Are You Fractious?

It’s easy to learn something new every day, but I don’t always like what I learn. Take these verses from Titus and Romans:

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” – TITUS 3:9‭-‬11 NASB

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:18‭, ‬21 ESV

Have you ever truly read these verses? I’m quite sure I’ve read them before, or at the very least, heard them read, but they sure didn’t register with my brain until today. “Reject a fractious man ….” I looked up the word ‘fractious’ and was a bit dismayed by what I found.

Factious as defined by Dictionary.com is all of this and more. Aliented, belligerent, contentious, dissident, divisive, hostile, insubordinate, insurgent, litigious, malcontent, mutinous, partisan, quarrelson, rebellious. I’ve spent a large part of my life being fractious, and I still catch myself, especially the partisan and rebellious parts. I am partisan, a strong supporter of things I believe in. I am rebellious against anyone trying to force their beliefs on me, and I confess to some belligerence when I need to be forgiving to the person(s) who wrong me.
As R. T. Kendall wrote in Total Forgiveness, “forgiveness is giving up the natural desire to see the person who wronged you ‘get what’s coming to them.‘ ” Oh, such truth! It’s hard to give up our “natural desires,” because our “natural” selves are so deeply mired in sin. I am fortunate that a few of the people who have known me didn’t follow Titus’ words and reject me for being fractious. In today’s world, I think we’d all be pretty isolated if we were rejected for that. Look at how many people actually make a living by being fractious! Newscasters, social media talkshow hosts, so-called comedians, and politicians, just to name a few. The louder we get, the more fractious we become, the more people listen. As we become more controversial, our audience continues to grow.

It’s important to remember how these things, these attitudes, affect our walk with Christ. This morning, I watched a replay of a television show that was aired 22 years ago. A very famous woman, one with a great influence, came on a controversial new show to give her support. An audience member who identified as a Christian called this famous woman out, asking how she could support this show while calling herself a Christian. This famous, influential woman, answered “my definition of Christian is different from yours.” How can that be? There is, and can only be one definition of ‘Christian’. A follower of Jesus Christ, who accepts that Jesus is the Son of GOD, and that Jesus came as the ultimate, and final, sacrifice for our sins. Believing that Jesus died on the cross for us, was buried, and rose up out of that grave on the third day. He was resurrected for us. Knowing that He will return to earth one day and take His followers to spend eternity with Him. You have to know that Jesus was not a “good man” and He was not a prophet. He was, is, and will always be the Son of the Most High God.

More Christians need to be Chrst-followers and be considered fractious in the eyes of the world, standing up for the True Gospel. We need to be living peaceably, as much as is possible. If I am seen as fractious by the world because of my testimony, I accept that as an acknowlegement that I am doing what God wants of me. If, however, the Christian community sees me as being fractious and unforgiving, then I need to get on my knees and ask God for guidance.

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Religion Is Dirty Word

I don’t really like the word. It almost has a negative conotation to me, so I thought it would be good to do some research on the word. What does the word ‘religion‘ mean to you?

Merriam-Webster defines religion as

1 : (1)a : the state of a religious – a nun in her 20th year of religion. (1)b : the service and worship of God or the supernatural. (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.

2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.

3 : Archaic : scrupulous conformity. Conscientiousness.

4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.

Examples of religion in a sentence:

*Many people turn to religion for comfort in a time of crisis.
*There are many religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.

(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion)

Even though they list ‘scrupulous conformity’ as the archaic definition, I feel like it’s the one meant by most people today when they speak of religion – like it’s a curse word, almost. ‘Scrupulous conformity‘. Do you even have a reason to believe as you do, or do you just go through the motions? Is just habit to go to mass / communion / confession / Sunday (or Saturday) service? Are you consciously pursuing a relationship with the LORD? This is a serious question, not just for the lay people, but for the church leaders as well. It doesn’t matter what your title is: from the newest Sunday School teacher and nursery worker to the most well-known evangelist, and even to the Pope – are you consciously pursuing a relationship with the LORD?

Having religion is much more than keeping the ‘rules’. It is more than being spiritual. To me, real religion, real spirituality, is the conscientiousness of consciously pursuing a relationship with the LORD.

