As long as we trust our own subjective judgment that ebbs and flows with the current of our culture, we divorce ourselves from God’s eternal and unchanging truth. Once our eyes are opened to the transcendent beauty and freedom of God’s truth, we’ll never be content with anything less.
The peace or lack of peace one feels after praying about a decision can be highly subjective, unless it is specifically rooted in objective truths. Some people feel good about doing wrong things and others feel bad about doing right things. I have seen people make unwise and even catastrophic decisions who told me they prayed and felt good about it.
I know of a woman who walked away from her marriage—without biblical grounds—because in her words, “The Holy Spirit gave me peace about it.” When I tried to point to the truth in Scripture, she said she wasn’t going to be “legalistic.” She’s still going to church, claiming the spiritual high ground, while failing to live by the standards of the same Bible she professes to believe, often reads, and hears taught every Sunday.
She told me, “I’ve never been so close to God.” But is being close to God merely a feeling? Or does it mean trusting in and living by faith in the truth God has revealed to us not subjectively but objectively in His Word? Men guilty of murdering their wives have insisted “I loved her.” Their actions disprove their words.
Often the reason we “feel peace” may be because we are doing what is most comfortable, convenient, natural, or widely accepted. None of these is a good reason to believe we are doing right. We need to search the Scriptures to see what is true, and subject ourselves to the authority and guidance of the revealed will of God (Acts 17:11). Then when we call upon God’s indwelling Spirit to teach and direct us, He can guide us in light of what he has objectively said to us, not merely what we subjectively feel.
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By Pastor Travis Peterson — 7 months ago
One’s heavenly citizenship is far more important than the experience of the greatest of miracles on earth. Do you see how this might help the joyful or the discouraged minister of the gospel? Do you see how this might help the passionate church volunteer in seasons of success and failure? It can.
Are you a worker in your church? Are you a volunteer? Are you a pastor? Are you one of those who gives his or her all for the sake of the gospel and the love of the Lord and his people?
If you are one who sees the importance of the glory of God in his church, I would guess that you are also one who knows what it feels like to experience some pretty sweet joys and some pretty significant pains. Ministry can be great. Ministry can be hard. Being a pastor can be so very sweet. Being a pastor can be so very discouraging.
Reading Luke 10, I find a couple of thoughts that I believe will help those of us who serve to deal with the joy and the despair of ministry. These words remind us not to fly too high when we experience success. They also help us not to crash and burn when things are not as we want them to be.
As Jesus instructed 72 followers before sending them out on mission, the Lord told them how to react when a town either received them and their message or rejected them and the message.
Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.”Luke 10:8-11
What do you notice about those instructions? What changes and what does not? Whether there is joy or sadness, celebration or condemnation, one message remains the same—the kingdom of God has come near. Whether the people in a town love this fact or hate it, the kingdom of God is still the kingdom of God.
By Simonetta Carr — 2 years ago
Her most famous work, however, is Miroir de l’âme pécheresse (The Mirror of the Sinful Soul), a 1,434-line poem first published anonymously in 1531. In this, the sinful soul offers to the readers the mirror in which they can see their own souls. Most of this work describes the soul’s astonishment and frustration at the awareness of the depths of her sinful nature and her relief at the discovery of God’s grace.
Marguerite d’Angoulême, also known as Marguerite de Navarre, was one of the most influential figures in sixteenth-century Europe. Today, her memory in Reformed circles seems obscured by that of her more committed daughter, Jeane d’Albret. In reality, while Marguerite never called herself Lutheran or Reformed, she had an enormous impact on the Reformation.
Scholar, Patron, and Benefactor
The only daughter of Charles de Valois, Comte d’Angoulême, and Louise de Savoie, Marguerite was born on 11 April 1492 in Angoulême, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France, but was raised in Cognac, a town in the same region that is today known for its homonymous drink. There, her brother Francis was born two years later.
The Angoulême court was full of scholars, artists, and singers, offering a unique learning environment for the children, particularly fostered by Louise, whose motto was “libris et liberis” (for books and for children). From the start Marguerite displayed a keen intelligence.
When Charles de Valois died unexpectedly in 1496, nineteen-year-old Louise continued to raise her children, hiring respected scholars for their education. Two years later, upon the sudden death of King Charles VIII, four-year-old Francis was declared heir presumptive in the distant case that the next king, Louis XII, died without a male heir. For this reason, Francis, his mother, and his sister were invited to move first to the royal residence in Blois, then to the court in Amboise, and finally to Paris.
In 1509, soon after their last move, Marguerite was given in marriage to another Charles, the Duke of Alençon. This was definitely not her choice, since a courtier reported that she “wept enough to carve out a stone” during the whole wedding ceremony. She then moved to the castle of Alençon, a luxurious place with no books (she had to request them from her previous libraries, together with scholars).
