My Biggest Struggle

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(H/T)

We all have our struggles.

Some of us procrastinate.

Some of us eat too much.

Some of us drink too much.

Some of us are greedy.

I’ve become increasingly aware that my biggest struggle is with other Christians.

Seriously.

There are few people or things in the world that get under my skin more easily or spark my anger more quickly than other Christians.

Jesus said “love your enemies” as a challenge to his followers, but to be honest, a lot of times I find it a whole lot easier to love those people who are supposed to be my enemies, than those who are supposed to be my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Why?

Let me count the ways….

I’m tired of the fundamental hypocrisy behind those groups of Christians who base their church’s existence and authority on that absolutely and unequivocally unchristian notion of autonomy, yet inexplicably think they have the authority to stand as judge, jury, and executioner over the orthodox bona fides of anyone who doesn’t belong to their infinitesimally small, yet infinitely arrogant kingdom.

I have no patience for fellow Christians who feel it their divine obligation to denounce anyone and everyone who critiques their theological idols, but who nonetheless feel is acceptable to condemn to hell anyone who doesn’t pass their own personal theological litmus test.

I’m tired of Christians who caricature every critique of their or someone else’s theology or practice as “an attack on the Body of Christ” as if disagreement and debate were some sort of sin. And I’m disgusted by those who paint criticism of bigoted, hateful, and corrupt pastors as some kind of sin as is “men of God” are above being held accountable for their words and their actions.

I have no respect for the idolatry of intellectual ascent which dominates so much of the church. Your belief in a seven day creation, penal substitution atonement theory, or dinosaurs on the ark has absolutely no bearing on what God thinks of you.

How you care for the least of these does. If there is anything Jesus is unequivocally clear about it’s this.

I’m disappointed and disgusted by a Christian culture that’s more concerned with giving their sales pitch for the millionth time than they are with feeding the hungry, ending malaria, or getting clean water to those who need it.

I’m tired of people willing to prostitute their faith for political ends. Jesus didn’t say “go vote your values” he said “go and do likewise.” Vote all you want, for whoever you want, and argue your position vigorously, but our cries that the sky is falling if our political party isn’t elected do nothing more than reveal a faith grounded in human government while demonstrating a fundamental lack of faith that the kingdom of God will come and even now is breaking into the world around us. Of course you can do both, but there’s not a balance to be had here. The scales must always tip in favor of the kingdom of God.

I’m tired of listening to Christians condemn entire groups of non-Christians (and other Christians, for that matter), most of whom they’ve never met or taken any effort to get to know. It’s easy to denounce from a distance. It’s a lot harder to follow the path of Jesus and share a meal with them. Love and compassion are not just words or rhetoric. They are a way of being in and for the world.

I’m frustrated by the impossibility of conversation. We have all become so entrenched in our dogmatic camps that dialogue and compromise have become cardinal sins. Yet, it was these two pillars that were critical supports in the early church.

I’m disappointed in a church that has become enslaved to programming, buildings, and finances. As if one more church activity, a hipper service, or a nicer building were the things that stand in the way of making more and better disciples.

I’m disillusioned by a Christian culture that centers the faith around personal happiness and self-affirmation, rather than transformation and discipleship. If Jesus came to tell us we’re great just the way we are, then what was the point of the cross? Or his ministry? Or, for that matter, his incarnation?

I’m tired of it all.

I realize that this may come off sounding arrogant and judgmental and just plain angry. And I realize I’m just as guilty sometimes of doing some of the very things I’m railing against. But I needed a moment to follow in that great biblical tradition and just vent.

And I bet I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Seeing the insanity repeated day after day with seemingly no end in sight sucks the life out of me and, to be completely honest, makes me want to leave it all behind.

But I don’t.

Why?

Honestly? Sometimes I’m not sure.

The rest of the time I follow in the path of Peter once told Jesus, “Where else would I go?” Like Peter, I have encountered the risen Christ in my own life through the love and grace of friends, family, and strangers, which is why I’ve come to believe that there is no where I can go to be more fully in the presence of that resurrected Christ than within his own Body.

So I stay.

