Tuesday, February 24, 2015

NBA #23, 24, 25: Living our Faith!

(This advice starts at #1, beginning of February)
New Believer Advice #23:  You will face persecution and criticism for being a Christian!
            The very fact that we choose to live differently than other people will make us stand out.  And since we are choosing to not live as the world lives, it will make them feel like we do not approve of their lives and choices.  This will make them want to lash out at us, criticize us, mock us, and discredit us in any way they can. 
            Not everyone will do this, but just look at the way the media portrays Christians and those with a strong sense of right and wrong.  The very fact that we say there is “right and wrong” will make us unpopular in this day and age of moral relativity. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

NBA #22: Long Waits

New Believer Advice #22:  As I just said, if God is making you wait, there is a reason.
            As I reflect back on my spiritual journey so far, I have to say that the most growth seemed to happen during the times of God’s deafening silence, the long waits.  These usually started with me praying about some request.  And then, when the answer wasn’t coming and I couldn’t even feel His presence anymore, I would end up desperate, pleading to just have any sense that He was even there, that He cared and was listening, and that He hadn’t abandoned me.  What started out as a request for something I wanted or “needed” became a search for knowing that God really cared about me.  God’s silence forced me to move from wanting my request to just wanting Him. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

NBA #21: Pray instead of worry!

New Believer Advice #21:  Don’t just wish or worry.  Pray! 
            God does not force us to seek His help, guidance, and input.  He allows us to try to handle things in our own wisdom.  And when we do, we oftentimes make a mess of our situation.  But He is willing to step in and guide.  He is just waiting for us to ask Him, to invite Him into our situation. 
            Do not just daydream, hope, wish, or worry.  Put your thoughts into words and pray them over to God, giving Him the right to answer as He will and to direct your path.  Pray about your hopes and dreams and concerns in the faith that He can do what you are asking Him to do, but also in the willingness to have faith in Him even if He doesn’t.  (And search Scripture for guidance and wisdom.)

Friday, February 20, 2015

NBA #20: Spiritual Battles

New Believer Advice #20:  Remember that there is a spiritual battle going on around us all the time.
            “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8) 
            “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  (Ephesians 6:13)
            And according to Ephesians 6:10-18, our spiritual armor includes: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, a readiness to share the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit - which is the Word of God - and prayer.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

NBA #17,18,19: Stripped!

New Believer Advice #17:  God will upset your “nice, little, comfortable life.”
            The more you grow in the faith, the more you will be rocked by other people’s pain and by injustices, the more compassion you will have for the hurting and weak and needy, and the less comfortable you will be with building up treasures on earth when people around you are in so much need.  You will become more concerned with other people’s souls.  You will seek righteousness more and you will feel more and more convicted when you stray from it.  This is the painful process of being molded to be more like Christ . . . of learning to put His Kingdom, righteousness, and priorities first . . . of learning to build treasures in heaven instead of treasures on earth . . . of dying to self and living for Him.  Your heart will begin to ache for the things that make His heart ache.  And this ache is good.  Let it move you to do His work on earth!  Let God upset your “nice, little, comfortable life.”

Monday, February 16, 2015

NBA #16: Expectations, Assumptions, and Misconceptions

New Believer Advice #16:  You will also have to face your expectations, assumptions, and misconceptions.
            When things go wrong or God does not do what you thought He should do or you are in a long, spiritual “desert” where He seems like He’s not listening to you, you will come face-to-face with expectations, assumptions, and misconceptions that you have of God, faith, life, others, and yourself.  Much of the time, our discontentment or discouragement comes from these misconceptions, expectations, or assumptions.   
            Do not just get discouraged that life isn’t matching up to what you thought it should be.  Examine the assumptions and expectations that you have of yourself, others, and God to see which are fair and biblical and which aren’t.  And take the time to replace your misconceptions with biblical truth. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

NBA #15: Facing Fears

New Believer Advice #15:  You will eventually have to face your deepest wounds, fears, and doubts.
            Christians have wounds, fears, and doubts, too.  It is normal.  Turning to Christ does not necessarily automatically take these away.  But the difference is that God will help us work through them and turn them into something good. 
            We might think that we can simply ignore some of the deepest wounds, fears, and doubts.  But eventually we will have to face them.  So don’t be surprised if old wounds that you thought were buried and gone come to the surface. 
            And when they do, you will have a decision to make: be honest about them and invite God to help heal them or ignore them and stuff them down even more. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

