Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts about following Jesus

Category: Pondering (page 1 of 48)

3 Actions for Making Wise Decisions

I believe that our lives are the product of the choices that we make.

There are big choices which will affect the rest of our lives, and there are small everyday choices which set the direction of our lives each day. The big choices, like whether or not to marry, get much of the attention. However, it is often the culmination of all the various small choices that truly plot the direction of our lives.

Since all choices are important it is essential that we have the proper foundation for making good choices. We discover this foundation in the Bible.

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Matthew 7:24-27; NLT

According to Jesus the foundation for being wise is Scripture. Remember the entire Bible contains the words of Jesus. The wisdom we need to make good choices comes from the Bible.

This leads us to ask an important question: How do we go about laying a foundation of Scripture to build on choices on?

Looking at this parable Jesus taught we find three actions we must do in order to lay Scripture as the foundation of our decision making.

  1. We must LISTEN to Jesus. Listening implies an active intent on part of the listener. A hearer is passive. If we have healthy functioning ears then we hear the various sounds of life. Listening, on the other hand, requires us to focus, tuning out the other sounds, in order to hear what is important. It isn’t enough just read the Bible. We must come to the Bible with the desire to understand what God wants us to know, and how that word applies to our lives.
  2. We must BELIEVE Jesus. We can listen to what Jesus has to say, but if we don’t believe him then we will not apply his teaching to our lives. Belief in Jesus is what separates the foolish from the wise. The foolish will listen to Jesus, but because they do not believe who he is or what he says, they will not allow his words to affect their lives. The wise believe Jesus is the Son of God and the result is that they trust what he says. The choices they make are a result of this trust.
  3. We must CHANGE the way we live. This action step is the extension of believing Jesus. You have to first believe before you can change. Change is the application of belief. The action of change shouts to the world that we trust Jesus. Trusting Jesus means we will adjust our lives to his word. We will align our lives with his will, even when the choice means we will live in away that is opposite of the world around us. Jesus said the fool listens, but does not change his life. In contrast the wise listens and obeys.

Every single day we are faced with choices. Many times we do not have the time we would like to consider all the options. In this fast paced world how do we lay a solid foundation that will help us make wise decisions? We build our lives on the word of God, committed to listening to Jesus, to believing Jesus, and changing our lives.

Without this solid foundation we will be at the mercy of the changing winds of this world. With the solid foundation of God’s Word we are able to stand against whatever storms come our way.

5 Ways We can Contribute to the Great Commission

Our calling to follow Jesus is not just a calling to salvation, but also a calling to join God in His great redemptive work.

Peter and Andrew heard this call:

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Matthew 4;19; NLT)

To one degree or another each Christian receives a similar call. This calling for all the disciples of Jesus is found in Matthew 28:18-20, the passage of Scripture we often call the Great Commission.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NLT)

The question that many of us who follow Jesus ask is: “What is my responsibility in carrying out the Great Commission?”

Here are 5 practical ways we can participate in carrying out the Great Commission:
  1. We love one another. “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35; NLT) According to Jesus, the way we treat and serve other Christians, shows the world what it means to follow him. Most people are practical, and what they are looking for is whether or not something works. Our love for each other shows people that following Jesus is better than living in the hostility and rejection of the world. 
  2. We pray. And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. (Ephesians 6:19, NLT) The apostle Paul asked for prayers to speak boldly about the Gospel. We may not have the talents and opportunities to always share the Gospel with people, but we can pray for people who do. This is one of the ways we  join with each other in making disciples of the nations.
  3. We use Scripture. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. (2 Timothy 3:16; NLT) The Bible is one of the ways God has equipped us to carry out the Great Commission. It isn’t up to us to convince people of the truth of the Gospel. The combination of Scripture and the Holy Spirit will convict people of the truth, our responsibility is to share Scripture with people. In our sharing we must do it correctly. Throwing out verses and constantly shoving the Bible into the face of people is not an effective way of sharing Scripture. Learning to share Scripture with grace and gentleness is important.
  4. We live faithfully. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. (1 Peter 3:15; NLT) Peter wrote that by living a faithful life, a life that recognizes Jesus as Lord, we demonstrate hope in all circumstances. This hope will mark our lives as different and will cause people to ask about the source of our hope. When people ask about our hope we are given the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. Do not under estimate the power of a faithful  life.
  5. We use our gifts. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. (1 Peter 4:10; NLT) Another way God has equipped us to participate in the task of making disciples of all nations is to bless us with certain talents and resources. These blessings are unique to us and can be used to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus. Be a good steward of God’s blessings by blessing other people.

