Tag Archives: Religion

Job 26-28; Acts 11

Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said. Acts 11:1-3, NLT.

I spent a few years living in a Christian bubble: Christian friends, Christian music, Christian books. These things aren’t bad … in fact, they a still a huge part of my life. One day, God pushed me out of the bubble. Suddenly I was hostess around a table to many who weren’t believers. So, I served them. I showed hospitality and inclusion to them (and their kids). I welcomed them. This was all God’s doing. He planned that party, so to speak.

When I read these verses in Acts today, I wonder what the world would have been like if these men had limited their influence.

17 And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”

18 When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.” Acts 11:17-18, NLT.

And:

Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. 20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord. Acts 11:19-21, NLT.

I read a heated thread of fury on a social media feed this week. One person said (of Christians) that the basis of (our) religion is to cram it down other people’s throats (then he referenced a scripture about spreading the gospel). I felt horrified and grieved. I didn’t comment for several reasons, one being that it was obviously a battle ground for attack, and not a forum for understanding. But I did wonder: how is it that they perceived Christians in this light? What experiences (or lack of) have others had with Christians to describe them in such a way? How does one go from being good/full of the Spirit/strong in the faith to throat crammer? In my daily interactions, what do people notice first: his love or an agenda? (I can think of times when all someone was interested in was sticking a tract in my hands rather than asking my name or about my story. At the time, it made me mad.)

24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.) Acts 11:24-26, NLT.

I take some cues from these scriptures today, about sitting across from someone (perhaps over a meal like Peter), and spending time with them (investing in their lives like Barnabas and Saul/Paul).

In what ways has God given you opportunities to invest in the life of another?

Lord, you’ve wired us all in unique ways. Show us opportunities to glorify your name. Let us not love in word or tongue, but in deed and truth.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, ESV Through the Bible in a Year

Judg. 16; Acts 20; Jer. 29; Mark 15

Am I living life in the head or the heart?

How is it that for most of us, we know what to do, but fail to do it? Is the process physiological? Is there a valve stuck inside us that prevents us from doing the right thing when we know what the right thing is? I’ve often wondered about the position Pilate was in, standing face to face with Jesus… doing what he could to release Jesus, everything except the right thing. I believe Pilate was a desperate man… putting his political career ahead of what he knew was the right thing to do by verbalizing that Jesus was innocent and dismissing all charges facing Him. Instead, he asks the crowd, who by this time was acting completely irrational, “What shall I do with Jesus?” By this time, the crowd was in a completely emotional state causing them to scream out “Let Him be crucified!” (Mark 15:1-14)

Over the years, I’ve learned that the head doesn’t feel and the heart doesn’t think (Jeremiah 29:8:19). Don’t believe me? Try asking someone who is in very emotional state to explain why they’re so upset… more likely than not their response will be characterized as less than acceptable as they are in that volatile place. However, ask that same person the same question hours later, you’re likely to hear a much more controlled response, even with remorse at how crazy they sounded earlier. Experience has taught me never to make a decision when I’m in that ‘emotional place’… more often than not, the decision is wrong when forced to make that decision without the benefit of slowing down to think the decision through. Living life ‘in the head’ feels safer to me… it allows me to justify my actions. But am I to live this way in all aspects of my life? Perhaps not…

There is one very important aspect of our life as followers of Christ where must strive to live ‘in the heart’ rather than in the safety of the head. I’ve learned that it is the condition of the heart, where actions live, that the true testament of a person lie… not in the words they speak through their mind. Our task, therefore, is to truly get our hearts affected with the Word we hear, so as to drive away a life of religion instead of a life of relationship with our Lord. This is no easy task… the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46), as devoted to Christ as they were, could not abide to a request to pray for a short time, even after sharing a meal with Christ where He offered them His body and blood. Were they truly living a life of Christ in their hearts? Do we live a life of Christ in our hearts or have we mastered the art of speaking a good game of a God-centered life? Such a life screams hypocrisy and I don’t want that kind of life. As much as I want to answer ‘Yes!’, that I live my life where my actions and words are in alignment, I wonder the true condition of my heart to live a life that is honoring to God based on my actions, the true testament of the condition of my heart. I seem to be able to make time for so many things I feel are important… am I doing the same thing when it comes to prioritizing God in my life? How many times am I ‘falling asleep’ when it deals with my Lord? Weakness requires tenderness; but disrespect requires severity (Acts 20:7-12). I need to focus on making sure I have my priorities right… how else can I begin to move towards an alignment between word and action… head and heart?