Besides reading, Marguerite became involved in charitable programs, visiting the poor and organizing a program to eliminate the need for begging by building hospitals, hospices, and almhouses, raising funds to maintain them, and supervising them personally. She levied regulations on financial care for poor unmarried mothers before and after they gave birth, and imposed sanctions on monks and nuns who abandoned or killed unwanted children (born of rape or illicit sexual relations – a sad situation described in several medieval texts).
In 1514, the distant possibility for Francis to become king became reality because Louis XII died unexpectedly, leaving only two daughters. Marguerite, who had always been close to her brother, was soon named “La mignonne du roi de France” (the Sweetheart to the King of France).
In the meantime, she became familiar with some of the current reformist ideas of Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther, but she was particularly influenced by Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples, one of the most respected professors of philosophy in Paris, who promoted, among other things, the printing and circulation of the Bible in French, together with some commentaries.
Lefèvre introduced Marguerite to Guillaume Briçonnet, bishop of Meaux, who became her faithful correspondent. Firmly committed to their cause, she supported the printing and distribution of evangelical essays and tracts. although both Briçonnet and Lefèvre were ruled as “in error” by the Faculty of Theology of the University of Paris. Highly critical of Reformist ideas, the Faculty investigated and threatened anyone who seemed to deviate from Roman Catholic doctrines.
One of Marguerite’s protégés, Louis de Berquin, raised the Faculty’s suspicions when he omitted supplications to Mary and the saints in a booklet on prayer. Further examination found him guilty of sympathizing with Lutheran teachings. He was burned at the stake in spite of Marguerite’s intercession. He was only one of the many friends of Marguerite who were executed.
At first, King Francis was open to the new ideas and backed Marguerite on her requests for leniency. Soon, however, political pressures became too strong, and he sided with the Roman Catholic authorities. In spite of her dangerous connections, Marguerite was spared from investigations and was able to continue her support of dissenters. These famously included John Calvin, who spent some time at her castle when fleeing from Paris.
Wife, Sister, Mother, and Aunt
In 1525, Marguerite’s husband Charles returned mortally wounded from the disastrous battle of Pavia, where Francis was captured and held for ransom.
By Daniel Huilt — 12 months ago
All Christians are called to similarly engage with the fallen world into which God has placed us. That is how Christianity transforms culture: one interaction at a time. That influence is really what effective followership is about, and since leadership is influence, effective followership is simply leadership by another name. This means that as Christians, we are called to be effective followers both of Christ and of the secular authorities God has placed over us.
In previous posts about cultural issues in general and transgender pronouns in particular, I have addressed ways in which Christians can conscientiously object to policies that would cause them to sin. This will undoubtedly lead to conflicts in the workplace between Christians objecting to these policies and their leaders who are charged with enforcing them, which brings up a leadership topic that is not often discussed but definitely important: followership. Every leader is a follower, but not all followers are leaders, so it is just as important (if not more important) to know how to be a good follower as a good leader.
So what is a good follower? We often associate good followership with blind obedience or unquestioning agreement, but these are actually not traits of effective followers. Instead, Robert Kelley said that effective followers “think for themselves and carry out their duties and assignments with energy and assertiveness. Because they are risk takers, self-starters, and independent problem solvers, they get consistently high ratings from peers and many superiors….Effective followers are well-balanced and responsible adults who can succeed without strong leadership”. He goes on to describe the qualities of effective followers: self-management, commitment to the organization and to purposes outside of themselves, ever-increasing competence, effective focus of effort, courage, honesty, and credibility. For Christians, this aligns with commands for servants to respect their leaders while working heartily as ultimately working for God (Ephesians 6:5-8). Its proactive nature and sense of greater underlying purpose also fit well with my definition of submission based on Philippians 2:3-4 from my leadership paper: “choosing to live sacrificially by putting the needs of others and their ultimate good ahead of ourselves motivated by a healthy fear of God and following the example of Christ”. This means that good followers develop a reputation of trustworthiness, diligence, and competence such that when they disagree with their leaders, those leaders are willing not only to listen to them but even take certain risks in order to accommodate them. Therefore, Christian workers should endeavor to build just such a reputation before conscientiously objecting to policies.