The Great Commission is a task that is bigger than any one person, but it is something that each one of us can contribute to doing.

You are an important part of the work God is doing in the world. Find a way you can contribute and do it.

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3 Steps to Experience God’s Power

What is the central truth of Christianity?

If I asked this question to American Christians the answer I would hear would be; “Jesus died on the cross for our sins.”

While this is a tremendous reality and a vital truth of the Christian faith, it is not the foundation on which Christianity is built.

The central truth of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every other truth is validated by this reality.

The Apostle Paul wrote; “For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14; NLT)

Paul declared that everything else that Christians believe is based on the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. If there is no resurrection then our faith is useless. This includes our belief that Jesus death secured forgiveness for our sins.

I believe many of us miss out on the power that is available to us because we focus on the cross rather than on the resurrection.

We have settled for a faith of forgiveness, when we have been promised a faith of transformation.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17; NLT)

The promise of the Gospel is not only that God will forgive our sins, but that He will make us into new people.

God intends to make us into new people right now, not some distant point in the future. We can be certain of this because of the power that is available to us.

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:11; NLT)

What an amazing thought!

You and I can have our lives transformed because of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit raised Jesus to life and transformed his dead physical body into a new resurrected body. This is the power that is at work in our transformation.

In his book Absolute Surrender Andrew Murray wrote:

The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you you want to work it our partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be. You must come to be utterly helpless, to let God work, and God will work gloriously. It is this that we need if we are indeed to be workers for God (p. 113; Humility and Absolute Surrender).

For a long time in my walk with Jesus I walked in weakness. I thought it was my job to overcome sin, to break the chains of addictions, and to work up the courage to face my fears.

The result was discouragement, condemnation, and isolation. I felt like I was a poser, trying to convince others I had it more together than I did.

There was a part of me that believed if I truly loved God then I would naturally want to read the Bible, pray, and serve. Not only would those things come naturally, but it would take little effort to overcome my sins, even the sins that had become addiction.

Since my reality did not match my belief, the only explanation I had was that I did not love God.

This line of thinking is a death sentence for a person’s faith.

Thank God my perception of reality was wrong!

Jesus didn’t die to make up for our shortcomings. Jesus died to give us a brand new way to live life.

This new way of life begins and ends by surrendering our lives to God. It is only through God’s power that we are able to live the life that He created us to live.

This is what the apostle Paul wrote about God’s power:

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21; NLT)

If we are going to experience God’s power we need to take 3 steps.

  1.  We need to surrender our lives to God. Paul wrote; I fall to my knees and pray to the Father. The image of falling on our knees is an image of surrender. It is an acknowledgement that God is the Lord and we are the servants. In prayer we need to lay down our agendas and ask for God’s will to be done. Too often we operate on our schedule, only asking God to bless our day. To truly surrender our lives, each day, we need to lay down our expectations and ask God for His direction and strength. What matters is for God’s will to be done.
  2. We need to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts. It is the Spirit working in our hearts that enables us to experience God’s power in our lives. This power roots us in love, helps us understand the amazing love of God, and allows us to experience the full and abundant life Jesus promised his followers.
  3. We need to ask God to work in our lives. God is able accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. He has the power to help us overcome the addictions that hold us in bondage, to forgive the people who have deeply and significantly hurt us, and to live in courage rather than to be controlled by fear. Many times we don’t experience this power in our lives because we don’t ask God to help us. Step out in faith and ask God to help you, to heal you, and to bind up your broken heart. He has the power to do more than you can even imagine.

God is interested in you having victory over sin, in living with courage, and experiencing true joy.

