Thoughts on Relationships – 2018

Well, here I am, again, speaking (or writing as the case may be) on relationships. If you haven’t figured it out, yet, I feel relationships are vastly important. This is the whole point behind Believe Better Ministries: To help you – our reader – to come into a full relationship with the Triune God. I want all my readers to move past the religiousness which tears us down and start Believing in Something Better.

So, with this in mind I’ve been meditating on relationships recently. I love verses like 1 John 2:10-11, because they really do show the great importance placed on relationships. Think about what the Lord Jesus Christ said about the greatest commandment, or His stating of a new commandment. Both statements come back to relationships. If I were to condense the Christian life into a phrase it would be a paraphrase of our Lord:

“Have a full, complete relationship with God, and have a relationship with the people around you, especially your fellow believers.”

This is the essence! (While I know without definitions these words do not totally capture the full Christian life, however for the sake of brevity let us lay aside the arguments for the time being.) The Lord brought a verse to me while I was listening to a sermon on the radio, recently. You will soon (hopefully) see a much longer paper on the subject of this verse and its ramifications upon this ministry, but being immersed in my study I wanted to prime the pump, so to speak. This verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:14 “We urge you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient toward all” (BOGV). These are the simple directions for our relationships with fellow believers.

This is all about helping those in need, and if there is not a visible need (or there may be a difference of doctrine) being patient. Paul intended this verse (and the whole section of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22) to be applied to the believers and their relationships with each other. I want to go a step further and apply this to the relationships we have with unbelievers, for we are called to evangelize to them. Now, I am a shy person. I have always had a hard time speaking to people on difficult subjects. The Lord, however, is growing me and conforming me to the image of His Son.

Recently, God has placed a call on my heart to share the Good News (the Gospel). This is the relationship which is scariest to me. It is the relationship which God wants me to cultivate. We need to be speaking the Gospel, His Gospel. This Gospel is a message of free, limitless grace. This Gospel presents a God who loves us so much He personally came to Earth in the form of a man so He could sacrifice Himself for us and bridge the gap (the chasm, really) between Him and us. It is a Gospel of total forgiveness from everything and anything we have ever done. Finally, it is a Gospel which brings us into a full, beautiful relationship with God, no strings attached.

This Gospel does not preach a religion, but a relationship! We need to preach the Gospel tenderly and with great care to everyone who will listen. With gentleness, then we bring order to the disordered, encouragement to the discouraged, support to the weak, and are patient with everyone. This will be an effective witness, and a breath of fresh air to those who have been turned off by the arguments they are shown in the media. Having a tender attitude will bring forth a softer response.

Go forth, build relationships with those around you. Have a full, wonderful relationship with our glorious God. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Advertisements

Easter Thought – 2018

We come to the season, again, of celebrating Christ’s resurrection. When I approach this holiday (my favorite by far) in my prayer time with the Lord, I constantly find myself at a loss for words. What can I say? The only thing I have to say is “thank You” to go or His working. The Lord Jesus, the Messiah of the whole world, came here to do what we – humankind – could not. He reached down from heaven in order that we could have a relationship with Him.

I heard a quote a couple years ago and wrote it down so I would never forget it. The quote is:

“Religion is man trying to reach up to God;
The Gospel is God reaching down to man.”

—Unknown

Humankind has been making religions (even the Christian religion) as monuments trying to stand on them to reach God since the time of Babel. It continues today, is a steeple not simply a tower to reach God?

Christianity wasn’t meant to be this. Jesus’ teachings are scarce on the subject of the Church and corporate worship of Him, focusing rather on the day to day lives his followers. We do have the “Upper Room Discourse” in John 13–17. This preaching is familial, relational, and about love. Love for one another (fellow believers) as He (Christ) loves us (the Church/Believers) is laid out as a new commandment. We are to love one another and through this we show our love for the Lord!

