6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:6-10

Focus, for a moment, on the last half of verse 10.  If our efforts are directed toward, or if our primary focus is, gaining approval from other people, then we are not serving our Lord as He desires.

As I read this, it seems to me that it can be interpreted in two ways.

  1. Pleasing Man and Serving Christ are two alternatives.  To the extent that one grows, the other diminished in like amount.  Thus, if I am 30% committed to pleasing man, then I can say that I am 70% devoted to Christ.
  2. Serving Christ is an absolute.  Thus, if I have any motivation to please man, then I am not serving Christ.  It is all or nothing.  100% or 0%.

I can make an argument for alternative one, but I feel in my bones that it just can’t be right.  Yes, I know this sounds like a painful, guilt-inducing religious rule, but add in grace and it all makes sense.  Jesus knows we are simply incapable of being 100% totally committed to Him.  It’s our fallen nature.

Christ’s atonement puts us, legally, in right relationship with Him.  Where we fall short, He bridges the gap.  This should not make us more inclined to stay in sin, rather, it should fill us with gratitude and desire to push out the enemy and live in a way that pleases Him.  Not man.

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A very timely piece from Tim Challies.  I was just thinking about how differences in doctrine are often divisive when they should not be.  But then, differences are important sometimes, especially when we’re talking about the nature of God.  I fear that I all too frequently fall into the sin of pride, self-righteousness, and quarrelsomeness when I engage in debate and discussion.   Enjoy, and please comment.

Is error in doctrine always sin? It’s a question I’ve reflected on in the past and one (more…)

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.   -Matthew 28:16-17

I slept alone last night.  Peacefully, quietly alone.  My doctor ordered a sleep study for me so, for a couple thousand dollars, I had a very restful night with a bunch of electrodes attached to my head.

One of the last things I remember before drifting off was the fact that the room was very dark, an inky black darkness like being immersed in swamp water.  This was not a darkness that your eyes could get used to; no, I was trapped in a pool of nothingness with no up or down, and no point of reference to tell me where I was.  A few times I woke up utterly lost.

Darkness is a great metaphor to illustrate lostness.  From the time we are small we fear what we do not know, what lurks, or could be lurking, under the cover of darkness.  Evil is expected to strike in the darkness.  How else can we explain the extra outrage we experience when a crime is committed “in broad daylight”?

Truth be told, I wasn’t really afraid of the darkness last night because I knew that Fred was doing his job well.  He had a camera and was watching me (yeah, it could have creeped me out, but Fred seemed a pretty decent fellow) and if I had a question, Fred was quick to respond.

Let me tell you about the darkness that I do fear.  Picture yourself running in a marathon.  You’ve run 23, 24 miles or so, and you begin to notice other runners by the road, exhausted, giving up.  Even at the 26 mile marker you find a man sitting by the roadside, head in hands, weeping.  He’s 365 yards from the finish line and he simply cannot make it any farther.

These ran the race in vain.  It was all for nothing.

It is said that faith and fear are at opposite ends of a continuum.  In the text quoted, we have no clear perspective on the doubting.  We only know that some of the disciples “doubted”.  Were they of the 11 disciples?  The larger group of disciples?  Did their doubt persist?  I mean, seriously, these people saw Jesus after His resurrection and still doubted…something.  How was that possible?

I think, brothers, that it simply is God’s way of reminding us that we are not perfect.  We may charge forward in faith, thinking we are doing God a favor by claiming great things for Him, but no matter how hard we try to deny it, our faith is not 100% perfect.

If it was impossible to fail to finish the race, there would be no glory in crossing the line.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Ray Dillon

We watch with sadness and almost disbelief to see results of the
earthquake and the agony of Haitian people.  Unfortunately, it has
given a platform for some Christians to become foolish and paint us
all with the brush of insensitivity and condemnation.  Such was the
case of Mr. Pat Robertson when he asserted that the Haitian people had
made a “pact with the devil” when they overthrew the French who were
occupying the land.  This according to Mr. Robertson was many years
ago and the poverty, political greed, corruption, hurricanes, and,
now, the most recent earthquake were all a result of that.

