I ‘Just’ Do Ordinary Work

The topic and the tenor and this article really resonates with me and the ethos behind this little blog of mine. The title of this site — AverageChristianNet — is about my firm conviction that the Christian and the non-believing world needs to hear more from us “average Christians.” Of course, us non-pastors, non-professorial types make up the vast majority of the Body of Christ….yet, we downplay our own contributions in the workplace, the marketplace, and the Internet. (I will have a lot more to say about this in upcoming original pieces). In the meantime, this article makes some important arguments that none of us do “ordinary” work! From The Gospel Coalition…………..

The Sufficiency of Scripture

This is one of the five famous “solas” of the Reformation — sola scriptura, that Scripture alone is enough to guide us in our salvation and living the Christian life (as opposed to church decrees). This article touches on this important aspect of Christian faith and practice. From Modern Reformation…………………..

https://modernreformation.org/resource-library/web-exclusive-articles/the-mod-the-sufficiency-of-scripture/

Giving Has a Boomerang Effect

Here is another nice article from Randy Alcorn, who wants to remind us that we don’t give to God and the church to get back, but like a good Father, God delights to send little rewards and reminders to us that He is pleased with us when we give without concern for kudos for the sheer joy of it! From Eternal Perspectives Ministries………………

How to Respond When Someone Introduces Your Child to Bad Things

There is a lot of practical and useful advice for parents in this article from biblical counselor Rick Thomas. Here is a tidbit to whet your appetite: “If they [the parents]don’t introduce the world to their child incrementally, the world will present itself to him. The operative word is incremental, as well as appropriately. There is a time to start teaching children about the culture, which begins at birth. Biffy was born in this world, and he needs to know how to navigate it, including all the cliffs, ravines, gorges, and swamps.” From RickThomas.net…………………

https://rickthomas.net/how-to-respond-when-someone-introduces-your-child-to-bad-things/

Is Depression a Sin? No!

Personally, I am a little flummoxed that this is even a serious question these days, but this article addresses anyone with any doubts that depression can and does afflict even the most godly of Christians. From the Mental Health Grace Alliance…………..

3 QUESTIONS ABOUT SELF-CARE

First of all, I do not believe that there is “no such thing as Christian self-care.” But also, there is a whole world of difference between the ways the world practices self-care, and the core beliefs behind how a Christian practices self-care. This article does a commendable job in describing self-care for the believer. From Core Christianity…………….

A Holy Tension: Responding to Failed Expectations in the Already and Not Yet

There are many paradoxes in the Christian life that all believers must learn to hold in tension at the same time; that we are already saved and counted as righteous, but we are not yet fully sanctified. This article does a fine job of describing this fact of the Christian life to our benefit. From Beautiful Christian Life…………….

https://www.beautifulchristianlife.com/blog/a-holy-tension-responding-to-failed-expectations-in-the-already-and-not-yet

Faith to Build Your Life On — Dallas Willard

Faith to Build Your Life On

We don’t have to look very far into our own thinking and living to see the effects of either being sure of God or not being sure of God. I believe that Scripture always presents real faith as something that is based on knowledge as well as something that goes beyond anything you could know, and involves a commitment to God and his kingdom. Those two things, knowledge and commitment, are not exclusive of one another; rather, they are related. If we do not have a knowledge of God at the foundation of our commitment, that commitment simply will not hold up. It will waver; it will not govern our lives. It will be like pulling a chair away from someone in the act of sitting down. We will not be able to hold on to our belief as God intends, by the action of his Spirit on our hearts and our minds. Knowledge and faith are intended to go together.

For example, when you read Hebrews 11, the great chapter on faith, you will see faith equated with a vision of reality. We are told that Moses endured as one who sees the invisible. Faith is not a mere thought that something is true or the hope or resolve to believe it is. As Martin Luther said in the preface to his commentary on Romans: “Faith is a living, well-founded confidence in the grace of God, so perfectly certain that it would die a thousand times rather than surrender its conviction. Such confidence and personal knowledge of divine grace makes its possessor joyful, bold, and full of warm affection toward God and all created things—all of which the Holy Spirit works in faith. Hence, such a man becomes without constraint willing and eager to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer all manner of ills, in order to please and to glorify God, who has shown toward him such grace. It is thus impossible to separate works from faith—yea, just as impossible as to separate burning and shining from fire.”

So when we contrast faith and sight, we always have to be sure that we qualify it, so that we understand what kind of sight we are talking about. And that kind of sight—the vision of the Self-subsistent Being without which all of the universe as we know it would simply fold up and disappear—that knowledge, that faith, that vision is the rock upon which we can build our lives.