Don’t believe these things rest on your shoulders to achieve. Trust in God’s love and power to grant these things to you.

Surrender your life to Him and ask for Him for the strength to live the life He created you to live.

It is Foolishness

Good Friday is the day that we remember the crucifixion of Jesus.

It is odd that we would set aside a day to remember the death of a man. This is especially true when we remember that the focus of Christianity is on life rather than death.

Good Friday reminds us that God’s perspective is different from our perspective. From God’s perspective today is not a day focused on the unjust execution of a man, but a day to remember a great act of love.

For us who have been Christians for many years it becomes easy to forget the price that was paid for our sins. We need days like Good Friday to remind us that our salvation came at the price of God’s sacrificial love.

We also need to be reminded that from the outside looking in, the cross doesn’t look like victory.

In fact, from the outside the cross looks like defeat.

Consider the Apostle Paul’s words:

18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”

20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom.23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

(1 Corinthians 1:18-25; NLT)

Notice how Paul describes the cross.

From the outside the cross appears foolish. After all, the cross is a symbol of death and defeat. 

In the ancient world you could not preach a message of victory through the cross because the cross meant the Romans had won and the rebellion was crushed. For Jews and Gentiles alike the cross was to be avoided.

It is crucial that we understand this reality.

There should be an element of foolishness and folly when we think about the cross.

The cross shouldn’t automatically make sense to us.

Don’t get me wrong. The cross fits into God’s plan to rescue creation from sin, decay, and death. Therefore, even though the cross escapes human reason, it is the product of God’s wisdom.

I want us to step back from talking about the victory of the cross, as if it is the most natural thing in the world, and consider how it looks from the outside.

The victory of the cross cannot be discovered by logic alone. It can only be seen in the entire context of God’s redemptive plan for the world.

We may never grasp the full wisdom of God displayed through the cross.

We may not understand why sin requires death.

We may wonder how the death of one man is able save everyone from the consequences of sin.

We may have questions about the cross, but we can still experience its power.

To take advantage of the gift of forgiveness and mercy that is found in the death Jesus we don’t need to understand all of its complexities. We only need to trust the One at work through it all.

The death of Jesus redeemed an instrument of torture and death into a symbol of victory and hope. If Jesus can redeem the cross, he can redeem us.

The point of Good Friday is not that we understand all of God’s ways, but that we trust God’s love.

Do You Know the Goal of Salvation?

What is the goal of salvation?

I believe that the message of the Gospel has been watered down to the point that many Christians have missed purpose of salvation. We assume that salvation is about “saving us from sin” and “going to heaven” when we die.

What if I told you there is more?

If the Gospel is just about having our ticket punched for heaven, then there is little motivation to have a transformed life now. The great transformation will happen when Jesus returns and we go to heaven.

But that is not the hope of the Gospel.

The hope of the Gospel is for transformation to happen right now. For God’s Kingdom to come and His will be done here on earth, today, just as it is done in heaven. The part of this great transformation that we have control over is the change that takes place in our lives.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.  (Galatians 5:22-26; NLT)

The way transformation happens in our lives is when we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and allow him to bring healing to our hearts.

We are to be living with love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest today. This is not a description of what our lives are to look like in the future, but what they are supposed to be like right now.

The bad news in this message is that you and I are unable to bring about the transformation of our lives on our own. Our addictions and our habits and our culture are too strong.

The good news of this message is that the Holy Spirit is our divine helper in this task. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to bring change to our lives.

The goal of salvation is wholeness and holiness. With the help of the Holy Spirit this can happen.

The Fruit of the Spirit is nothing less than a description of a life that has been made whole and holy. It is the type of life that you and I were created to live.

Take 2 minutes and listen to what John Eldredge has to say about wholeness and holiness.

As we experience wholeness and live in holiness the world around us begins to be transformed.

That is why this message is important. Followers of Jesus are not to sit back and patiently wait for his return. We are to pursue the transformation of the world by being transformed.

By pursuing transformation we will experience purpose and contentment. These two realities will bring a welcomed relief to our lives. Instead of trying to create life by our own power we will be living the life that God created us to live.

That is a very hopeful thought.

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