Time for FAQs
3/24/2009 | Author: RCW
Alright, it's that time. Questions and Answers.

You can email me* topics or studies that you would like to see on the website. I will sort through them and address whichever ones in whatever order. Thanks!

* Some of you had some trouble emailing me in the past. Here's how: click on the link under my picture up at the top of the website or if that doesn't work for you, just hover over the link and you'll see my email address pop into the bottom left corner of your browser. It's rcw.faithfirmlyrooted@gmail.com .
What do YOU say about YOU when you DO?
3/12/2009 | Author: RCW
What a confusing title, eh? (And no, I am not Canadian).

I suppose the title deserves some explanation. To mix things up, I will start with a question:

    How is that other people define you? Do they ask you for a definition? Perhaps sometimes they do - maybe on a first date or in some sort of "get-to-know-you" game, etc. There will certainly be times for this. Perhaps the most common time is during a job interview. It is a classic interview question: "Tell me a little bit about yourself." It's such a vague question.

    If we really get honest, those scenarios are exceptions. The much more frequent way that people find out about us or begin to understand who we are is simply by watching and listening.

    In other words, people who spend a lot of time around you may know you even better than you know yourself. How? Imagine it this way: Every single action that you take and every single word you say, communicates something about you. Sometimes its explicit (like when you answer the interview question and say, "I am from Pittsburgh and I love cats."), and sometimes it is implicit (like when someone asks you if you'd care for anchovies on your pizza and you respond with an "Ugh!"). In either case, you communicate something (either explicit or implicit) about yourself. The scary thing is that the number of implicit statements you make about yourself is overwhelmingly enormous compared to the relatively few explicit things you may claim about yourself.

    Imagine...everything you say and do makes a statement about yourself. In other words, everything you do fills in the blank in the sentence: "I am ____________." If I have you over to my house and I ask you if you are comfortable with the temperature, offer you a beverage, make you feel at ease, and the like, then you hear me say, "I am a considerate host." If I slap you on the back, turn on the television, and ignore you, then you will deduce that "He is not a very considerate host." My actions fill in the blanks on their own without me ever saying a single explicit word about my own hospitality.

Jesus surely meant to point out this whole concept when He said that "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:43-45 NIV).

If I followed you around everywhere you went for a couple of weeks, I would have a very good idea of who you are. Would it be who you hope to be? Actions speak so much louder than words. "Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise..." (Eph. 5:15 NIV).

Prayer: Father, help me to examine my actions. Help me to be the person you've made me to be. May you open my eyes to the messages I communicate about myself and (since I am a Christian) therefore about you. Make me someone who is so transformed by you that everything I say, do, or think would communicate your life-changing power within me. May I not have to fake holiness, or tell people constantly what I am about. Instead, may I BE holy as You are holy (Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:16) so that "my light would shine before men, that they may see my good deeds, and glorify You, my Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)"
Where Do I Start? (Part 3)
3/06/2009 | Author: RCW
You might have guessed that there would be more to come on this topic. The discussion arose over the occasional question posed in a variety of ways: Where should a new believer start? With just a twinge of sarcasm, I mentioned one thing in the first posting: Starting with the Bible may be the most novel thing to do. Ya think?! I mentioned two things in the last posting: 1) Start a journal; and 2)In that journal, record any thoughts or questions you might have or topics you'd like to study. Pray and seek answers relentlessly.

Here now comes still another bit of wisdom.

    Be on your guard for discouragement will most assuredly come to you sooner or later. Here are 2 possibilities that frequently cause discouragement in the early stages of our walk with Christ:

    • ONE possibility is opposition from outside. One reality we often dismiss or forget is the simple fact that the enemy Satan always seems to mount a counter-attack of sorts. Sometimes it is as sure as clockwork. This is why if you were to come to me ecstatic over your friend, coworker, loved one, or whomever becoming a Christian, more and more I believe that the best thing I could do is to urge you: "Now you REALLY have to pray!" We should always pray very hard for those who have just newly become followers of Christ. For the scriptures even promise that there will be trouble awaiting them on account of their decision. If we think of this in terms of the reality of spiritual warfare, we will understand the exchange that has taken place. The enormous truth is that the new believer has become a traitor to his original army (evil) and has joined the ranks and battle lines of the opposing side (righteousness). Turning from the kingdom of darkness and joining the kingdom of Christ is a decision that those living in darkness (be they spiritual beings or human ones) will surely want to persuade you to reconsider.

    • The SECOND possibility is that the discouragement comes from within. There is a marvelous book that any Christian might enjoy entitled Letters Along the Way. One of the early difficulties for the main character of the book was that once he became a Christian, he constantly felt terrible about himself. His conscience was suddenly so acutely aware of his sin and so aware of his shortcomings, so stricken by the chasm between God's perfection and his own non-perfection, that he became very discouraged indeed.

