misunderstanding

Chosen by God's Kindness

Photo credit: lightstock.com So I ask, “Has God rejected his people Israel?” That’s unthinkable! Consider this. I’m an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham from the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he knew long ago.

Don’t you know what Elijah says in the Scripture passage when he complains to God about Israel? He says,

“Lord, they’ve killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I’m the only one left, and they’re trying to take my life.” But what was God’s reply? God said, “I’ve kept 7,000 people for myself who have not knelt to worship Baal.”

So, as there were then, there are now a few left that God has chosen by his kindness. If they were chosen by God’s kindness, they weren’t chosen because of anything they did. Otherwise, God’s kindness wouldn’t be kindness.

So what does all this mean? It means that Israel has never achieved what it has been striving for. However, those whom God has chosen have achieved it. The minds of the rest of Israel were closed, as Scripture says,

“To this day God has given them a spirit of deep sleep. Their eyes don’t see, and their ears don’t hear!” And David says, “Let the table set for them become a trap and a net, a snare and a punishment for them. Let their vision become clouded so that they cannot see. Let them carry back-breaking burdens forever.”

So I ask, “Has Israel stumbled so badly that it can’t get up again?” That’s unthinkable! By Israel’s failure, salvation has come to people who are not Jewish to make the Jewish people jealous.

The fall of the Jewish people made the world spiritually rich. Their failure made people who are not Jewish spiritually rich. So the inclusion of Jewish people will make the world even richer. (‭Romans‬ ‭11:‭1-12‬ (GW)


The concept of being chosen is often misunderstood, mostly because of our human, earthbound worldview. This is understandable in America, since we fixate on beauty and performance, as with celebrities, pop-stars, athletes, and politicians.

But those who are chosen by God's kindness—His grace—are only special because He's chosen them, not anything else. This choosing is for His purposes and according to His timing, which is true for a nation or a person.

But we don't see the whole picture. We don't see things from God's point of view. We see that Elijah was chosen by God, but he was not the only one. God had 7,000 other people reserved for His purposes.

Israel was chosen by God for His purposes, but they did not remain faithful to Him. His plan for redeeming humanity included other peoples (nations), not just the Jews. So, Israel was set aside for a purpose, so that others could be included in God's kingdom.

Be careful of seeing God's choosing as anything else than His kindness shown for His purposes. ©Word-Strong_2016

Is This the Will of God?

Photo credit: lightstock.com I remember seeing this title—“In Everything Give Thanks?!”—on a pamphlet someone gave to me. I was a young pastor and the author was a popular televangelist in my area (So Cal).

I looked up the Scripture reference and saw that he added his own punctuation to the text.

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

His opinion and perception was that the apostle Paul was wrong. His biased view of theology prompted him to reinterpret God's Word.

A wrong view

This man was wrong, flat wrong, for a number of reasons I won't get into now.

What he did is what many of us do when we come to something in the Bible that's hard to understand or accept. We look for a work-around. We try to reframe or interpret a text so it's more to our liking.

When we try to do this, just like this man did, we put ourselves in a precarious position. It's an audacious and presumptuous attitude to question the truth of God's Word, because it doesn't line up with how we think it should read. We read our own meaning into the text when we do so.

An important element of studying the Bible is to understand it within its context. This includes the surrounding text and its historical context.

Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32) So, we need to be students of all that is in God's Word.

Encouragement from experience

Paul wrote this letter to disciples who endured considerable persecution for their faith, so he wanted to encourage them.

Paul could identify with them. He was persecuted by the same people (see Acts 17). Paul's exhortation was based in truth and experience.

He wanted these believers to know what they were experiencing wasn't unusual or unexpected. He also encouraged them to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing...” (verses 16-17).

These were not empty words, nor a casual comment. He was encouraging them to persevere in their faith.

Genuine gracious faith

True faith sees beyond the circumstances (Hebrews 11:1), and is grounded in relationship with God (Hebrews 11:6). Paul was telling them to be thankful regardless of their circumstances.

