Poetry: Recessional by Rudyard Kipling’s

Recessional

Rudyard Kipling

God of our fathers, known of old– 
Lord of our far-flung battle line
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
   Dominion over palm and pine–
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
   The captains and the kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
   An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!

Far-called, our navies melt away;
   On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
   Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
   Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe–
Such boasting as the Gentiles use
   Or lesser breeds without the law–
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
   In reeking tube and iron shard–
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
   And guarding, calls not Thee to guard–
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord!

Blog author’s note:  It is worth noting that Rudyard Kipling is a noted freemason. Yet, this particular poem fits truth and some things God is pointing me toward, so felt worth republishing this poem. Do not take the publication of this poem on the blog to point to his other poems and writing as being inspired by God. This poem is worth further study and contemplation.

 

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Helpful Articles: Overcome so you are not overcome by Julie Markhausen

 
The following is commentary by Julie Marxhausen.  She is the pastor’s wife and part of the ministry team at Calvary Worship Center in Minnesota. The church is associated with International Ministerial Fellowship.  I ran across the commentary on her notes page on Facebook but since learned she posted on her own blog found here: http://julieamarxhausen.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/overcome-so-you-are-not-overcome/.
 
Overcome So You Are Not Overcome

As Christians, we have the unique privilege of overcoming all things this world, sin, and the devil throw our way. We need to be people who choose to overcome the things of this world so we can bring others into that same victory in Jesus and not be victims of this world. Overcoming and faith go hand in hand. We need to walk by faith, in order to be the kind of people who overcome. 1 John 5:4 says: “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” It is our faith in Jesus Christ which enables us to overcome this world.

If we remain people who are tossed to and fro based upon the circumstances of life, we must conclude we are not living in faith because faith is victory, and faith victory has overcome the world. Before anyone gets guilt ridden or feels inadequate about their faith as a result of hearing this, let us remember our faith is a gift from God. He has given each of us a measure of faith. Romans 12:3 says “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” The point to be made is that if we are being tossed to and fro, and if we are not experiencing victory to overcome the world, we need look no further than our faith in Jesus. We can press in with God and His Word, refocus our attention, give our honor and praise to Him, and find ourselves exercising our God-given faith which will enable us to find ourselves IN Jesus once again. Our faith in Jesus overcomes the world.

There is a simple way to determine if we are among those who overcome and it is found 1 John 5:5 “Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? “ Many people “say” they believe in Jesus Christ, in fact even Satan believes Jesus is the Son of God. In a “Facebook” comment one lady remarked to some others witnessing the love of Jesus to her, “Wish you would stop trying to stuff Jesus and God down other people’s throats. It is f……sickening, a lot of us believe but do not need to go to church with a bunch of hypocrites to have that belief so just go away.” Does that sound like someone who believes in the greatest news on earth?

You see, believing is far more than simply acknowledging we know “of” Jesus. Satan acknowledges Who God is but will not accept the dominion of Jesus Christ. Many people do the same thing. They acknowledge who God is but do not submit to His Lordship in their lives. Therefore, simply “believing” in the basic essence of the word, is not what God is talking about here. “Believing” is the acceptance of everything about Jesus, acknowledging Him as God, as the only One who overcame the world, death, and the devil. Truly believing is “a knowing” at the seat of our desires, feelings, affections, passions, and impulses, that Jesus is the Son of God. Believing takes place in our hearts not just our minds. And it means accepting Him as Lord over our lives and then sharing our lives with those in the body of Christ. When we believe Jesus is the Son of God, when we have faith in God, we overcome. It is not an option. The Word says our faith overcomes the world. We may like to bring all the arguments against this since we don’t always experience the overcoming victory we expect to achieve, but that is only evidence our faith is still not grounded in Jesus.

