Ryan Strother

Five To Focus 12. Remove Obstacles and Go To Jesus

Bartimaeus appears again in this episode, this time to teach us three lessons on pursuing Jesus. Scripture reference: Mark 10:46-52.

 

Feedback

If you have a suggested topic for an episode of Five To Focus, simply fill out this form. If you would like to discuss this episode, you may comment on this post or interact with @rstro on Twitter.

You Can Still Confidently Sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

If Jesus already came and we know that God is with us right now through the Holy Spirit, then how can we still sing this song with any meaning?

O Come, O Come Emmanuel–this prayer should change your perspective during the Christmas season. It represents Longing. Aching. Yearning. Hoping.

The mood at the time of the birth of Christ

We know this song was written long after the birth of Christ, but let’s apply the lyrics to that time to see why we can understand the mood.

What we call the “Intertestamental Period,” between Malachi and Matthew was roughly 400 years. There is no record of God speaking during that time. Much was changing in the political landscape and impacting the Israelites. The first divine revelation since the intertestamental period came through an angel, Gabriel, who told Zechariah, a priest, that he would have a son. Zechariah’s son, John (the Baptist), was the forerunner to the Messiah who would come.

Imagine being in that time period: Longing. Aching. Yearning. Hoping. Four hundred years without hearing from God. Changes in government. Different rulers, some of whom leave you alone and others who don’t. You’d be longing for the Messiah.

Now we are back to the same question:  how can we still sing this song?  Let me argue that:

We should still have the same mood.

Romans 8:22-25 is a great passage to show us that we should still be longing, aching, yearning, and hoping, even though the Messiah has come and He has accomplished the work of redemption that has secured our salvation for all eternity.

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

God cursed the ground as a result of sin entering the world (Gen 3:17-18). All creation has been groaning in pains of childbirth, waiting for the joy that would come.

We can understand the pains of childbirth. It hurts, but a woman perseveres because a great joy is coming. In the same way, the whole creation is subjected to pains like childbirth. The verse before tells us the great joy coming for the physical creation: v.21– it is set free from this bondage and decay it is subjected to.

23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,

One commentator describes the firstfruits of the Spirit as “Spirit as a foretaste of the future” (Conybeare & Howson, The Life & Epistle of St. Paul).

It is likely a reference to the Holy Spirit, who is a guarantee of our faith and that which is yet to come, like Paul mentions in 2 Cor. 5:5. We have the firstfruits of the Spirit—there is more to come.

[we] groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Here is the “now/not yet” of our salvation. Though we have Christ and our salvation is secure (NOW), inwardly we still groan for something more that is to come (NOT YET).

Do you realize that what you are experiencing right now as a believer in Christ is not all that you’ll ever experience with Him?  There is much more to come. You have the salvation of Christ and all its blessings right now in your life. But you still have the not yet waiting for you!

This verse says we eagerly await our adoption—this is interesting because just earlier in this chapter (14-17), Paul writes of our adoption as God’s children in the past tense.

You are adopted by God in the sense that you are saved and you are His child (NOW). But verse 23 refers to the full culmination of our adoption, which is the glorification of our bodies (NOT YET).

We groan inwardly as we live in the now because we know that right now is not the end.

24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Hope is a key theme in this passage, appearing 5 times just in verses 24-25.

We hope for what we do not see because we have not obtained that glorious inheritance yet. What we have right now is finished, fully sufficient. We were saved. It’s done.We are saved. And it changes your life right now, giving you purpose.

 

Now, when we sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” we are not just thinking about the birth of Jesus. We are thinking about His coming again, about the time we will experience His full glory, which we have not yet seen. Longing. Aching. Yearning. Hoping.

 

We are still in a sinful, fallen world and experiencing its effects.

Death takes away.

Disease leads to misery.

Calamity still strikes.

 

In Sutherland Springs, TX, they are Longing. Aching. Yearning. Hoping.

In Las Vegas, NV, they are Longing. Aching. Yearning. Hoping.

 

We are still waiting for “…the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7).

We are still waiting for final deliverance “from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

We are still waiting “for the hope of righteousness” (Galatians 5:5).

 

We are Longing. Aching. Yearning. Hoping.  So yes, we still sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel. God, be with us. Finally, eternally, in glory.

Five To Focus 11. Know Your Identity In Christ

Roles and relationships can change, so stability in life comes by knowing who you are in Jesus.

 

Scripture reference: 1 John 2:12-14

 

Feedback

If you have a suggested topic for an episode of Five To Focus, simply fill out this form. If you would like to discuss this episode, you may comment on this post or interact with @rstro on Twitter.

Think You Can Conquer Sin On Your Own?

Have you ever gotten too close to something and intrigued by it that you just couldn’t leave it alone? Go back to the school bus in middle school with me. There was a hole in the upholstery of the seat in front of mine. It was awfully tempting to touch, pull, put stuff in, etc. Eventually, that hole became larger because of my curiosity! I probably wouldn’t have remembered this episode if I wasn’t called in to the Vice Principal’s office one day with the threat of having to pay to have the seat reupholstered!