Lord, I come to Yyou asking why is it that the spiritual life seems so tough to thrive in the heart of man… in my own heart? I do love You… why is it so easy for me to push my own way? Why is it so natural for carnal practices to flourish there? Living the spiritual life is not inate for me. Lord, I’ve decided to turn my life over to You, but these are words… I need help to keep my heart and head aligned. Please help me, with Your grace, to prioritize my life, to structure my life so that it is YOU first, then others, then ourselves. Amen.

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Jeremiah, Judges, Luke, Mark, New Testament, Old Testament

Deuteronomy 1; Psalms 81, 82; Isaiah 29; 3 John 1

The Lord says:

“These people worship me with their mouths,

and honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me.

Their worship is based on

nothing but human rules.

So I will continue to amaze these people

by doing more and more miracles.

Their wise men will lose their wisdom;

their wise men will not be able to understand.” Isaiah 29:13-14 (NCV)

Their worship is based on nothing but human rules. (NCV)

They act like they’re worshiping me but don’t mean it. (MSG)

Their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. (NLT)

Their fear and reverence for Me are a commandment of men that is learned by repetition [without any thought as to the meaning]. (AMP)

Their ‘fear of me’ is just a mitzvah – [a good deed performed out of religious duty] – of human origin. (CJB)

Their religion is nothing but human rules and traditions, which they have simply memorized. (GNT)

Their worship of Me consists of man-made traditions learned by rote; it is a meaningless sham. (VOICE)

I recently had a conversation with a friend of the family about faith. He told me that he hates religion. Being a nonbeliever, I think he was trying to bait me, hoping I would get offended by his comments, so he could prove that Christians (or at least me) are hypocrites.

My response: I hate religion too. (I think he was a little shocked, never expecting such words to come from the mouth of a missionary).

To make myself clear…I LOVE Jesus. Being in relationship with a Heavenly Father, a Holy Trinity who loves me with an everlasting love is life-altering. My faith in Him gives me the ability to have compassion for the people society has rejected deeming them unworthy with no more value than heaped trash. My belief in Him has allowed me to witness miraculous transformations and partake in the changing of lives, of destinies.

I decided at the beginning of my journey with God that it could never be about “Christianese” and being holier-than-thou. I want ‘real’ and ‘relevant’ instead of artificial rituals. I need the Word of God to come alive, not just be lifeless sentences in an ancient book. I desire a five senses, experiential knowledge of the Savior who gave His life for me. I crave relationship over religiosity, freedom opposed to a ball-and-chain.

If I am going to follow Jesus it has to be a full-on commitment rooted in Him, one where He is seamlessly integrated into my life from morning to night: When I sit. When I walk. When I push my daughters on swings or run to stop my oldest from running into the street. When I lie down. When I rise. When I am bleary eyed and exhausted. When I am washing dishes and folding mounds of laundry. When life is a cake walk. And, when it is a scary, chaotic mess.

My commitment to worship my King originates from my heart, from the created to the Creator. It is initiated by love and longing, not by unattainable rules created by fear, overcomplicated regulations created by man to foster guilt and condemnation.

And so, I choose to worship with adoration Father, who offers me an easy yoke and a light burden. I choose to worship with reverence Son, who beckons me to come and grants rest. I choose to worship with devotion Holy Spirit who gives helps me and produces the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my life. (Matthew 11:28-30; John 14:16-17; Galatians 5:22-23).

Yesappa, help me to never turn to rules and regulations, to traditions instead of to You. Help my worship be true, and worthy of Your Glory. Help my heart stay close to Yours; write my name on Your palm and mark me with Your seal upon my forehead. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie, Vadipatti, India (written in the U.S.A.)

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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