One of my favorite verses on overcoming is found in Romans 8:37 (NASB) “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loves us.” Most versions are written, “We are more than conquerors.” We probably should know what “all these things” are. We are going to go through things while living on earth. Those things are: v. 35 – tribulations, distress, persecution, famine, nakednesss, peril, and sword. Tribulations would be things causing great stress and pressure or calamity. Distresses we experience include extreme circumstances where we feel there is no way of escape because it feels so narrow, including sickness and disease. Perhaps we suffer persecution for our faith in Jesus Christ even fearing attacks from people beyond mere words. We will also experience hardship, possibly lack of food, clothing and other dangers to our well-being.

Then verse 37 comes with the words “but” and “all”. But, in all of these things we overwhelmingly conquer. Christians almost daily proclaim, “I don’t know if I am going to make it through this one.” Or “It will take a move of God to get me through this.” Or “I just can’t take any more.” Or “I wonder if God is even watching me because He sure isn’t doing anything for me here.” We may feel all of things but at some point, we MUST stand up in the faith which gives us victory and proclaim “BUT in ALL these things I overwhelmingly conquer.” This is not simply defeating the enemy, it is a landslide beating.

When going through trials, persecutions and the like, people like to vent and get all the “bad” things” out. Perhaps they even convince themselves this is the way to get over something. What we do not realize is that in doing this, we only propagate the negative feelings, and we do it because we want sympathy or empathy. I am not suggesting we “fake” it and pretend all is well all the time. BUT, I am suggesting we speak the Word and do the Word rather than doing what feels good at the time.

Recently I was sad, frustrated, angry, and irritated with Christian people. This happens every so often so I recognize the feeling when it comes on me. I was feeling suffocated by the complaints and lack of faith I was hearing and seeing in the body of Christ. I am not insensitive or immune to the problems we all face in this world, but I am very sensitive to how we handle these problems. In my emotion I found myself discouraged and judgmental leaving me at the point of tears. Since I want to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only, I knew I must overcome and experience victory through faith. I knew I had to get into the Word of God and allow Him to refresh, convict, and renew my thinking. I knew I was to intercess through Him, not vent to others, (which would only fuel my frustration). Knowing all of this, I knew I had to make the right decision but was I ready and willing to be obedient?

It is a choice to nurse negative feelings or move into a place of confession and repentance, allowing God to cleanse and wash allowing Him to take the burdens. I will admit I don’t always choose rightly. Most times I vent first and then go to God afterwards. Timing is everything! If I would go to God first, I can vent to Him and won’t have a need to vent to others. Oftentimes we hang on to these emotions for the sake of validity or we believe the emotions have a hold on us and they will just go away in time. But our victory comes through faith in Jesus, and our faith in Jesus includes being obedient to His will, and His will is firmly established and revealed in His Word and by His Spirit.

The next time trials and tribulations come, as they will, and you feel overwhelmed, remember you are more than a conqueror through Christ. Everything must bow to our holy God. Revelation 12:11 says “And they overcame him (the accuser of the brethren) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” Don’t settle for complaining and venting when you overwhelming conquer everything in this world through faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, overcome so you are not overcome. Overcome by faith in Jesus so the world does not overcome you!

Helpful Articles: Joseph Husband of Mary

I was browsing some blogs this morning and came across this writing about Joseph and the love he shared.  Joseph is someone we do not think much about related to the story of Jesus birth. Yet, it is worthwhile to think what God was showing us.   The post is worth reading and I hope you appreciate it.  Do click over to the blog authors site and let him know of appreciation for the article if it impacts you.

http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/2009/12/joseph-husband-of-mary/#more-4617

Joseph, Husband of Mary

Calendar December 24, 2009 | Posted by Polycarp

One of the most forgotten men in the Scriptures is Joseph, who was a man from the line of David who had  a certain Jewish girl espoused to him. He makes a small appearance in Matthew and Luke, the only two Gospels to record something about him. His name appears only a few times in all of the New Testament. It is only in Matthew’s work which we find him and his actions as any part of the story,

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.  (Matthew 1:18-25 NKJV)

A wise man once said that the words that we read are the headlines, and this is especially true in this case. We find a great story of love and sacrifice in Joseph, in as much as he was willing to become an outcast – if only temporarily – in order to protect Mary, the young girl who he would have paid a dowry – the young girl who carried the public signs of a betrayal. The law required death for Mary. In this instance, we find the first shadow of the Grace which was to come.