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” – JAMES 1:26‭-‬27 NASB (Read all of James chapter 1)

I Just Don’t Get It

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” – JOHN 21:25 NASB

There are other, similar statements in the scriptures, stating that Jesus did innumerable unrecorded miracles. These miracles were witnessed by hundreds of people. Yet we still don’t believe? I just don’t get it. Millions follow Buddha. He never did a miracle, he never claimed to be sent by the Creator of the Universe, and he didn’t arise from the grave after he died. Research “great religions of man”. Belief in Jesus in not a religion. It is a way of life. There is no dictated behavior. I found this from the C.S. Lewis Institute, and it says what I mean to say much better than I am able to.

“When we look carefully at the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, the call to “follow me” takes on much greater clarity and specificity. It is indeed a call to “walk as Jesus walked,” to live a life of radical faith and love. Once we truly grasp this, our first reaction is likely to be one of dismay. If we are at all aware of the depth of indwelling sin and the dysfunctions that plague our lives, we know it is impossible for us to fulfill such a call. Yet this reaction is actually healthy, because it is based in reality. It is indeed impossible for us to live this way. And that is precisely the point.

Jesus knows we cannot follow him without a power beyond ourselves. And that is why he sent the Holy Spirit to empower us.

It is only through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we can obey the teaching of Jesus and follow his example. He assures us of the Father’s love, he makes the things of Christ real to us; he makes the gospel precious to us; he convicts us of sin and assures of forgiveness when we repent; he transforms us from glory to glory, into the likeness of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:16–18). That is why we are taught to earnestly seek to be filled with the Spirit each day (Eph. 5:18) and to be led by him in all our ways (Gal. 5:16–25). When we do, we will find that we can live in newness of life. Not perfectly and not immediately. But day by day, as we walk in faith and obedience, the Spirit will produce in us the character of Jesus: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23).” – Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min. Director of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute

(http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Following_Jesus_Christ_Tarrants_Single-Page_Full_Article)

I’m grateful to have access to study such diverse sources! Study for yourself and determine the truth. I don’t believe that anyone who diligently and honestly searches for the Truth won’t find it. I know where it lies, and it is in the Person of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that you will discover the Truth – and accept the Truth – as well! Amen!!

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – JAMES 1:5 NASB

No Ordinary Man

The chief priests and Pharisees were so frightened of Jesus and His testimony, they went to Pilate to complain about Him and His followers. Keep in mind that at this point they know that Jesus is dead and in the grave, yet they are so afraid of this dead man that they want His grave sealed and a guard set on it!

“Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.” – MATTHEW 27:64‭-‬66 NASB

They knew this was no ordinary man they were dealing with.

Over the centuries, there have been many imposters. If you Google “men who claim to be Jesus,” a long list of names comes up. Then there are the many who claim that Jesus was ‘just’ a prophet like Moses or Muhammad or Buddha. Who, in all of these men have died and been resurrected in three days, besides Jesus? The list of imposters is hundreds of names long, and the names of men from that list who died and rose from the dead is zero. Not one. They are, or were, all ordinary men. Not so, Jesus.

Luke, a physician, wrote factually about Jesus. He researched what he wrote and reported first-hand accounts.

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” – LUKE 1:1‭-‬4 NASB

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the Holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” – LUKE 1:31‭-‬35 NASB

This Holy Child, this Jesus, is no ordinary man. He is 100% man, and 100% God.

How bereft His followers must have felt this morning, following His unimaginable, incredible death on the cross! This is the first day they have been without Him, without His physical presence, in three years. At this point, they don’t know what to think; they are overcome with the grief of His death. Gather together with them today. Meditate on what it felt like for them. We have the advantage, because we know that He conquers death and will rise up on the third day!

He is no ordinary man. He is worthy of our love, our worship, our devotion!

Living With Expectation

There’s a lot of expectation today. We expect to be financially successful, with a big fancy house and car before we hit 30. We expect to marry Mr. or Mrs. ‘Right’, and we expect that person to be with us for our entire life. We expect to have the perfect child – and we expect to have the right number of children. We expect others to like us as we are, and we expect our friends to never disappoint us or betray us …… and we expect that God will make sure all these things happen.

