Bricks Without Straw – Part 5

MudBricksThe following is the fifth and final part of the article: Bricks Without Straw:


We know that the Lord guides us through our circum-stances. Yet, there is no guarantee that making the time for growth in Christ would be an easy thing. We are told in Scripture to not only lay aside sin but also “everything that hinders” (Hebrews 12:1 Emphasis added). Jude writes that we need to ‘contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). The word translated into English as “contend” is taken from the Greek word from which we get the word “agonize.” Keeping the faith is not an easy matter. It requires diligence,patience and sacrifice. Today, many of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world are learning this lesson to the extreme. Martyrdom and persecution are the price that they pay to keep their precious faith.

I suspect that too many of us expect our life in Christ to just “click into place” without effort. Our walk of faith must never be on “auto pilot.” Despite living in a culture of easy, instant spirituality, we are presented with many opportunities to actively and purposely grow in the faith. Being made in God’s image, we are creative beings. Be creative in finding ways to “redeem the time” and keep fellowship with Jesus. Some of these ways are nothing more than points of good time management. Schedule your time of prayer, Bible study, or meditation on the Word as you would a doctor’s appointment or a business meeting. Perhaps it means waking up half an hour earlier to carve out time which you thought you did not have. Lunchtime at work might provide a time for prayer, reading, or study. It may even mean going on a fast from listening to the radio in your car or watching television. Perhaps your car act can as a portal version of an “inner room” which provides you some small level of sanctuary and solitude to read, reflect and pray.

Something that has been helpful to me is the using a smart phone. I use an app created by Olive Tree for reading several Bible translations on my iPhone. I also keep a number of e- books available to read with a Kindle app). It continues to fascinate and challenge me that the equivalent of a large library can be kept and accessed on a device which fits in my shirt pocket. When waiting in a doctor’s office or stuck in a long line in a grocery store, it is really satisfying to get out my smart phone and read from the Bible or a work of classic Christian literature. When I find myself in a long line at a grocery store, I find that being able to pick what I read from my iPhone is a better use of my time than being assaulted by magazines with images of celebrities in the tabloid racks, beckoning me to read about their latest diet or love affair. It is a wonderful way to redeem the time.


I’m happy to report that Julie recovered and is doing well with no recurrence of her blood clots. My mother was able to return home and live there right up to the last week of life six years later. In the midst of some prolonged time pressures during that period in 2002, I’ve learned some very valuable lessons about my faith. You can find the time to maintain a good fellowship with God in the midst of difficult circumstances. He expects us to. The Lord has placed us in these times so that we will find Him.

We live in a society in which we face enormous time pressures. We’ve seen how this can be used as a strategy against us by the enemy of our soul (Matthew 13:39; Luke 10:19) with the goal of trying to separate us from fellowship with God. Realizing this, I am learning the value of being selective with the time and treasures that the Lord has given. Lastly, I know that none of this will happen without a struggle. It takes creativity to fight back against the time pressures we face. If you see me on the street or in a store, tell me about how your struggle is going. I’ll be the one standing in line, reading the Psalms on my smart phone.

End of Part 5

Links to the previous entries for this article

Part 1Part 2Part 3; Part 4

Thoughts from a sanctified iPhone

iphone4s blackA few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to teach an adult Sunday School class at my home church on an overview of the New Testament book of James.

One point that I stressed was about belief. James tells us not to limit our belief to merely having information about God. In James 2:19, we read:

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!

According to James, demons have knowledge about the truths concerning God. It is scary to realize that their amount of accurate knowledge about God (not accurate attitude toward God but accurate factual knowledge concerning God) will exceed anything we humans can acquire in this life. They have been observing God and His actions toward humanity for multiple thousands of years. Having that accurate knowledge about God did not transform the demons. Rather than being transformed into Christ-likeness, those demons entered into and remain, up to this very moment, in active rebellion against God.

I told the class that we must never confuse acquiring and having knowledge of the things of God with being transformed by them. The Apostle Paul warns us that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1 ESV). It is an ongoing danger for a believer in Christ to treat knowledge about God, the Bible, Christianity, etc as the goal rather than as the means to the goal, namely, personally knowing God in Christ.

I went on to make the point that if only having knowledge of the things of God (apart from acting on them) really mattered, then my iPhone is more sanctified than any of us. In its memory, it holds three complete translations of the Bible, as well as a library of theological and devotional books as well as the texts of multiple creeds and confessions of faith from throughout church history. Extremely few, if any of us, using our own memory, could rival having the information content about the things of God in our memory which my iPhone holds in its memory.

So, in the spirit of remembering James’ point as a vivid lesson for us, as well as recognizing that the gift of current-day technology can assist us in knowing and growing in Christ-likeness, I will be posting a series of articles entitled, in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, “Thoughts from a sanctified iPhone.” Of course my iPhone isn’t sanctified. But knowing and acting on the data it holds about God can make you more sanctified.

There are several apps which I’ve picked up over the years that I think could be beneficial to your walk with Christ. Having access to them, learning what they can teach us and acting on that information,  may help us to go beyond merely acquiring God-data and actually be transformed into Christ’s likeness.

Today, I’d like to tell you about a great Bible app from Crossway Books. Crossway makes the entire text of the English Standard Version (ESV) available on a free app. I’ve used this app several years ago when I was trying to acquaint myself with the ESV. The navigation to a specific book and chapter is quite good. It has options for taking and keeping notes, allows you to change the settings on the size of the font, as well as having a night-reading mode with a darker screen as well as the ability to display the words of Jesus in red.

The English Standard Version is rapidly becoming the version of choice for many evangelical and reformed churches. It balances readability with a firm commitment to accurately translating the text of Scripture and not simply paraphrasing it. It’s a great resource to keep on your iPhone or other mobile device.

With an app like this, if you carry an iPhone in your pocket or purse, you’re carrying the entire Bible with you as well.

The free app for the iPhone or iPad can be found here at the Apple App Store.

I invite your thoughts, input and feedback.