Category Archives: discipleship

Love Yourself, Part III: How??

Last week, we learned that being Christian carries the responsibility of remaining healthy in body, mind, spirit, etc., to the best of our ability in obedience to the Father and Son so that we can honor them and help bring the Kingdom of God to others. The good news is that the Bible gives us much of what we need to figure this out in two distinct areas: spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual formation. Once we say, “I do!” in response to God’s call through Jesus, we’re to embark on a journey of transformation—in all areas of life, which is possible with the Spirit of God. Our change matures and forms several areas:

  • Relationships. If we remember that we’re to treat others with the love of Christ and consider them better than ourselves, our relationships will likely flourish (Philippians 2:3-4). Don’t go to bed angry (Ephesians 4:26) and be sure to ‘turn the other cheek’ to allow reconciliation (Luke 6:29). Finally, remember the ‘golden rule’ (Matthew 7:12).
  • Finances. The Bible has a LOT to say about sound money management. Be cautious about borrowing money and be content with what you have (Hebrews 3:5).
  • Physical health. Eat and drink (if applicable) in moderation. Get off the couch and put your body to work, even if just a bit at first. Remember that God desires to move you to action in His plans.
  • Intellect. Stimulate the brain by reading, studying something interesting, playing games, or assembling puzzles, etc. Say “No!” to the electronic stuff more often!
  • Emotional and mental health. Do what you can to keep your emotions and mind healthy by tending to the body, relationships, finances, and intellect. But, again, do what’s within your control.

Spiritual disciplines.

  • Prayer. It is our communications with (not just at!) God. Use Jesus’ model (Matthew 5:6-13) and Adore God, Confess sins, offer Thanksgiving, and Intercede for others (healing, finances, salvation, etc.).
  • Study. Engage God’s words in the Bible and meditate on them—it’s how we ‘put on Christ’ and become spiritually mature.
  • Accountability. We must bear each other’s burdens and confess sins, at least to one person we trust.
  • Giving (money, time, talents, etc.). The Bible demands it (e.g., Matthew 6:1-4 and 25:31-40; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Not only is it a necessary outcome of the Christian faith, but it can also help emotional health too. Giving stimulates the brain and makes us feel better physically and emotionally. It’s also a great way to take our eyes and minds off our troubles.

So, move toward emotional, physical, relational, financial, and spiritual health one baby step at a time in God’s direction as you love yourself. Next week? We’ll put self-love to work as we dive into how to love our ‘neighbor.’

Questions or comments? Email publisher@taylorpress.net.

Blessings and peace, Pastor Ron Braley, Northview Christian Church

Love Yourself, Part II: Why??

Last week, we began our exploration of self-love, the kind of non-negotiable love we must have for ourselves (and other people). If we care for ourselves as God intends, we can then care for others. But why should we do this? Why should we be bothered?

We cannot love others with the love of Christ if we are unhealthy emotionally, spiritually, relationally, financially, or physically. I’m not talking about sporadic unhealthiness, which does occasionally happen outside of our control. I’m talking about managing our bodies, mind, spirit, finances, and relationships as God desires so that we’ve done all we can to be obedient and healthy and movable.

We also understand from last week that Jesus has commanded us to love others as we love ourselves. It’s not up for argument—this is what He requires. We who call ourselves Christian have no right to abuse our God-given body, mind, spirit, relationships, or finances. There are many good reasons besides obedience to be healthy, to love ourselves in these areas.

God wants us to partner with Him in His ministry of reconciling creation. However, he cannot do that if we are unmovable—if we’re distracted with chaotic relationships, mishandled finances, a lack of spiritual training, or self-imposed physical deterioration. Once we’re movable because we love ourselves as God intends, then we can set an excellent example as a witness for the Kingdom of God.

Christians are on display. Our lives are no longer ours, but the Father and Son’s. Therefore, we must present an excellent example of self-love and love for others so that those who have not met God can. As you can imagine, a lousy witness through selfish behavior and purposeful unhealthiness will keep people from experiencing God’s Kingdom. Who wants to be responsible for that?!?

