I am not a lazy woman. Most days I have a list of tasks that need accomplished and I revel in checking off that list throughout the day. As I have shared here and here before, rest is not something that comes easily to me. I have to be very intentional about carving out times of rest and relaxation. I definitely do not want to have to re-travel the road of God having to put me on my back in order to convince me to rest.
So, why is it that for someone who is so driven in daily tasks, it is sometimes easy to slide into laziness in my Christian walk? Oh, you too?
That brings me to Romans 12:11, the verse that we are studying in our Authentic Christianity series this week.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (ESV)
Let’s take a look at the verse in the NIV.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (NIV)
As we have already studied in this series there are certain behaviors and attitudes that mark a Christ-follower.
Offering our entire selves to Christ as a living sacrifice
Allowing our minds to be transformed by His Word
Calling evil what it is
There are also other actions that mark a believer:
Sharing Christ with others
Making life and character choices that are godly
I am diligent about some of these things, but not so much with some others. I do very well with staying in Bible study, but sometimes grow lazy in my prayer life and in sharing Jesus with other people. Whether consciously or unconsciously, I fall into Satan’s trap of thinking that my prayer life is not as important as staying in the Word. Now, that makes about as much sense as me deciding that I will read all about my husband, Greg, but it really is not important for me to talk with him. Our relationship would never grow and deepen if we did not talk to each other. Same thing with my relationship with the Lord. If I only read about Him in the Word, but never have conversations with Him, my faith will stagnate.
Then, there is the issue of talking about Jesus and what He has done in my life with other people. Sometimes I am timid about it. Sometimes I am fearful of what others will think of me. But, according to Scripture, believers in Jesus have everything we need to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3), and that means we are equipped to share Him with others. Could it be that I am not remembering the sacrifice Jesus made for me? Perhaps I have grown lazy in my remembering the cross and the empty tomb?
Y’all, I do not want to be lacking in enthusiasm and passion for serving my Jesus. I want to always remember the sacrifice that He made for me. So, how do we keep our spiritual fervor?
Well, I think that it has to start with remembering…remembering what Jesus has done for us…remembering what He has saved us FROM, as well as TO. It also includes staying diligent in studying His Word and in prayer. I am convinced it also requires me to stay in fellowship with other believers. Christian community is where we are encouraged and, yes, even corrected when we stray.
The better you and I know Jesus, the more we love Him. A vibrant Christian walk does not just happen, friend. It requires diligence and work. It requires sacrifice and persistence. But, it is so worth it.
So, let’s not be Eeyore Christians….walking around all gloomy and negative. Let’s show the world that walking with Jesus is exciting and fulfilling by maintaining our spiritual vibrancy!
Are there other ways you maintain your passion for Christ? I’d love for you to share them in the comments.
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Have you ever watched a sea gull? When in flight he powerfully lifts himself higher and higher with every flap of his wings until he is higher than any other gull. Then, he gracefully circles down to the earth. The gull seems to be all about performing and excelling.
What happens, though, when Mr. Gull gets into a flock of gulls? It is not a pretty sight. There are territorial fights over food that cause feathers to fly everywhere. The word ‘share’ is not in the gull’s vocabulary. Philip Yancey said that ‘they are so fiercely competitive and jealous that if you tie a red ribbon around the leg of one gull, making him stand out, you sentence him to execution. The others in his flock will furiously attack him with claws and beaks, hammering through feathers and flesh to draw blood. They’ll continue until he lies flattened in a bloody heap.”
By contrast, consider a flock of geese. You’ve seen them flying in a V-formation, honking all the way to wherever they are going. Scientists know that geese fly faster in that V-formation. The lead goose is the one doing all the work, flying against the wind. It is because of this that there is a regular swapping of positions among the geese in the V which allows the flock to fly long distances without stopping to rest. Everyone shares in the tough job.
The geese with the easiest jobs are those in the back…the last one on each end of the V. It has been observed that the stronger geese allow the weaker and older of the flock to stay in these lighter-work positions. All that honking may even be a way for the geese to encourage one another to keep flying.
If a goose becomes too sick or weak to fly, she is not abandoned. A healthy goose will stay on the ground with the sick or weak one until she is ready to fly again. While gulls are individualistic and territorial, geese are concerned about the flock as a whole, as well as their individual goose-friends.
Into this story we insert today’s verse in our Authentic Christianity study. Check out Romans 12:10.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
The kind of love that is being spoken of in this verse is the love of a friend or a family member, rather than romantic love. As Christians we are to be tenderly affectionate toward other Christians. We are to seek the good of our Christian brothers and sisters, rather than maligning them and dishonoring them. The apostle Paul echoed this admonition in Philippians 2:3 when he told the believers in Philippi to consider others better than themselves.