But not out of some sense of righteous delusion that I can be the one to change things.

I stay because I know that imperfection was, is, and always will be what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ until the day he returns to claim his bride. Until then it will remain imperfect because that Body is made up of imperfect people. And that’s ok with me, even if it frustrates me tremendously from time to time, because it speaks to a God who so loves us and has so much faith in us that God was willing to allow us to participate in the renewal of all things.

That’s something worth sticking around for if you ask me.

So, I stay because I have hope.

Even in those people that get under my skin and spark my anger.

I have hope because I believe that despite our differences, most of us at least, share the same goal – to change the world around us for the kingdom of God.

Maybe it’s a naive hope, but I do hope.

I hope that the day comes sooner rather than later when we realize that the things that unite us truly are greater than the things that divide us. That’s not a call for conformity. It’s a call for unity. A call to acknowledge that most of those things that divide us are ultimately just silly and absolutely not worth fighting over.

So, look, I know we’re not going to come together around the campfire, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya this side of eternity, but if even for just a moment we could stop damning each other to hell for every perceived theological error, that would be a glimpse of heaven I would welcome with open arms.

And I bet you would too.

 

Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt

 

FROM THE VAULT: As I’m always welcoming new people to the blog I sometimes like to revisit an old post or two that sparked a good conversation, but may have been missed by those who weren’t around when it was originally posted. A slightly different version of this post appeared about a year ago.

 

  • Harvest Corn Dog

    Love this post Zack…. I feel much the same way…

  • Michael P

    Arguments over non-salvation issues are annoying. Such things as the discussion that will occur between Nye and Ham are and will be futile in the end. How will Jesus be represented in this?

    Regardless of the belief of Creation vs Evolution both are missing the point. It’s about only four things (life death burial and resurrection of Jesus). Do you believe Jesus is who he says he is, and has done what he said he would do?

    • D Lowrey

      I could be wrong in my assessment…but having come from a fundamentalist background…it looks to me why other “christians” head to these issues (evolution and such) is if they didn’t…they would have to be confronted by the life/death/burial/resurrection and their behavior/believes for the first time in their lives.

  • Terry Webster

    Thanks for sharing this. I was greatly impressed many years ago when Phillip Yancey wrote that what oftentimes keeps him connected to Christianity is the lack of a better alternative. I am always stunned by how we treat each other and anyone we perceive to be ‘different’ that we are, as if we have all the answers or right theology. I am part of a denomination that has split so much it hurts, and it breaks my heart every time another church decides to leave. It makes it hard to justify what the ‘body of Christ’ is all about to my friends who are outside the church wondering what in the world we are doing. I just hope and pray that one day the church will be one, as Jesus prayed.

  • Smuckerup

    I grew up in the pre-internet/cell phone age. In many ways we’re better off, in many ways we are not.

  • Aaron Crumrine

    You speak of being tired of the judgmental Christian. You speak of being tired of the hypocrisy. You claim grace and peace. Where is it? Jesus did not publicly ridicule and berate His followers when the did not “get it”. Before you take to criticizing others look at what Christ did say. Yes, Matt. 7 and Luke 6 hold the passage about judging others that you accusing others of not abiding by but have you removed the plank first?
    Instead, let us read on in the passages about how Christ does say we are to measure followers of Christ (a form of judgement given by Christ). In both passages immediately following the verses on judging others Jesus says “you will know a tree by its fruit. A good tree will bear good fruit, and a bad tree will bear bad fruit”. Our fruit is the unit of measure. What is the fruit of a Christian? Jesus said “love your neighbor as yourself” Paul describes the fruit as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self control”.
    You blog against Christians who do not show these fruit of Christian living and I would agree there are many. But I ask, can you look at what you wrote in this and other blogs and point out to me the good fruit? Where is the love for everyone, not just those who are without Christ? Where is the joy found in a life of living in Christ? Where is the peace with all of the believers that comes through being united in Christ? Where is the patience with believers who still don’t understand the full scope of the love of Christ? Where is the kindness…, gentleness…, self control…
    The love of Christ extends to all.
    As a Christian who wants to be known by the loving kindness I show to others especially the marginalized, outcast and down trodden. I find that your brand of judgement of other Christian does not make it any easier. Most often I get the question “You speak of Christian love but they can’t even love each other. How can you claim they know love?”

