God when it seems impossible

Category : bible, faith, reader comments, trust

 

R3 has a lot of amazing readers who often share great insight.  Sometimes I like to post these comments if I think they add something extra to the conversation.  And so once again we have Christopher over at Got-fruit.net with something good to say on the post “trusting God when it seems impossible“:

I’ve probably said it before or in a similar manner but… it’s like each “day” of growing up with God is a progression of trust, boldness, confidence and certainty; qualities that He builds up in our hearts so that we can make the right choices (Christ, Paul & Timothy) vs opting for sinful choices such as those made by Asa, Saul (OT), or Judas. 

Keeping you in prayer that, though the road might be full of challenges and temptations to turn to your own ways, you would continue to trust in the LORD (Proverbs 3:5-6).

It is better to take refuge in the LORD
       than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
       than to trust in princes.  (Psalm 118:8-9)

reader comments: christian bumper stickers

Category : choice, faith, reader comments

 

Every time I touch on the topic of driving I get emails from you guys.  Apparently this is something we can all relate to.  Or maybe we’re just all really, really good drivers on R3! 

So lets take a look at two interesting ideas:  

First up is Christopher from Got-fruit.net who says, “I sometimes wonder myself, how many of those folks sporting a sticker or badge on their cars (or wearing T-Shirts), is actually concerned with being Christ’s ambassador. Or are they more concerned with merely being in on the novelty (merely a group to belong to, or social activity to be active in) of Christianity? A novelty created in part I believe, when the message of “what God is going to do for you” is preached instead of preaching ‘what God has done for us.’

R3 was formed as a place to explore what it means to live out a life of faith.  And this is a great example of that idea.  Do we identify ourselves as Christians because we want to show someone God’s grace and to help people see that they have unsurpassed worth in God’s eyes?  Or do we do it because we want to make a statement for cultural, social, or political reasons? 

Another reader said, “Sometimes I think people who have bumper stickers like that [christian fish, etc...] feel entitled to driver poorly because they have ‘god on their side’ but maybe I’m wrong.

There’s a theme, I think, that runs through both of these comments.  And it can be summed up in one word: entitlement.  Is there a time that we Christians begin believing we are entitled to something?  Maybe it’s entitlement to a political or social statement.  Maybe it’s entitlement to protection from accidents. 

But I believe Christians should be the least entitled people on the planet.  Everything we receive comes from a gift of grace.  How can we ever feel entitled from that?  How can we ever act in a way that doesn’t reflect that grace and forgiveness back to people?

So what do you guys think?  What do bumper stickers really mean?  Is it an act of entitlement?  Or is it a statement of faith, meant to bring people into a relationship with Jesus?  Let me hear your comments in the thread.

 

the “best of” R3

Category : God, R3, different, faith, reader comments, sharing faith

  

It’s hard to believe we’re into our first day of 2009.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago everyone was sure the world was going to end because of Y2K.  And now we approach the close of the next decade.  So before we close the 2008 R3 season, let’s take a look at some of the more popular posts:

Top 5 Reader Posts

  1. My “about” page – this is by far and away the most popular page on R3
  2. what I’m reading: unChristian – a book that shapes how I approach R3
  3. prayer thursday: courage – the most popular R3 page in Google
  4. what I’m reading: Chasing Daylight – Erwin McManus has a profound impact over my life and this blog
  5. prayer thursday: God’s strength, our weakness – this seems very appropriate considering 2008

My Favorite 5 posts

  1. i’m a Christian because of the money – No.  Seriously.  I am. 
  2. redemption: finding the way home – any time you can tie Darth Vader and the Bible together, you have a winning combination!
  3. what I’m watching: RockTV – if Christians used humor like RockTV more than Bible Thumping, more people would be willing to talk to us when we showed up at their door
  4. love your enemy (and fellow drivers) – I haven’t stopped thinking about this post since the day I wrote it, talk about living out a life of faith…
  5. what’s the point? – always a good question to ask yourself

reader comment: king of the hill

Category : God, failure, faith, reader comments, sin

 

I’d like to say that I’m home after a few weeks of travel. But I’m actually back on the road. Which is nice because where I live it’s snowing and where I am its 70 degrees. You have to love that! So while I’m on the road I want to take care of a little housekeeping and expand upon an interesting idea.

Christopher sent in an email about the king of the hill post.

The part of your post that I really wanted to comment on though is about being an individual and learning to submit to authority. From my own experiences in Christ, I have to say that once we do start to practice submitting to authority for the sake of the Lord, it has been for me, another one of those new found freedoms in Christ that you begin to experience. You’re no longer weighed down by thoughts and feelings to “defend” your ground, or to come up with arguments of justification for your actions.