This is the response of genuine faith. It isn't overcome by trials, hate, even tragedy. It stirs us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks to the One who is the origin and focus of our faith—Jesus!

How can we be thankful in all circumstances? Here's a few ideas to consider—

  • Consider what the apostle Paul endured in Chapters 16 and 17 in the book of Acts. Can you see how he endured his hardships?
  • Make a point to be thankful to the Lord in the midst of whatever circumstances you experience this week—good or bad.
  • Be thankful for as many things as possible every day for a week. See if your attitude changes and if your week goes better than the previous one.

What are ways you've found to be thankful regardless of your circumstances?


If you liked this post, please share it with others!

You might also like last week's post as well, Dealing with Unmet Expectations

A Free Gift

Photo credit: lightstock.com Sin came into the world because of what one man did. And with sin came death. So this is why all people must die—because all people have sinned. Sin was in the world before the Law of Moses. But God does not consider people guilty of sin if there is no law.

But from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, everyone had to die. Adam died because he sinned by not obeying God’s command. But even those who did not sin that same way had to die. That one man, Adam, can be compared to Christ, the one who was coming in the future.

But God’s free gift is not like Adam’s sin. Many people died because of the sin of that one man. But the grace that people received from God was much greater. Many received God’s gift of life by the grace of this other man, Jesus Christ. (‭Romans‬ ‭5:‭12-15‬ ERV)


Sin is often misunderstood. It's not about bad behavior, but a rebellious will. We were all born with it. The insistence of the first humans to choose what was forbidden was passed down from generation to generation since the beginning.

And yet, God had a plan from the beginning. It was a fail-safe plan. God sent Himself as a human to reverse the curse of death—the consequence of sin. This is who Jesus is—the Son of God. He was God in a human body.

The effect of sin was set in motion by one person who chose their selfish will over trust in God. Yet, one person without sin—Jesus—set in motion a reversal of what the first human did, by giving His life for all humanity.

This reversal becomes a gift extended to all humanity, it's called grace. This gift can only be accepted by trusting God, what the first human chose not to do. It sets things back in right order with God, as God planned. ©Word-Strong_2015

 

Getting Beyond "John 3:16"

john316sign When we hear something over and over, we tune it out at some level. It becomes too familiar, or we tune it out because we don't want to hear it.

This is what children do with their parents. "Are you listening to what I'm telling you?" Uh, that would be no! When we hear an ad or announcement repeated ad nauseam, we tune it out as a means of self-preservation.

Perhaps this is why people are indifferent to the good news of God's redemption. They either tune it out because it's redundant and repetitive, or they just don't want to hear it. Then again, it could be something quite different.

Signs of the times

Christian believers and non-believers alike, tend to tune out redundant, repetitive Scripture quotes. This is especially true for quoting Scripture references. The ubiquitous signs at sporting events are more of an irritant than inspiration.

[bctt tweet="People tend to tune out redundant, repetitive Scripture quotes"]

Do people with Scripture reference signs really think they communicate the gospel? They don't. Only those familiar with these references know what they mean. Are sports fans suppose to have their Bibles handy to look up these references?

For me, this is spiritual laziness. It is useless effort. It doesn't communicate the truth of Scripture. (Want to know I really feel?...lol)

[bctt tweet="Do people with Scripture reference signs really think they communicate the gospel?"]

Tuning in

If a believer is genuinely concerned about lost souls hearing the truth of the gospel, then they need to communicate it well. How can a person share the truth of God's Word so others hear it and understand it?

I'm a believer of reading and hearing God's Word (the Bible) in different versions. It helps me see and hear the truth in a fresh way and in different wording. It keeps me from tuning out what I think I already know.

[bctt tweet="How can a person share the truth of God's Word so others hear it and understand it?"]