    • ZackHunt

      “Jesus did not publicly ridicule and berate His followers when the did not “get it”. Before you take to criticizing others look at what Christ did say.”

      Jesus criticized his disciples multiple times, particularly Peter. And that’s to say nothing of his public “ridicule and berating” of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Teachers of the Law.

      If you find publicly venting frustrations with faith related issues, the Church, or God somehow problematic then I don’t know how you can stand reading the Bible – because it’s full of God’s people doing those very things.

      • Aaron Crumrine

        Your choice to try and excuse and defend your actions is further evidence of the point I was trying to make. I did not say Jesus never criticized his follower, but are you Jesus? I never said He did not ridicule or berate the Pharisees, Saduducees and Teachers of the Law but are your eyes as pure as His? I said what is the fruit? I don’t have a problem reading the bible and seeing how people vent there frustrations with their faith, the Church and God because I read it to see how He responds to their cries. I don’t have a problem with the frustrations you have I share many, nay most of them, that is why I read your blog. My point is that you should abide by the very terms you aspouse. Can you express your frustration without sounding as judgmental and closed minded as those you are frustrated with? (I believe the term of your challenge was defend your position from a Christian perspective without sounding racist …so are you saying that the only Christian perspective is a racist one?… Sorry off point.) The difference is important Term #2, when you can express your frustrations and not sound as judgmental and closed minded should share your frustration publicly.
        Hear me very clearly I’m ok with frustrations of faith, the Church, or God. And a good tree will bear good fruit towards all. I believe we can share our frustration seasoned with grace and love. I am challenging you to try it.

        • ZackHunt

          Try and excuse and defend my actions? There’s nothing to excuse or defend. It’s this very sort of hypocritical shaming of people who criticize the Church that I can’t stand. You accuse me of being judgmental and close-minded because I voice my frustrations, yet you do the exact some thing while completely ignoring my desire to find common ground at the end of the post.

          I have strong opinions about mentalities and attitudes that I (and many others) see as antithetical to the gospel. And I would be willing to bet you do too. We all do. That doesn’t make us judgmental and close-minded, it makes us people with opinions.

          Am I Jesus? Of course not, but I do claim to be a Christian which means I’m claiming to emulate Christ and he voiced his frustrations about the faith and his fellow believers too. I’m doing the same and my lack of perfection does not in any way preclude me from doing that. If it did it would preclude every other Christian who voiced frustrations with the Church and her people – including Calvin, Luther, Augustine, and Paul.

          So, I make and will make no apology for this post or for sharing my feelings and concerns about the state of the church.

          And to answer your question about Phil Robertson, his words were absolutely and unequivocally racist. By whitewashing history he was in no way representing Christian values and to argue otherwise is both racist and anti-Christian.

          Hope that clarifies everything for you. If you want it, you can have the last word, but I’m not arguing about this post anymore.

          • Aaron Crumrine

            I’ll take the last word, not for sake of argument that is not my point. I comment because I specifically recognize at the end of your post you say are looking for common ground. But the only common ground you are willing to listen to is those who will affirm your stance.

            “There’s nothing to excuse or defend. It’s this very sort of hypocritical shaming of people who criticize the Church that I can’t stand.”

            You accuse me of hypocritical shaming while repeatedly posting shaming criticism of others.

            P.s. I did not ask a question about Phil Robertson nor do I defend him and his statements he has to answer for himself. I referenced your words, asking if they were loving and gracious? or were they shaming and close minded “if you think you can win this argument then you have already lost” – sounds pretty closed to me, refusing to look for common ground.

            Keep seeking the common ground which is Christ and may all that we do glorify him and lead others to him.

          • Ashley

            Apparently Aaron was offended because he knew he was one of those judgmental Christians.

            Thank you for this post Zach.

