The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Category Archives: Personal Growth (SHEP)

Ezekiel 14: Yahweh Stands Alone

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In our lesson Ezekiel 13-14: Yahweh Condemns False Prophets, we made our way through all of Ezekiel 13 and the first half of Ezekiel 14.  In that passage, Yahweh was focused on the issue of Jewish false prophets and the folks who were keeping them in business.  As we learned in our previous lesson, it’s a very dangerous thing to turn the concept of Divine prophecy into a game.  When we misuse Yahweh’s Name and Authority, we end up on the wrong side of His wrath. Read more of this post

2 Chronicles 6-7: Why We Shouldn’t Ask God to Heal Our Land

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“…if My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14)

Sound familiar?  This little gem could win an award for how often it is quoted in Christian circles.  Whenever the American economy takes a dip, or when our news media starts cranking out pictures of crops withering from a lack of rain, out comes good old 2 Chronicles 7:14, and a bunch of Christians start preaching that chanting these words is a surefire way to get God to give us what we want.  But is it?  Is God really talking to Americans in this passage?  Of course He’s not.  And as long as we’re pretending to care oh so much about seeking God, it would be nice if we actually listened to everything He says in this speech instead of just ripping out the one line that we find personally appealing.  Read more of this post

Being Called by God: The Responsibility & The Risk

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One day John’s boss calls him into his office and announces that a new position has opened up in the company. It’s a prestigious position—one which will give John a lot more clout than he currently has. John is shocked and thrilled when his boss promotes John to the new position right then and there. Now John has a new title, a bunch of new responsibilities, a new staff, a new office, and a ton to learn. Does merely receiving the promotion mean that John will be a success at the new job? Not hardly. The promotion is merely an opportunity—it’s now up to John to decide how he is going to use the opportunity. He might do great, he might turn out to be mediocre, or he might miserably tank. If his boss isn’t happy with John’s work, John could get fired. The promotion isn’t a guarantee of success or of job security. Promotions can be taken away the same way they are given, and when they are taken away, it’s bitter. It would be less humiliating for John to get fired from his low ranking job than it would to be fired from a high ranking position. His new promotion has not guaranteed his success, but it does come with extra responsibility and the threat of extra humiliation if things don’t work out.

Among Christians there is endless fuss surrounding the subject of Divine callings. Yet while we’re busy envying titles and prestige, we’re forgetting about the great responsibility and risk that come with Divine appointments. If you get iced out of a church congregation as an untitled layperson, it’s certainly a painful experience, but you can find another church where the people are less twerpy. Meanwhile, the whole community isn’t gossiping about what happened to you. But if you’re the pastor who the church board just decided to fire, there’s now a bunch of flack and embarrassment following you around and making it difficult for you to find a new position. Once you gain a reputation for being a “somebody” in the Church, you end up being the target of intense scrutiny and criticism. There’s enormous pressure to compromise, and there’s a growing mob of folks who are eagerly waiting to celebrate your demise. But beyond the human realm, there’s God. He’s the One you’re serving, He’s the One who gave you the promotion, and He is holding you accountable for how you use it. Read more of this post

Christian Prayer Groups: Why God Isn’t a Fan

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Social bonding is an important element of any human relationship. To form positive relationships with each other, we need to spend time talking together and sharing our different perspectives. The experience of feeling listened to and empathized with is so intensely positive and uplifting to the soul that we are willing to pay counselors to provide this service for us. But it’s much better when we can find people who are willing to listen to us and care about us free of charge, and this is what makes Christian prayer groups so very popular. Read more of this post

Jesus vs. the NT Jews: What it Means to Please God

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When Jesus showed up on earth in the form of a human being, He showed up in Israel. He came in the form of an ethnic Jew. In His 33 year long charade as a human, He lived in a Jewish society which claimed to uphold the Laws of the Torah. Judaism was the national religion of the Jews, and true Judaism is supposed to be an adherence to Yahweh’s Old Covenant. Of course Jews who promoted Judaism in the New Testament were like Christians who promote Christianity today: the religion being promoted was a far cry from what that religion is really supposed to be about. Read more of this post

Choosing the Right Priorities: How does God want us to treat our brothers?

