Pioneers and Followers: Which are you?

Last year, Lewis Pugh swam the length of the English channel in 49 days, a feat no one else has ever attempted. He famously said, “The world is divided between pioneers and followers; you can’t be both.”

In some way, everyone stands upon the shoulders of those who’ve gone before. This is the mark of progress, the result of family ties, having learned from history, and living in this century instead of the last.

I understand what Lewis Pugh was saying. Either we dare to venture out and be the first—or we follow other people’s successes.

So, what are we? Pioneers or followers?

It’s interesting to think about these concepts in the light of the Bible.

Followers

Jesus said Follow me no less than seventeen times (Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 16:24; 19:21; Mark 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Luke 5:27; 9:23; 9:59; 18:22; John 1:43; 10:27; 12:26; 13:36; and in John 21:19). An angel freed Peter from prison with the words, Follow me.

We are supposed to follow Jesus. We do well to follow Him. The Apostle Paul said, Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) which lets us know we can follow Christ-followers.

Pioneers

By definition, a pioneer is: “1. a person who is one of the first to settle in an area. 2. a person who begins or helps develop something new and prepares the way for others to follow” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

In the Bible, there’s an example of someone who prepared the way: John the Baptist. Even before he was born, he recognized Jesus. His mission in life was to help people be prepared for Jesus’ coming.

The angel told Zacharias: Thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:13, 15-17).

So John the Baptist grew up and started preaching. His message was, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight (Matthew 3:2-3).

The people listened to John and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins (Matthew 3:6). As he baptized, John said, I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire (Matthew 3:11).

John was a pioneer. He prepared the way for others to follow …

Christ.

Each Christian has a duty to serve the Lord, to glorify Him with his actions, and to shine as a light in the world.

May we break ground so that others might follow—as we follow Christ. Pioneers and followers: may we be both.

The Sin and the Sinner

Hate the sin and love the sinner. Right?

There’s a difference between the person and his sin.

Yet, we frequently hear:

  • She’s digusting.
  • He’s sickening.
  • I am shocked.
  • How could anyone…?

They’re talking about a person. Yes, this person sinned, but we’re talking about a human being for whom Christ died.

And, except for the grace of God, we might be into the same sickening stuff. Did you ever think about what the Lord might have saved you from?

Over the years, I’ve gained experience. One that’s been proved over and over is the old adage, “He who shouts the loudest has the most to hide.” It’s not always true, but I’ve watched it happen often. Critical people can have their own secret sins. They talk saintly-righteous and look down their noses at others, but they are themselves closet sinners—and many times they sin in exactly the same ways for which they condemn others.

The Bible says, For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (Romans 12:3). Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Some sins are extremely abhorrent to decent people—and they should be. But, I’m afraid we forget that people who have sunk into such horrible sins are just persons who haven’t known the Lord’s grace and forgiveness.

When’s the last time you prayed for:

  • an abortionist to know the Lord?
  • a druggie to get saved?
  • an alcoholic to repent and change his life around by the power of God?
  • the author of a nasty book?
  • a prostitute?
  • a model for pornographic photos?
  • a woman who aborted her child?
  • trafficked kids and adults?
  • your lesbian friend?
  • bosses who trade sex for favors?
  • that person you labeled disgusting or pervert or sickening?

When’s the last time you viewed that person as a soul for whom Christ died?

The root cause of sin is man’s own flesh and its sinfulness. Even saved people have to battle temptations.

Thankfully, there’s help:

  • Jesus said, Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38).
  • There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  • The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations (2 Peter 2:9).

Jesus set the example of compassion. What did He do with the woman caught in the act of adultery? What did he say to her? He didn’t whitewash or overlook her sin, but He was kind and offered her forgiveness. He admonished her, go and sin no more.

When He dealt with Zacchaeus, who was a thief, Jesus went to his house. After Zacchaeus repented, Jesus said about him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).

When Jesus was confronted by the demon-possessed young man who was naked and cutting himself, and living among the tombs, He addressed the demons and cast them out. Later, when people came to see the young man sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind. (The complete story is in Mark 5:1-15.)

Jesus is God. He is perfect, and He can’t stand sin, yet He has always shown love and compassion to those in sin. He still changes lives, some as dramatically as we read about in the Bible.

He continues to show mercy.

May we do the same.

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:36).

Are we praying wrong?

Let’s start out with some typical prayer requests.

Pray for:

  • A sick child.
  • An uncle who doesn’t know the Lord.
  • Mrs. Smith, who suffers pain every day, that she could have the operation she needs to take away the pain.
  • Mr. Jones, who lost his wallet in Walmart, that some honest soul would turn it in.
  • Fred’s testimony at work.
  • George, who’s an alcoholic and drug addict.

We’ve all heard these kinds of requests, and we know that God will answer prayer. He promises to answer all prayers that are according to His will—what God wants. Sometimes, it’s easy to pray according to God’s will, since He tells us what it is in the Bible. Look at the prayer requests above. Which do we know are God’s will?