I found this helpful while teaching in the Philippines where English is a second language. Language is often a barrier to understanding, especially going from one distinct language to another. But obstacles exist within the language that's most familiar to us.

Often, certain words or terms are misunderstood or not understood at all. Here is where we need to learn to communicate the truth of God in a simple and clear way.

[bctt tweet="Certain Bible words or terms are misunderstood or not understood at all"]

Making it simple and clear

How can we communicate the truth so others hear it and understand it well? Here are some suggestions I've found helpful while teaching in the US and in cross-cultural settings.

[bctt tweet="How can we communicate the truth so others hear it and understand it well?"]

I'll give you an example in my next post, so stay tuned!

Give it a try yourself!

 

Shaking With Fear

WS-devo_PMS You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire. You have not come to darkness, sadness, and storms. You have not come to the noise of a trumpet or to the sound of a voice like the one the people of Israel heard and begged not to hear another word.

They did not want to hear the command: “If anything, even an animal, touches the mountain, it must be put to death with stones.” What they saw was so terrible that Moses said, “I am shaking with fear.” (‭Hebrews‬ ‭12‬:‭18-21‬ NCV)

The fear of God is often misunderstood. It is typically viewed in one extreme or another. Either abject fear or humble respect. It is an overwhelming awe.

A realization of who God is made Moses tremble, yet drew him up the mountain to meet with God. It is at once a sense of how powerful and personal God truly is. ©Word-Strong_2014

A Lifeline to Faith and Growth

What enables some to survive as Christians when so many others falter?

Would you like some guidance on hard to understand issues with the Christian faith, but without cliché or pat answers? I think there's a lot of people in that category. But where does that person turn? The Bible? Well, that's a great starting point, but what if you don't understand all that you read, or even get confused by what you do read?

There's a new book, just released this week, that doesn't resort to empty answers, clichés, relativism, or smug certainty. Does it answer every and all questions a person might have about God, faith, the Bible and what it says? No, but it gives you a starting point for thinking things through from a fresh vantage point.

Something new

This is something new for me and my posting—an interview. Originally, I wanted to do a "live" interview on Skype, but that will have to wait for now. So, this is a written interview, you know, like you see in magazines.

So... pretend you're reading a magazine at a dentist or doctor's office, and hopefully it will take away some of the anxiety that scenario brings up.

I'm interviewing Ed Cyzcewski, a freelance writer and theologian-for-the-times. The last description is my own, not Ed's, but I think it fits him. Ed speaks to issues of our times from both a theological and cultural framework.

Ed is married and the father of two children, the youngest is, well, really young, hence the need for a written interview.

Interview with Ed Cyzewski

TK– Ed, would you tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and how you got into writing Christian books?

Ed– Thanks for hosting me Trip!

I grew up Catholic, got "saved" in a Baptist church, and married into a charismatic family. I suppose it's not shocking that we've ended up in a Vineyard church that has a little bit of each. I never really knew what to do with myself, but in retrospect, I was always writing or journaling or reading. In searching for a "career," I settled on ministry because I at least liked the Bible. So I went to seminary, worked at a church, and realized halfway through that I'd made a huge mistake.

Nevertheless, I'd always wanted to write a book. It was that annoying pipe dream: "I've always thought it would be cool to publish a book." I had no idea how much work it would be, not did I know how emotionally taxing it would be. However, when I gave up on the ministry as a career, I started looking into writing full time. My seminary degree helped me get started into Christian publishing with my first book Coffeehouse Theology.

Questions

TK–  How much do you think your eclectic background plays a part in your writing, and was there anything in particular that prompted or stirred you to write, A Christian Survival Guide?

Ed– One of the key messages of the Survival Guide is the broad range of beliefs among Christians that speak to many different people with varying experiences and backgrounds. I see the diversity of belief and practice in Christianity as a real asset for survival. Having seen Christians thrive as Catholics, Baptists, and charismatics, I'm hopeful that person who finds liturgy constricting can find life in a church like my Vineyard. However, the person who finds my Vineyard chaotic will perhaps find life in the order of liturgy.