Paul’s clear mission for the Church was unity and love as well. (Paul refers to this in Colossians 2:1–2 by hoping our hearts might be knit together in one heart through love.) This is the theme repeated time and time again through the Bible – let alone the New Testament. This is the call: Not to a religious experience, but to a relationship. Let us dwell on our relationship as we go through our day. Jesus’ resurrection provides for this relationship. This is the whole point.

Praise the Lord!

I hope you all have a happy Easter.

Thoughts on Death

A dear brother just recently passed – as did Billy Graham. So, I have been pondering death – the first death that is – recently. If you follow me on my personal blog then you know I suffer from seasonal depression. (Please Note: I am not complaining, I am just stating this for it pertains to my thoughts on this subject.) Now being Christian, and having a Christian upbringing, I have heard the statements about how we are supposed to feel and what we are supposed to see when we see a brother or sister pass away. I have heard people say all of the “He is in a better place now” and so on. But it is one memorial service I was at about a decade ago which really affected my outlook.

When we lose someone, it is absolutely okay to be sad! Don’t let what anyone says make you feel guilt over feeling. The man I consider my pastor, John Z., was giving the eulogy at a dear brother’s service during my senior year of high school. Someone else, who was also rather close to me, told me to rejoice in this brother’s passing. He had had an awesome life, full of service to the Lord, and full of many amazing things, but my pastor, John, was standing at podium and he was quiet for a moment as he was overcome with his sorrow. John looked out at us and through his own emotion he said, “We are sad today, not because we mourn for our brother. He is standing face to face with Christ, no longer feeling pain or problems. We are sad, for our own loss.” We can be sad! In fact I might say we are supposed to be sad. In fact Solomon in Ecclesiastes tells us there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” (Eccl 3:4).

This affected me so greatly! It is so freeing!

I will tell you right now, I am sad! I am trying to stay in the right frame of mind, however, and not let this sadness take over my thoughts. I am praying and keeping Him first in my life. I am trying to listen to the promises God gives us in his word. Things where Jesus says (all ESV):

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” ~ Luke 23:43

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” ~ John 11:25

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” ~ John 14:1-3

But I think the greatest promise about this is what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV)

Just as Jesus told the thief on the cross he would be the Lord that very day in paradise, so we know when the Lord returns He will bring those with Him. These verses won’t drive away the sadness, but they do bring assurance to us. We need this assurance other wise we will grieve as those who have no hope. We have a blessed hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For God loved the world so much he sent the Lord Jesus and gave him for us that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life with Him.

Please lift up all those who have recently lost family! Pray for them. Pray their passing could be a great witness to for the Lord in this time.

Thoughts on Choices

Choices are hard!

There’s nothing which makes them easier. We stress out over the choice, the results, what other will think. (So often, though, when we finally make a decision we feel free, our stress melts away.) We pray over the choice, we pray over the results, we look left and lean right, we look right and lean left. Our stress stems from chaotic unknowns, from feeling as though we are out of control.

But the problem in our lack of control is something which goes unnoticed in our daily lives until circumstances rub our noses in it. The fact is we are not in control, God is in control. We worry so much about time, about decisions, about control yet our illusion of control once released will free us to see God’s will in our lives. This is not an easy principal.

To move my point home, I want to bring a verse to your mind. This verse comes from the book of wisdom in the Bible: Proverbs. “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9. This verse gives me my whole view point on how our lives work. We make plans, we decide to do things, and the Lord works through what happens in our lives to accomplish His will. So, what does this mean to us about our choices? Does it mean they’re worthless, or does it mean they make no difference in the end?

I would make the argument of our choices still being important. Our choices shape who we are, allow us to grow, turn us into the people we are today, and effect who we ill be tomorrow. God above all things wants a relationship with us. This means allowing us to grow and become fully mature beings. So, what about making choices? That’s where this whole thing started. Everything I’ve written doesn’t make it easier to choose between one option and another.