In summary, being Christian, a ‘little Christ,’ carries the responsibility of remaining healthy in body, mind, spirit, etc. to the best of our ability in obedience to the Father and Son so that we can honor them and help in bringing the Kingdom of God to others. What about next week? In the last part of this three-part series, we’ll dive deeper into the ‘how’ as we continue seeking to mimic the love of Christ.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Love Yourself, Part I: What??

Early in His ministry, Jesus said something interesting to the religious Jews interrogating Him:

And He said to him, “’YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

What?!? Love your neighbor as yourself?? Just what does that mean, and why should I do it?

First, we must understand that this love of self and others is NOT an emotion that comes and goes with the wind. It’s the kind of unconditional love that is actionable and not negotiable or optional. It’s doing the right thing for the right reason, no matter how we feel.

Second, doing the right things for yourself sets you up for doing the right things for others, to love them with the love of Christ. If you’ve flown on a commercial aircraft, you’ve probably heard something like, “If you have small children, please put on your mask first and then assist your child.” Why? Because you’d be of no use to your child if you’re passed out or dead. Loving yourself is sort of like that—you can be of little or no benefit to others if you’re emotionally, relationally, spiritually, financially, or mentally unhealthy.

So, we love ourselves in that agape action-type love by tending to our relationships, body, mind, spirit, and finances as God has taught through His prophets, our Christ, the apostles, and others in the Bible. And we learn to like ourselves through healthy living and walking by the Holy Spirit, who reminds us of who we are in God and Christ. We can also observe godly examples which, in loving themselves, can now love others properly.

In summary, Jesus has commanded that we love ourselves and, in self-love (care and feeding of our body, mind, and spirit), love others appropriately. Next week, we’ll dig deeper into how we can make this happen.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Godly Women

Women are amazing! They tend to be patient and kind and often make great teachers and ministers even though they are often stifled and kept from being the teachers, deacons, prophetesses, prayer warriors, and ministers the Spirit often equips them to be. In addition, most church attendees are women and children, so no one else would be better equipped to teach and disciple them than godly women. Today, we will look at some excellent examples after first checking out some characteristics.

Proverbs 31 teaches us that she helps the poor and needy and is wise. She is hard-working and respectful. And she is made in the same image of Christ as her male counterpart. She walks by the same Spirit and, by the Spirit, teaches, comforts, prays and prophesies (Joel 2:28-29; Titus 2:3-5). Early Christian women ministered in the Church, even to Jesus and the apostles (Matthew 27:55; Romans 16:1-2 and 6), often as deacons (e.g., 1 Timothy 3:8-13; Romans 16:1).

Second, we have many great examples of wonderful, God-fearing women. Here are a few:

Rahab. (~ 1400 BC): Prostitute; savior of the Israelite spies; in the lineage of Jesus (mother of Boaz).

Ruth. (~1300 BC): Widow; Obedient & helpful; in the lineage of Jesus (wife of Boaz and mother of Obed, the father of Jesse).

Esther. (~490 BC): Obediently approached the king & saved God’s people.

Mary. (~20 BC): Obedient mother of Jesus; minister in the early church, especially Ephesus.

Mary & Martha. (~20 CE): Disciples and servants; Lazarus’ sisters.

Tabitha. (~40 CE): A disciple “abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did;” Raised from the dead by Peter.

Prisca. (~50 CE): Likely evangelized by Paul in Rome; tentmakers with Paul; disciples who evangelized & held a home-church (1 Corinthians 16:9). Teachers of the Scriptures (Acts 18:24-26).

Phoebe. (~55 CE): A servant in the Cenchrean Church (Romans 16:1).

Lydia. (~55 CE): Ministered in Philippi; dyer of purple; a worshipper of God who was baptized & served the Church (including Paul after prison).