I will just tell you that the last part of Romans 12:10 is hugely convicting to me. HUGELY! I fail miserably at showing honor to other people. Oh sure, I honor my parents and those who are older than me. But, I sometimes get a big old ‘F’ when it comes to honoring those who seem to be making poor life choices or are different than me. This should remind us of Romans 12:3 where we are told to ‘not think more highly of ourselves than we ought’. If we take this verse seriously, we will show real appreciation, respect, and care for others. We will put their welfare before our own, and we will be Jesus-with-skin-on to them.
So, friend, are you a gull or a goose?
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Recently I attended a continuing education seminar for pharmacists. Sounds fun, huh? The seminar was chock full of excellent information, but unfortunately I was battling some type of viral illness, so by the end of 8 hours of seminar sitting, I was done. Just done. On the first day, I went back to my hotel room, changed into my pajamas and climbed into bed at 5pm. Then, I did something I almost never do. I turned on the television. Flipping channels to find the national news, I stumbled upon a channel offering a program about which I had heard, but never seen.
I’m a girl, and what girl doesn’t like weddings? Immediately I was sucked into “Say Yes to the Dress”. At first, it seemed harmless enough. Bride and family go to store to choose a wedding dress for the big day. Then, the wheels came off the wagon. Lesbian bride and family go to store to choose a wedding dress for the big day. Then, the ox goes into the ditch. Lesbian bride and her bride (is that how you phrase it?) go to store with families to choose wedding dress and one-piece wedding jumpsuit. Seriously?
I know you must be so glad you stopped in today!?! I promise I am going to tie this into Romans 12. Here goes. Do you know what plumb or a plumb line is? Have you ever made use of one?
Merriam-Webster.com defines plumb as ‘a lead weight attached to a line and used to indicate a vertical direction’.
As we study through Romans 12 we are reading all about the plumb line for authentic Christianity. The lead weight is our life, the line is the Word of God which is connected to God, the ultimate Vertical Direction. The entire chapter of Romans 12 is chock full of admonitions for how to live a Jesus-like life. Today we venture into the last half of verse 9 and shewww-eee, is it a doozy!!
Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (ESV)
Evil is the opposite of holiness, therefore it should not be part of the Jesus follower’s heart. In fact, the word abhor is pretty strong here. Synonyms for it are hate, detest, loath, and despise. It has been said that the only protection against sin is to be shocked by it.
How often are we shocked by sin today? How often does evil stun us? Oh sure, the really bad stuff like Christians being beheaded or child abuse or sex trafficking shocks us, but even those things don’t cause us whiplash like they should. We live in an information saturated world and receive so many images and words that we have become a bit callous to it all. May I offer you a quote from John MacArthur? These words were published in 1994, so it was well before the internet became so popular.
The constant bombardment of our senses through TV, newspapers, magazines, movies, and books with the immoralities, violence, and perversions of modern society makes it difficult to be shocked by anything. Tragically, many Christians regularly entertain themselves with sheer ungodliness, perhaps rationalizing that, simply by being a Christian, they are somehow immune from the sinful infection.
MacArthur goes on to say, “we cannot flirt with sin and escape falling into it.”
No, we cannot. Sin affects us greatly….even when we think it doesn’t. Y’all, I’m not just talking about the ‘small sins’ (as if there were such things). No, I’m talking about things that, 50 years ago, would have been considered evil. Those things are not only accepted by Christians today, they are celebrated. Sex outside of marriage, homo- bi-, trans-sexuality, and abortion, just to name a few. Watching all the ‘love’ being celebrated on ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ reminded me of how accepted homosexuality and other sin has become.
Let’s also talk about pride, lying, stealing, jealousy, uncontrolled anger, and hurtful words? Those things are sin, too, and they break the heart of God. We are to abhor it and have nothing to do with it. Do you? Do I?
How is that working out for us? Have we become so de-sensitized to it all that we just accept it and go on?
The second part of this admonition is to hold onto, cling to, what is good. The Greek word used for cling/hold is from the word kolla, which means glue. Good things ought to stick to us. What are those good things? Philippians 4:8 tells us that they are whatever is:
Of good repute
Worthy of Praise
Don’t rush past that list! We need to use discernment and carefully, thoughtfully examine everything to see if it passes the good test.
We must love and show compassion to those who are not living by the plumb line of God’s Word, but we must never allow their sin to become our own…we must never soften the message of the gospel in order to appease feelings. Hell is at stake here, y’all, and it is our duty to call sin what it is, just as Jesus would have done…with love, compassion, but always with truth.
Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
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I have linked to this before, but I wanted to offer it again because I am such a fan of The Journible. It is an awesome way to really cement God’s Word in our heart. Writing out a complete book of the Bible is powerful, y’all. Here is the link to The Journible for Romans.
