Basics and Fundamentals

In the fast-paced world of the internet, information, and interests, it is easy to feel like one has to know the secret ingredient, at least for that moment, to propel him/her to success and a life of ease.  If he had the latest gadget, the newest wisdom, or the shiniest spotlight, he would out compete his competitors.

Unfortunately, all of this is folly.  Trends are trends and fads are fads.  What lasts are the principles and establishments that have proof of value.  Even people running for political office are leading in the polls at one moment, then the bottom of the heap the next.  Their “policy” or “popularity” only held enough value for a brief time.  For the disciple of Jesus, He is the only value worth pursuing and promoting.

To be effective at pursuing and promoting takes a commitment to restate and re-establish the basics of discipleship.  Hearing from God and seeking understanding of His teachings is the primary process in discipleship.  We can hear from God in a few different ways—the main being through His written Word.

The Grace Naz family will hear this Sunday that the Word of God (the Bible) is the main measuring rod we use to evaluate our success at being a disciple.  Are we living by the commands that God reveals in Scripture, especially those that Jesus proclaimed.  We will discuss some of these commands in the coming weeks.

But for now, how would you answer the question, “How am I doing?”  Of all the commands of Jesus that are recorded by the four writers:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, how many of them are you honoring and which ones need some work?  This question does not have to be a condemning or guilt producing question.  It can be an honest question designed to provide you freedom from condemnation and guilt.  What is so difficult about discovering areas that can be improved?  What is so hard about admitting areas of falling short?

A devotional I read recently talks about play dough and how it can harden if one is not diligent in storing it properly.  Similarly, we can pursue being soft play dough in Jesus’ hands, or we can become hard and unpliable…

Most parents have a love-hate relationship with play dough. Sure, it entertains the children. Yes, it encourages them to use their imaginations. Play dough is a fairly inexpensive way to ward off boredom on a rainy day. The play dough experience has its benefits.

It only takes one use, however, to understand the not-so-pleasant side of play dough. One innocent afternoon of children being creative can result in little bits of colored dough being found all over the house for days to come. It’ll be stuck to tables, mashed into carpet, and hidden in toy boxes. Play dough has a way of invading the house.

Yet, the play dough invasion is not the most frustrating part. If not put away properly each and every time, play dough becomes hard. And there is nothing fun about hard play dough. Nothing pretty or useful can be molded from it. It cracks at the first attempt to bend it. The only thing that can be done with hardened play dough is to toss it.

Our hearts need to be like a freshly opened container of play dough in the hands of God. We must be soft and pliable. When we allow ourselves to be molded according to His will, He can make something lovely and useful out of our lives. There’s no limit to what He can do with us.

Disobedience and rebellion, however, will harden a believer’s heart. When we fail to obey God’s will or to spend time in prayer and Bible study, we become as useless as dried-up play dough.

Nelson, Thomas. Devotions from the Front Porch (Devotions from . . .) (p. 124). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. 

Lord, I long to be used by You, Lord. Mold me into Your image and bend my heart toward Your will.
Forgive me for the times when I have hardened my


As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”





Back to the Basics

Back to the Basics is our theme for the next month or two.  It seems a fitting approach for God to direct us.  When life gets cluttered, vision gets foggy, and/or strategies become overwhelming, getting back to the fundamentals of life allows us to “get our footing” and then begin to take the next steps.

This past Sunday, we were reminded that when we revisit the fundamentals of following Jesus, we must be willing to “listen” and “seek understanding.”  Jesus alludes to this in his parable, or story, of the different types of soil.  In a sense, Jesus was describing how you and I may respond when we are presented with truths about the Kingdom of God—or the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Matthew, chapter 13, is where you can find this parable of Jesus.  You can insert yourself in various places:  as a sower of seed, as one of the types of soil, or the seed itself.  As Jesus explains the meaning of the parable to his disciples, he refers to the seed as the message of the Kingdom.  He refers to the soils as people in at least four types of listener/receiver.  One of the questions we have to answer is, “What soil am I?”

The answer to the fore-mentioned question may depend on a person’s receptivity at the time the question is asked.  A person may be fertile soil for some truths; but totally indifferent to other of Jesus’ truths.  The goal would to become fertile soil in all instances.

A good way to become fertile soil in all areas is to concentrate on another fundamental.  In addition to listening to understand and seeking understanding is to be immersed in God’s Word.  The Bible holds all the secrets and truths of the Kingdom.