From The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus. Copyright © 2015 by Dallas Willard. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.  

The Whisper of God

This article is for anyone who may be hurting and in need of encouragement from their heavenly Father, written sensitively by someone who has walked a path of pain and suffering. Here is the takeaway for me: “Whatever your circumstance, however dire, there is a way out. There is always a way with God.” From Duncan Edward Pile………………

What Is God’s Promise to Abraham and Why Is It So Significant?

This article takes a thorough look at a very important topic in both the Old and New Testaments — God’s promise to Abraham (and by extention, to his spiritual seed). Here is a tidbit: “The Abrahamic Covenant is remarkable in its disclosure of how God will move from an otherwise insignificant band of Semitic peoples, to a land in turmoil, to a nation, to a spiritual realization of the covenant that will bring forth the Messiah, and descendants of Abraham that include the entire world.” From Crosswalk.com…………………….

https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/why-is-gods-promise-to-abraham-so-significant.html

THREE LEADERSHIP LESSONS FOR ALL OF US (Not Just Pastors)

I believe all believers are tasked with serving Christ by being beacons of light and leading others through our actions. This article fleshes that basic idea out. From Gospel-Centered Discipleship………………….

BOOK REVIEW: FREE TO THRIVE — How Your Hurts, Struggles, and Deepest Longings Can Lead to a Fulfilling Life 

by Josh McDowell and Ben Bennett (Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2021)

The authors, well-known author and apologist Josh McDowell, and pastor and speaker Ben Bennett have joined forces to examine why so many Christians struggle through life rather than thrive as children of God. Due to their own experiences and their years of ministry, they believe most believers are suffering due to unmet needs in their lives.

McDowell and Bennett make the case that God has designed all people with seven basic needs:

  1. Acceptance — to be included and approved of, as you are, no matter what.
  2. Appreciation — the longing to be thanked and encouraged for something we have done.
  3. Affection — the longing to be cared for with touch and genuine emotional engagement.
  4. Access — the longing to have the consistent emotional and physical presence of key persons.
  5. Attention — the longing to be known and understood by someone who enters into your world.
  6. Affirmation of feelings — the longing to have our feelings validated and confirmed by others.
  7. Assurance of safety — we need to feel protected and provided for emotionally, physically, and financially.

The authors contend that hurting Christians with unfulfilled longings suffer because they try to satisfy those longings themselves or with other earthly things or people. But God placed those longings in us so that we might always go to Him with our needs.

McDowell and Bennett are unusually open and honest in sharing their own unmet longings and the adverse effects those had in their personal lives and ministries. Writing as fellow strugglers, they encourage readers to understand that they are not unusual in trying to satisfy their longings without God and give practical steps to begin looking to God for help and comfort. The book concludes with helpful appendices of the Longings Table and websites and books for further ongoing support. I heartily recommend this book.

Isaiah: Judgment and Deliverance

The Book of Isaiah is a hugely important book in the Bible, and this article gives an excellent overview of it. Here is a tidbit: “Just think: Without Isaiah, we wouldn’t have Immanuel, a voice crying in the wilderness, the sting of death, the root of Jesse, proclamation of good news to the poor, a bruised reed he will not break, light for the Gentiles, every knee shall bow, how beautiful are the feet that bring good news, go out from their midst, a house of prayer, or the earth is my footstool. Without Isaiah, we wouldn’t have a breastplate of righteousness, helmet of salvation, new heavens and new earth, he gave himself for our sins, by his wounds you are healed, the suffering servant, a ransom for many, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world….” From Knowable Word……….

Learning to Live in the Reality of Heaven Now — Dallas Willard

Learning to Live the Reality of Heaven’s Rule

As disciples (literally students) of Jesus, our goal is to learn to be like him. We begin by trusting him to receive us as we are. But our confidence in him leads us toward the same kind of faith he had, a faith that made it possible for him to act as he did. Jesus’s faith was expressed in his gospel of heaven’s rule, the good news of the “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 4:17). Heaven is a deeply significant word. From Abraham (Genesis 24:7) onward, it signified to the people of Israel the direct availability of God to his children, as well as his supremacy over all that affects us. From heaven, “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry” (Psalm 34:15; also 1 Peter 3:12).

Jesus was concerned to pass on to his followers this reality of heaven’s rule that undergirded his life. When he sent his twelve friends out on their first mission, he told them it was like sending “sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matthew 10:16). It would be butterflies against machine guns. Nevertheless—imagine sheep being told this!—there was no need for them to fear. Two sparrows cost a penny. Yet not one falls upon the earth “apart from your Father.” Heaven is so close that even the hairs on our heads are numbered. “So do not be afraid,” Jesus tells us. “You are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29–31).