          • Aaron

            Missed the point again. I am not offended at all! Merely pointing out that to call other hypocritical, shaming, bigoted, … without being willing to look at our selves and ask or selves are we being shaming, judgmental, condemning… Is no better than those we are frustrated with, in their norrow minded, misguided interpretations of the Faith, Church and God. I have never in my posts said I was offended or disagree with what the frustrations with the church today! I merely questioned how are we to be different than their judgmental, shaming, condemning,… ways. For that I have been judged, shamed, condemned. The very same judgemental, shaming, condemning way we are frustrated that “fundamental”,” conservative”, (you pick what you have labed the, them)

          • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

            The fact that you are so much of a coward that you cannot even man up and accept that Mr. Hunt has made some valid points about your particular cult is a testament to why Christianity is on a steep decline.

          • Aaron

            “Coward” you basis for the name calling?

            At least you begin to get half of my point. How we go about making valid points is a testament to why Christianity is on a steep decline.

            Again I have not taken any opposition with the points made in this or many of the other blog posted. I agree with most (and I only say most because I have not read all the blogs) of the point made. Yet I am told I’m not welcome in the discussion of finding common ground – “you can have the last word, but I’m not arguing about this post anymore.” I am judged to be, “offended because he knew he was one of those judgmental Christians.” And called names, “Coward”, because I dare question the manner in which the valid points, which I have affirmed as valid repeatedly, are cast. A mirror please! That is the same way the fundamental, radical, fill in the blank with your label of bad Christian you want, treat others ad we are objecting too. Our objections cannot be made by using the same methods to which we are objecting.

          • toddler

            Aaron, you’re doing exactly as Zack described. You’re inferring that he’s being hypocritical by calling out the hypocrisy of other Christians. This is a silly exercise, as you are now being hypocritical. And now me…and now the guy who replies to me, etc. We’re called to judge our brothers (1 Cor. 5:12) “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?”

            Would you complain about Paul calling out Peter at Antioch? Let’s put down our moral police badge and not try to claim the higher moral ground. If you want to disagree, then fine…but don’t complain about Zack giving his opinion.

  • Steven McCurdy

    Thanks for this. I too struggle with everything you struggle with so I appreciate your candor.

  • http://politicaljesus.com/ h00die_R (Rod)

    Zack, thanks for these words, man, especially here:

    “”I’m tired of Christians who caricature every
    critique of their or someone else’s theology or practice as “an attack
    on the Body of Christ”

    I get tired of people not being honest about what they believe, and then they call, ‘UNITY’ when others disagree with them.

  • Amanda

    I’m a new reader, and I think you hit the nail on the head with many of your criticisms, particularly the one about intellectual idolatry. But I especially love what you wrote about “a God who so loves us and has so much faith in us that God was willing to allow us to participate in the renewal of all things.” This makes me think of a young child helping his mother in the kitchen. She’s trying to prepare a beautiful meal that will bless her family and friends and though the child loves her and looks up to her and wants desperately to help, he really ends up creating more of a mess than anything. Still, the mother lets him help because she loves him and is raising him up to be something better than he currently is. That is one way I think of God’s relationship with us: He loves us so much that He is willing to let us participate in His cosmic plan, even if we often just make a mess of things. When I am feeling frustrated by the Church, I remember that it is ultimately God’s church, and He loves her more than anything and can redeem beauty out of any mess she creates. This thought always humbles me, fills me with gratitude, and renews my commitment to being an active (if imperfect) participant in His divine work.

  • pastordt

    Thanks for reposting this, Zach. Me, too, man. Me, too.

  • Kevin Bailey

    I get it but I would heap the responsibility of my own biggest struggle on church leaders. Pastor and other church leaders have led so many to believe so many lies about what the true gospel is. In an effort to be relevant and promote their brands they twist scripture into a self-help program with a side of guilt-ridden theology to keep congregants volunteering, giving and coming back for more. Churches are run more like corporations staffed with CEOs and managers rather than hospitals staffed with doctors and nurses. Maybe where we need to start is to look at how they have twisted the concept of hell and eternal punishment and we would realize we don’t have a place to condemn those to that we disagree with.