We pray over our choices. We pray for wisdom. Ask our pastors, elders, and counselors for insight. Even then, we still struggle to choose. I want to inject some peace into your life. (This is not my insight and I don’t have considered myself to have mastered it, yet.) If we ask God for something is He not faithful to give us an answer? We act as if He doesn’t. We ask for wisdom then act like God won’t give it. James, the brother of our Lord Jesus, didn’t agree. He wrote: “But if any of your lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who give to all generously and without reproach, and it will be give to him.” (James 1:5)

If we have this promise from God, about giving us wisdom in His word can we not trust it? If God says He will give us wisdom then He will. Choices, then, become easier: Pray for wisdom, make a choice knowing God is faithful. That’s it! If you’re feeling stressed remind yourself God is in control.

These are my two verses on making choices. God takes care of us and ultimately works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). Remember this and calm your stressed life down. Find wisdom in your life, from counselors – may they be elders, pastors, parents, or others – but also ask God for it.

Good Luck!


Note: I wrote a personal thought on choices back in 2016 on my personal blog and planned at the time to write one for Believe Better Ministries. I did not accomplish this at the time and 2017 slipped away without the thought having been written. I apologize for all who were waiting for this since I posted I was going to write it. I pray this brings you some peace in making choices.

New Year’s Thought – 2018

Well, this year went by in a blaze of speed I had not yet felt. I can’t believe it is now 2018. I’ve been through a lot this year for it to be over so soon. I’ve finished some projects and had to reevaluate others. I’ve missed out on some goals while pursuing others. I didn’t quite complete my goal of getting the commentaries on 1 – 3 John finished in order to get them to print, but I see a bright future in 2018 for the Believe Something Better Bible Commentary Series. I also feel excited for the possibility of a newsletter for Believe Better Ministries. We will see what the Lord permits me to do this year.

My thoughts this time of year are typically very reflective. Christmas is over, things are winding down it is time to sit down and read my journal and see what happened this year. (Most of the time what I really mean is see how I messed up this year.) This year has been different. I am not saying I am different, but the time is different. I still feel reflective, I just haven’t had the time to sit down and read my journal or really put any effort into self-doubt (I will admit I am not suffering from the symptoms of seasonal depression as badly this year.

This has brought to mind a truth which I seem to remember about January 12th and forget again on February 1st. We are not meant to wallow in our past mistakes! We need to forget them and move on. I am not saying we need to ignore them, I’m saying we need to learn from them but then move passed them. There is a verse which is commonly used as a new year’s verse (so you will forgive me for doing it now) and it is appropriate.

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:13-14 ESV

This is not just something I want to remember during the first and last weeks of each year, but rather it is something I want to remember for this whole year. I am going to put it on my book marks, in my notebooks, on a card in my wallet, simply it is going to be everywhere for me this year. I am going to make it my verses of the year.

Maybe we can do it together. Let’s make these two verses the verses of 2018, and let’s treat those around us with the same courtesy. The friend whom you’ve had an argument with and you can’t remember how it started? End it, forget it. The estranged family member? Reach out to them, you make the steps for mending your relationship. How we treat the people in our lives should be a reflection of how we love God (see 1 John), so, treat your loved ones with full unconditional love (agape love).

This is my major goal for 2018: Unconditional, godlike, love through forgetting what lies behind and striving to what lies before. Happy New Year, everyone!

Christmas Thought – 2017

Christmas is here again. My thoughts this year have been on relationships and the application of love in our Christian lives. I’ve been going over the passages of the “Greatest Commandment” in consideration of John’s teaching in 1 John. Writing about 1 John as I am, right now, I’ve been touched by John’s continued use of love. One verse really touched me as I went through 1 John:

“He who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.”

