Tag Archives: Paul

You are what you think about

31 Oct

Western 1st-world focus tends to highlight what we look like. So care of our bodies is emphasized.  Ever since French philosophe Brillat-Savarin wrote ‘Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es’, food industries and diet products and plans have promoted the truth that ‘we are what we eat’.  That probably is true when it comes to our physical bodies.

But God has created this version of our bodies to last a century or less.  A blink of an eye when considering eternity.

This morning I read an article written by Lee Webb for the September 2018 issue of Tabletalk magazine where he proposes a more important version of that aphorism:

  • You are what you think

Webb cited the godly man in Psalm 1 who thinks about and ENJOYS his meditation on God’s Word.  In fact, this man loves these reflections SO much, that he continues to think about the true accounts and promises of God all his waking hours.

As a logical gal, for sure I value thinking and reasoning.  And I spend a lot of time reading, journaling and discussing ideas with Mike. Maybe more than some of my friends who devote hours to crafts, gardening, taking care of and teaching small children, tending sick or aging family, working long hours or two jobs to make ends meet, or other activities.

Yet even as a self-professed THINKER…..I allow my musings to focus too much on the physical, the temporary.  I admit that I DAILY allot a portion of my mental resources:

  • to  ‘eating Keto’ and how my stomach feels
  • to fantasizing about other ministries than what God has assigned me this day
  • to judging others and their choices regarding time
  • and on some days….to wallowing in self-pity and discouragement

Being aware of this wasteful use of my thought life is not something new.  I’ve realized this poor stewardship for a while.

But God!

Here’s the good news, fellow logical thinkers.  God does not leave His children to battle sin alone.  He commands us in His Word to ask for divine help.

Paul models this kind of prayer in his second encouraging letter to believers in Thessalonica.  He writes in 2 Thess 3:5:

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

I LOVE words.  As a logical Jane, I always start with understanding and parsing a term. Here’s what’s cool about the Greek word ‘heart’. It signifies:

  • thoughts and feelings of the MIND
  • affections
  • purposes
  • endeavors
  • ideas

So, Maria’s translation of 2 Thess 3:5 is:  May the Lord direct and guide your thoughts to the love that God has shown (in redeeming and forgiving you, in giving you Christ’s righteousness and in promising present provision and constant company topped off with future abundant forever joy) and to the persevering and guaranteed steadfastness by/of Christ at the cross and presently as your Intercessor and Advocate.

Those thoughts, my friend, ARE more than sufficient for every waking hour.

And if Paul is correct in communicating God’s truth to us, then 2 Cor 3:18 is also a fact, that is:  we become what we behold…in our thoughts.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

It really does matter, eternally, what we think about.

Mission statements can obscure

5 Apr

Our church mission is “Joyfully to love all, serve all, and to share Jesus Christ with the world.”

A friend who belongs to a Methodist church mentioned her church’s guiding mission in the context of a discussion about homosexuality and a church association to which her church belongs.  This local group of churches had united to serve the community, but differing policies and doctrine threatened to derail some of their momentum.

I got to thinking about the importance and difficulty of choosing words.  Words carry not only verbal descriptive meanings, but also emotional messages, both positive and negative. Just like one’s tone of voice and delivery can alter the explicit meaning of a word, so can culture and the times add layers that color and influence communication.

God does not ignore such obstacles but takes them into account.  He responds by calling us FIRST to think, ponder, and invest time in understanding HIS divine words to us.  In turn, we are to be truthful in how we use words, especially the WORD of God.  Recall Paul’s exhortation to his protégé Timothy: “…Rightfully handle the word of truth!” in 2 Tim 2:15.

Mission statements matter – every word counts.  The verbs my friend’s church chose demand examination.  Let’s just look at the first one, to love:

Since it’s a church that is using this term, does it not make sense to turn first to the Bible to see God’s use?  Besides, should we begin with man’s definition, that is culture’s use, we’d immediately step into a morass.  We can’t assume consensus even within one country. What I consider ‘loving’ probably doesn’t match your personal view.  My ‘love’ might tap into the American ideal of pursuing happiness.  Translated, this has come to signify ‘allowing one freedom to do whatever one pleases, regardless of the consequences’ as long as it doesn’t impinge on my happiness.  But if I’m an alcoholic or drug addict, how loving is it to let me abuse substances and die?