With this reputation, a good follower can also strongly yet respectfully disagree with their leaders. This needs to happen behind closed doors before a decision is made. The follower makes the case to the leader why a different course of action would be better and the two can debate it. Since these discussions can get passionate, the military term to describe them is “cussing and discussing”. This term does not necessitate the use of foul language—which the Christian is forbidden from using (Ephesians 4:29)—but speaks to how a leader and follower can passionately disagree about what is best for the organization and debate the topic in a heated manner while still maintaining respect for each other. At the end, the leader makes the decision then the two exit the room on the same page. If the leader ends up still deciding to follow the course of action the follower opposed, a good follower will own that decision and work hard to make it successful. Regardless of the outcome, the private nature of the discussion means that the two can disagree and resolve that disagreement without undermining the reputation of either in the eyes of others. However, this only applies when the leader’s decision does not cause the Christian follower to do something unethical. If a prospective leadership decision would cause a Christian to sin, the Christian follower must find a way to avoid sin while still obeying the leader. It is to this challenge we now turn.
Daniel as an Effective Follower
A wonderful example of this is found throughout the life of the prophet Daniel. Taken from Jerusalem as a teenager, he was forced to serve the kings of the Babylonian and Medo-Persian empires. This he and his friends did with such distinction that they became trusted advisers and thus some of the most influential men in the world at the time. Throughout this time, they also had to confront the most powerful men in the world at the time. His friends had to confront Nebuchadnezzar’s self-absorbed idolatry by refusing to worship his statue (chapter 3). Daniel then had to tell Nebuchadnezzar that he would be humiliated by God as a punishment for his pride and self-confidence (chapter 4). He also had to declare impending doom to Belshazzar by interpreting the writing on the wall (chapter 5) before refusing to commit idolatry by praying to Darius (chapter 6). In all of this, he had such a reputation for impeccable character that his enemies literally had to invent an unethical law in an attempt to bring him down. This makes him perhaps the best merely human example of being above reproach that we see in Scripture. All Christians should seek to emulate his example such that if our enemies want to dig up dirt on us, they will need to provide that dirt themselves.
Daniel and his friends developed this reputation from the beginning of their time in Babylon, giving us an excellent example of how to conscientiously object well with their refusal to eat the king’s food. With all of the remarkable stories and prophecies recorded in Daniel, the story of the “Daniel diet” in Daniel 1:8-16 appears unremarkable, but this amazing event would set the tone for his entire seventy years of service while teaching us how to maintain obedience to God while serving our secular bosses well. From Daniel 1:3-7, we learn that Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the Jewish youths taken from Jerusalem to Babylon to serve in the royal court. This began with three years of indoctrination in the Babylonian language, literature, culture, practices, and religion to turn them from Jews to Babylonians ready for service. Part of this process was changing their names from names that reflected their devotion to the God of Israel to names that honored the false gods of Babylon: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It also entailed a change from the diet required in the Law to eating food forbidden by the Law. It was to this that Daniel objected, since obedience to the authorities over him in eating the food provided would have meant disobeying God. So Daniel went to the chief of the eunuchs who was over him and asked not to eat the food and drink the wine provided but to keep a diet of vegetables and water that would obey the Law. After Daniel and his friends successfully tested this diet for ten days, they were allowed to continue it indefinitely. Thus, they successfully objected to a policy that would have forced them to sin without any negative impact on their careers. We can take several lessons from this.
Lesson 1: Develop a Reputation for Trustworthiness and Excellence
Successful conscientious objection is greatly aided by a good reputation. Daniel clearly established a reputation for both character and excellence early, which bought him an audience with the chief of the eunuchs. There is no telling how many boys were part of this program, but it was likely enough that someone of less reputation would have been ignored or punished. No doubt some level of attrition was expected in this program, meaning that without that reputation Daniel could have easily been removed. It was at least partially due to his good reputation that the chief of the eunuchs was willing not only to listen to him but also to allow his alternate diet. Daniel and his friends had clearly established a good reputation as both honorable and competent young men such that their removal would have been detrimental to the program, meaning the chief of the eunuchs had a vested interest in listening to them and even accommodating them. When we conscientiously object, we should have established a reputation such that our leaders are willing to do what they can to accommodate us and even fight for us to their superiors if necessary. Without such a reputation, it will be much easier for our leaders to either ignore us or fire us for our objections since they wouldn’t have a vested interest in keeping us.
Lesson 2: Choose Your Battles
Just as the boy who cried wolf was not taken seriously when the actual wolf arrived, so conscientiously objecting Christians will not be taken seriously if they develop a reputation of objecting to nearly everything. It is easy to focus on what Daniel objected to while forgetting what he did not object to. First and foremost, his name was changed from one honoring God to one honoring pagan gods, which he could have objected to on the basis of the probation of idolatry, but he did not. Instead, it appears he found a workaround by using both his given and new names, as he is referred to several times in the book by both names together (Daniel 2:26, 4:8, 4:19, 5:12, 10:1). He was thus able to use the new name while still ensuring it was clear that he retained his identity as a worshipper of the One True God.