A Christian Survival Guide doesn't aim to shut down conversations or to fully answer questions. Rather, I'm pointing people in several helpful directions so that they can seek God in their communities. This is a book for people who feel stuck or at a dead end. They need to know that there are so many answers and options within the various Christian traditions.

TK– Ed, I've enjoyed your humor throughout the book, which prompted a couple of questions for me. So, this a two-part question...

In light of the difficulty of these topics, which chapter or topic was the most difficult to work on and why?

Ed– The chapter on suffering (Is God Late?) was really tough because it's hard for me to imagine God sitting back and watching horrible things happen that he has the power to prevent. I am not a Calvinist, so I don't believe God orchestrates every tragedy in the world. I believe in free will, and I believe that God imparts his Holy Spirit as a way of changing the world relationally, from the ground up.

So while I struggle with the thought of God watching suffering unfold, I think God's solution is a grass roots, relational path to change. I want a quick fix. When I shout, "God, why aren't you doing anything?" God turns that question around. "Good question, Ed. I gave you my Spirit. Why aren't you doing anything?"

Was there any chapter or topic that was easier or more fun to write than others?

Ed– The chapter on the Bible and culture, (titled Less Lobsters, More Bonnets) has been on my mind quite a bit lately, and teasing out the quirky ways we apply the Bible selectively proved to be both fun and challenging to write about. I mean, if we're honest with ourselves, following the New Testament "literally" would result in a church planting manual that depends on sending letters and preaching short sermons. We all know from Acts that preaching a long sermon killed someone.Dealing with the inconsistencies of strict biblical literalism is like shooting fish in a barrel.

A brief summary

TK– I know you cover this in your introduction to the book, but would you give us a brief summary of your primary hope for those who read, A Christian Survival Guide?

Also, who do you hope will read it [other than everyone, because that's a no-brainer (lol)], and what kind of feedback have you gotten so far, good or bad?

Ed– This book intends to help Christians who are struggling with doubts or feel unable to move forward in their faith. However, I've found that most Christians have questions simmering in the back of their minds, but they've been avoiding them for fear of what they'd find. This book attempts to address both the doubts and struggles of the first group and the pressing questions of the latter group.

I don't set out to give neat, final, conclusive answers. Rather, it's a book that starts a discussion and helps people take the next step. In fact, many of these readers, I think, would put the book down immediately if I started offering, neat, tidy, and definitive answers. I've also heard from people who left the faith and found my book helpful to begin exploring a return.

All that to say, people who love old school apologetics and who believe the Bible provides simple, definitive answers for all time will really, really hate this book. I already have a one-star review on Amazon, and while I have not read it, I presume this person found my book too wishy-washy and prone to compromise.

Wrapping things up

TK– Ed, I really appreciate you taking time out for this interview since I know you're busy with your writing, and life with a young family. So, tell us what else you've written and what you're working on now. Also, are there any special offers connected to the releasing of, A Christian Survival Guide?

Ed– I have written several other co-author books, including The Good News of Revelation with Dr. Larry Helyer. It's a brief commentary on several themes of the book that asks what we can learn from Revelation today if we read it through the eyes of its original readers--readers who actually saw it as good news. I also write short fiction to introduce each chapter and to help undo some of the misconceptions we've gotten from the Left Behind books.

I've also recently published a book called Unfollowers: Unlikely Lessons on Faith from Those Who Doubted Jesus that asks what kept people from following Jesus and whether the same things could be obstacles to our faith today.

This week a bunch of my other books are on sale for $2.99 on Kindle, so this is a great time to pick up a bundle of books for the price of one.

Thanks so much for hosting me at your blog. I'm really grateful that you took the time to ask about my books!

All the best, Ed

TK– Hey Ed, it was my pleasure to host you on my site, and hopefully we can do a face-to-face interview in the future!