  • Emma

    It’s comforting to know that I am not alone in feeling this way. Apologetics are great for answering people’s questions, and helping them to understand the truths of God, and bring them closer to knowing Jesus. They were not intended for arguing and shouting others down. Apologetics ? weapon.

  • Karen

    I think we can all relate to your feelings, Zack. It’s a very rare person who doesn’t give way to venting from time to time. On the other hand, after 53 years, it doesn’t look to me like much of spiritual benefit is realized by indiscriminate public venting. My observation is that it just tends to feed rancor in those who feel judged, or whip up the like-minded into more venting with a negative avalanche effect.

    I’ve come to really treasure the way the earliest Christians (i.e., the martyrs and early monastics) observed the Christian tradition following the teachings of Christ advocating control of our speech, being willing to suffer wrong rather than risk wronging others, and actively loving even our enemies to the letter. These early Christians, far from being victimized doormats, overcame and conquered evil by willingly humbling themselves, dying to self, and following Christ in extraordinary ways with extraordinary and transformative results. They have left us a powerful example to follow.

  • steve

    ONLY GOD FORGIVES SINS

    Contrary to what men believe, only God can forgive the sins that have been committed against Him. Joseph Smith nor Brigham Young can forgive sins. Catholic priests cannot forgive sins. Lutheran ministers cannot forgive sins. There are no men dead or alive who can forgive the sins that men commit against God.

    ONLY GOD FORGIVES SINS!

    Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.

    ONLY GOD FORGIVES SINS!

    Micah 7:18 Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity…

    Only God pardons iniquity. Joesph Smith, Brigham Young, Catholic priests, nor Lutheran ministers have the authority to pardon iniquity.

    Daniel 9:98 To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him;

    Mankind has rebelled against God and He alone can grant forgiveness.

    THE SCRIBES UNDERSTOOD ONLY GOD COULD FORGIVE SINS!

    Mark 2:6-11..the scribes…7…He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone? ….10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”

    The problem with scribes was they did not realize that Jesus was God in the flesh. Joesph Smith, Brigham Young, Catholic priests, Lutheran ministers, nor any other men, are or were, God in the flesh.

    DID JESUS GRANT THE APOSTLES THE AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS? NO HE DID NOT.

    Acts 8:18-22 ….20 But Peter said to him….22 Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.

    The apostle Peter did not grant forgiveness to Simon, he told Simon to pray to God for forgiveness. Note, Simon was already a Christian.

    THE PROOF TEXT.

    John 20:19-23 ….23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

    Jesus was not giving Peter and the rest of the apostles the power to grant forgiveness of sins to men on an individual bases, Jesus was not ordaining them as priests with that power. Jesus was giving Peter and the apostles the authority to proclaim the terms for forgiveness of sins. Peter and the apostles did just that on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:22-41…36 Therefore let the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified. 37…Peter and the rest of the apostles….38 Peter said to them , “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.)

    Peter and the apostles did not forgive sins on the Day of Pentecost nor on any subsequent day. They declare God’s terms for pardon.
    FAITH: John 3:16
    REPENTANCE: Acts 2:38
    CONFESSION: Romans 10:9-10
    WATER BAPTISM: Acts 2:38

    Christians are not asked to confess to Joesph Smith, Brigham Young, Catholic priests, Lutheran ministers, nor any other men, in order to have their sins against God forgiven!

    Christians are to confess their sins to God in order to receive forgiveness. (1 John1:5-9 ….God is light… 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness.)

    1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between men, the man Christ Jesus,

    The only priest standing between men and God is the high priest, Jesus Christ.

    NOTE: Confessing sins and asking God for forgiveness is only available to Christians. Non-Christians must have FAITH, REPENT, CONFESS JESUS AS LORD, BELIEVE IN HIS RESURRECTION AND BE BAPTIZED IN WATER IN ORDER TO THEIR SINS FORGIVEN.

    ONLY GOD FORGIVES SINS!

