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Mar

19

Just Because You Can, It Doesn’t Mean You Should

By pastorbillwalden

I am a follower of Jesus.

Like you, I am faced with choices, desires, options, and possibilities.  Some options are obviously contrary to the heart of God, and so I know not to consider them as viable.  But what about those other options?  What about my desires, dreams, and hopes?  Everyone has them, or had them at one time.

As a follower of Jesus, there are many paths that are considered acceptable by my church culture.  If I want to pursue something, and it has a “Jesus element” to it, then I usually get approval by most people that I know.  There are other activities that are considered good and acceptable by my popular culture, and are not obviously “wrong”, and so once again I receive a nod of approval.

Following Jesus is completely contrary to the two scenarios that I have just described. Neither public approval nor my church culture approval is enough to validate a trajectory for my life. My own desires, predispositions, and tendencies are not to be the compass for my existence.  Someone has said that, “the enemy of the best is the good”.  It is incredibly easy to be a few degrees off regarding what one ought to be doing with their life.  A few degrees off doesn’t seem like much when a pilot first takes off, but obviously, the further he flies, the more off course he gets.  Such can be the outcome of a person’s life.  We can be well intentioned, but way off course. We can “land” in a place that is distant from where we should have landed.

To some I may sound idealistic.  To others, legalistic and confined.  I have considered those possibilities as well.  I have wondered if I ought not allow myself to be more free, to follow the impulses and passions of my heart.

As I understand it, following Jesus is neither a matter of pragmatism, or logic.  Pragmatism dictates that we ought to do the things that “works”.  Logic is the thing that seems obvious.

A Christian man might be a very talented athlete, with a great possibility of a professional career.  Pragmatism and logic would dictate that that is the course he ought to pursue, but it may not necessarily be the path that God has chosen for him.  Just because a man can follow a path and be successful at it doesn’t mean that he should.  Two examples of this come to mind:  Jim Elliot, and Eric Liddell.  Both men were incredibly gifted athletes, but both set aside their athletic pursuits to pursue a greater prize.

People undoubtedly called Elliot and Liddell foolish for choosing Christian service over athletic careers, but both men stayed their courses as they felt led by God, and their lives and deaths have become models of faith for the Christian Church. Pragmatism and logic would have dictated different paths for Elliot and Liddell.  Their personal passion for sports, coupled with their athletic talents would have seemed to be evidence of an athletic career, but the Spirit of God had a greater plan.

Let me conclude with some scripture that points to what I am suggesting.

Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

John 8:29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone,  for I always do those things that please Him.

Both Paul and Jesus could have been incredibly successful in the eyes of the world if they had chosen different paths.  Paul would have been a shaper of culture, a great author, and a philosopher.  Jesus could have changed the temporary course of history for Israel by driving out the Romans, and He would have been an amazing king.

Aren’t we glad that neither of them chose the good instead of the best?  Aren’t we glad that they did not allow pragmatism and logic to dictate their actions?

Dear reader, if you are a Christ follower, don’t miss the best because you choose the good.  Don’t allow pragmatism or logic to dictate you life path.  Just because you can do something well, and because you have a passion for it doesn’t mean that those pursuits should be the focus of your life.  God may allow you to pursue some things as part time hobbies, but keep the main thing the main thing.

 

Dec

26

When The Words Don’t Come

By pastorbillwalden

With the advent of the internet, blogging, and social networking, much of humanity now has the ability to share their thoughts and feelings almost instantly.  That is not news to most of us. 

On a humorous and slightly sarcastic note, someone wrote, “Just because you have an internet connection doesn’t mean that you have anything important to say”.   I suppose “important” is in the mind of the writer, and not always the reader.  I’ll leave that statement alone.

I find myself in a season of life where the words are not coming easily or clearly.  There are different kinds of concerns on different fronts.  There is instability from the human perspective.  I am wondering about the future of certain people and not sure what to think or say.

