Tag Archives: Bible Study

What Fire Won’t Destroy: 2 Tests to Discern Lasting Value

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Thank to author Kristen Hogrefe for the following guest post! You can follow Kristen on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


 

If you’ve seen the news recently, your heart probably goes out to the people in California who have lost their homes—even their lives—to wildfires. I read about one couple who started packing their car with priceless vases and artwork, only to find they couldn’t evacuate in time. They lost everything but survived.

If you had a wildfire tearing toward you, what would you do? While I hope this scenario never happens, the question does prompt us to consider what we value most.

In Luke 7, a discouraged John the Baptist questioned if he’d missed the mark, if everything he “valued” counted for anything. He sent a message from prison to Jesus along these lines: Are you really the Christ, or should I look for someone else? Given his circumstances, can we blame him for asking if he were following the right man? After all, heralding Christ’s arrival (his life’s work) was costing him everything. Had he chosen the wrong path?

Recently, my Bible study group discussed this interesting passage, and I’d like to share some takeaways that might help us discern if what we’re valuing is worthwhile.

 

Test #1 – Does what we value stand up to Scripture?

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Luke 7:22 NKJV)

Before we’re tempted to judge John for his doubts, let’s consider his point of view. He had done the job God had given him, and now, he was sitting in prison. Seemingly forgotten. If we were in his shoes, we probably would have had a few questions of our own.

Though at first Jesus’ response seems strange, let’s take a closer look. By citing His miraculous works, Jesus reminded John of the Old Testament prophecy He was completing. (See Isaiah 29:18, 35:5-6.)

In other words, Jesus said: Yes, John, I am who you think I am. Look how I’m fulfilling the prophecy of God’s Word.

How can we use Scripture to evaluate our values and choices? Consider these principles. Are our motives:

  • Generated by the Spirit or the lustful desires? (Galatians 6)
  • Generated out of true love or selfishness? (I Corinthian 13)
  • Generated by the desire to please God or others? (Matthew 6:24, Galatians 1:10)

 

Test #2 – Does what we value matter for eternity?

“For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28 NKJV)

At first, this verse had my friends and me puzzled. Why does Jesus call John “the greatest” and then say that whoever is least in the kingdom of God “is greater”?

The difference is the perspective of eternity. In terms of his earthly ministry, the prophet John surpassed all other prophets. The Old Testament prophets had the job of foretelling the coming of Christ, but John was the only one to announce, “The Messiah is here!”

Although John’s mission on earth merited the highest honor, it paled in comparison to the worth of a person’s salvation. “Whoever is least in the kingdom of God” is someone who accepts God’s gift of salvation. That salvation matters for all eternity and is therefore “greater” than any earthly ministry, no matter how great.

Jesus isn’t saying that John’s work wasn’t important. Instead, He’s saying what’s more important is the consequence of that work: the salvation of souls.

How can we use eternity as a touchstone for our values? Remember that …

  • Earthly possessions fade; eternal treasures last. (Matthew 6:19-21)
  • Selfish ambition doesn’t satisfy; Jesus set the example of serving others. (Philippians 2)
  • The substance of our work matters less than our faithfulness to it. (Matthew 25:14-29)

 

Closing Thought

Here on earth, fire may raze everything in its path. Not so in eternity. At the end of our lives, when we stand before God, He will judge our works by fire and sift out what doesn’t matter from what does. (See I Corinthians 3:9-15.) The fire won’t burn “enduring” deeds. Paul makes clear that our works don’t impact our salvation, but they do affect our eternal reward. (See I Corinthians 3:15.)

Do the things we care most deeply about matter for eternity? We can’t define our success by others’ opinions or monetary gain, though there’s nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves. However, what we value most should transcend the temporary.

For reflection: What do I want most right now? How does this desire stand up against these two tests?

 

[Click to tweet: What do you value? Does it matter in light of eternity? Guest post by @kjhogrefe on BigSisterKnows. @bigsistertweets]

 

Are You Useful to the Master?

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When I was a child, I read the story of Jesus and the fig tree in Mark 11:11-21. In the story, Jesus was traveling from Bethany to Jerusalem when He became hungry. Seeing a fig tree on the side of the road, He went to inspect it. Although the verse indicates it was “not the season for figs,” Jesus was still upset when he found it barren. In fact, He cursed the tree so that it withered and died.