My point–if you keep putting yourself around temptation, it’s easy to give yourself over to it.

Last week, I introduced the concept of religious pluralism and today I want to give the first of two dangers of religious pluralism:  it can put you dangerously close to sin.

 

Look at the historical context of Judges in the Bible. The Israelites were led out of slavery in Egypt by Moses, then Joshua took over leadership after Moses’ death. After Joshua’s death, there was no leader in Israel to help the people stay true to the Lord. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

Israel faced 3 major hindrances during the period of the judges: 1) not ridding the promised land of pagans; 2) idolatry; 3) intermarriage with pagans.

Pagan practices of the nations they failed to drive out heavily influenced Israel to idolatry. The phrase they failed to drive out/take possession appears 8 times in 13 verses from Judges 1:21-33. Repetition is important to note in the Bible because it alerts us and tells us something important. God’s response: He would not drive them out (Judges 2:3). Instead, those nations would be a thorn in their side and their gods would be traps to the Israelites.

Here is religious pluralism.

One Danger of Religious Pluralism: We Can Get Dangerously Close to Sin

Judges 1:28-35 mentions 4 times that the Israelites committed some of these groups to forced labor. It’s almost like the conversation went like this:

God:  Manasseh, Zebulun, Nephtali, Dan— remove the Canaanites.

Israelites:  It’s okay , we can handle them. In fact, we’ll commit them to forced labor like the Egyptians did to our forefathers.

The command is to cut them out of the land. But the Israelites say, no, we’ll

  • subdue them
  • limit them
  • tame them
  • master them

And look what happened.

 

Now think about your own life: 12So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, 13because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.   (Romans 8:12–13, CSB)

The command is to cut sin out of your life. Put it to death.

But we say, no it’s ok, I’ll

 

  • subdue it
  • limit it
  • tame it
  • master it

 

Well, how’s that going for you?

Can a man embrace fire and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27, CSB)

 

The Israelites thought they could just get along with these other nations. They would master them and not be affected. They thought: surely this is a better plan than God had. And those pagan cultures became a snare for the Israelites.

What are you getting too close to right now?  What do you need to guard yourself from right now?

  • Alcohol. There might be some who struggle with the temptation and lack of self-control leading to drunkenness and they need to keep it far from them. But one of these people might say I can have it in the fridge and it will be fine.
  • Gambling. There are some who might struggle with greed and just don’t even need the temptation to step foot in a casino when invited by friends to go.
  • Pornography/sexual immorality. Some might struggle with self-control and lusting, but they think they don’t need internet filtering or don’t need to limit their interaction with a certain person. They think they can subdue it.  And sooner or later, they’ll get burned.

One of the dangers of pluralism is that we can find ourselves entertained by every ideology and begin to soften on our convictions. We begin to believe that maybe everything is true, which leads to pursuing whatever we want.

What are you trying to master by your own power?

Five To Focus 10. Influences v. Causes To Your Actions

Did the devil make you do it, like that funny old comedy sketch by Flip Wilson? No, nor did anything else. Find out the difference between influences and causes to your actions and find the freedom that Jesus brings to not be bound to unrighteousness.

Feedback

If you have a suggested topic for an episode of Five To Focus, simply fill out this form. If you would like to discuss this episode, you may comment on this post or interact with @rstro on Twitter.

Five To Focus 09- What Does Specific Prayer Reveal About Your Faith?

How do you respond when someone asks how they can pray for you? And what could that reveal about your faith? Let this episode prompt you to pray specifically, following the example of Jesus and Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). But let it also challenge you to think about what you are doing for the Lord that requires His power.

Feedback

If you have a suggested topic for an episode of Five To Focus, simply fill out this form. If you would like to discuss this episode, you may comment on this post or interact with @rstro on Twitter.

Food Poisoning, Buffets, and Religious Pluralism

What’s attractive about a buffet restaurant?  Everybody gets something they want.

Growing up, my family would actually drive an hour to a Ryan’s Steakhouse for special occasions with my grandparents because of steak on the buffet.

I remember many mornings having breakfast at the Ponderosa in town with Grandpa. We never had to twist his arm to go there. He could get his bacon and eggs while I got those cinnamon french toast sticks with strawberry sauce.

School field trips would often end up at a Golden Corral, and after our high school football team won the state championship, where did we go? The Western Sizzlin! And just about destroyed it…

Everybody gets what they want.

Could I argue that religion today is like a buffet restaurant? It’s about making everybody happy. Everybody gets what they want. But when you’re talking about faith and belief, there is much more at stake than the spreading of germs and food poisoning. Your very soul is at stake.

I recently started preaching through the book of Judges. I introduced the concept of religious pluralism because we see it among the Israelites in the period of the Judges as well as today.

Religious pluralism is the belief that every religion is true. Each provides a genuine encounter with the Ultimate. One may be better than the others, but all are adequate.”  (Norman L. Geisler, “Pluralism, Religious,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 598.)