(1 John 2:10 BOGV)

This verse impressed on me something I knew already, but had forgotten – or hadn’t gotten in my bones yet (as one of the Elders of the Willamette Bible Chapel says) – along the way. It brings to mind the conversation Jesus had about the “Greatest Commandment”. Jesus said the whole of the Old Testament (the Law and Prophets) depends on the love of God and love of our neighbors. In a clarifying parable we see in loving his neighbor the Samaritan took care of a person in need. At Christmas we are told it is better to give than receive and numerous other aphorisms of taking care of those around us.

What is one of the greatest ways we can take care of our neighbors? Taking care of their needs? Yes, of course, but what is, arguably, everyone’s biggest need? Eternal Salvation? So often, we get so caught up in Christmas we forget what makes it important and it’s not Jesus’ birth. (Muslims even believe in the virgin birth (Qur’an 3:47; 66:12) and yet miss the purpose of the miracle.) The importance of Christmas, and the virgin birth, comes from it being the first sign about Jesus.

We should be using it as a means of pointing our friends, family, and neighbors to Jesus, and His work on the cross. Through this we show love for others and are able to show we remain in the light. Keep this in mind through your celebrations this year. Celebrate Jesus, not just for the miraculous conception and birth, but for Him setting us free from sin and condemnation.

Merry Christmas!

I hope you have a blessed and wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!

A Conversation with a Martyr

Download the Story A Conversation with a Martyr here →

OK, that could be a very misleading title!

I want to make it clear I have not personally contacted a martyr for the faith. Rather this is a work of fiction. I have always been – at least when it comes to writing – a fiction writer. I love to write fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy. You in fact can read my fiction online as it is currently being serialized. Well I was sitting in my chair reading Voice of the Martyrs and the Lord smacked me on the head with an idea I just couldn’t shake. Well… I think it was the Lord anyway. As I said I just couldn’t shake it I had a visceral need to write it and finish it.

I thought I’d give you all a chance to read it. I’ve been holding it back as it is different from anything else I’ve ever written. The idea is I’ve been praying to God about being the kind of person who is willing to lay their life down for Him. I’ve never thought I was this person. I want to be this person, but never felt like I had the courage to be. This part is not fiction, this part is absolutely true. I have prayed this question many times in my life. Wondered for many years if a great persecution happened here in the USA would I be the person hiding his beliefs to get by or would I stand up and shout God’s good news from the roof tops?

The story is essentially God giving me an answer. Whether this answer is real or fake, I cannot tell. I’ve pondered it and handed the story to wiser men than I. I have nothing more really to say about the story.

I hope you enjoy it.

Download the Story A Conversation with a Martyr here →

Thoughts on Actions – 2017

Well, I’ve been trying over the past several years to write an article for Believe Better Ministries on the subject of Actions. I feel as though I’ve been blocked. I don’t know if I have the words to bring this subject to bare. I’ve prayed over it and still do not feel led to write a full paper on the subject. So, I’m going to give my thoughts and leave it at that. (Quick side note: I think the reason I’ve been stopped from writing is due to it being very, very hard not to become legalistic when putting forth this subject. So I pray for a grace filled message.)

My main thought, when I’ve written things down about actions, is we’re not meant to be stagnant, passive followers, sitting in pews. We are meant for so much more! So many believers think the meeting of the Church involves going to a building, sitting in a pew (or chair), singing some songs, listening to a message, drinking a little grape juice and eating a cracker, giving a little money, and then going home. This is NOT the meeting of the Believers! If this was the way our meetings were to be conducted in this day and age why do I even need to go? Can I not accomplish all of this from my sofa? My couch is way more comfortable to sit in than any pew (or for that matter any chair) I’ve ever sat in in any Church Meeting Hall, I can easily buy grape juice (or wine if I wanted) and crackers, I can listen to KLove or some other Christian music network (heck I could pull it up on Pandora if I wanted), I can watch any of a number of different speakers on TV or listen on radio for a message, I can give money over the phone or straight through the internet, and in the end I’ve accomplished about the same thing.

