Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: faith in action

How to take a compliment

We love to receive compliments.  We relish the idea of someone having a high enough opinion about us that they would either say something or write something that commends us for our actions.  “Words of affirmation” is a primary love language for many of us.  But as Christians, I think we struggle a little bit with how to handle compliments when they are given to us.

Towards the end of his letter, the author of Hebrews clues us in on the importance of how we handle compliments and praise – and the direction they need to go:

Hebrews 13:15
Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is the fruit of lips that confess His name.


The Greek word used here for praise means to “speak of the excellence of someone or something”.  I think sometimes when we Christians are praised by someone else, we’re not sure how to receive it.  This readily apparent when we are given a compliment from another Christian about doing good to other people – we end up saying something like “I give God all the praise and glory”.  But those eight words tend to sound a little hollow, especially with the way most of us quickly say them with a dismissive tone.

However, compliments we receive in the rest of life aren’t handled that way.  When someone tells us that we are good at fixing things, or good at driving, or a hard worker, we are often quick to point out “You know, my dad taught me that when I was young.” or “Thank you, I had a boss once who showed me how.”.  Statements like that almost always come with a story of us struggling to learn and how grateful we are for the teachers we’ve had.

So now we see what it means to sacrifice our praise.  We’re intentionally putting off the idea that we are “self-made women” or “self-made men”, and placing another person’s recognition ahead of ours – because of their unseen contribution is the true cause of the good result others see in us. 

So when complimented for doing something good, instead of quickly mumbling “I give God all the praise and glory.”, let’s use our words to actually do it.  Rather than saying an eight word phrase that no one outside of Christianity understands (and I’m not convinced all of us Christians really understand that phrase either), we should use our words to speak highly of the One who is making us into something worth complimenting. 

Try something like this instead:

God taught me that when I read <insert Scripture reference or Bible story>”.
or
God taught me that when He helped me through a tough time in my life.  I learned I could trust Him because of how He showed up.”
or
God has always shown love and kindness to me, even when I don’t deserve it.  I’m just trying to do the same thing.

Rather than a blank stare, you’ll probably have an opportunity to share more with the person complimenting you.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Our opportunity is larger than you think

After giving several serious warning throughout his letter, the author of Hebrews refreshes us with examples of regular people who have actually lived the kind of life he is urging his readers to choose – a life that is marked by actions that show we trust the Greater Messenger; that we are living for participation in a future kingdom.

We have now arrived at what is commonly referred to as the “Hall of Faith” or the “Faith Hall of Fame”.  Hebrews 11 contains Old Testament examples of those who by faith trusted God with the message He gave them – and then they made life choices with that end in mind.

One thing to keep in mind here is that the words translated faith and believe are the same word in Greek, and are best defined as – to trust, with implications that the one who is trusted will do actions because of that trust placed in them

And in this context, the action to follow is the expectation that God will fulfill His promise of participation in a future kingdom.

Hebrews 11:1-2, 6
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.  For by it our ancestors won God’s approval…Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.


If we do not believe the importance of the message, we won’t draw near to God.  All the faith heroes listed in this chapter are being commended for the actions in their individual lives that corresponded to their belief in the coming future that was promised by God.

Hebrews 11:13, 32-33, 39
These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised.  But they saw them from a distance…And what more can I say?  Time is too short for me to tell about [all of those] who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises…All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised


Wait.  What?

What do you mean, they didn’t receive it?  God promised it, so why didn’t they get it?

However, the author did says they obtained promises.  He continues:

Hebrews 11:40
God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.


Made perfect can also be translated to reach a goal, be fulfilled, or completed.

Let verse 40 sink in…read it a second time…and a fourth time…

God has decided to allow us (you and me!) participation in bringing about what Abraham, Moses, Rahab, Samuel, and all the OT heroes were longing to see, the fulfillment of their faith in God’s promises.

You are invited to participate in the greatest story ever told.  Will you?

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

The Christian life, in 3 steps. Seriously. (part 2)

The author of Hebrews has boiled down the Christian life into three basic steps.  He wrote this to believers regarding the first step:

Hebrews 10:22
let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.

If we are going to live the way we were created to live, then we must know life’s author.  Drawing near, spending time one-on-one with God, is the only way to do that.

The second step can only happen after we take the first step.  But if we do draw near, then the next step will be both normal and natural.

Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since He who promised is faithful.

What is your anchor when life goes sideways?
What do you hold on to when an unwanted situation becomes the norm?