The law is clear – death for Mary:

“If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 22:23-24 NKJV)

Mary was considered evil – a blot on the community, something to be killed and done away with – exterminated ruthlessly. We see something in the horror of the law that is not mentioned – the great love of Joseph for Mary. He would have paid a dowry, perhaps a goodly sum for the espousal. He would have made preparations for Mary in his home, and already giving her that which was sacred – his family name. I can only imagine what love he  had for her and the loss he felt to have gone so far but to have been betrayed with such a great sin. She had slandered him, his family, and his family name.

Joseph had such a love that he was determined to take the ridicule, the shame, and give her the bill of divorce  privately. Like anyone in pain due to love, with his heart breaking, he most likely took time, mourning, to determine his next course of action for the young Jewish girl whom he clearly loved.

If we step away from Joseph, to a higher plane, we can see the sovereignty of God in this matter. God did not just choose Mary, and because of that Joseph, for no reason. Joseph was a man of great love (Mary with her own qualities), a love that would rather endure shame and the outcast of a community instead of harming Mary. He would risk breaking the Law of Moses to protect someone who he loved. What better caretaker for the son of God?

Returning to Joseph, we find that it was in the middle of his deliberations – I can imagine them maddening and tortured – that the Angel of the Lord appeared to him with words of consolation. So, with this love of Joseph, we find faith. Joseph disobeyed the cultural mores of ancient Palestine, obeying rather the will of God, and held Mary as his wife, in the face of what would have been certain opposition from everyone, perhaps even his parents as well as Mary’s.

So, we have a picture of Grace and Love in the life of Christ even before He began His ministry. Joseph was ready to sacrifice his standing in his family and community to save the life of  a pregnant girl – a trollop, a whore, a sinner – and to protect her and her unborn Son – the bastard child of this trollop and perhaps a Roman solider, Panthera – from the death demanded by the Torah. It was because of this love that the Angel appeared to Joseph the Carpenter and told him that this Child would be the deliverer of all Israel. His wife who was dead to him was now alive again.

If we remove the doctrine and traditions that surround both Mary and Joseph, we find a picture of grace – we find love – we find a truly holy family.

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Helpful Articles: David Wilkerson- Forebearing one another

Originally posted on 9/14/9 at David Wilkerson’s blog: http://davidwilkersontoday.blogspot.com/2009/09/forbearing-one-another.html

FORBEARING ONE ANOTHER

“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Colossians 3:13, italics mine). 

 

Forbearing and forgiving are two different issues. Forbearing means ceasing from all acts and thoughts of revenge. It says, in other words, “Don’t take matters into your own hands. Instead, endure the hurt. Lay the matter down and leave it alone.”

 

Yet, forbearing is not just a New Testament concept. Proverbs tells us, “Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work” (Proverbs 24:29). We are given a powerful example of this admonition in David’s life. He was in a vengeful rage toward a wicked man named Nabal because Nabal refused to help him when he needed help. David swore revenge but he obeyed God’s counsel, “Do not avenge yourself…let the Lord fight your battle.” That situation was resolved in a timely manner and David praised God for his intervention. (See 1 Samuel 25 for the entire story.)

 

David had another opportunity for easy revenge when he found his pursuer, Saul, asleep in a cave, in which David himself was hiding. David’s men urged him, “This is God’s doing.  He has delivered Saul into your hands. Kill him now, and avenge yourself.” But David forbore, instead cutting off a piece of Saul’s garment, so he could later prove he could have killed him. Such wise actions are God’s ways of putting our enemies to shame, and that was the case when David showed Saul the garment. Saul responded, “Thou art more righteous than I: for thou has rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil” (1 Samuel 24:17).