When I was a tiny child I had horrible tonsils that kept me sick with a sore throat for most of the first five years of my life. At the age of 5 I underwent surgery to remove the offending tonsils and suddenly I could eat. I ate and ate and ate. In fact, I gained no small amount of weight in a short period of time.
At that point, my sweet Mother, whose intentions were pure and good, began her campaign to make certain I did not become ‘fat’. ‘Fat’ became a word that eventually engulfed me like a disease.
“You cannot have that. It will make you fat.”
“Bread…corn…potatoes…dessert… is fattening.”
I adored food, but food soon became the enemy. By the time I was 18 I was in the throes of an eating disorder, and the demons of anorexia quickly took the message that my Mother had spoken to a whole new and devastating level.
Fat = unacceptable = unlovable
Suddenly love had strings attached to it which led me to do things that I should never have done in order to obtain ‘love’ from humans. I brought my strings-attached love into my marriage and that was disastrous on many levels. Thankfully, my marriage survived and I eventually understood that ‘I will love you if….’ is not genuine love.
In Romans 12:9 Paul speaks of the kind of love that should be part of the life of an authentic Christian.
Let love be genuine. (ESV)
Love must be completely sincere. (GNV)
Love must be sincere. (NIV)
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. (NLT)
Obviously Jesus is our model for this kind of love. He loved sincerely, without strings or hypocrisy. He did not pretend to love those with whom He came in contact. He loved them in spite of. He loved them…..
when they were fat.
when they were tall or short.
when they complained.
when they were filthy rich.
when they were dirt poor.
when they were sick.
when they were legalistic.
when they were dirty rotten sinners….like me.
Jesus loved sincerely.
Perhaps you, like me, have a history of love with strings attached. Guess what? Jesus can take that kind of love and turn it into a love in spite of. That is the kind of love Jesus has for you and me. Surely you and I can love other people in the same way.
So, tell me. What kind of love resides in your heart? Be honest now!
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Here a few links to some great books that go along with my post theme today.
Today in our Authentic Christianity series we are talking about spiritual gifts. This passage, along with three sister passages (1 Corinthians 12:1-11, Ephesians 4:7, 11 and 1 Peter 4:10-11) have been the sources of consternation and disagreement in the body of Christ. Much has been written and preached about spiritual gifts over the decades, so I’m sure I have nothing to add that would cause a light bulb to go off in your head. For that reason, I am choosing to focus less on the gifts themselves and more on Paul’s encouragement to use the gift you have been given.
Before we read the verses on which we are focusing today, I want give those who are new to the series links to past teachings so they can get the flavor of this series.
Authentic: Being a Stand-Out Christian in a Shut Up World
What Are You Willing to Sacrifice?
Will You Conform or Be Transformed?
Don’t Let Pride Take You Down
Stop the Fighting, We Are the Body of Christ!
My best friend, Cindy, and I have a long-standing joke between us. Cindy has the gift of mercy, among other gifts that are hers. Her heart breaks for those who are hurting and struggling. She has great compassion and feels things deeply. Me? Not so much. The joke is that when God was giving out mercy, I was in the ladies room! Once Cindy gave me a pack of tissues and on each tissue was a cartoon of a woman waving a Kleenex and saying, “Oh boo-hoo. Blow your nose and get over it.” Yep, she knows me well.
God gifted me with other gifts. I have the gifts of teaching and prophecy (no, I cannot foretell the future. That is not what prophecy means here). Because I do not have the gift of mercy I am not excused from being merciful. Cindy’s influence in the area of mercy has encouraged me to ask the Lord to help me be more merciful to those around me….to see them with the eyes of Christ. That does not mean I will suddenly be smacked with the gift of mercy, but I must be intentional about offering mercy when the situation requires it.
Let’s take a look at our focal verses for today. I’m giving Romans 12:5-8 to you in two versions…the ESV is first, then the Amplified.
5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;
8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
5 So we, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ (the Messiah) and individually we are parts one of another [mutually dependent on one another].
6 Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is} prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith;
7 [He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching;
8 He who exhorts (encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness.
In these verses, Paul is encouraging the Romans to use the gifts they have been given.
If you have the gift of prophecy (preaching, speaking forth, proclaiming God’s Word), use it!
If you have the gift of serving, serve!
If you have the gift of teaching, teach!
If you have the gift of exhortation (encouragement), encourage!
If you have the gift of leading, lead!
If you have the gift of mercy, be merciful!
Use your gift in the way that Jesus would have used it…..in faith, with generosity, excitement, and cheerfulness.