Perpetua & Felicitas. (~200 CE): 3rd Century Catechumens; martyred for not renouncing Christ; evangelized the jail guard and others.

Catherine of Siena. (1347-1380): Activist; tended to the poor & sick; she is credited with composing over 400 letters, the Dialogue (which is her definitive work), and her prayers.

Mother Teresa. (1910 – 1997): Incredible servant!

In summary, God’s Holy Spirit empowers men and women alike to serve in the Church. Without godly women, Christianity would not be what it is today, nor would it have spread so quickly throughout the ancient world! May God bless you righteous women mightily!!

What about next week? We’ll start a three-part series on loving yourself as Christ commanded.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

A Whale of a Time with Jonah

God is everywhere and knows all things. Still, we often believe that we’re so insignificant He doesn’t know our thoughts or see what we think we’re doing in private. There’s nowhere we can go to hide from God, as Jonah learned about 2,700 years ago.

Jonah was a prophet – a mouthpiece of God. His job wasn’t to tell the future but relay to the Assyrians what God told him. The problem was that the Assyrians (ruling most of what is now the Middle East) were bloodthirsty and violent—especially toward the Jewish people, God’s people. Through Jonah, He wanted to tell the Assyrians that they would have 40 days to change their ways or be destroyed. Afraid for his life and the possibility that the Assyrians would repent and be spared, Jonah ran from God. But God would have His way.

He sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah, who had been thrown overboard his escape vessel by its sailors. Several days later, after Jonah had time to reflect and acknowledge that God wins, the fish vomited up Jonah. He was now free (again)—not to do what he wanted to do, but what he ought to do: obey God.

So, a scary pasty-white Jonah (think about what three days in stomach acids could do to the skin!) walks to Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, to give them God’s ultimatum: repent or else. Thankfully, our God was (and still is) patient and merciful, allowing options and the opportunity to choose wisely. Anyway, the Ninevites decided well and changed their ways (and fate). Jonah was ticked and complained to God, who reminded Him that He oversees all and shows mercy on whom He chooses (the Assyrians, in this case).

God used Jonah to help bring people back to Him. He still calls us to partner with Him to reconcile His creation:

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. —2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

God wants us to respond to His call with a resounding, “Yes! I will give my self and all I have to you in complete devotion!” and then be His ambassadors in bringing the Kingdom of God to others. As we learned from Jonah’s example, we can’t run away from God or His desires, so we may as well get on with it!

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Faith, Hope, & Love, Part III: Love

Last week, we considered hope – confidence in our future with God. This week’s look at the love of faith, hope, and love, comes from an article I wrote several months ago titled, “How do I love Thee?” In particular, we’ll look at the unconditional, charitable action that must come as a result of our Christian faith.

Unconditional Love. This love doesn’t come and go with an emotional wind. It’s doing the right thing for the right reason despite feelings. Greek noun agape is this love that God has for all creation. Verb agapao is love action. God is love (agape); God loved and loves as we should (agapao).

For instance, God hasn’t always been happy with humanity but still loves so much that He gave His Son for all people and takes His time before bringing judgment.

We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

… Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him (Acts 10:34-35).

So, how should we love?

… ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ (Matthew 22:37-39).

According to Jesus and the apostles, we are to be kind and charitable to others besides honoring the Father with all we are and have. So, we will behave in specific ways if we remain with Christ and have the Spirit of God working within us. We will be patient, kind, charitable, gentle, and self-controlled (Galatians 5:22-23). Being self-controlled is essential to bringing the Kingdom of God to those who don’t know Christ (yet). We must not react angrily or speak hatefully – especially in this day of social media when and where we’re on public display! One hateful word, especially attacking character over behaviors, can make God’s Kingdom unattainable for so many people!

Remember that God has loved us first. In response, we must love people and give Him complete devotion. Do the right thing and watch what we say and write, understanding that we must remain patient, kind, gentle, and self-controlled despite how we feel. Finally, our love from faith must move us to care for others.