God doesn’t leave us to wonder about what HE says is love.  Here is His standard:  You shall love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  And your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:30-31  God cares not just about people’s temporary physical desires and needs, but their eternal soul’s condition.   Is it loving to clothe, feed and house someone for just their fleeting years on earth?

For a flesh and blood case of love in action, I’ll mention ‘Uncle Paul’.  He shows clearly how he himself loves in his letter to the Corinthians.

  • 1 Cor 10:33 I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

It is quite possible that my friend’s church had this kind of love in view when they crafted their mission statement.  But in giving them the benefit of the doubt, I’ll tell you that I have grown cautious in making assumptions about the meaning of terms. Just because a church uses the word ‘love’ or a colleague talks about ‘God’ or even mentions that they ‘pray’, I stop now and ask them what they mean.  More often than I would have imagined, that person’s usage does not match mine.

When it comes to terms, logical Joes and Janes seek clarity above all.

Your wants won’t hurt you!

15 Mar

“Your wants won’t hurt you!”

Did your parents feed you that line when you were a kid?  Remember those trips to the grocery store?  The ones when you BEGGED them to put THEIR money in one of those contraptions where the claw swings out and SOMETIMES grabbed hold of some prize?

grocerystore-claw

So was it true, that living with an unfulfilled WANT caused you no pain?  After all, you probably heard that line time and time again.  Bet you never thought about it, you just knew what it meant – NO TOY!

I heard that adage the other day and with my ‘Logical Jane’ ears started to think it through.  Actually I DO think our ‘wants’ can harm us.

Before I explain why, I had better start where all clear thinkers begin – with the definition and clarification of terms.  How do I define ‘wants’?

This is actually not quite as simple as it appears. In talking with a fellow Christian a few weeks ago, I learned that the Hebrew word for ‘heart’ is layered. At the bottom of one’s heart are God-given desires.  Out of these desires form feelings of WANT and then on top of that layer percolate thoughts and schemes – the justifying kind and the strategizing kind. Our actions and words are what roll off the assembly line of our factory.

What was new to me was the realization that God has planted desires in us.  But because of the Fall, our feelings, thoughts, words and actions have been corrupted.  Therefore when our wants and needs filter up through our sinful outlook and ungoverned by God, they can’t be trusted.  By nature, our feelings/thoughts (what WE call desires) are dis-ordered.

The world preaches a counter message:

  • Follow your heart
  • Trust your instincts
  • Look inside

(as though correct answers and guidance originate from within us!)

So what can we do?  This is no minor struggle.  Paul pulled out his hair in despair and committed the struggle to his parchments:

  • I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Romans 7:23-24

Paul’s number one remedy for aligning one’s actions with God’s will is to LOOK at Jesus.

  • 2 Cor 3:18 – And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Isn’t that a relief?  By looking AT Jesus and His desire to submit to the eternal plan to take our place at the cross, the transforming work on our wants begins.  And it continues as we nurture our union with Him with on-going looks at His work on our behalf.

We don’t have to remain a slave to our wants.  With Jesus we can begin to see how to meet those God-given desires in God-pleasing ways.  Only then can we agree with Mom that our wants won’t hurt us.

Logical Gal asks: What ‘grounds’ or provides a rational basis for what we do?

19 Aug

I often argue with myself.  I split into two contrary views and dialogue back and forth in my thoughts.  Al Mohler prompted a recent mental workout.

Besides serving as president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, this thinking and articulate man offers a daily worldview analysis about leading news headlines and cultural conversations.

The topic he picked up last week dealt with assisted suicide and euthanasia.  Turns out that the assumptions of secular society and those of Christians are completely different.  More and more countries are basing their policy decisions on the presupposition that we are in essence just ‘autonomous accidents’, whose dignity derives from this autonomy and the freedom to choose what WE decide is good for our human flourishing.