The sick child and Mrs. Smith’s pain issue— Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him (James 5:14-15).

The uncle’s salvation—The Lord is … not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Mr. Jones’ wallet—Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Fred’s testimony—But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (1 Peter 1:15).

George’s addictions—Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16).

It’s absolutely right to pray for all of these situations. We’re supposed to pray for God to work in everything.

But, we don’t necessarily know His will.

We don’t know if God will heal the child or Mrs. Smith. He may heal them by making them perfectly well, in heaven. Or, He may choose to use suffering in their lives and/or the lives of others.

We don’t know whether or not He will prompt someone to be honest and turn in Mr. Jones’ wallet. Maybe, a dishonest person will keep the money and use the credit cards for himself. The wallet might have been stolen.

We don’t know if George will put in his part and become accountable to the Lord and others about his addictions.

We can be certain God wants to save the uncle, and for Fred to have a pure testimony at work. We can confidently pray for these.

So, how do we pray for the sick child, Mrs. Smith, Mr. Jones, and George? We ask God to do His will in each case. Since His will for each of these cases isn’t spelled out in the Bible, we don’t know. But, we can be sure that God will use any situation for His glory.

Do you remember Esther? She was taken into the harem of the king, then chosen to be his wife. She had no say or choice. Later, she found out about a plot to kill all the Jewish people, and she, being Jewish, risked her life to go, unbidden, before her husband. After her wise actions on behalf of her people, the Jews were saved from annihilation. Before she went to the king, her cousin Mordecai (her guardian) advised her, For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14) Esther’s reply requested prayer and fasting, but she understood the possible consequences. Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16).

Hebrew 11 tells us about people of great faith who subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect (Hebrews 11:33-40).

People suffered in the will of God. The Bible commends them, giving them a good report, saying the world wasn’t worthy of them.

Jesus always did right and always followed His Father’s will, yet He suffered the sins of all the world, the cruelest death, and God forsaking Him.

The Bible says, Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).

So, what does this have to do with how we pray? Maybe we need to pray like Jesus did in His model prayer and in Gethsemane, Thy will be done (Matthew 6:10; 26:42).

We can confidently pray for God’s will to be done. Lord, accomplish Your will in this life, or this situation. And then, we joyfully accept what He does.

If God wants to take the little one or Mrs. Smith to heaven, they’ll be completely healed—forever.

God might help someone be honest with Mr. Jones’ wallet—or not. God might show Mr. Jones His faithfulness in a different way, maybe by letting him replace those things in record time. Or, maybe God wants to show Mr. Jones how He can take care of all his needs.

We can pray for everyone, knowing that God wants to meet everyone’s needs.

Prayer gives us the opportunity to intercede for others. Prayer makes a difference. But, God has infinite wisdom, and His answer might be different from what we imagine—and it’s all good.

Be careful (anxious, full of care) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7)

A Thinking Marriage

Many years ago, I discovered a few secrets that transformed my marriage. Don’t get the wrong idea. We didn’t fight. We didn’t have major issues—well, that’s not exactly true. My major issue in marriage was between my ears. It was an attitude issue. It was wrong thinking.

For example, I’ll share some of the problems I had, along with others that are typical.

  • He didn’t …
  • I hate it when he …
  • Why can’t he …?
  • I wish he would …
  • I know he could have …
  • I feel lonely.
  • I do all of this (accompanied with a list). Doesn’t he see?
  • I need a hug / kiss / whatever.
  • “Mr. Smith” gives his wife roses. Why doesn’t my husband?
  • “Mr. Smith” takes his wife to beautiful restaurants and on cruises—unlike my husband.
  • My husband never tells me he thinks I’m beautiful. (“Mr. Smith” compliments me at work.)
  • My husband spends too much.
  • My husband is cheap.
  • My husband is great with the kids and others. Why isn’t he sweet with me?
  • My husband is grouchy.
  • My husband is (anything negative and judgmental).
  • My husband doesn’t lead the family spiritually.
  • I don’t see my husband praying, reading his Bible, etc.
  • My husband doesn’t pray with me.
  • My husband is not Spirit-filled.
  • He leaves his clothing on the floor.
  • He forgets to clean up after himself.
  • He doesn’t even notice he (something else that bugs you).

We could go on and on.

Looking back over my list, I can make a few observations:

  • I am thinking only about what pleases me.
  • I am thinking about his shortcomings.
  • I am comparing him to another man/men.
  • I am judging his spirituality, motives, actions, etc.
  • I am actually thinking I know better than he does.

Let’s turn this around. Would you like your husband to think these same ways about you? Of course not.

The Bible gives us the perfect outline for marriage. Of course, there are instructions for husbands, but we’ll limit this blog post to our side of the issue and see what we can learn—specifically what kinds of thinking we’re supposed to use. The Bible is the most amazing Book. It’s God’s Word. And, one thing that surprises me is there aren’t a lot of key passages written for wives. So, God makes it easy for us. Let’s explore them.

Read these passages looking for how a wife is to think about her husband.