NBA #14: Spiritual Highs and Great Big Falls

New Believer Advice #14:  Be warned:  Your biggest falls will come after your greatest spiritual highs!
            When we reach a mountaintop experience and have some great, spiritual high, we are most vulnerable to falling . . . precisely because we do not think that we are vulnerable to falling.  After all, we tell ourselves, I am so close to God right now that I could never do that!  And we let our guard down.  And we fall hard.  (This happens a lot with kids who grew up in the church and who thought they would never behave like “the rest of them out there in the world.”  They just never thought they were capable of it.) 
            Always maintain your spiritual armor, be on guard against temptations that Satan dangles before you, and be aware of your areas of weakness and when you are most vulnerable.  Pride, self-confidence, and the feeling of invincibility always lead to a fall. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

NBA #13: And No Cliques or Bandwagons Either

New Believer Advice #13:  Be on the lookout not only for pedestals but for “righteous cliques” and bandwagons, too. 
            Throughout your walk, there will be times when a flashy bandwagon full of confident, wise-sounding Christians rolls past you, spouting off (in a self-righteous, “Pharisee” kind of way) about spiritual things, about other people’s sins, and about how “good Christians” should live.  Yet they will lack compassion and humility and be all about rules and about putting themselves above others, about pointing fingers and making judgmental proclamations.
            And you will be tempted to jump on board because they seem so impressive and righteous.  You will think that they must know what they are talking about because they sound so confident.  Plus, deep down inside, you will want to be on the finger-pointer’s side and not the one being pointed at.  You will want to side with the spiritual bullies and not the ones being bullied.  You will want to sound righteous, too, like you are one of them.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

NBA #12: No Pedestals!

New Believer Advice #12:  Never put yourself or anyone else up on a pedestal!
            We are all human.  We will all be weak at some point.  We will all fail at some point and let other people down.  None of us has a right to look down on anyone.  Only God sits high enough to do that.  We are all in need of understanding, compassion, grace, forgiveness, and love! 
            So never think that anyone is incapable of falling.  Never hold another person up so high in your mind – as some great, godly, superhuman hope for the common man – that you are crushed when they fall and are unable to extend grace to them.  Many people have had their faith crushed when some “spiritual giant” fell.  Never make anyone into a “spiritual giant” in your eyes.  Do not put that burden on another person.  They are human, too, and will fail at some point.  Give them grace when they fail, not the blame for crushing your faith.   
            And do not think that you are above anyone else either.  You are sure to fail at some point, be weak and in need, and to let others down occasionally, too.  You will have to say sorry at times, fix something you broke, right a wrong.  You will still sin and give in to temptation.  The only difference now is that it will bother you. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

NBA #11: It's Not a Competition

New Believer Advice #11:  The Christian life is not a competition!
            Our job is to do our best to follow after God, to grow more and more like Jesus, to draw nearer and nearer to Him, and to reflect Him to others.  And we cannot compare our progress to other Christians or compare their progress to ours.  It’s not about what jobs or positions God gave someone else, what gifts He gave them, or how well they are doing on their journey with the Lord.  It’s about what He gave you and if you are being faithful to do your best with it for His glory. 
            There is no faster way to sour a Christian than to compare your spiritual progress and gifts to another person.  Just focus on you and on your walk with God and on doing your best for His glory, no matter where you are, what your job is. or what gifts He gave you.  God notices and appreciates whenever you are faithfully following Him and seeking to bring Him glory, no matter how small your role or job.  And He will reward it in eternity.  When we stand before Him, we are accountable for our lives only, not for someone else’s.    

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

NBA #10: Get Real

New Believer Advice #10:  Speaking of love . . . No masks!
            You cannot make God love you any more than He already does.  And nothing you do can make Him love you any less.  So you do not need to hide all the bad parts of yourself and put on some “good Christian” mask.  You don’t need to polish yourself up to make Him love you more or care more about you. 
            He doesn’t want your “good Christian performance.”  He wants your heart.  He wants a genuine relationship with you.  He wants to heal the broken parts.  But this cannot happen if we lock them deep into our hearts so that no one – not even God – can touch them. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

NBA #9: Coming Alongside

New Believer Advice #9:  It’s not about “winning the argument” with another believer or an unbeliever. 
            We tend to think that we know best and that we have to beat others in a battle of wits, in a debate over biblical things.  But it’s not about winning or showing off how smart or godly we are.  (This will make us repulsive to people.)  It’s about helping each other, about coming alongside another person and lovingly putting our arm around their shoulder and helping them on their journey through life or on their long, hard, confusing journey of faith.   