From The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship. Copyright © 2006 by Dallas Willard. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

How Do I Know that God Will Help Me When I’m in Trouble?

In our heads, we know He is supposed to, but in our hearts, we might lay awake at night and tremble in fear. This article reminds us not to be afraid that God will forsake us in our times of need. Here is a takeaway for me: “We tend to live by faith in visible things. Like with our idols (money, skills, other people, etc.) we want to trust in a salvation we can see. However, the promise that God is always watching over us is invisible. I cannot see the Lord’s protection and help, but that does not mean that it is not there.” From One Degree to Another………………..

Transformation of the Mind — Dallas Willard

Transformation of the Mind

The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow our minds to dwell upon. It is in our thoughts that the first movements toward the renovation of the heart occur. Thoughts are the place where we can and must begin to change. There the light of God first begins to move upon us through the word of Christ, and there the divine Spirit begins to direct our will to God and his way. We are not totally free in this respect, but we do have great freedom here. We still have the ability and responsibility to try to retain God in our knowledge. And those who do so will surely make progress toward him; for if we truly do seek God as best we can, He, who always knows what is really in our hearts, will certainly make Himself known to us.

Clearly our thoughts are one of the most basic sources of our life. By “thoughts” we mean all of the ways in which we are conscious of things—and it includes our memories, perceptions, and beliefs. Thoughts determine the orientation of everything we do and evoke the feelings that frame our world and motivate our actions. Interestingly, you can’t evoke thoughts by feeling a certain way. However, we can evoke—and to some degree control—our feelings by directing our thoughts.

Our essential nature as active and creative beings depends upon our ability to envision what is not the case, as well as what is. Our ability to plan for the future must constantly run ahead of reality. And this we do in thought. A will that runs ahead depends, of course, upon our ability to think; and what we think, imagine, believe, or guess sets boundaries to what we can or will choose, and therefore to what we can create.

As our senses present a landscape for our body and its actions, so our thoughts present the “lifescape” for our will and our life as a whole. Within that “thought lifescape,” which includes our perceptions, we make the decisions that determine what we will do and who we will become.

From Renewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interviews, and Talks. Copyright © 2016 by Willard Family Trust. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

The Toughest Critic You’ll Ever Face

This article from apologist Greg Koukl is very important because of the turbulent times we are in the midst of right now. What with the devastation of waves of COVID, political and societal unrest around the world, and even basic questions of identity, reality and meaning — the practice of apologetics is needed now more than ever. But not for other people….for ourselves! From Stand to Reason……………

https://www.str.org/w/the-toughest-critic-you-ll-ever-face

Praying the Names of God: Maon — Dwelling Place

I love the tidbits of information and insight provided in these articles from author and Ann Spangler! Here is a takeaway for me: “The Hebrew Scriptures reveal a God who dwells with his people—first in a tent in the wilderness and then in the Jerusalem temple. The New Testament takes this idea of God’s dwelling place on earth a giant step further by revealing a God who wants to dwell not merely with his people but within his people. Occasionally, Scripture reverses this imagery in a wonderful way by picturing God himself as our Dwelling Place, or Maon (ma-OHN).”

Maon — Dwelling Place

A Bigger Perspective

My wife is a watercolor artist so the analogy in this article really works for me. The advice is that we all need to take a step back from time to time to get a look at the big picture, because a different perspective can help us better appreciate the art that God is making of our lives. From Core Christianity…………………..

Rest for the Soul

Just this title conjures up feelings and images that makes me feel refreshed and renewed. We all could use some rest for our souls, and the Shepherd of our souls provides that rest! From the Mental Health Grace Alliance……………..

BOOK REVIEW: WHEN PRAYER IS A STRUGGLE: A Practical Guide for Overcoming Obstacles in Prayer by Kevin P. Halloran (P & R Publishing; 2021)

Minister, author, and blogger Kevin Halloran has written an eminently helpful and encouraging book on how to handle the most common difficulties with prayer. He covers prayer problems such as being at a loss of what to pray, being hindered by guilt or shame, unable to focus, being too stressed or too busy. Halloran writes on nine of the most common obstacles to prayer reported by laymen and clergy alike as a fellow struggling pray-er so that the reader does not feel either belittled or unusual for needing assistance in developing a healthy and consistent prayer life.