As a child, this upset my sensibilities. I pictured this little tree trying to grow on the side of the road, doing everything right in accordance with the seasons God ordained. Then God came along and cursed it! It just didn’t make sense. Eventually, I set the verses aside on faith, figuring that I was missing a deeper spiritual point.*

 

Useless

Years later, we  studied trees and plants in my Bible classes. That’s when I learned that the fig trees of Jesus’ day produced fruit for ten months out of the year. However, if fig trees are not properly fertilized in the first three years, they’ll stop producing fruit altogether.**

When Jesus found the fig tree in April, it wasn’t technically fig season, but there still should have been figs ripening on the tree. Instead, the tree had no fruit at all. Because it was barren, it would always be barren. Jesus used the situation to explain that if we don’t bear spiritual fruit, then we aren’t being useful for the Kingdom.

 

Be Useful

The term “useful” doesn’t sound very spiritual today, but Paul referenced it several times in his letters. At one point, he stated, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things [wickedness], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21 NAS).

Although every person is loved and valued by God, not everyone is useful to Him. And what a shame it is to be in the Church Body and have no spiritual fruit to offer it!

If you want to make yourself useful to the Master, you need to be willing and able to heed His call.

 

Be Willing

Make yourself spiritually and physically available to God. If you’re too focused on your to-do list, or you’re consumed with worry, then you’ll find it hard to hear the voice of God. On the other hand, if you don’t care about your fellow man, then you won’t care about the assignments God gives you.

To be willing, you must also be humble. If you only care about working in the spotlight, then your motivation is on “self” and not service. You must be willing to accept any assignment God gives you (even if it’s sorting the mail).

 

Be Able

A lot of people are willing for God to use them, but they aren’t able. Now, it’s true that God can use anyone for His service, but He can’t use anyone for any service. For example, if you want to share the Gospel with others, then you need know the Word. If you want to tell people about Jesus, you need to know Him personally. If you want to minister to people, then you need to love them.

Likewise, if you feel called to a specific area, then you should learn all you can about it. For example, if you see yourself writing books to minister to people throughout the world, then you need to learn the craft of writing, including the world of publishing and marketing. These topics are not mundane or secular when they are necessary tools for your godly service.

Paul specifically said that we must be holy and sanctified to be useful. (See 2 Timothy 2:21.) Therefore, you should repent of past sins and avoid sinning going forward. Despise wickedness and love righteousness. (See Psalm 45:7.) Above all, make God the top priority in your life, and everything else will follow. (See Matthew 6:33.)

 

A Servant’s Prayer

Are you tired of being spiritually barren? You have the power to change that! Decide in your heart that you want to be useful to the Master and His Kingdom. Here’s a simple prayer to help you become willing and able to accept God’s assignments:

“Lord, I feel like I haven’t been very helpful to you. Please forgive me and change my heart. Help me to want to be helpful. Instruct me so that I can be useful in the areas you need me. Then grant me assignments that will glorify you and bless your people. In the name of Jesus, the perfect servant. Amen.”

 

[Click to Tweet: It’s true that God can use anyone for His service, but He can’t use anyone for any service. #bigsisterknows]

[Click to Tweet: What a shame it is to be in the Church Body and have no spiritual fruit to offer it! #bigsisterknows]

 


* Some Scriptures don’t seem to jive with our understanding of who God is. When in doubt, have faith that God is in control, He loves you, and He had good plans for you. Stand on the sure foundation of faith while you continue to seek knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

**W.E. Shewell-Cooper, Plants, Flowers and Herbs of the Bible (New Canaan, Conneticut: Keats Publishing, Inc, 1977), Page 53-56.

 

Classes, Manuscripts, and Radio Interviews, Oh My!

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Navigating_Meme

 

This month, I’ll begin teaching a 5-week course called Navigating Your Spiritual Journey at my alma mater, the Tallahassee Christian College and Training Center. I developed this class based on 13 years of research on the topic of the spiritual journey, which is the topic of my non-fiction manuscript, Girls with Gusto. In the class, students will learn the eight major steps of the spiritual journey and will be able to identify where they are on the map and what they need to do to advance forward.

Every semester, our local Christian radio station, Wave94.1, interviews a faculty member about his or her class. This semester, they picked me! So, for more information on this class, my manuscript, and the college, check out my radio interview. (I added photos and memes I’ve shared on this site or posted on social media to make it more fun.)

 

I hope to see you later this month at TCCTC. If you’re not in the area, or you can’t commit to the 5-week class, don’t worry—I’ll continue to share encouraging posts with you right here at BigSisterKnows. As always, your prayers (as well as your Likes and Shares) are sincerely appreciated!