    ( All Scripture quotes from: NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)

  • Jennwith2ns

    This:

    “I’m disillusioned by a Christian culture that centers the faith around personal happiness and self-affirmation, rather than transformation and discipleship. If Jesus came to tell us we’re great just the way we are, then what was the point of the cross? Or his ministry? Or, for that matter, his incarnation?”

    was my favourite part of this post. SUCH AN AWESOME POINT (and something I ask myself quite frequently). Thanks for (re?)posting this. I might have missed it the first time.

    Recently I’ve been watching the back-seasons of Justified and reading a book by Mark Noll on the history of Christianity in America. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of input, combined with this post. I’ll have to say that, while the book doesn’t necessarily make me “more okay” with some of the frustrating (or downright infuriating) elements of the Church, it’s really helpful in explaining some of how “we” got to these places. I thought I was pretty well-versed on this topic, but it’s kind of highlighted some stuff I didn’t know or remember.

  • Lisa Valeri

    A friend posted your article on fb so that’s how I came here. I think the thing is that it is human/normal to be disgusted with other believers and their failings, and our own. I think we need to humbly admit our complete and utter dependence upon Christ for our transformation and theirs, as we are incapable of any movement on our own. We need to have faith in the kingdom of God breaking in and Christ’s authority to save AND sanctify be complete. We need to trust that Christ himself is committed to purifying his bride, and that he is wholly capable to do what he promised and will do what he promised because he is faithful. He can fill us with his love, so that we love them as he does, and they in turn will love as he does so that his message will be effective. I think we can at least agree that He is committed to his message being effective, if not for our sakes, but for the lost.

    I find it hard to hear that we as Christians do not believe that Christ is able to make us fully effective here on earth, because we will only be perfect after death. Somehow, in acknowledging our brokenness, it’s as if we bet on it more than on his miraculous love. Maybe we need to take our eyes off of our sin and put them more on his abundance and with childlike love trust in his overflow of grace towards us. It abounds to us, and it is through faith and trust that miracles happen, both the physical kind and the spiritual kind (which I find more amazing than the physical ones).

    In this passage in 2 Peter 1:3-11 I found a great encouragement to me on this idea, as well as Ephesians 1, where it talks about God’s blessings and power to us. Here’s the 2 Peter verses:

    3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

    Now if we break this apart for a moment, we see it says he’s given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of him. Because of his glory and goodness, he’s given us his great and precious promises. Through his promises (by faith in them I’d imagine) we can participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. Implying that it is in fact possible to do both while in this earthly shell. Moving on…

    5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

    10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    To further break this down….because he’s given us everything we need for life and godliness…..it’s available to us, so/therefore we need to make an effort to open and receive those gifts. That whole God does his part, we do our part thing. We make an effort to grow in our knowledge of him, and his promises, and we trust that he is able to transform us and cause us to participate in his divine nature and escape the corruption of the world. That the cross and ressurection still has the ability to change us fully into a new creation with his values and virtues. That we depend on it.

    There is a warning here if we don’t try to grow in this way, depending on him and desiring his character, that we will be ineffective, unproductive, and forget the power of the cross over our past. That we could stumble. But if we pursue those things and him, we will never stumble, we will be sure of our calling and will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom.

    The fact that this whole section of verse even exists is encouraging. It tells us that we can expect big changes from God in us, and in the church at large. Are there many of us in the church who are not cognizant of that warning and are becoming ineffective? Most assuredly. But the challenge still remains for us as individuals to renew our trust in his ability to refresh our tired spirits, give us a love beyond ourselves to love the lost AND other believers, and to hope and pray with compassion for the church to fulfill its mission and become the body of Christ. Thank God that he is able to do it in our lifetime, BEFORE we receive a rich welcome into his eternal kingdom, and may we with humble hearts cheer on his glory and fame made known among the nations through his transformative power at work in us.

    I’ll leave you with a few verses from Ephesians 1, which I hope will also encourage you:
    1:3-8 ( see “every spiritual blessing in Christ” and “the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us”)
    3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us.

    1:11-14: (why? “for the praise of his glory”)
    11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

    1:17-23 (If you pay close attention to this part, it might be the most exciting and revelatory of this whole section, especially “his incomparably great power for us who believe” and “for the church”)
    17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

    All my love in the faith, and prayers for encouragement in hope.–Lisa