      If that describes you, rest assured that the feeling of inadequacy is one that is not only normal, but to an extent encouraged. In fact, that feeling is likely the result of the Holy Spirit already working within you. Dwelling on your own shortcomings can lead to guilt. And this sort of guilt is much different than the natural feeling of conviction from the Holy Spirit. One leads us to throw up a white flag and surrender, sulking over ourselves. The other leads us to fall on our knees in repentance so that we can live in the victory that is ours thanks to the forgiveness extended to us by our Most Holy God. God wants us to redirect this new feeling to its proper result - He wants us not to wallow in self-centered grief, but to look to Him and let this feeling cause us to overflow with gratitude for His grace and mercy He has shown us by cleansing us and making us holy.

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while,
      'He who is coming will come and will not delay
      But my righteous one will live by faith.
      And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.'
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved." ~ (Hebrews 10:35-39 NIV)~

Where Do I Start? (Part 2)
3/04/2009 | Author: RCW
I already said that I occasionally have people inquire of me -- either as a new believer or for another new believer -- where they should start to begin growing. I already said in my previous post what my first bit of advice would be.

My next bit of advice would be this:
  • Start a journal. You can write anything in it. Prayers, goals, recording the events of your day, experiences, scriptures, quotes, poems, lists, or anything you think belongs in it that relates to your spiritual life, etc.

  • Also, as you begin reading the Bible, tackle the topic(s) that you find most intriguing, most important, most urgent in your own life. As a new believer (or as an "old" one!), if you think of a question you have about the Bible or about faith, or about Christianity, write it down in your journal and record the date by it. Then, make it your resolution to hunt and pursue the answer. Become relentless in your pursuit of the truth. Chase after understanding. The book of Proverbs instructs us to do so. (See Prov. 4:7 among many others) How do you find the answer? Here are some simple suggestions:

    • Pray. You just can't underestimate the power of prayer. Jesus Himself says this: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?" [I imagine this would have been humorous to those listening...and brace yourself: Jesus may have even chuckled as He said it!]. He continues, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!" (Mt. 7:7-11 NIV). Elsewhere He tells his disciples (and by extension us as well) that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth (John 16:13).

    • Ask someone you know to be a person who studies their Bible, loves God, and loves others. Maybe that is your pastor, maybe that is a friend or Bible teacher. Maybe you need to email a Bible professor or search out a Christian book on the topic.

    • Keep reading and praying. Jesus was teaching about prayer one time and used a story to communicate the importance of persistence in our prayer. Imagine that...God wants us to continually come to Him in prayer even when we don't get our answer immediately. The story by the way can be found in Luke 18:1-8 or you can just click here to read it.

    • Study. This is tough to stomach in our culture. We want answers with no searching, results with no effort, secret formulas and quick fixes at no cost. Sometimes growing in our faith and pursuing Christ does not accommodate our laziness. Thankfully, there are some great Bible study aids online. You can access a few by clicking here, here, or here.

    • If after all this, for some unknown reason you still can't find an answer to your question, you can email me or you can go find your answer here (though not everyone has the flexibility to do this last one).

    How pleasing it must be to God when we seek to know Him and understand His ways. All human knowledge points to Him, the knowledge giver. For as Paul says, "in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3). I too am still on that journey...the journey of discovery and the pursuit of truth. After a while, we are always hit with the realization that Ultimate Truth (with a capital "T") is a person, namely Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega.

To be continued...

Where Do I Start?
3/01/2009 | Author: RCW
As a minister in the local church, and someone who is passionate about helping people grow in their walk with Christ, I get asked the question quite a bit...."Cole, I have a friend that just became a believer. I am looking to give this person something to start them in their walk with Christ. Do you have suggestions?" Or sometimes a new believer will approach me themselves and ask the same sort of question: "Where do I start?"

I WILL be brief because a long answer only complicates.

To begin with, most people find the Bible to be an ideal starting point. Specifically, I find that the Gospel of John to presents a great starting point. There is simply no replacement for what God can do in someone when they simply read the Bible for themselves. Many times we underestimate peoples' ability to understand the simple message of the Bible. The Gospel of John is perfect to demonstrate this since it has often been said in a variety of ways that John's Gospel is deep enough that the most intelligent Bible scholars can plumb its depths and never get as deep as they would like, and yet it is not so deep that an infant in Christ will drown. As for English translations, there is a great pamphlet put out by Rose Publishing that helps distinguish between translations. My advice is to pick the translation that best suits both your purposes as well as where you are at in your walk with Christ. A New Living Translation or Message may be a great help to a new believer who hasn't spent a whole lot of time in church, but someone engaged in deep study of the Bible would want something like the NASB. An in between may be NIV, RSV, or ESV. Every translation is an interpretation...it just depends how much you want interpreted FOR YOU and how much you want to do the dirty work of interpretation yourself. If you are stuck and can't choose a translation email me by clicking the link under my picture at the top left corner of this webpage. Need a Bible reading plan? That's simple. Search the web and you'll find plenty. NAVPRESS, one of my favorite Christian publishers (who by the way publishes ONLY resources that aim to help believers grow in their faith), has some great ones you can view here. Others are available here, here, here, and plenty of other places too.

To be continued....