Practice. It’s something I usually don’t’ associate with living out a life of faith. But you know what? I think that’s a great way of looking at it. It’s very rare that we instantly become people who can live in perfect faith. Usually it takes weeks, if not years, to overcome some of our sinful behaviors.

I think this is one of the most dangerous times of being a Christian. When we become frustrated that we aren’t changing as fast as we should be, we run the risk of giving up. We can become so upset that we keep making the same mistake we wonder, “will I ever be able to overcome this?” It’s easy to say we’re never going to overcome our selfishness, our lust, our greed, and so we give up.

But if we look at it from a practice perspective, things change. Our weaknesses no longer become impossible to overcome. Instead they represent a chance to learn and try again. In the book, God is closer than you think, John Ortberg has a prayer that simply says, “God I’m sorry I failed, please help me start again.”

God can never change our hearts if we’re running away from him because we see ourselves as failures. But he can radically change us if we keep getting back up and saying, “God, I failed, help me to stand up and try again.” This is the balance between truth and grace.

Maybe it’s true what they say: practice makes perfect.

reader comment: right where I need to be

1

Category : God, R3, bible, failure, hope, reader comments

   

Not to sound melodramatic but I think there’s a moment (possibly several) in a person’s life where they question if what they are doing is worthwhile.  Is the project you’re working on meaningful?  Is the business you’ve started going to be relevant.  Are you making a difference in people’s lives? 

It’s easy to fall into the idea that we’re somehow not doing “enough.”  And that’s where I’ve been the last few days.  I was wondering if I was doing enough professionally.  Was I reaching everyone I could with R3?  Should I do more? 

I expressed these concerns to a friend, and she said something that froze me in my tracks:

I think you’ve got something backwards here :o ].  It’s not you that needs to make something out of your life, it’s God.  That I know of, nowhere in the bible does God tell us that we have to make something out of ourselves.  That’s His job…our job is to listen to what He says and act on what we hear, whether that’s physically doing something, or waiting on God to do something.

Ouch.

She’s right though.  I can’t think of a single example where God said, “why don’t you make something out of yourself?  What are you waiting for?”  God always says, be obedient, and let me do the rest.

All I need to worry about is listening to God, then obeying. 

What a relief!

reader comment: what’s the point?

Category : Jesus, faith, humor, reader comments

  

Once again Christopher, from Got-Fruit? , has some insightful comments when asking what’s the point.  And yes, the title of this post is horribly misleading!

E.B.,

Reference: “And it’s only by remembering that can we ever hope to reshape the world, and bring light into darkness.”  Thank you!!!!  The part in bold is what seems to be missing from so many conversation about social change, changing the world, or what have you.  In all fairness though, maybe I’ve just overlooked it.

Without saying His name, that sentence reiterates in my mind (even before checking the link: bring light) that it is in fact Jesus that must be at the center of all we as Christians do, otherwise it’s as if we’re trying to do our will in the name of God, not God’s will in His own name.

In an odd and probably morbid sounding way to a non-believer, I see living as a Christian as kind of analogous to being a Kamikaze pilot.  Not meaning literally for anyone to test their faith by say jumping in front of traffic yelling “Halt in the name of the Lord!”, hoping that the driver of the Pepsi truck stops;  rather though, to assume a care-free attitude towards the things that the world constantly thrusts in our face as being important, or that needlessly draw our attention from the fact that God is in control and He’s got our back.  Mix in a little of Peter from Office Space with healthy doses of Biblical wisdom, faith, common sense and last but not least…reliance on God.

And since I have nothing to add to that, I say we watch a few scenes from Office Space!

 

reader comments: courage

1

Category : God, bible, faith, fear, reader comments

     

Sometimes readers say it better than I do:

I think that for starters, anytime a Christian acknowledges that they’re deficient in an area of their walk with Christ; that acknowledgment is sort of like the precursor to that deficiency becoming “fixed” by the Lord. A spin on how the Law makes us aware of sin, I suppose.I used to never speak out openly about God because of fear of ridicule. Nowadays, that’s not a problem, and I would say it’s because over time (as your relationship grows), Jesus does transform the committed believer.

My point? Yesterday was a day that you walked behind Christ, today you might be walking a little closer to Him; and tomorrow is the day that you walk side by side, step for step with Him.

Maturation by nature takes time, some folks perhaps do go through a radical and quick process of transformation, while others don’t. Scripture an my own personal experiences tell me that it all starts with the condition of the heart, sometimes we have deeper issues that the Lord must work on before we get to that spot where we become the “Super Christian” we aspire to be.

That was a comment left by Christopher from Got-Fruit.net on the prayer thursday: courage post.  I wanted to highlight it because it touches upon one of the deepest truths I know: the scariest prayer we can make is the one where we ask God to change us.  There’s nothing more terrifying, because those are exactly the type of prayers God answers on a regular basis!