There is a possibility that those who follow Mr. Robertson clucked
their agreement and quoted “sins of the fathers are visited on the
sons…” and the many Psalms dealing with God’s vengeance.  However,
Mr. Robertson simply makes the assertion with no support except the
television media he uses.  Rather than pointing fingers at alleged
“pacts” it would be better for us to consider following Romans 12:15b
“weep with those who weep”.  Yes, Haiti has a reputation of syncretism
(bringing parts of other religions along with Christianity) but there
are believers on the island and there are countless innocent children
who are affected.

Perhaps Mr. Robertson wishes he had never said what he did on
television.  We can only hope so.  There are some things that we think
about God’s sovereignty and his providence that when spoken in an
unbelieving world can sound harsh.  Most of all we should remember
that God’s heart is soft toward us as is indicated here  2 Peter
3:9-10 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count
slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should
perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  As we have continued
our moral and spiritual slide here in America, we believers should say
or think “but for the grace of God there go we”.  Keep praying for the
people of Haiti.

Peace,
Ray

Got to make a confession, guys.  I’m slammed at work, and I occasionally post from work.

So my content is down and my evening hours are too.

My company is acquiring a company in Ohio and I am back & forth there several times over the next few weeks.  Add in 2 trips to California and, well, you can do the math.

Ray Dillon sent me a post of his own, and now I open the door to you all – would you be willing to share something?  Your testimony, perhaps, or something the Lord has been impressing on your heart.  As you can see, I post mostly what other bloggers are talking about, but your own words have more meaning & impact because we know you.

In early March I hope things will be back to normal.

(My thoughts often turn to Phernando & Faustino, our brothers in Honduras that are serving the LORD faithfully under our care.  Some practical thoughts here.)

By Mark Rogers

In an effort to learn how we can best encourage missionaries, I emailed some and asked how they would most like to be served and encouraged. This list is drawn from their responses, including many direct quotes.

1. Pray for them and let them know that you are doing so frequently.

“One of the most encouraging/inspiring things we receive from people is a quick note via email to say that they are ‘thinking’ of us.”

2. Send “real mail.”

“Send a small care package. Some little fun food items that we can’t get where we serve is a good idea.”

“One idea is to send a special package before an American holiday (like Thanksgiving) filled with things that we can use to decorate for that holiday.”

“Send us a birthday card. This doesn’t have to be some long handwritten note, just a little card – maybe even printed at home.”

“Real mail is always special. Really, the thing with real mail is more than just getting some nice stuff from home (which is nice), but it seems a more tangible reminder that the people I love and miss love and miss me too and are thinking of me.”

3. Pray for the people the missionaries serve and not only for the missionaries and their families.

4. Recruit others to pray for the missionary’s area of service (city, people group, etc.) or for the missionaries themselves.

“This can be an amazing thing to have a person or group of people actively supporting the work that we are doing overseas – becoming an advocate for our city/work. It really encourages us to know that there are people going to bat for us and raising more prayer support for the work.”

“Become an arm of our work in the United States. Some ideas include handling our newsletter distribution, website hosting (i.e., hosting a virtual website for the city), logistical arrangements, or short term team orientation.”

5. Go visit them with the purpose of serving and encouraging them in their work.

“Have a group of your people come to minister to us as we are seeking to pour out our lives to others. This could be hosting a small retreat in country for our team or something similar, or coming to prayer walk the city we live in.”

6. Send them updates and pictures of you and your family (by mail or email).

“It would especially be nice to receive end of the year updates or Christmas card pics. We want to stay connected to you! We love hearing from friends and family and enjoy keeping up to date on what’s happening in your life!”

“If you have a friend overseas, stay in touch with them. Don’t let cautions about being careful with spiritual language keep you from talking about the day to day “un-spiritual” things you would talk about if you met up for lunch one day. Sometimes the least spiritual emails are the most helpful, because somehow I feel less distant when friends talk to me like they always did before I left. Share updates on family, school, work, life, sports—whatever it is that you used to talk about with them.”