I trust your book will help people who are either adrift or struggling to keep their head above water with their faith. I think you did a great job addressing issues that just don't get talked about enough in a genuine way.

_______________________

I do hope you'll give Ed's book a read, especially if Christianity is a puzzle or frustration for you.

Kregel_ad

Shocked and Afraid

WS-devo_PMSJesus and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus was walking ahead of them. His disciples were shocked [that he was going to Jerusalem]. The others who followed were afraid. Once again he took the twelve apostles aside. He began to tell them what was going to happen to him. “We’re going to Jerusalem. There the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the experts in Moses’ Teachings. They will condemn him to death and hand him over to foreigners. They will make fun of him, spit on him, whip him, and kill him. But after three days he will come back to life.” (‭Mark‬ ‭10‬:‭32-34‬ GW)

It was well known that Jewish leaders plotted against Jesus. His chosen apostles and other followers were afraid. Why? They didn't understand the mission of their Messiah.

What Jesus told them would happen was not what they hoped for or expected. Isn't that just like you and me?

God's plan is often foreign to us, and our plans aren't His. But He is wiser than us and He sees what we cannot see, except by faith. ©Word-Strong_2014

Does Anybody Really Understand?

Photo credit: Bing search We live in a specialized world. We are way beyond information overload. It's now over the top.

YouTube videos show you how to do, well... almost anything. News media parade experts on top of experts with conflicting and opposing views, and the amount of websites, blogs, and email traffic number in the billions.

Are you worried about the rising oceans from global warming? Forget about it! We're flooded with a tidal wave of information inundating our lives every day, enshrouded in terminology and acronyms that require an interpreter.

Does anybody really understand what's going on?

It's the language

It would be easy to jump off from here into a discussion on the end of the age, and signs of the Lord's return. Especially with all that's going on in the Mid-East.

But I want to talk about the importance of language. Not the need for becoming bilingual or multi-lingual, although that would be valuable and advisable in our current times.

The language we use in everyday life is what I'm interested in.

Over the past several months, I've had the pleasure of interacting with many people of different backgrounds from mine, in various work environments. I've gained insight into the inner workings of street gangs, and gained some perspective on the current worldview of twenty-somethings.

Working three part-time jobs has given me this opportunity. Each work and social environment has its own collection of terms and catch-phrases. Thankfully, when I ask for explanations and clarification, people are happy to help me. Some also admit their own ignorance of these things at one time.

But there is one field that uses specialized terms and catch-phrases, and over used clichés, where ignorance seems to be bliss. I'm referring to Christianity.

An Illusion

A typical American Christian uses obscure, even archaic, language with the expectation everyone knows what is being said. But this is an illusion.

It may be a self-imposed, although I suspect for most it is unintentional. As a general rule, Christian believers are oblivious to this illusion. Because I'm in contact with non-believers and nominal believers in God, I'm keenly aware of this.

Photo credit: www.briancromer.com

When talking to non-believers I find it necessary to use simple, non-Christian wording to explain spiritual truths and concepts. When I answer a question about why the Bible says this or that, I'm intentional to explain things without the usual Bible terms, common clichés, and phrases Christians often use.

Does it matter? Yes it does...a lot!

An obscure language

I read somewhere this week that an obscure language in a far away land will become extinct soon. Why? Because only a few people know and speak it, and they will die soon.

In a way, this is my hope for Christianese—the general term for all those Bible words and Christian catch-phrases and clichés. I would like to see Christianese become a dead language of sorts.

It's already dead in one sense—only those who speak it know what it means. Even many of those who speak it don't understand it well. It's self-limiting in that way.

Why? Because it closes off understanding for those who don't know anything about God, and confuses those who have a limited knowledge of God.

Is there a solution? Yes!