Next week, we’ll have a ‘whale’ of a time with Jonah!

Faith, Hope, & Love, Part II: Hope

Last week, we were introduced to the belief – faith – confidence – we are to have in God. It’s not meant to be blind faith, but a solid one based on things like Bible study, fellowship, discipleship, prayer, meditation, and illumination by the Spirit of God. Why is a strong faith important? So that we can stand firm in the face of trouble and persecution and know how to honor God in our thoughts, speech, and actions.

Today, we’ll also learn that a solid faith in what God has done and is doing also gives us confidence (faith) in what God will do in the future. That faith in the future is called hope, and it would be just wishful thinking and not expectation without the confidence that faith-building brings. Here’s what the writer of the Book of Hebrews says about the role of faith in hope:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  —Hebrews 11:1.

Hope is the expectation of fulfilling all that we believe will come about: salvation (rescue from coming judgment) and a new age when God will make all things new and dwell with humans. The Apostle Paul puts it this way:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. —Titus 2:11-14.

Similarly, the Apostle Peter reminds us that our hope is possible only because the Son (Jesus) died to pay for humankind’s rebellion against the Father. The Father raised the Son from the dead to become the first of all who the Father will raise for the new world to come.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. —1Peter 1:3-5.

Faith is the confidence in what God has done and is doing; hope is that same confidence in what God will do. But faith and hope are worthless unless they move us to love (faith in action). We’ll revisit that faith-born action (love) next week!

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Faith, Hope, & Love, Part I: Faith

Faith is something to which we belong or have. I am of the Christian faith, and I have faith. Many of us will say that we have faith, but what is it? How do we get it, and how does it relate to our relationship to God and people?

First, faith is belief – confidence. The apostle Paul tells us that it is why we hold on tight to the unseen things of our Christianity, whether of spirit or fulfilled prophecies (Hebrews 10:39 & 11:1).

Second, it is not meant to be blind faith! The Bible repeatedly teaches that we must learn wisdom and knowledge that lead to a healthy fear of God and salvation (2Timothy 3:13-17). Why? So that we can stand firm in persecution and confusion and walk in God’s ways and not be deceived, something that Paul warns will happen in the last days (1Timothy 4:1). Be forewarned: deceit can come from within our churches too, but we can stand firm by knowing the truth of God (Colossians 2:6-8).

Where does our non-blind faith come from? It comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Romans 10:17), prayer, the Holy Spirit (for illumination), meditation (Psalm 1:1-2), discipleship (Ephesians 4:11-16), testimonies, and applying what we learn or experience.

Finally, faith MUST lead to action! All knowledge is useless to God and others if it doesn’t move us to act. That action is the agape, unconditional love, that feeds, houses, clothes, teaches, doesn’t react in anger, listens and encourages, and is kind. Here’s what Jesus’ brother James says about faith-born action:

Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?James 2:17-20.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.James 1:22-25.

Next week, we’ll continue our faith, hope, and love journey by exploring how our confidence (faith) in what God has done and is doing assures us that He will do all that He has promised.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

How to Read the Bible Part V: Change!

So far, we’ve learned that regular Bible study is critical to understanding God’s nature and His desires, spiritual growth, and salvation – rescue from judgment at Christ’s future appearing. We’ve also learned techniques and tools to help us. This week, I’ll share a few approaches to reading and applying what we read to become like Christ as God intends.

First, approaches to Bible reading. Here are three ways to read or study the Bible. All three can be done at the same time.