The author begins the book by demonstrating through Scripture why prayer is essential, and the benefits to every believer for persevering through the difficulties often found in praying to God in any kind of meaningful and fulfilling manner. Readers will probably recognize themselves in more than just one of the difficulty areas described and are encouraged to skip around if they wish. Each of the chapters provides doable action plans that are thankfully not very complicated. At the back of the book, Halloran offers a listing of psalms to pray grouped by topic and verses to find the prayers of the Apostle Paul. Finally, he lists many recommended books for those who want to go deeper into the subject of prayer. This is one of the most practical and approachable books on prayer I have read. I highly recommend it!

What Can We Learn from the Roman Centurions in the Bible?

There are some very interesting insights in this article from Crosswalk.com! Here is a tidbit: “In Matthew 8 this centurion understands that Jesus is a man of great power and authority. He has faith that Jesus is able to speak a word and his servant will be healed. This is rather astonishing because up to this point in the narrative Jesus has not healed anyone from a distance. But this centurion seemed to know and believe that Jesus could accomplish whatever He desired.” From Crosswalk.com……………..

https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/what-can-we-learn-from-the-roman-centurions-in-the-bible.html

God Uses Our Minds to Communicate with Us — Dallas Willard

Focus your mind on God

If we do not use our ability to turn our minds and thoughts toward God, we do not have contact with God. Undoubtedly God could move into the human realm and invade the mind. If God did act in such a way, what are the chances the receiver would properly interpret such an encounter, if there is no knowledge of God at all? Therefore, what human beings can and must do is progress to the point where we consciously, intentionally focus our minds on God. The minister of the gospel is tasked with the very special and essential calling of directing and illuminating our minds toward the reality of God and his ways.

From The Divine Conspiracy Continued: Fulfilling God’s Kingdom on Earth. Copyright © 2014 by Dallas Willard amd Gary Black Jr. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Dallas Willard Lists His Essential Scriptures for Discipleship and Kingdom Living

Essential Scriptures

Of course, in all our study the person of Jesus is the center of attention. But He is not really separable, for us, from the written revelatory word, including the Law, the Prophets, the history, and the wisdom of the Old Testament. One who would train disciples “to hear and do” will direct them to all these, still centered on the Person of Jesus.

The twenty-third Psalm is also an exquisite summary of life in the kingdom. The mind of the disciple should have it internalized, to always foster the joy and peace of the kingdom as well as to orient all of his or her actions within it. The Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sermon on the Mount, Romans 8, Colossians 3, Philippians 2–4, and a few other passages of scripture should be frequently meditated on in depth, and much of them memorized. This is an essential part of any training for Christlikeness. Positive engagement with these scriptures will bring kingdom order into our entire personality. This is something you will strongly experience as you go through the process of such study

From Renewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interviews, and Talks. Copyright © 2016 by Willard Family Trust. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Our Life Comes From the Kingdom of Heaven — Dallas Willard

Your life comes from the kingdom of Heaven

But we get a totally different picture of salvation, faith, and forgiveness if we regard having life from the kingdom of the heavens now—the eternal kind of life—as the target. The words and acts of Jesus naturally suggest that this is indeed salvation, with discipleship, forgiveness, and heaven to come as natural parts. And in this he only continues the teachings of the Old Testament. The entire biblical tradition from beginning to end is one of the intimate involvement of God in human life—or else alienation from it. That is the biblical alternative for life now. “The crooked man is an abomination to the Lord,” as the proverb sums it up, “but He is intimate with the upright” (Prov. 3:32 NAS).

From The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. Copyright © 1997 by Dallas Willard. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

What is Time?

I can sometimes get lost in thinking about things that are too marvelous for me. But these kinds of topics always bring me around to the awesome majesty and beauty of God! From TableTalk Magazine………………

5 Scripture Verses for Uncertain Times

Nothing can relieve stress like some good words from Scripture! From Harvest House Publishers blog………………..

https://www.harvesthousepublishers.com/blog/5-scripture-verses-for-uncertain-times?utm_campaign=Inspirational%2FDevotional%20Persona%20Newsletters&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=93211245&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9t76VEy5npc_-9obWYm9MFbX8gLjJc0SzTI7tiiYwEHzQfJ3KYmmdHw7HZI8b3Mci6DV-d9v5AnzMabPrqQ_FW9ICBog&utm_content=93211245&utm_source=hs_email

You Might Find God, but not devils. . . (The Divine Hidden, but Reasonable. The Diabolical Obvious, but Irrational)

I cannot tell you how much I like this article! If our unbelieving friends ask why God is so hard to find, tell them it is because He loves us so much and does not want to scare the bejeebees out of us! (Read the rest of the article!) From Eidos…………..

You Might Find God, but not devils. . . (The Divine Hidden, but Reasonable. The Diabolical Obvious, but Irrational)