7. Ask questions about their work.

“Ask not only how we are doing, but ask about our work and try to learn all you can about the people or city where we are serving.”

“I know that this has been said, but truly CARING about the work is the best way to encourage us.”

8. Continue to be a Christian friend and continue to minister to them.

“Don’t stop being the church to us when we leave. Whenever security allows, spiritual conversations are good for our hearts. Missionaries struggle with the same sinful attitudes that plague Christians everywhere. Leaving home to live among unreached peoples, may be a step of faith in the process of sanctification, but it is not a step that roots out all sin. It is likely to lead to and expose all kinds of previously unnoticed and unexpected sin. Having friends that know me, are patient with me, and expect me to be the same struggling sinner I was when I left helps me stay humble when tempted toward arrogance, and hopeful when tempted toward despair.”

“Even for us with strong member care, it is helpful to receive pastoral care from the stateside church’s pastor who many times will know the missionary personally and have the history with them to be able to invest and mentor them and their family and marriage.”

“Ask us those hard questions. Do a little pastoral counseling with us.”

“Please don’t elevate us onto some false pedestal. We are normal people too who have been forgiven much and for some reason God called to live and minister overseas.”

9. Support them financially.

“Finding out if we have any specific needs and meeting those needs is great.”

10. Seek to encourage them when they are on stateside assignment.

“Let us talk to you and your congregations, and small groups. We want to share what God has been doing and would love the opportunity to talk about it, raise awareness and hopefully gain more prayer support.”

 “Invite us out to lunch or dinner. Nothing fancy is needed. Remember we’ve just been in places where we may not have been able to even enjoy a little Mexican food.”

No missionary mentioned this to me in emails, but I know it is a blessing when someone shares their summer home or cabin for a missionary family to get away and relax for a few days.

“Let us know about any good books that are must reads. Tell us about any good resources that may benefit our personal growth or ministry work: things like conferences, training for ministry/leadership, and so forth.”

 Mark Rogers is a Ph.D. student in historical theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL.

by Ray Dillon

I have often wanted to blog.  It seems like the thing to do but I didn’t want it to be like some others I had read that seemed to be more of a long tweet.  Anyway what I am thinking about is theology.  Some have now stopped reading and moved on so for those left I want to encourage us to be about the study of God more diligently this year.  Not to know more about Him, although there is virtue in that, but to know him better personally.
For those who are married, we should remember clearly how we wooed our spouse.  In that attraction, there was a desire to know him/her better and know the little things of their lives.  It was a way of becoming more intimate.  We studied their mannerisms, the way they thought, the way they talked, tried to understand what pleased and displeased them.  I suspect if your experience is like mine, the study never ceases and the knowledge continues to increase.  (You singles who seek to be married, take note.)
So, isn’t this the same way with God?  When we have established a relationship with Him through Jesus, we want to know this infinite, omnipotent, creator and sustainer of the universe.  For those of us who have studied our wives and husbands well, we sometimes find that we are thinking the same thoughts at the same time (pretty spooky, huh).  But wouldn’t that be incredible if we were to have that kind of deep relationship with God.  Thinking His thoughts as ours, just like Jesus did.  Knowing God more intimately, knowing about Him, leads to a more intimate relationship and communion.  That is what God wants from us.
If you are interested and are a computer geek or a committed user like me, you may find a theological tool to be helpful.  It is a theological toolbar that goes above your Internet Explorer right below the drop down menu selections.  I use it a lot because it has a lot of sites that are excellent for Bible study, muses from thoughtful believers, and other handy sites in the Christian community.
The site to get the toolbar is located at:
Reclaiming the Mind is a work started by Michael Patton a theologian out of Oklahoma.  He was on staff with Charles Swindoll in a Dallas church after finishing seminary.  You might be interested in his site as well.
Peace, guys.  Keep thinking God’s thoughts.

Ray