1 Corinthians 7:2-5 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Obviously, this is mostly about the physical relationship in marriage, but we can learn something about communication, here. It’s obvious that the husband and wife both have a say in their relationship—a mutual understanding—even when it comes to prayer and fasting.

1 Corinthians 7:34There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

A married woman cares about pleasing her husband.* It’s the major difference between her and a single woman.

Ephesians 5:22-24, 33   Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing…. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Submission has gotten a bad rap. Submission is actually accepting that one’s husband is the head of the family, just as Jesus is the head of the church. It is the position of leadership in the family—a reflection of the way He ordered the Godhead. Wives are not less than their husbands, but they yield to their husband’s leadership. (You can’t have two leaders.) This passage says in everything, and uses the term reverence, which means respect. This is talking about voluntarily yielding to your husband’s leadership.

Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

This is the same concept of submission we saw in the Ephesians passage, above.

Titus 2:3-5  The aged (mature) women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Mature Christian women are to be examples and teachers of a godly lifestyle, which includes loving their husbands and being obedient to their own husbands.

1 Peter 3:1-6   Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

This passage begins with the believing woman who’s married to a man who isn’t born again. The word fear is a biblical word which means respect. Then, the passage talks about the adorning of women. It says the outside fancy stuff isn’t what a Christian woman should be known for. She should be known for a meek (strength under control) and quiet spirit—which God values. It goes on to say that women should recognize their husbands as heads of their households and gives the example of Sara.

So, if we put all of this together, what kind of thinking should we have towards our husbands?

  1. Respect. It doesn’t say he has to earn it, deserve it, or even that he has to be a believer. A Christian wife is to show respect to her husband.
  2. Submission. Submission is yielding. It means the husband has the last word. The couple can discuss anything together openly, but the decision—and its consequences—are the responsibility of the husband.
  3. Love. Our thinking should be motivated by love.

Many years ago, I turned around my negative thoughts about my husband. I started respecting him, loving him, and dwelling on what is good about him. I recognized his position of leadership in our family. I turned my marriage around.

Because, when you obey the Bible, wonderful things can happen.

*Note: Pleasing one’s husband, obedience, and submission are not talking about accepting abuse. If your husband mistreats you, please reach out to someone and get help. You might want to read my posts about spousal abuse: https://intheway-lk.blogspot.com/2017/09/i-will-make-you-submit-domestic-abuse.html and https://intheway-lk.blogspot.com/2017/06/ten-red-flags-in-relationships-how-to_3.html.

Trans Formed

Today, people are transforming themselves from what they are to what they think they should be. It’s happened all through history, though now, transitioning is more accepted in mainstream societies.

As children, we used to do this through make-believe play. I’ve been a princess, a pirate, a gypsy, and more—with the help of a few costume pieces and lots of imagination.

The transitions happening today aren’t child’s play. They include, but aren’t limited to, gender dysforia. A person thinks he should be in a different body, so the medical community helps him transform his body. They use drugs, surgery, and hair removal to achieve this. It changes the person’s outside, but it will never change his DNA.

It’s a lot like me “being” a pirate when I was a child. I could act the part, look (more or less) like a mini-pirate, but the truth was I was still a small girl dressing up.

Some time ago, I watched a video of a young woman who’s convinced she’s a cat. She talks in purrs, dresses in a costume complete with tail and ears, and she scratches and meows. I’m not sure if she’s seriously delusional or if she has a deep need for attention, but she’s obviously a person in a cat costume, acting out cat behavior. She isn’t and never will be a real cat. She won’t land on her feet if dropped from a high place. Sad, indeed.

Did you know the Bible says that people should be transformed?

  • But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).
  • But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life (Romans 6:22).
  • And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2).
  • But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

There’s a lot of confusion in this world. Did you know that Satan and demons can morph themselves into looking good? And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Leaders can make wrong acts seem right.

This is what God says about them. Read carefully; it’s strong talk about topics that affect us today. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them (Romans 1:22-32).

Wow! Let’s take this passage apart, so that we’re understanding what God wants us to know.

  • People who say they know it all are actually displaying their foolishness.
  • The people described in this passage represented God as an image that wasn’t God—idolatry.
  • When they worshipped other things, God gave them free reign to exercise their own lusts. These desires include all kinds of deviant sexual activities as well as the list of wicked acts, which includes boasting, disobedience to parents, envy, and breaking promises.
  • The people who sin in these ways, deserve death. (Keep in mind, they have already rejected God.) For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).)
  • It’s also a sin for others to derive vicarious pleasure from those who do these things (Hollywood films, TV, reality shows, etc.).

It shouldn’t surprise us that the world is getting worse. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13).

Thankfully, there’s hope!

God can transform hearts. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

God can heal hurts, and He forgets our sins. Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (1 Peter 5:7). For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more (Hebrews 8:12).

God can give us joy. Jesus said, These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full (John 15:11).

Do you need God to transform your life?

Let the Lord take it and make it beautiful. Go to Him. Jesus said, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

If you are a born again Christian, do you have sin problems?

God can transform you, too. This verse was written to Christians: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).