Are either of these a true form of a meeting of the Church? No! Again, I say no! We are called to service. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus, gave us an example (John 13:12-17). Jesus was among us as a servant and said the greatest in His Church (the believers) would be the one who served (Luke 22:24-27). We are to be ready to act! I like how the ESV translates the first half of Luke 12:35: “Stay dressed for action”! We are to be ready. The type of readiness is the same as a soldier.

The literal translation of the phrase is “gird up your loins”. This girding of the loins was what a soldier would do before putting on his chest plate. He would take a strip of tough cloth and tightly wrap it around his waist preparing himself for action, for combat. This is what the Lord Jesus was saying. Let alone His brother, James, who gave us “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26b) Why? Does this mean we need to follow the legalist? No! It simply means this: You can see the fruit!

As those who follow Christ, we have invited God into our hearts and He is faithful and indwells us. So, since we have the Holy Spirit living in us – conforming us to the image of the Son (see Romans 8), helping us to put off the old self and to put on the new self (see Colossians) – there should be fruit. Now, here is where this topic gets sticky and this is where my words fail me. I would never tell you to judge someone else, lest we forget what the Lord Jesus said about removing the log from our own eye before removing the speck from our brother’s eye.

I am not saying we need to apply these principles to others. I am saying we need to do these ourselves and let the Lord deal with everyone else. Remember this Christian life is all about a relationship with the Almighty. He teaches His children what they need when they need it. You may not see fruit in someone else’s life, but you also don’t know about the rocks their roots have been fighting with.

I think I should leave it at that. We need to be more active in our faith. The things we say we need to do. Having said this I also want to remind you, take this to heart for yourself, don’t push it on others or judge others for what you don’t really know. The lord is working in their lives just as He is in yours and in mine.

Easter Thought – 2017

Well, here, we are in 2017 and standing again before the Lord in worship of His sacrifice for us on the cross. As far as holidays go, Easter really is my favorite. I’m brought to my knees, with tears in my eyes, as I think about how worthless my righteousness is, and yet God thought a relationship with me worth it enough to pay the price to have that relationship. Relationships have been the big-ticket item in my thoughts and Bible stud recently. I recently posted a thought here, and gave a short word on it at the Willamette Bible Chapel, where I spoke on Colossians 1:24–27.

Relationships are important! They are really in a lot of ways, the most important thing. We see this even in the law as the Pharisees ask the Lord Jesus what the greatest commandment was. His responses to this question are both completely relational (Matthew 22:34–40; Mark 12:28–34; Luke 10:25–28). Furthermore, the verse which is singular best known verse in the Bible: John 3:16 gives us a relational statement about why Jesus came to the Earth. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV) For God so loved the world!

Christianity, for some reason has almost become more like an achievement or badge to wear rather than what it’s supposed to be. Christianity should be more like the relationship status we post on Facebook:

“RB is in a relationship with the Eternal Creator of All — God”

This is what Christianity should be. This is what Easter celebrates. We are celebrating God bridging the gap for us so we can have a relationship with Him. If God hadn’t done this we would only be able to view God as one mighty lawgiver. Instead, however, we get to enjoy the benefits of a personal relationship with the most powerful Being which exist. A Being whose very word says He is love (1 John 4:8).

This is what I am remembering this Easter.

Hope you all have a happy Easter.

Episode 0 – Believe Something Better Podcast

Click Here to download this Episode of the Believe Something Better Podcast

This is a simultaneous release of this episode in audio and video. If you would like to watch this episode please feel free to click here.

This is the first episode of the Believe Something Better Podcast. It is an introduction to myself (Ray “RB” May IV) and my beliefs. It is also an introduction to the show itself. You can read the thought on relationships here.

We also look forward to hearing from you! If you would like to get in touch with us you can send us an e-mail here. Thank you for listening!

If you would like more information about the Willamette Bible Chapel click here.
More info on the Plymouth Brethren here.
More info on the Open Brethren here.

Just a side note it’s fitting this first episode is posted on my (RB’s) birthday.