Christian believers need to use simple and clear words when they share about their faith in Jesus. Even the simplest of words, like faith for instance, need to be explained without quoting Bible verses and or using theological terminology. It's ok to use those terms and biblical wording, just make sure to explain what they mean with simpler words.

So "stay tuned to this station," I'll be coming back to this topic from time to time as I mentioned in a previous post.

In the meantime...

What is your experience with confusing Christian lingo?

I'd love to have you share it in the comments, and maybe I'll write on one of your experiences. ;-)

Thanks for reading and feel free to share this post!

Acronym-ically Speaking

Image credit: blinkblink1 / 123RF Stock Photo Acronyms. Gotta love 'em… lol (laughing out loud)! Whether it's government agencies or texting lingo, they've become an integral part of everyday life, at least for most of us. Like them or hate them, they are part of our information-overload culture.

But acronyms, as a rule, are context dependent. Unless you know the context they're used in you won't understand what they mean.

I know a group of believers and a ministry that goes by CIA—Christians In Action. Of course, when most people see these initials the Central Intelligence Agency comes to mind. BTW (by the way), that reminds me of a great line from the movie, Red October— Capt. Bart Mancuso: "Central Intelligence Agency... Now, there's a contradiction in terms."

Acronyms

Terminology and phrases used over and over often get shortened into acronyms.

When I did some work in the chemical dependency field we wrote reports for intake and assessment interviews. Comments were made about a client's social history (Hx) and recommended treatment (Tx). These abbreviations are common within social services and helping professions.

Acronyms are shorthand abbreviations for terms. It saves time and energy. But if you're not familiar with the context they're used in, it can cause confusion.

Christian lingo

Herein lies one of my pet peeves—the use of Christianese. It is a generic, catch-all phrase for Christian lingo and terms. I also call it Bible-talk. For the uninitiated (non-believers or new Christian believers) it is unintelligible talk. It doesn't make sense because there's no frame of reference to understand these terms and phrases.

As with most things I learn, I stumbled into a way of dealing with the overuse and abuse of Christianese. It wasn't discovered through research and study, but a desperate attempt to help my students understand the Bible and theological terms.

In 1995, I established a Bible school in the Philippines with a curriculum based on the Inductive Bible Study (IBS) approach. Working with students for whom English was a second language (ESL), I needed to find a way to help them learn beyond the typical transfer of knowledge—copying and repeating.

How could I get them to understand well-known Bible verses beyond a surface familiarity? How could I help them understand what it means to be born again or what redemption is?

IYOW

I developed the expression IYOW, for In Your Own Words. I asked the students to define words and express Bible verses in their own words. It proved to be a challenging yet fruitful process.

Several years ago we had a group of Americans come over on a short-term mission (STM). They went out with our first-year students for an outreach mission in another area. As part of our curriculum, the students had a class on personal evangelism along with the outreach (OR). This class required them to redefine common Christian terms related to personal evangelism.

I was glad to see how well the students did, but confounded by how the Americans struggled with the assignment. They had a hard time transferring what they knew into words of their own. They seemed to be bound by unspoken rules, as if it wasn't proper to decode these terms into simple words.

A useful tool

I realized I had stumbled upon a useful tool for teaching the truth. Not only for my students, but those who think they know the truth.

You try it. Take a common biblical term (i.e.: salvation, communion, etc.), Christian expression (i.e.: altar call, accept Christ, etc.), or well-known Bible verse (like John 3:16) and put it into your own words (IYOW). You may find it more challenging than you expect.

Next week I'll begin a new category of posts called, IYOW. From time to time I'll try to decode certain terms used in Christian circles (ie: church). I hope it will be helpful and insightful, and maybe a little fun along the way.

What are some Christian expressions or biblical terms you'd like to understand better?

Let me know. Just put them in the comment section. Maybe I'll use one of the suggestions in another post.


For a fun look at Christianese check out this video (still one of my favorites)— Christianese

For a more in-depth view of Christianese, here's a resource in development that might help, and give you a chuckle or two— http://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/