As I listened and discoursed internally, I asked this question: So what if a non-Christian government decides to permit suicide with dignity?  Should Christians ‘impose’ their Biblically based views on the wider culture?  Drawing a blank about how to begin thinking through this crucial issue, I recalled that the Apostle Paul explicitly addressed this matter in a letter to the Corinthian church:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church  whom you are to judge? 13 God judges  those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”  1 Corinthians 5:9-13

With his argument in view, my other side answered this ‘So what’ question:

William Wilburforce

  • What about Wilberforce?  This 19th-century Christian parliamentarian worked years in that British legislative body to end the slave trade.  Should he not have tried to influence government and society?
  • What about the issue of slavery in the US?  or 20th and 21st century legalized abortion? Should citizens not petition their representatives and try to work within the system to change laws?

But where do we look for grounding or fundamental guidance on how to interact with society outside of our church family? God evidently wanted to guide His children, so He provided the inspired Bible.  And in the book of Jeremiah, God through His prophet, specifically calls us to work for the good of those in our community:

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7

And lest we think that God only addresses Christians’ interactions with the wider society in the Old Testament, the New Testament ‘boils down’ the Christian’s ‘marching orders’ to two: Love God and Neighbor.

Matthew 22: 37-40 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

So, after only a few minutes of rational debate within myself, I concluded that as Christian citizens and neighbors, God does call us to work for what honors God and helps our neighbor flourish as His image-bearer.

Logical Gal’s 37 billion dollar debt and the If…then argument

29 Jul

Debt - $37 billion

Romans 8:32  He that did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also give us all things with him?

I was trying to put a number on an impossible debt I might owe – one in which I had absolutely NO hope of coming close to paying off.  I arbitrarily picked 37 billion dollars because it sounded….unreal!

Now what if I added to that monetary obligation the imminent threat of execution should I NOT come up with the money by a certain deadline?

With that sentence hanging over me every waking moment, how could I ever take pleasure in the sound of birds, or a breathtaking sunset or the smell of newly mown grass?  Who could enjoy ANYthing, knowing that sure and certain death was drawing closer?

Rain cloud

The apostle Paul argues from the greater to the lesser when he places ‘front and center’ God’s gift to us of Jesus’ death in lieu of ours to pay our un-payable debt. For each breath we draw and live in rebellion to our holy creator God increases our guilt.

So imagine WITH ME the freedom we should feel knowing for a fact that THIS sentence has been carried out already and we are literally OFF the hook and on good terms with our Creator God.

What could hang over us more serious than that already settled debt? Why in light of that load having been lifted, wouldn’t we have a different perspective about all other problems?  Wouldn’t all other setbacks, frustrations and disappointments fall into an entirely DIFFERENT category?  Wouldn’t we find it natural to remember, to relax and then to rejoice at all times when encountering trials?   No longer having to fear the worst, wouldn’t we be able to bear up under the lesser pains of life?  What would we recall when:

  • we run short on money for this month’s bills?  That the God who has already done the ‘impossible’ promises to provide.
  • we face a relationship gone sour? That God will either heal it, change US or comfort us.
  • ‘the right job’ never materializes? That there is likely SOME work to be had that will cover the bills and benefit others.
  • that chronic sin pattern or health problem or, or, or? That we are to turn our thoughts back to Him and quiet our minds in God. That our worst imaginable nightmare has been taken care of.  That He alone has the omniscient knowledge, kind wisdom and infinite power to do what is best for us.

I’m finding as I face disappointments that range from minor to more painful that when I remind myself of the logic of God having taken care of my BIGGEST need, (which by the way cost Him the MOST), I relax in the logic of the holy and faithful nature of the One of whom Paul argues ‘How can He not also take care of……?’

If God takes care of my most serious problem, then He will take care of my lesser problems

God has removed my unpayable debt against Him that meant a one-way ticket to Hell

Therefore, God will give me what I need for this lesser problem

Logical gal – new insight into Bible verse via French translation and a hypothetical syllogisme

1 Jul

Grace was given to you, regarding Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him. Phil 1:29

Caught off guard, I reread this morning’s devotional in the French (from a French Bible meditation-a-day calendar by La Bonne Semence – Website is here).  Why had I never seen that before?