Those are some massive expectations!

I say this. We have skewed expectations. The only thing we can expect in this world; the only thing that we can be assured of happening is that we will be disappointed, betrayed, and hurt. Look at recorded history. Read the Bible. GOD warns us over and over that we will have trouble in this world. Doesn’t that seem to counter that this same GOD Loves us and wants us to be with Him?

Have you ever had a friend that you would do anything for? Best friends. Bosom buddies. Someone you’d go the extra mile for. One day, you find out they have another ‘best friend’! That hurts ….. and yet, that’s exactly what we do to GOD. We choose of our own free will that we would rather hang out with the world. We choose sin over perfection. (Sounds rather brutal like that …..)

Okay, so this is a little depressing so far. I’ve had plenty of expectations, and I have experienced heartache and heartbreak, disappointment and betrayal by people I care about deeply. What’s the point? Our focus has to be above all of these earthly things; otherwise, we become bitter and angry. Our Great Expectation, our one expectation that is Truth, is this:

“All Praise to GOD, the Father of our LORD JESUS CHRIST. It is by His Great Mercy that we have been born again, because GOD raised JESUS CHRIST from the dead. Now we live with Great Expectation, and we have a priceless Inheritance—an Inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, Pure and Undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And remember that the heavenly FATHER to Whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of Him during your time here as “temporary residents.” ” – 1 Peter 1:3‭-‬4‭, ‬17 NLT

Listen to Shane and Shane’s new song “Is He Worthy?” from the 2019 album Hymns Live. (Authors Ben Shive and Andrew Peterson)

HE is Worthy!

Image from The First Fruits of Zion

Misled; Sleeping From Sorrow

Oh, come worship with me! The radio is playing Christmas songs interspersed with gospel and contemporary Christian songs – Living Hope, All Is Well, Carol of the Bells, Chain Breaker ….. How can we not worship the SAVIOUR?

JESUS spoke to those gathered around Him, “And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My Name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them.” ….. Later, when He arrived at the Mount of Olives, He said to the three Apostles who had accompanied Him, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “FATHER, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” – Luke 21:8; 22:40‭-‬43‭, ‬45‭-‬46 NASB

Misled, lied to, misrepresented. We have all experienced these things, just as JESUS was. Authority figures; politicians, mislead and lie to us constantly, and that is a sorry fact. Worse, though, are those people who claim to represent the Promise of the Messiah; to be the fulfillment of GOD’s Word. They make it all sound so good and true, and we are often duped by it all. How depressing! When we can’t trust the people who lead us, who then can we believe? Test them. As Paul said: “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good …..” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21 NASB

We bow our heads to pray, and fall asleep from the exhaustion of trying to discern Truth. Let the Holy Spirit guide our words. Scripture tells that even when we don’t have words, He will carry our groans to the FATHER OF ALL and translate for us. “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the Will of GOD.” – Romans 8:26‭-‬27 NASB

Sometimes I feel like I am sleeping more than I am praying, but ‘sleeping’ can mean more than closing our eyes and being in an unconscious or less than conscious state. Metaphorically, it refers to our hearts, and how we become unresponsive to the LORD and His prompting. In forgetting to pray, we are allowing ourselves to be drawn into temptation and sin. One way to pray is to listen to Christian music. It doesn’t matter if it is old time gospel, hymns, Praise and Worship, rap, contemporary, pop, or bluesy and rockin’. By hearing the Message in the songs, our spirits are put into a better alignment with the LORD. Reading and studying His Word is also a way to pray. Singing – making a joyful noise – is a beautiful conduit to GOD’s ears. “Joy to the world, the LORD has come, the SAVIOUR reigns!”

LORD, we pray for Your discernment in showing us False Prophets and teachers. We ask for the strength only You can provide to keep us emotionally and spiritually awake. In JESUS’ Name, we pray that we will not be misled and that we will not sleep the sleep of sorrow. I love this Truth that Hillsong sings, “In my Father’s House, there’s a place for me; I’m a child of GOD …..” AMEN.

http://www.graspinggod.com/jesus-praying-in-the-garden.html