 

Now we come to forgiving, which encompasses two other commandments: (1) Loving your enemies and (2) Praying for them. “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

 

One wise old preacher said, “If you can pray for your enemies, you can do all the rest.” I have found this to be true in my own life.

 

Jesus never said the work of forgiving would be easy. When he commanded, “Love your enemies,” the Greek word for “love” does not mean “affection” but “moral understanding.” Simply put, forgiving someone isn’t a matter of stirring up human affection, but making a moral decision to remove hatred from our hearts.

Helpful Article: Legalism versus Liberty- Sam Storms

Just found this helpful article from www.enjoyingGodministries.com that is related to legalism and expectations of interacting with God. Hope you find it challenging. 

Legalism Vs. Liberty

  • Sam Storms
  • Nov 6, 2006
  • Series: Controversial Issues

The word “freedom” has a variety of meanings for a variety of people. To Martha Stewart, it means early release from prison. To an Iraqi citizen, it means democratic rule following the elections in January. To a small businessman it may be defined in purely economic terms. To someone in a formerly communist bloc country it may mean the absence of social and political oppression. But what does “freedom” mean to the Christian? What does it mean to you?

In Galatians 5:13 Paul wrote, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Why did God the Father set his saving love on you? Why did God the Son die for you? Why did God the Holy Spirit call you to faith in that sacrifice? Freedom!

For the Christian, freedom means one of three things. There is, first of all, freedom from the condemnation of God’s wrath. This is what Paul had in mind in Romans 8:1 when he declared, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Second, there is freedom from the compulsion of sin. Romans 6:14 assures us that “sin will have no dominion” over us since we “are not under law but under grace.” Then, thirdly, there is freedom from the conscience of other people, which is the primary theme of the fourteenth chapter of Romans. It is on the third of these manifestations of Christian freedom that I want to concentrate.

The Threat of Legalism

There are people, professing Christian people, who are determined to bring you under their religious thumb. They are bent on making you a slave of their conscience. They have built a tidy religious box, without biblical justification, and strive to stuff you inside and make you conform to its dimensions. They are legalists, and their tools are guilt, fear, intimidation, and self-righteousness. They proclaim God’s unconditional love for you, but insist on certain conditions before including you among the accepted, among the approved elite, among God’s favored few.

I’m not talking about people who insist you obey certain laws or moral rules in order to be saved. Such people aren’t legalists. They are lost! They are easily identified and rebuffed. I’m talking about Christian legalists whose goal is to enforce conformity among other Christians in accordance with their personal preferences. These are life-style legalists. They threaten to rob you of joy and to squeeze the intimacy out of your relationship with Jesus. They may even lead you to doubt your salvation. They heap condemnation and contempt on your head so that your life is controlled and energized by fear rather than freedom and joy and delight in God.

Rarely would these folk ever admit to any of this. They don’t perceive or portray themselves as legalists. If they are reading this they are probably convinced I’m talking about someone else. They’d never introduce themselves: “Hi! My name is Joe/Julie. I’m a legalist and my goal is to steal your joy and keep you in bondage to my religious prejudices. Would you like to go to lunch after church today and let me tell you all the things you’re doing wrong?”

I suspect that some of you are either legalists or, more likely, the victims of legalism. You live in fear of doing something that another Christian considers unholy, even though the Bible is silent on the subject. You are terrified of incurring their disapproval, disdain, and ultimate rejection. Worse still, you fear God’s rejection for violating religious traditions or cultural norms that have no basis in Scripture but are prized by the legalist. You have been duped into believing that the slightest misstep or mistake will bring down God’s disapproval and disgust.

When you are around other Christians, whether in church or a home group or just hanging out, do you feel free? Does your spirit feel relaxed or oppressed? Do you sense their acceptance or condemnation? Do you feel judged, inadequate, inferior, guilty, immature, all because of your perceived failure to conform to what someone else regards as “holy”?

Jesus wants to set you free from such bondage! As Paul said, “you were called to freedom”!