Paul was explaining that faith to believe Jesus is a gift just like the power to endure suffering is a gift.

Two gifts; same grace; 2 different purposes:

  1. Power to believe Jesus is God
  2. Power to go through suffering

Grace

Doing a little digging, I discovered why I had never before ‘seen’ the connection to grace, to a gift from God.  Many of the English translations say something like the ESV – For to you it has been granted…...

My mind had just skipped over those words and lingered on my discomfort with the linkage between believing and suffering. I confess an unhealthy FEAR of future suffering.  So I have both pondered and shuddered at the latter portion of that statement.

Applying some clear thinking it was fairly easy to draw out some principles from this now illumined verse:

  • Both true belief and the power to endure suffering are possible only with God
  • By definition grace is a gift
  • God grants grace as a gift to Christians
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot see or rely on the Biblical Jesus
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot make it through suffering the way God has intended it

These inferences immediately eased my unholy fears.  Here’s how I applied them to all the ‘what-ifs’ that swirl around in my head more times than I’d like to admit.

When I imagine a scenario, like a fatal car accident affecting a family member, I realize my lack of control. And there is nowhere to go with the fear. So it hovers. Blocks sleep at night and robs me of peace during the day.

Fear - stories

What I now see, thanks to God using this French translation (and the Greek supports it!), is that the imagined fears all take place outside of any grace that God provides.  The suffering I’m picturing is set against the backdrop of ME and my capabilities.  Of course, when I look at me, I am discouraged.   But Christians aren’t meant to live relying on their puny resources. Christians, once God re-births them, get a spiritual DNA.  (think: new supernatural power)

  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.        2 Cor 5:17

As my cousin Terry counsels, ‘Don’t step out of your circle of Grace.’  She’s talking about ‘daily bread’.  God gives us what we need AS we need it. That’s what He promises.  He doesn’t provide the ‘feeling’ of grace in the present for a potential future situation.

Bottom line, logically-speaking?   It’s STUPID to meditate on possible suffering.

So what will I do when another IRRATIONAL fear pops unbidden into my mind?  Remind myself of truth, that God has promised future grace when I need it.  For now, I will live in the present moment, relying on these facts that:

  • just as it takes a gift or grace to receive faith and believe
  • so, too, it takes a gift or grace to receive power and suffer in the manner He has planned

Here’s the if-then version of that truth:

  • Premise 1 – If God has given me faith to believe that Jesus is who He says He is, then God will give me power and grace for suffering as it comes.
  • Premise 2 – God HAS given me faith, right now, to believe and rely on Him
  • Conclusion – Therefore, He will most assuredly give me grace and power for suffering when it occurs.

Question: Where have clear thinking and logic helped you mine truth from the Bible?

Logical Gal – No such thing as blind faith!

8 Apr

How many times have you heard Christians described as un-thinking dolts who depend on ‘blind faith’ to get them through life?

Properly defining terms will release Christians from that unkind, unflattering and untrue label.

Pistis (Strong’s  # 4102) is the Greek word for trust. (often translated as ‘faith’)

So what do Christians trust or rely on for their beliefs?  They look to evidence.

Image

Does that surprise you?  It shouldn’t.  The Christian God provided the direct evidence of an empty tomb, ‘securely’ guarded by well-trained Roman soldiers. Paul cites eyewitness testimony from 500+ people who vouched they encountered or saw the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth. When he pens this fact, most of those people are still alive and available to counter his bold statement if in fact UN-true.

So Christians who trust God have past evidence to inform their ‘faith’.  They also have the recorded promises of a supernatural being. This God has the audacity to have put in writing for generations to see what He was predicting.  So far, many of those promises have been fulfilled.  Actual circumstances that have turned out the way God promised build confidence in His followers.

Image

So Christians have an evidence-based trust in God, backed up by reason.  Those who live by ‘supposed sight’ actually are the less rational.  They tend to let circumstances alter their feelings, which then rule their decisions.

So tell me, who is the one who lives blindly? ‘Thinking Christians’ is NOT an oxymoron!

Image

Question: What do you have faith in?  Whom or what do you trust and why?