What Writer’s Block Teaches Me About Discipline And Joy

OpenBible John 1My writer’s block continues, tempting me to take a day off from blogging. I do realize that doing so wouldn’t be sinful. Maybe I’d even get some digital art done, which really wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Yet I fear that indulging these feelings of not wanting to blog could put me on a slippery slope.  I know my sinful, lazy self well enough to understand that I need the discipline of performing tasks regardless of how I feel about them. That same commitment to discipline helped me, 40 years ago, to develop the habit of daily Bible reading.

Admittedly, a Christian should approach God’s Word with eager anticipation, knowing that the Lord speaks to us through the pages of Scripture. It shames me that there are days — way too many of them — when I come to my Bible confessing that I’d rather play Solitaire or work on digital art. Interestingly, those are often the days that His Spirit most clearly illumines His Word to me.

Whether we feel the desire for Scripture or not, we need the daily nourishment it gives. Job certainly understood the value of God’s words.

I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
    I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. ~~Job 23:12 (ESV)

The fact is, Christians need daily Bible intake even more than we need three square meals a day. Sure, there are days when we can only spend five or ten minutes in the Word, and the Lord understands that. But the discipline of coming to His Word regularly, unless unusual circumstances make doing so impossible, establishes a rhythm that ensures daily communication with our Savior.

I disagree with imposing legalistic rules like “No Bible, no breakfast” or reading a specified amount of chapters a day. However, some sort of general routine helps. It’s only when you turn that general routine into rigid law that you pervert godly discipline into ungodly legalism.

And legalistic Bible reading shifts the focus from hearing the Lord to checking off a religious duty to entering into communion with the Living God. Discipline may bring our feelings under control, but it never blocks us from the joy of hearing God’s voice as He speaks through His Word. We may open our Bibles as an act of discipline, but we’ll close them rejoicing that the Lord has spoken to us.

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The Tragedy Of The Entertaining Church

Powerful Word“Show people that Christians are just like  everyone else.”

“If we have non-threatening activities like movie nights, people will get comfortable enough with us that they’ll want to come to church.”

“Unless we have games and refreshments, kids won’t come to youth group.”

I heard all these comments, and more, from a church I used to attend, usually in connection with evangelism and church growth strategies.  We want to attract people to the Lord, not scare them away from Him, the leadership of the church reasoned. For a while, they even made sense. Why not make visitors comfortable before hitting them with the Bible?

Sometimes the promoters of such ideas supported them with 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Never mind that this passage, in context, refers to restricting one’s Christian liberties to avoid offending people with anything but the Gospel. But in his next epistle to that same church, Paul made it clear that presenting the Gospel would, in fact, offend those who would not receive salvation.

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. ~~2 Corinthians 2:15-17 (ESV)

Churches, including youth groups, act deceptively when they advertise themselves as being cool, hip and in touch with the world, only to slip Jesus in there when they can do it inconspicuously. They know that a blatant bait-and-switch will expose them, so they have to continue making Scripture palatable. Sermons include stand-up comedy, movie clips and props rather than verse-by-verse exposition of the text, knowing that the folks they attract through entertainment require continuing entertainment in order to keep them coming.

Contrast that mindset with Paul’s command to Timothy.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~~2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)

God’s church can, and should, be overflowing with joy. Fellowship halls should ring with laughter, and youth groups should include extra activities outside of Bible Study hours. As someone known for practical jokes, I’m hardly adverse to having fun at appropriate moments.

But when we use fun as an evangelism tool, and especially when we blur the lines between Christians and the world, we tend to obscure the Gospel. After all, the call to repentance can’t be slipped in between funny stories or during a game of Pictionary if we expect non-Christians to take their sin seriously.

Churches must preach the Word, even if so doing makes people uncomfortable. In fact, we want people to feel uncomfortable about their sin in hopes that they will then desire the Savior. Preaching a compromised gospel that elevates human comfort over the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ may fill churches, but it won’t save souls.

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A Dalliance With Hypocrisy

Bible Shadow

What a wonderful feeling to wake up having my blog post completely mapped out, including cross-references! Such a thing rarely happens, so I tingled most of the morning with anticipation.

The idea came to me after I went to bed last night. In bed, I can’t hold either a physical Bible or my computer, but that didn’t bother me. I knew the passage I’d use. I’d look it up after my devotional reading in the morning, and then I’d write a fantastic post that would surely impress my readers.

Successfully avoiding the temptation to replace my regular reading with blog research, I deliberately slowed my pace to make certain that I properly understood the passage in my devotional reading. I took careful notes, making sure I read each verse in context. At last I finished. Confidently, I located the passage for my blog post and began reading.

Oh no! In my prideful little mind, I had merged two distinct instances from Jesus’ life. The entire premise of the post I’d planned had no historical basis. For a naughty moment, I tried to figure out ways to make my narrative work, only to realize that doing so required mishandling the very Word of God.

What a vile thought! How could I consider such a thing?

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit convicted me right away, making it abundantly clear that the blockbuster post I’d concocted in bed last night couldn’t be written. At least not with any sense of integrity. Obviously, any attempt to write such a flagrant misrepresentation of Scripture (besides being absolutely ridiculous) would be the height of hypocrisy.

Actually, the temptation happened much more quickly than this account indicates. I’ve only realized the seriousness of it by typing it all out. I don’t believe I really would have attempted to mangle God’s Word that badly.

So I didn’t know what to write today. I considered not writing at all, or reblogging something from my archives. I decided that humbling myself and confessing my dalliance with hypocrisy might help you appreciate the importance of handling Scripture respectfully. The more I think about it, the more I realize that Paul’s instruction to Timothy also applies to lowly bloggers.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. ~~1 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)

God’s Word must never be manipulated to suit our convenience. Scripture is nothing less than the very Word of God, and therefore deserves to be treated with the utmost respect. Perhaps the Lord used my self-serving moment of folly to remind me to handle His Word reverently and with the awareness of what a valuable treasure it is.

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