Defining Legalism

Legalism has been defined in a number of ways, but here is my attempt. Legalism is the tendency to regard as divine law things which God has neither required nor forbidden in Scripture and the corresponding inclination to look with suspicion on others for their failure or refusal to conform.

So, how do I know if I’m a legalist? Here is a simple test, consisting of five questions.

(1) Do you place a higher value on church customs than on biblical principles? Many of our so-called “rights” and “wrongs” in church life are the product, not of the Bible, but family background, culture, social and economic factors, geographical locale, and a long-standing institutional commitment to doing things the way they’ve always been done. Once again, as long as the Bible doesn’t prohibit such practices, you may well be free to pursue them. But you are not free to insist that others do so as well.

(2) Do you elevate to the status of moral law something the Bible does not require? Let me mention just a few examples.

Whereas the Bible explicitly forbids drunkenness, it nowhere requires total abstinence. Make no mistake: total abstinence from alcohol is great. As a Christian you are certainly free to adopt that as a lifestyle. But you are not free to condemn those who choose to drink in moderation. You may discuss with them the wisdom of such a choice and the practical consequences of it, but you cannot condemn them as sub-spiritual or as falling short of God’s best.

The Bible encourages modesty in dress. Both male and female are to be careful not to dress in a way that flaunts their sexuality or is unnecessarily ostentatious and seductive. But we have no right to condemn others for their wearing of colorful clothing or the use of makeup or a particular hairstyle.

The Bible condemns lust in no uncertain terms. But the legalist uses this to condemn as unholy everything from television to the internet to movies (even PG) to mixed swimming. Make no mistake: you may be significantly better off by severely curtailing your use of TV and the internet, and I strongly advise that you be more discerning than ever when it comes to the trash coming out of Hollywood that so often passes for “art”. But these forms of media can also be powerful tools for the expansion and expression of kingdom truths when wisely utilized.

The Bible commands weekly gatherings for prayer, Bible study, worship, and celebration of the sacraments. But the legalist condemns as carnal anyone who ever, for any reason, misses a Sunday service or dares to watch a football game in the afternoon or chooses to mow their lawn after church. If you prefer not to work on Sunday or watch athletic events or perform household chores, that’s wonderful. But don’t condemn others who differ. Why? Because God doesn’t condemn them.

Parents are to raise their kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. About that there is no mistake. As a parent, you may believe that all public schools are tools of the devil and cesspools of secular humanism. It is certainly your right to hold that opinion and make your decisions concerning your child’s education accordingly. But you have no biblical right to question the spirituality of those Christian parents who would hold a different view. Whether you educate your children at home or send them to a private school or public school is a matter on which Scripture is silent. Hold your conviction with passion and zeal, but do not seek to enslave the conscience of others who may disagree with you.

(3) Do you tend to look down your spiritual nose at those who don’t follow God’s will for YOUR life?

Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a missionary family that served in a place where peanut butter was hard to obtain. This family arranged for friends in the U.S. to send them peanut butter so they could enjoy it with their meals. They soon discovered that other missionaries in the same country considered it a mark of spirituality that one abstain from peanut butter. It was their “cross to bear”! This family didn’t flaunt their enjoyment of peanut butter but they did continue to thank God for it and enjoyed it in the privacy of their own home. But the pressure and condemnation from their fellow missionaries intensified to such a degree that the family eventually returned home, disillusioned and cynical.

Someone might argue that the couple should have yielded and agreed not to eat peanut butter out of deference to the beliefs of their associates and for the sake of the gospel in that country. Perhaps. But to do so would also serve only to reinforce error in the minds of the legalists who insisted that peanut butter was “off limits”. You are not doing anyone a favor by behaving in such a way that you encourage or embolden them in their legalistic ways.

Part of being a Christian is the freedom not to eat peanut butter. But it is not part of being a Christian that you condemn others if they do. You are free to exercise your freedom, but you are not free to insist that others not exercise theirs!