Just like a buffet of food where you go down the line and think all of this might fill me up, but I’ll pick certain items because I like them better, pluralism would say any of these religions and ideas might give me some kind of satisfaction, but let me pick the ones I like best.

This is a perilous pursuit! Dictionary.com defines peril as “something that causes or may cause injury, loss, or destruction.”

If we don’t follow The Truth, our very soul is in danger of eternal damnation in the torment of hell.

Maybe CS Lewis says it better:  “An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or Practical reason is idiocy. If a man’s mind is open on these things, let his mouth at least be shut.” (C. S. Lewis quoted in Credenda Agenda, Volume 4/Number 5, p. 16)

 

In my next two posts, I’ll explore two specific consequences of religious pluralism. For now, I hope you’ll think about the truth to which you are subscribing in your life. Have you considered the truth of Christ, the ultimate Truth, that points out the reality in our life (our sin) and gives us the only way to find rescue from this depraved condition?

I hope you’ll understand this Truth and experience it yourself.

Five To Focus 08. Peace Through Chaos

God’s peace is not the absence of conflict, but it is the confidence of His presence through it all. How do you handle chaos in your life? Some circumstances might leave you feeling helpless, lost, and alone. Discover the connection between having peace with God and having the peace of God by focusing on Romans 5:1 and Philippians 4:6-7.

Feedback

If you have a suggested topic for an episode of Five To Focus, simply fill out this form. If you would like to discuss this episode, you may comment on this post or interact with @rstro on Twitter.

Pray for Spiritual Needs, Not Just Stubbed Toes

Think about the last time you were in a group prayer time. What kind of needs were prayed for most? I would guess physical needs. The illnesses and financial provision among others.   

 

It is very appropriate and right to pray for these requests, but my fear is that we too often neglect praying for spiritual needs. Recently I wrote about praying specifically, and now I want to focus on the content of those specific prayers.

 

If anyone sees a fellow believer committing a sin that doesn’t lead to death, he should ask, and God will give life to him—to those who commit sin that doesn’t lead to death. There is sin that leads to death. I am not saying he should pray about that.” (1 John 5:16, CSB)  

 

This verse is clearly about a spiritual need–a believer sins. We can confidently pray for wayward sinners because God will restore abundant life. John has written much about sin in First John. He is clear that believers will still sin (1:8), but that they will not be characterized by a lifestyle of sin (3:8-9; 5:18). Jesus (he who was born of God) protects his followers and Satan cannot overtake them (5:18).

 

One of the blessings of being part of the family of God is that when we sin, we have a community of people who should prayerfully encourage us back to righteousness.

 

“We naturally pray for those who are ill, and we should just as naturally pray for those who are straying away from God. It is just as natural a thing to pray for the cure of the soul as it is to pray for the cure of the body. It may be that there is nothing greater that we can do for the man who is straying away, and who is in peril of making shipwreck of life, than to commit him to the grace of God.”  ~William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 138.

When we see a brother committing a sin, we are to approach God on his account. We are to pray that he would find the fullness of life again. We are pray that whatever is trying to steal, kill, and destroy him would be bound from him and that he would be restored to Christ. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, ESV)

What do you do when you see a brother committing sin?  

  • Ignore it? Maybe you worry about offending him by pointing it out.
  • Gossip? If your first response is to gossip rather than pray, you need to get rid of the log in your eye first (Matt. 7:5).

 

How can you make a practice of praying for spiritual needs?  

 

  • Change your prayer list. In your personal list, add a category called “spiritual requests” or something similar and add these kind of requests: those who need salvation, those who need to turn from active sin, and those who are struggling to keep their eyes on Jesus through difficult times (spiritual needs are almost always present in times of suffering).
  • Our church recently changed our weekly prayer list in our Ministry Guide to include these three categories: thanksgiving, mission, intercession. This is a way of teaching people how to pray. The “mission” section is like our spiritual requests (not for specific people usually but more church-wide requests related to our mission of carrying out the Great Commision).

 

    • Actually get to know people. Praying for spiritual needs will probably require you to get beyond the how are you/I’m fine passing conversation that requires no attention to the person. Be interested in him. Get to know his soul. Talk about struggles and real life situations. Be authentic.

 

  • Ask a better question. If you are leading a group time, don’t open prayer time asking does anybody have any prayer requests?  Most people will go into default mode of sharing about Grandma’s stubbed toe.  Instead, ask: who can we pray for that is struggling spiritually or needs their soul strengthened through difficulty right now? Your responses won’t be so much about that toe now.

 

 

Pray for spiritual needs and experience the abundant life that Christ offers.

 

Five To Focus 07. One Danger of Being An Encourager

Could there be any danger in being an encourager?  This might seem silly to discuss because we’ve been in a series of episodes lately on encouragement, learning from Barnabas in the Bible how we can encourage others. Is there something we should be cautious of when encouraging? Discover it here.

Feedback

If you have a suggested topic for an episode of Five To Focus, simply fill out this form. If you would like to discuss this episode, you may comment on this post or interact with @rstro on Twitter.

Scroll to top
Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com