I am purposely not going into details to try to explain things, because sometimes the words just don’t come.  I am learning not to be bothered by that. If you know me, you may know some of what I am talking about, but I am not really looking for people to understand me.  Please don’t feel that you need to respond.

It is a strange sensation for us humans to feel things very deeply, but not be able to clearly understand those feelings, or be able to communicate them.  If we are fortunate enough to gain some clarity of thought, we then have the challenge of trying to express clearly what we are thinking, and then having the right person to share those thoughts with.

When we are struggling with the issues of life, though there can be people that are sympathetic, some dear people actually make life a bit harder for us.  They try too hard to fix things.  They give off the cuff advice without thinking.  They offer up a quick “prayer of faith” that is more confusing than healing.  We can appreciate such intentions, but sometimes we find that we avoid such help.

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Nov

12

Let God Fix It

By pastorbillwalden

Some thoughts for fellow followers of Jesus…  

The ten second sound bite version of what I am writing is this: If you blew it, and have a mess on your hands, let God fix it.  You thought you could be in control and do things your own way, and now you have a mess. In your flesh, you made a mess.  What makes you think that in your flesh, you can fix it?  Better to walk in the Spirit like you should have to begin with.  Walk in the Spirit, and let God fix it.

The longer version of the same story line is as follows…
Sin is a nasty thing.  It promises much, and delivers little.  The consequences are always bigger than the gratification.  It never seems as bad as it really is…until later.

We get used to sinning.  We minimize it.  We get de-sensitized to it.  We agree in our heads that something is wrong, but we do it anyway, intending to stop.

There are sins of commission: we do things that we know are wrong.
There are sins of omission: we don’t do things we know that we should.

The sin in a Christian’s life can run the gamut of not reading your Bible (dumb…you need God’s Word, heart, and direction) to something much more obvious, like substance abuse or sexual immorality.  We can be committing little sins, like being disagreeable, or we can be committing bigger sins, such as being violent and a striker.  A sin of omission might be that you don’t think that church attendance is important, and eventually find yourself isolated, alone, unchallenged, un-encouraged, etc.  There are numerous examples of sins of commission and omission.

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Jun

29

As Long As Nobody Gets Hurt

By pastorbillwalden

“As long as nobody gets hurt” presumes that those mutually participating in something know the entire future of their own or another’s life.  

How can we possibly know the future, and jeopardize it for the moment? We can’t possibly be sure that current actions won’t bring future hurt. Better to trust God than your own logic, IMO.

Apr

25

You’ll Laugh, You’ll Cry

By pastorbillwalden

Years ago, I read those words on an invitation to a church event.

The sponsoring church did everything they could to convince me that I ought to attend their event.

They promised that I would laugh.  There is nothing wrong with laughing.  In fact, the Bible commends a good laugh.  Proverbs 17:22 tells us, “A merry heart does good, like medicine…”.

They promised that I would cry.  I can be an emotional guy, and have been known to cry in public.  Sometimes a good cry is very cleansing to the soul.  Jesus wept. (John 11:35) Crying can release a lot of tension and emotion.  There is nothing wrong with a good cry.

And yet, I objected to their flier, and to their promises.  I still do.  This was a Christian outreach, and yet they were promising to deliver these emotions to me.  They presumed to know what I needed.  There appeared to be no room for the Holy Spirit to do something else.  What if what I needed was a fresh dose of somberness in the presence of a perfectly holy God?  It wasn’t on the agenda for the night.

My assumed responses were pre-planned and predicted.  They tutored me about what I would experience.  They planned my responses in advance.  Their goal was to get me to laugh and to cry. They were sure that they could make it happen.

Increasingly, I see Christians confusing emotional experiences at a church, with a God experience in the Holy Spirit.

There are many ways to evoke emotions in “Christian” settings.  The right music or no music.  The right lighting or having only candles.  There are many ways to affect emotions towards a desired goal.

Both true and false messages can evoke an emotional experience.  Some pastors teach the Word of God, and are humorous.  Other pastors read a passage, and then tell funny stories, neglecting to teach or apply God’s word to the listener.  Often, both men can be equally funny, but many Believers can’t tell that there is any difference.  This is extremely alarming to me.