What if you are not happy with your gift, or wish you had a different gift? Well, sister (or brother), you cannot re-gift what God gave to you. You cannot decide that because you do not like it, you can just give your unwanted gift away or choose not to use it. Nope! It is yours, placed within you and assigned to you by God Himself because He knows it is perfect for you. No re-gifting allowed! If you ask God to help you see the plan He has for you to use your gift and to enable you to use it, He will. I will venture to take it one step further and say that you will never be satisfied and joyful until you are actively using the gift God gave you.
I want to encourage you not to run from your gift. It is how you are uniquely fitted to operate within and bless the body of Christ.
So, tell me, what is your spiritual gift or gifts and how are you using them to walk out authentic Christianity? Share in the comments.
NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.
Want to learn more about spiritual gifts? Dr. Charles Stanley, known as America’s pastor, offers a wonderful study on them.
DISCLAIMER: Electronic media makes it difficult to convey emotion. Please, please know that there is not one smidgen of anger contained in this post. As you read it, I hope you will hear my heart of love for the body of Christ. I believe this is an important conversation to have, and I invite you to enter in.
Would you pardon me while I climb atop my soapbox for a moment?
Stop it with all the denominational fighting! Just stop!
I grew up in the Southern Baptist denomination, and I am grateful for (most of) that upbringing. I learned about missions and Jesus and amazing old hymns and the beauty of an organ and piano and the order of service and the Doxology and Girls in Action and Acteens and Summer Vacation Bible School and ‘raise your hand if you read your Sunday School lesson this week’.
I also learned that women are not to be pastors and speaking in tongues is not actually an accepted thing and, dear Gussie, exclusivity. I think my Grandma might have had to be revived with St. Peter’s smelling salts when she stepped through the gates of heaven and discovered that there were Methodists, Church of God, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and many other people who affiliated with non-Southern Baptist denominations, or no denomination at all, right there in heaven.
I am not here to bash the Southern Baptist denomination. I really am not. My ‘letter’ is housed at the Southern Baptist church where I grew up, and I love that church and pray for that church. Southern Baptist just happens to be the well from which I draw my experience. No denomination is perfect, and many of you might have a similar perspective about your denomination. But, our time in Romans 12 today prompts me to step back with you so we can take a 50,000-foot view of the body of Christ and the scene that will one day be around God’s throne in heaven.
Let’s read these two verses…..
4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
You have a body….head to toe, inside and outside…it is a body that houses all sorts of organs, cells, membranes, ligaments, and muscles. Bones are connected by ligaments, tons of miles of blood vessels run all over your body, your brain is the control central, and your muscles allow you to walk and run. Your body is not just your brain. If you were only one big brain, you could not move or eat or kiss your sweetheart. If you were made up of only a pinky finger, you could not stand up.
Every part of your body is necessary to your physical well-being. Just let one part of the body malfunction and the entire body suffers in some way. Don’t believe me? Have you ever broken your pinky toe? Yeah! I rest my case. That pinky toe is important, people!
The same is true of the body of Christ…..regardless of the denomination in which you choose to worship…..if you name the name of Jesus Christ over your soul, you are a necessary and important part of the Body. Now, you may not like the way your toes look, but they are your toes and you must accept that and care for them because they are part of your body. So, let’s pretend the Baptists are the toes, the Methodists are the fingers, the Presbyterians are the blood vessels, the Church of God folks are the muscles, and our non-denominational brothers and sisters are the eyes.
Y’all, I am dying at all the exclusivity and condescension in the body of Christ. We are THE BODY OF CHRIST, knitted together in Him. We need those muscles and eyes and blood vessels, and even those toes and fingers. We need everyone who professes Jesus as Lord and stands firmly on the gospel in order to be a strong and functional body. We may disagree with Church of God folks about speaking in tongues, or the Methodists about sprinkling, but that does not give us the right to look down our noses at our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said that the world would know that we are Christians by our L-O-V-E for one another in the body of Christ.
Even when I attended a denominational church, I did not label myself according to that denomination. If you ask me which denomination I belong to, I will tell you that I am a Christian because that is the label that I want others to associate with my life. My ministry is a non-denominational ministry. I have spoken at churches from many denominations. I seek to write from a Jesus perspective rather than a denominational perspective because I believe it encourages unity in the body of Christ.
So, friends, let’s use grape juice and wine. Let’s use the KJV and the NIV. Let’s use musical instruments and sing a capella. If we are going to choose a hill on which to die, for the love of Pete, let’s let that hill be the gospel of Jesus Christ, not whether to sprinkle or dunk. Let’s show love to our brothers and sisters in Christ and unity of Spirit to the world, so that the world will see Jesus.
I’m off my soapbox now! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. Leave a comment or email me at email@example.com.
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