  1. By Genre. Stuff in the Bible usually falls into one of several categories: history (e.g., the Chronicles or Kings); wisdom and poetry (e.g., Job or the Proverbs or Ecclesiastes); prophetic (e.g., Isaiah); apocalyptic (e.g., Revelation); epistles (e.g., Paul’s letters to specific churches); gospel accounts (e.g., the book of Mark, the first gospel written).
  • By Topic. We’re real people with real issues. Jesus knew this, so He addressed what his hearers needed and referred to specific scriptures (what we call the Old Testament) to accomplish His purposes. Apostles James, John, Peter, and Paul did the same. If you look for scriptures that address a specific topic or need, just make sure that you keep the original meaning using what we’ve learned (i.e., context, concordances, and commentaries).
  • By Book. Studying a single book, like the gospel according to John, can be rewarding! Again, use your tools to stay focused on the writer’s intended meanings.
  • Sequentially. Starting at Genesis and reading the entire Bible (even if it takes a year or more) can be rewarding. Begin reading sequentially and never stop! Do you know that the Israelites were required to experience the Law of God repeatedly? Why? Because we tend to forget stuff, and what’s important to us changes over time.

Second, Making it Stick! Reading for pleasure and head knowledge is one thing; living it is another! Knowledge that doesn’t move us to action is worthless to God and our fellow humans (cf., James 1:22-27; 2:14-26)! To truly be transformed as Christ-followers, we can use this process when we read or study the Bible:

  1. Read the text, perhaps a few related verses at a time.
  2. Consider what it means in its context (not what it means to us!).
  3. Assimilate the text by thinking about it (meditate) while pausing to pray for guidance in applying what you learn.

In summary, start reading and studying the Bible and don’t stop! Use your tools and don’t be afraid to seek guidance about specific life needs. To make it stick, Read, Consider, and Assimilate! Next week, we’ll begin exploring faith, hope, and love and their relationship to each other and our relationship with people and God in a new three-part series.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

How to Read the Bible Part IV: Tools

By now, you may be feeling as though understanding the Bible is hopeless. Don’t fret! Tools abound! You may not be familiar with Jewish idioms or cultural influences on scriptures, but commentaries can fill you in! So you’re not a biblical Greek or Hebrew scholar. No problem! Dictionaries, interlinears, and concordances are your friends! The following are the essential tools, along with a brief description of each.

Lexicon. These are dictionaries of foreign languages that can also help bridge cultural differences between today’s world and Bible times.

Dictionary. This contains important words (e.g., people’s names, topics, etc.) found in the Bible and is based on specific translations. Many Bibles have abbreviated dictionaries in the back of the book. A Bible dictionary can help us understand historical and cultural contexts, key people and events, and the original meanings of words written in other languages such as Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

Concordance. Key words in the Bible are listed alphabetically and can help locate scriptures related to them. If you can think of a word, the concordance can point you to the actual verse containing it. Strong’s Concordance is a popular version that also gives the original language wording and definition.

Interlinear. This tool is excellent for those of us who aren’t biblical Greek or Hebrew scholars! We often believe that the Bible is a word-for-word translation from original languages, which is untrue and impossible. The English language is severely limited compared to biblical Greek. For instance, our word ‘love’ must represent several different kinds of emotion or action mentioned in the Bible. An interlinear will show you the original wording alongside the English renditions so that you can see the intent of the passage.

Commentaries. Well-trained scholars write these to explain biblical texts. They inform of figures of speech, verses such as John 6:4 that have been added, and the context in which the scriptures were written. Because we are so far removed from the language, culture, and contexts of biblical writing, we should never consider doing serious Bible study without using commentaries! But here are a couple of warnings: 1. These are written by humans and, therefore, are often created through a personal religious bias; 2. Use multiple commentaries!!! No one is accurate and unbiased in everything. Using numerous commentaries will help provide a well-rounded understanding of the scriptures you’re studying.

Online Tools. Many Internet sites provide online access to Bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, concordances, lexicons, and interlinears. Here are several good choices:

https://www.e-sword.net   (excellent downloadable Bible software with commentaries and Strong’s Concordance)

https://www.blueletterbible.org

https://www.biblegateway.com

https://www.biblestudytools.com

https://biblehub.com

https://www.studylight.org/bible-study-tools.html

https://www.bibleref.com/

Next week, we’ll add one more golden nugget to this series: change our life through what we read from the Bible. That’s a good thing since we’re to be transformed into the image of Christ!