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“How should I treat my brother?” The common Christian answer to this classic question is “Treat others the way you’d want to be treated.” Or we might say, “God commands us to love one another.” And while these are useful guidelines to have in mind, in real life, we often need more specific instruction. What exactly does loving your brother look like? What if you currently hate him because of something he did to you? While Christians often talk as if love and forgiveness are qualities that we can just pluck off a shelf whenever we feel like it, in real life, we often find ourselves at a total loss when it comes to the resources we need to treat others as we’d want to be treated. So then what? Read more of this post

Pray Without Ceasing: More Bad Advice from Paul

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In 1 Thessalonians 5, we find the apostle Paul making this bold declaration of what God wants from believers:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of Yahweh in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess. 5:16-18)

So then, do you pray without ceasing? Of course you don’t, and for many earnest Christians, the fact that they are such miserable failures in the unceasing prayer department results in all kinds of needless guilt. Well, it’s time to stop letting a man who you never knew act as your spiritual supervisor in life. The God who put you together intentionally designed you to be an extremely limited creature who finds it impossible to do any voluntary task “without ceasing.” So no, you’re really not some spiritual slacker because you find unceasing prayer to be a very tedious concept. Read more of this post

Compassion Training: Focusing on Principles Instead of Particulars

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God is an incredibly merciful and compassionate Being. He’s so much these things that it often makes us mad. We don’t want God to be empathetic towards that jerk who just hurt us in some major way. In such moments, we want God to be on our side and only on our side. Yet this isn’t how He is. God is on everyone’s side. He is full of empathy for you as well as for your enemy, and in both cases, His empathy is quite sincere. It really bothers us—this idea of nasty people and bad people getting buckets of blessings from God. It really bothers us that slackers, creeps, perverts, and bullies could wind up in the very same Heaven that we’re planning on going to. Well, it might bother us, but this is how God operates, so there it is. God isn’t going to dial down how merciful He is just to suit us. He delights in things like compassion, patience, grace, and forgiveness—all of which are qualities that we really struggle to develop. Read more of this post

When to Change Denominations: Help for Pastors & Priests

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Let’s take a huge field, divide it up into many different pens, and set a flock of sheep down in each pen. This is the Church. God has one flock of souls, but they aren’t managed as a single flock by human shepherds. Instead, we humans divide the flock of God up into various denominations which then bicker endlessly amongst themselves. It’s not ideal, but it’s not going to change, either. Christ has only one Bride, but on this earth, that Bride will always be a fractured mess. God is not threatened by this, and you shouldn’t be, either. But God also doesn’t let our manmade pens distract Him from the fact that there is only one flock. Read more of this post

Soul Before Earthsuit: Understanding God’s Priorities

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If God was really pleased with you, you’d be happy, healthy, and financially well off. This is a very common belief among both Christians and non-Christians. It’s an absolute lie, yet it’s also an extremely popular idea and one which is aggressively promoted by many very successful Christian leaders. Whenever we find a lie being promoted by folks who know better, it is because they have found a way to profit by doing so.

Prosperity theology—a system of beliefs which is built on the assumption that God wants us to have happy, carefree lives on earth—is a huge moneymaker. It’s rather like teaching Christians that God commands them to tithe: the folks who teach the lie make bank while the people who sincerely believe in the lie end up in a world of hurt. Unfortunately, many of our leaders in the Church today couldn’t care less about how many souls they trash on the way to lining their own pockets. As an individual Christian, you’re just one more chump who they might be able to make some money off of. If you prove to be reasonably easy to manipulate, they’ll spend effort messing with you. If you aren’t, they’ll kick you aside and find someone else. Welcome to the world of false shepherds in the Church: it’s a merciless scene in which there is no real concern for human souls. This is why it’s so important that you not put your trust in human beings to guide you in life. God Himself must be your Guide, because He is the only One you can really trust. But before you are going to develop strong trust in God, you need to grasp that He is for you in life, and before you can understand what that means, you need to learn a few things about how God operates. Read more of this post