A devotional writer expressed it this way:

Some foods just naturally go together. Peanut butter and jelly. White beans and ham hocks. Chocolate and, well, anything. There’s something unique, however, about the pairing of cornbread and buttermilk. According to my mama, “The longer it sets, the better it gets.” The buttermilk must be poured generously so that it soaks into every morsel of cornbread.

The study of Scripture works much the same way. To delight in the law of the Lord is to partake of it generously and allow it to soak into our spirits. Our goal should not be to read as much as we can or as quickly as we can. Delight takes time as we soak up a verse, a phrase, or a word. We can spend day and night worrying about all the what-ifs of this life, and we can hang on to a grudge for days without end. What if, however, the thing we dwelled on was the goodness of God? What if it wasn’t worry but wonder that captivated us? To meditate on Scripture is to read it over and over, allowing it to penetrate our minds. It is to read it slowly and out loud, emphasizing a different word with each reading. It is to ponder. To delight in the law of the Lord is to know that the longer it sets, the better it gets.

Nelson, Thomas. Devotions from the Front Porch (p. 20). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Lord, forgive those of us in the Grace Naz family who have fallen short in delighting in your Word. 
May we yearn to meditate on your truths daily.
His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.





It is so easy to become distracted these days.  I can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten to pick up my cell phone as I head off to work, or as I leave the office, or as I get out of the car due to some distraction.  I also forget to take my medicine, read my devotional, or return an email becuase that cell phone range or notified me of an incoming message.  That outgoing message or call I needed to make just went into file 13 due to distraction.
Well, with all the news and voices and advertisements, it is easy to get caught up in the urgent or even unimportant.  The “central things” just seem to move to the next item on the list.  This way of coping through life would be understandable; maybe even acceptable, if all of us were this busy all the time.  But, if we are honest, we are not always busy.  Our minds may be busy, but our activity has pauses.
God created important feasts and events on our calendars to help us pause and remember the “central things.”  Although Christmas is not a God-ordained festival, it has become a time for Jesus followers to focus on God’s love for his created humankind.  The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Christ followers in Galatia, said that “…when the right time came, God sent his Son,..” (Galatians 4:4).  God was not distracted.  He knew exactly what he was doing.  He was demonstrating his great love.
In fact, Paul wrote to the Romans (in 5:8) that “…God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”  God wasn’t distracted by our current rebellion; he still came and he still died.  There is no death without birth/life.  There is no Easter without a Christmas.  This is a very simple, yet profound message.
Of course, many get caught up in debating the date/time of year Christmas is celebrated.  It has pretty much been proven that Jesus was not born on December 25th.  And, many other religions, some very opposed to Christ, had feasts and rituals that seemed to have been co-opted or mistakenly brought into the modern Christmas celebrations.  All of this sometimes leads to debates that distract from the primary reason for celebrating Christ’s birth–which is that he was born in the first place.
In the midst of political, religious, and cultural confusion and distraction, God the Son took on human form–down to the least amount of cells necessary for life to attach itself to Mary’s womb, grew in utero for approximately 9 months, then experienced the trauma of birth.  He was wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a feed trough moments after his birth.  On the 8th day of his life, he was given the name Jesus.  If we want to be accurate, his name was Joshua.  Jesus is the English translation of the Latin translated from the Greek (if my memory is correct).
Consequently, thirty-three years or so later, Jesus demonstrated his love for us by dying in our place.  He died a terrible death on a cross.  The victory came when God the Father raised God the Son from the dead.  This undistracted truth is why we celebrate Christmas.  For, it is a person–not an event or specific date.  We celebrate Jesus and his love for us.  May we not become distracted from this central message.


What does “X’ have to do with “Christ”

If you are familiar with the controversy of the use of “X” in place of “Christ” when it comes to typing the word Christmas, you probably are familiar with the phrase “War on Christmas.”  It is true that there are factions in our country that do not want to celebrate Christmas for the primary reason that it points to Jesus Christ and the message and life-style that he purports.  The reaction to this onslaught is equally passionate.  Many Christians are caught in not so flattering phone-captured pictures and videos as they rebut the anti-Christian/anti-Christmas crowd.  If we are honest, some of us Christians are not helping the situation when we seem more angry, and even violent, when defending our faith.  It certainly does not come across as loving.
However, there are times when Christ followers must take a stand.  It may look firm and unwavering; but, it does not have to look ugly.  When we take a stand, we must be able to explain clearly and lovingly why we are taking a stand; and, how taking this stance will actually help our fellow man.  This means we need to do our homoework.
So, when it comes to “putting Christ back into Christmas,” we need to know why using an “X” began in the first place.  Let me explain what I mean.