We’ll say that “God is my rock”, but we often rely on other tempting options to get away and regain our footing: the internet, TV, and our phones all offer mild escapes… before we get to the often condemned but equally tempting ones like alcohol, drugs, and inappropriate relationships. 

When life doesn’t go like we wanted it to, or we find it hard to follow Jesus, we need to hold on to the confession of our hope.  What that means is we anchor ourselves on the truth that we know.  We remind ourselves that He has promised what we do with His Greater Message in this life is the most important thing for us.  If God is faithful (and He is), then we can confidently expect that our choices now will have eternal significance – no matter what life throws at us.

God is faithful. 

Do we trust that statement?
Do our action show that we trust that statement? 

If Yes – then hold on, without wavering
If No – then go back to step 1 and draw near to God, so that you can know Him to the point you can trust His faithfulness.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Knowing when to give assistance

There is no shortage of people who need help.  No matter what lies the health-and-wealth teachers may tell, there are poor people in our churches who need help.  Whether due to circumstances beyond their control, circumstances which they created, or some combination of the two…there are needs all around us.

But how do we decide, who gets help…or who possibly “deserves” it more than someone else?  I have a tough time figuring that out as an individual, but have we considered how our church should be responding to assistance requests?  Logistically speaking, our churches have bills to pay, too.  So, it’s unrealistic to expect that every single request for support can or will be met at 100%.

Resources vs Needs isn’t a new problem for the church, either.  Paul addressed it with Timothy regarding the needs of widows in the Ephesian church.  Widowhood was a serious situation for women in the ancient world, since they were not typically the direct heir of husband’s will, and income generating options were limited, at best.  Additionally, if the husband was poor, he may not have left much for his wife to live on.

Her needs would be more significant than a one-time pantry-stocking trip to the local grocery store.  So how was Timothy to handle this significant of a request for continual support?

1 Timothy 5:3-4
Support widows who are genuinely widows.  But if any widow has children or grandchildren, they should learn to practice their religion toward their own family first and to repay their parents, for this pleases God.

Timothy’s first step is to thoroughly check for family.  I almost find it humorous that Paul says “Support widows who are genuinely widows”.  First step is to verify that her husband is truly dead.  The second step is check for extended family, especially if they are believers.  If they’ve been adopted into God’s family, then they have no excuse to skip out on taking care of members of their earthly family.  There were no assisted living homes and no hospice care in the ancient world.  The family’s care for the widow is an act of worship and respect toward God, which He finds pleasing because their actions are a reflection of his own.

1 Timothy 5:5-7
The real widow, left all alone, has put her hope in God and continues night and day in her petitions and prayers; however, she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.  Command this so that they won’t be blamed. 

The real widow, the one the church should consider helping is destitute and has no other family options.  In fact, she considers the church her last resort…notice that she goes to God directly and repeatedly before she approaches the church body with her need.

Paul also affirms that the widow’s lifestyle should be considered prior to giving assistance.  If she is living a self-indulgent lifestyle, then she probably won’t be wise with the funds the church may give her.  In this case, there are other issues to address that are greater than her immediate need.

Lastly, Paul gives an ominous warning:

1 Timothy 5:8
Now if anyone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Paul pulls no punches here, so let’s be as practical as possible:

If I have the resources to take care of my widowed mother, and I refuse to do so…which forces her to rely on support from the local church, using funds that should go to those who are genuinely in need…how is that not stealing from God? 

Clearly, this verse is addressed to believers, since the comparison is with an unbeliever.  So, denying the faith doesn’t mean that I would not be part of God’s family.  What it means is that I would be grossly hypocritical of the love and resources that God has extended to me.  God did not withhold His resources when I could not save myself.  How can I claim to be a part of His family and then have my actions deny the faith and relationship with God?  At least an unbeliever’s words and actions match up.  What damage am I doing to God’s reputation if I have no good reason to refuse to help?

Our application of this passage is two-fold:

If we have family members who are destitute, it is our responsibility to care for them – not the church’s.  This doesn’t mean we pay for all their bills each month, either.  “Destitute” means just that.  We should not be passing off our family’s financial burdens to our church family.

If the church is approached by an individual in great need, it is both acceptable and wise to evaluate the depth of that need.  It is also wise to evaluate the person’s lifestyle.  Financing someone’s irresponsibility is less loving than telling a person “No, we will not help you in this way”, especially if there are deeper needs to address.  If there are other avenues of help available, either through their family or other modern-day options, that is acceptable as well.

The problem of societal needs is not new.  However, we must be wise with how/when we support others.  Everything we do, whether we give assistance or refuse assistance, must be done within the context of reflecting God to others.

Keep Pressing,
Ken