(4) Are you uncomfortable with the fact that the Bible does not explicitly address every ethical decision or answer every theological question?

Legalists tend to fear ambiguity. The legalist’s favorite colors are black and white. They are uncomfortable with biblical silence and insist on speaking when the Word of God does not. They feel something of a “calling” to fill in the gaps left by Scriptural silence or to make specific and often detailed applications that God, in the Bible, chose not to make.

(5) Are you more comfortable with rules than with relationships?

I’m not talking about explicit biblical rules. In Psalm 119 we see the proper Christian response to biblical laws and commandments and precepts and rules. We are to rejoice and celebrate in the laws of God and to happily and joyfully obey them. I’m talking about rules of your own making, rules you feel “led” to make as what you perceive to be the only legitimate application of what the Bible does say. God-given rules are good and righteous, but they are designed to enhance and develop Christian relationships, not stifle, crush, and kill them.

Why Would Anyone Want to be a Legalist?

What is the appeal of legalism? Let me mention five things that draw people to embrace legalism.

First, legalism provides us with a sense of security in that it enables us always to know precisely what to do in every conceivable moral dilemma. There is a certain sort of psychological safety in being stiff morally.

Second, legalism nurtures pride. “Look at what I’m willing to forego that others embrace! Others may indulge themselves but I have a discipline and a moral standard they lack. I possess a will-power that really loves God. Therefore, God really loves me” (with the implication that God doesn’t really love those who choose another path, or at least doesn’t love them as much as he loves me!).

Third, it provides an excuse to maintain control. One need never fear the unknown because there is always a rule or law (of my own making, of course) to govern every situation. After all, without rules things will get out control (or so legalists think).

Fourth, there is comfort in conformity. It is always reassuring when other people live like we do, even if there is no explicit biblical warrant for it.

Fifth, some embrace legalism out of a genuine, heart-felt concern for other believers. They are actually motivated by love and compassion, worried that the spiritual welfare of others is at risk. They fear that others will assuredly “fall” if they walk down a certain path, even though that path is nowhere prescribed in Scripture (see especially Romans 14:4).

Conclusion

I have three concluding comments.

First, the Christian is not free to do what the Bible forbids. Christian freedom does not entail the right to fornicate or to steal or to lie or to persist in an unforgiving attitude or to do anything else the Scriptures explicitly prohibit. And a person who lovingly points this out to you is not a legalist for having done so!

Second, God does not want your Christian life to be characterized or dominated by fear and guilt and intimidation. He wants you to experience optimum joy, freedom, intimacy, and delight in Him. He wants you to enjoy your freedom and to use it in the service of love for others. This leads directly to the third, and final, conclusion.

Third, there is something more important than the mere exercise of freedom: love. Read Gal. 5:13 again. I strongly urge you to read my lesson on Romans 14 in the Biblical Studies section of the website where I discuss the reasons why at times we should forego an otherwise legitimate Christian liberty for the sake of others.

Helpful Articles: The Best Decision I made this year by Mark Batterson

The Best Decision I Made This Year

By Mark Batterson

Bible

If you asked me: what is the best decision you made this year?  The answer is easy. The hands-down best decision was the decision to read through a one-year Bible. 

Let me come clean.  I didn’t read the Bible nearly as much as I could have or should have last year.  This is embarrassing to admit, but Bible reading had become synonymous with sermon prep.  I was reading it professionally instead of devotionally.  I was reading it for what God wanted to say through me instead of reading it for what God wanted to say to me.  And it took its toll. 

Then at the end of last year I stumbled across an interview with J.I. Packer, the renowned author and theologian.  He said, “Any Christian worth his salt ought to read the Bible from cover-to-cover every year.”  It stung at first.  But it made sense, so much sense that I decided to do it.  And it has proved to be the best decision I made this year.  Long story short, I’ve fallen in love with the Bible all over again. 