It seems that many in Christendom are lacking the spiritual maturity to discern whether God or man has spoken to them.

I have been walking with Jesus for 30 years.  I have seen true signs and wonders, and false signs and wonders.  I have seen emotionally impacting Spirit led preaching, and I have seen emotionally human inspired preaching.  I have been moved to tears by “boring” preachers who were excellent teachers, and who revealed Jesus to me.  I have been bored to tears by emotional speakers that taught me nothing.

I have seen crowds of people moved by the Holy Spirit.  I have seen other crowds moved by pep rally worship leaders and charismatic, talented speakers.

In many cases, an emotional experience is the goal for a Christian event, rather than a revelation of who Jesus is.

My concern is not about how people express themselves in the presence of God.  There is great latitude concerning that.  My concern is about what causes a certain response.  Is it the incredible Spirit of Perfect Holiness, or is it a church culture where certain behaviors are predicted, arranged and manipulated?  Is it God, or is it man?

Dear Christian brother/sister…is your desire for Christ the great motivation of your life, or do you simply have a desire to laugh and cry at church?  If you prefer somber worship, is it because you are overwhelmed with God’s awesomeness, and words don’t suffice, or is it because you just need some “quiet space to chill out”?  If you prefer emotionally charged worship is it because you need a place to “get crazy” and pump your fist in the air, or is it a demonstrative, Spirit led joy in the presence of our great God?

Christian, beware of pre-programmed emotional experiences that any group or church might insist you need.  Jesus is what you need.  Sometimes, He will take us to the highest heights of ecstatic worship.  The very next day, His Spirit may move you to sit and stay silent.  He knows what you need.  Not you.  Not the preacher.  Not the worship leader. Not me.

Let Jesus decide if you will laugh, or if you will cry.

 

Jun

10

Recognizing The Default Setting

By pastorbillwalden

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: 2 A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; 3 A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; 7 A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; 8 A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.

We all have natural tendencies and a certain kind of disposition that makes us who we are.  When we come to Christ, those tendencies don’t automatically disappear, nor would we want some of them to disappear.  A lot of our natural tendencies are very useful as we dedicate them to God.

But as the writer of Ecclesiastes tells, us, there is a time in life for an opposite response from what our natural tendencies might lead us to do.

Some of our default settings need to be overruled.  We shouldn’t always respond to every situation the same way.  Jesus didn’t respond to everyone the same way, but responded according to the need of the moment, as He was led by the Holy Spirit.

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Jun

5

Being Saved From The Default Setting

By pastorbillwalden

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

The Christian is both saved and being saved. We are completely justified when we come to Christ in faith.  We call that saved.

Yet there is another sense in which are are continually being saved, even though we are saved.

The word saved is sozo, pronounced sode’-zo. It means: to save, deliver, protect, heal, preserve, do well, make whole.

So, the Christian has been saved (delivered) from God’s judgment, but is continuing to be saved (made whole) in regards to growing and maturing. They have been forgiven of their sins, but are being made more complete, more emotionally healthy, more spiritually whole.

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Sep

26

Naked And Afraid

By pastorbillwalden

Genesis 3:7-11 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

After Adam and Eve disobeyed God, their eyes were opened, and they realized that they were naked, and they were afraid and embarrassed.  They sewed figs leaves together and sought to cover their nakedness.

One aspect of this passage that has intrigued me is this: sin brought a very unhealthy self-awareness into the lives of Adam and Eve.  This unhealthy self-awareness or self-conscientiousness didn’t exist prior to their sin.  After their sin, they were very occupied with “self”.

Isn’t this part of the fallout of sin?  Isn’t this part of the nature of sin?  Preoccupation with self?  Unhealthy concern about self?  Before they sinned, they were free of unhealthy self-consciousness.  They were like little kids running naked through the sprinklers on the front lawn.  There wasn’t any concern about self. Read more »