Friday, February 6, 2015

NBA #7-8: Molehills and Gray Issues

New Believer Advice #7:  Don’t make mountains out of molehills!
            There are many biblical truths that we cannot negotiate on.  And as you read your Bible regularly, you will learn more and more about which issues these are.  Jesus’ sacrificial death being the only way to heaven.  That He was God and man.  That we are to care for the poor, needy, orphans, and widows.  That salvation, forgiveness, and grace are free gifts that God has made available to us, that we can never earn but can only accept.  That we need to forgive others and seek forgiveness for our sins.  That extra-marital affairs, lying, cheating, stealing, and such are wrong.  Etc.!   
            But then there are many other issues which are not so black-and-white.  And when it comes to these, we cannot let  disagreements about them become divisive and cause us to fight against each other.  We cannot turn these molehills into mountains, these “less significant” issues into major ones, these “less clear” ones into strict “black-and-white.”  This should never be the case . . . because it will only cause problems in the body of Christ.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

NBA #5-6: Pharisees and Judgey-ness

New Believer Advice #5:  Do not hold unbelievers to Christian standards.
            Unbelievers are not Christians.  And so we cannot hold them to the same standards that we hold Christians to.  What I mean by this is that it’s one thing to tell a Christian what they can do or not do (biblically), but we do not have the right to force unbelievers to agree with us and to force them to live their life the way a Christian is called to do.  They are not Christians . . . yet!
            We should not be passing judgment on unbelievers, wagging our fingers at them, saying, “No, no, no, you shouldn’t be doing this!  You shouldn’t be doing that!” 
            “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.”  (1 Cor. 5:12-13)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

NBA #4: Abiding in the Word

New Believer Advice #4:  It is critical to abide in the Word regularly. 
             “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  (Psalm 119:9-11)
            This is how you grow and mature in the faith.  But you will not grow if your Bible only comes out on rare occasions.  If you are not in the Word regularly, you will be drifting.  And you won’t even know it.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

NBA #3: Truth AND Love

New Believer Advice #3:  Dovetailing from that: Remember that it’s “truth and love,” not “truth or love.”
            If we overemphasize truth and underemphasize love, we will be judgmental, legalistic, uncompassionate Christians who just want to tell everyone else how to live.  And we will make it all about following the rules and changing your behavior, instead of following Christ and changing your heart. 
            But if we overemphasize love and underemphasize truth, we won’t stand up for God’s biblical truth or tell people the hard things because we won’t want to make them feel bad or guilty.  We will “tickle the ears” of people, telling them what they want to hear.  And consequently, we will share responsibility for them drifting further and further from God and His Truth. 
            Remember, we are accountable to God for what we do with His Truth.  It isn’t easy to stand up for truth, but there might be a time when we have to.  For the sake of other people’s souls and lives and for the moral climate of our churches and country.

Monday, February 2, 2015

NBA #2: Don't Squash Others

New Believer Advice #2:  Remember not to squash other people during this time of enthusiasm.
            When you first let God’s love and healing and forgiveness into your heart, it is easy to want others to experience it, too.  To want to force it on them.  Plus, you feel honored to have found the Truth, and you will want others to see it, too.  And so you might be tempted to “beat people over the head with the Bible.”  But this always backfires.    

Sunday, February 1, 2015

New Believer Advice (NBA) #1: Emotional Highs

            In December 2014, I posted a piece called “What to Expect When You’re a New Believer.”  In the next bunch of posts, I want to go deeper into the advice that I wrote for new believers and see if there is anything we “old” believers can take from it.  There is always something new we can learn and take to heart.  These are all lessons taken from my life, my journey with the Lord over the last 30-ish years, or things others have taught me while on their journey with the Lord.  So let’s start from the beginning.  (The parts taken from the original post will be in black and the new stuff will be in dark blue.)