If you want to grow spiritually, you need a consistent diet of Scripture.  In fact, you will never outgrow your consumption of Scripture. There is no substitute. There is no supplement.  The poet, T.S. Eliot, once observed: “Everything we eat has some effect upon us. It affects us during the process of assimilation and digestion; and I believe exactly the same is true of anything we read.”  In other words, you are what you read.

I have a saying that I repeat to our congregation frequently: reading without meditating is like eating without digesting.  If you want to absorb the nutrients, you can’t just read it. You’ve got to chew on it. You’ve got to digest it. Meditation is the way we metabolize Scripture.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

A few years ago, researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health did a study that consisted of subjects performing a simple motor task. As subjects engaged in a finger-tapping exercise, the researchers conducted an MRI to identify what part of the brain was being activated. The subjects then practiced the finger-tapping exercise daily for four weeks. At the end of the four-week period, the brain scan was repeated. In each instance, it revealed that the area of the brain involved in the task had expanded. That simple task, a finger-tapping exercise, literally recruited new nerve cells and rewired neuronal connections.

That is what happens when we read Scripture.  We are recruiting new nerve cells and rewiring neuronal connections. In a sense, we are downloading a new operating system that reconfigures the mind.  We stop thinking human thoughts and start thinking God thoughts.  And our minds are literally renewed. 

Enough theory.  Let me get personal and practical.  Because I have a goal-oriented personality, I knew I needed to turn this spiritual discipline of reading, studying, and meditating Scripture into a spiritual goal.  So I made one New Year’s Resolution: read through a one-year Bible.  For what it’s worth, I choose The Daily Message.  Then I asked my son, Parker, if he would do it with me.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure if he was old enough to handle some of the real and raw passages.  You don’t have to read very far into Genesis before you encounter some kinky and unconscionable stories.  But I’d much rather discuss the dark side of human nature after reading the Bible than watching a random R-rated movie.  I also have to admit that I had ulterior motives.  I knew that if my son was doing it with me, it would help keep me accountable!

Permission to speak frankly? 

One of the common complaints people make when leaving a church is this: I’m not being fed.  As a preacher, my goal is to nourish our congregation via a well-rounded diet of sermons. And I try to preach every sermon like it’s my last, but let me push back.  My kids learned to feed themselves when they were toddlers.  If you’re not being fed, that’s your fault.  I’m afraid we’ve unintentionally fostered a subtle form of spiritual codependency in our churches.  It is so easy to let others take responsibility for what should be our responsibility. So we let our pastors study the Bible for us.  Here’s a news flash: the Bible was unchained from the pulpit nearly five hundred years ago during an era of history called the Middle Ages. 

If you are relying on a preacher to be fed, I fear for you.  Listening to a sermon is second-hand knowledge.  It is learning based on someone else’s words or experiences. A sermon is no replacement for first-hand knowledge.  You’ve got to see it and hear it and experience it for yourself.  It’s not enough to hear the truth. You have to own it. Or more accurately, it has to own you. Honestly, I’d rather have people hear one word from the Lord than a thousand of my sermons.  And that happens when you open your Bible and start reading.

Mark Batterson is the pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC. He also the author of Wild Goose Chase, and In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. Check-out his blog at www.evotional.com.

Poetry/Prose: The Meaning of Peace

See the waves prose in previous article. This articel was submitted by a Phoebe McKell to the same website.  I think the pictures go well with the prose as well.

http://www.mountainwings.com/past/Sunday.htm

 The Meaning of Peace
==============

There was once a king who offered a prize to the artist who
could paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried.
The king looked at all the pictures, but there were only two
that he really liked, and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror
for the peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was
a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture
thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The second picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged
and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell, and in
which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled
a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all.

But when the king looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny
bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird
had built her nest…. a perfect picture of peace.

Which of the pictures won the prize?

The king chose the second picture.

Do you know why?

“Because,” explained the king, “peace does not mean to be in a
place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.
Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be
calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”

That is the REAL meaning of peace.

~Author Unknown~