Christianity 201

November 20, 2017

The Canaanite Curse

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Genesis 9.24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

“Cursed be Canaan!
    The lowest of slaves
    will he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said,

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem!
    May Canaan be the slave of Shem.


Deut. 20.16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy[a] them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.

Today we pay a return visit with Peter Enns whose writing is always thought-provoking. Click the title below to read at source.

Looks Like the Canaanites Got a Raw Deal

God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites (along with everything else that breathes) remains one of the more gruesome stories in the Bible (see Deuteronomy 20:16-20).

This story presents readers with a real—not imagined—moral and theological dilemma, but my point isn’t to get into all that here. [You can read more here and also in The Bible Tells Me Sowhere I take a whole chapter laying out the issues.]

Here I just want to say that this command wasn’t an afterthought. As the Israelites tell the story, the Canaanites were doomed from the start for something that happened nearly at the beginning of human history—Noah and the great Flood.

This flood killed every living creature; only Noah and his family were saved in a big boat, along with enough animals (1) to repopulate the earth later and (2) to sacrifice to appease God.

After the waters subsided and everyone de-arked, Noah planted the first vineyard, made wine, and got drunk. Like a state college freshman, he collapsed naked inside his tent in a drunken coma.

His youngest son, Ham, went into the tent, saw him his father lying there naked, and went out to tell his brothers, Shem and Japheth. Rather than gawking, the two brothers walked backwards into the tent and covered their father with a garment.

It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on here, but, apparently, the two brothers handled the situation correctly whereas Ham didn’t. So, when Noah woke up, he did what any normal father would do with when faced with the same dilemma—he cursed Ham’s descendants forever.

Three guesses who Ham’s descendants are (and the first two don’t count): the Canaanites.

It strikes me that the very first words out of Noah’s mouth after he woke up weren’t, “What a night! What was I thinking!? I’ll never do that again!”

Not even, “Ham! Get in here! How dare you look upon my nakedness?!”

Instead he said,

“Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.”

Not, “Cursed be Ham,” or “Cursed be Ham and all his descendants,” but “Cursed be the line of one of Ham’s sons—Canaan.”

Ham has four sons, yet only Canaan and his entire bloodline are doomed—which seems a bit extreme, given the fact that he himself hadn’t done anything.

Plus, two of Noah’s other sons are Cush and Mizraim, the ancestors of the Egyptians who held the Israelites in slavery. So how about cursing their bloodlines?

But no. Only this one son of Ham has his descendants consigned to a perpetual subhuman legacy of enslavement to the descendants of his brothers—namely the descendants of Shem, from which come the Israelites.

It looks like whoever wrote this story has a bone to pick with the Canaanites.

If we read this in another ancient book, we’d call it propaganda—a story to justify, not explain, hatred of the Canaanites. At least that’s what it looks like.

Israel’s later sworn enemies, the Canaanites, are set up as failures from the beginning, and no treatment—not even extermination—is too harsh for these people whose ancestor’s father saw his father drunk and naked.

This isn’t going to end well for the Canaanites.

 

November 19, 2017

Sunday Worship

Something different today: Two shorter articles on the subject of worship from two different writers on two very different aspects of worship, each of whom is new to us here at C201. Click the respective titles to read at source — we call it sending some link love — and then look around to see other articles by each writer.

Leave the same way you came in?

by Pam Larson at the blog Knowing God Through His Word

When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed feasts, he who enters by the north gate to worship shall go out by the south gate, and he who enters by the south gate shall go out by the north gate: no one shall return by way of the gate by which he entered, but each shall go out straight ahead. When they enter, the prince shall enter with them, and when they go out, he shall go out. —Ezekiel 46:9 -10

Notice here that if the people enter by the north gate then they are to leave through the south gate. If they enter by the south gate then they are to leave through the north gate. Now what in the world is that all about? I believe the Lord is showing us that we should never leave a worship time with Him the same way as we came in. There should be a change in our lives. God should have spoken to our hearts. He should have challenged us. Too often, in churches today, people come in and do their time, fulfill their obligation, and leave the church as they came in, unchanged! That should not be! It is as Paul said in Romans 12:1-2, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy,acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. God wants to transform your life if you will let Him! You should not leave His presence the same way you came in!

It’s Not My Personality

And David danced before the LORD with all his might, wearing a priestly garment.
“Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes.”
– 2 Samuel 6:14,22a

by Dylan Tapley at the blog One Thing.

I love to see people begin to express themselves in worship. One of the most beautiful things one can behold is someone giving themselves fully to the Lord in worship. I love the tears, the dance, the jumping, the shouting. It’s so much fun for me. In my opinion, there is no other way to worship. The Lord craves something excessive. He loves extravagance! I believe that extravagant and expressive worship moves the Lord’s heart like few things do.

When discussing the topic of worship, it’s inevitable that someone will speak up and say, “It’s just not my personality.” or “I worship the Lord in my heart.” While I understand what they mean, and I know that they have good intentions when they say these things, this way of thinking is simply unacceptable. We do not have the right to determine how we respond to the presence of Jesus. We do not have the right to determine the worth of Jesus. This is false humility communicating itself through a subtle form of pride. This response comes out of the heart of a Pharisee that seeks to maintain control while still trying to receive the benefits that only come with surrender.

David danced before the Lord and worshipped like anyone had ever done before. His excess caused some to criticize him. He was a king, and that came with certain expectations as to how the king should behave, but David knew that there was simply no other way to respond but with extravagant thanksgiving to the One who put him in that position. David explained that he would become even more undignified. In others words, he was only going to get worse. He was only going to become more wild. I was recently thinking about this and it occurred to me that dancing was probably not David’s personality. How many military Generals do you know that spontaneously start dancing while walking down the street?

I am truly an introverted person but when it’s time to worship the Lord, I am determined to make sure that I give Him something that is expensive. I still have my struggles with my own introverted nature, but I am seeking the Lord to help me honor Him well in worship, even despite my personality. I can’t afford to let my nature influence my worship. I combat this by becoming overwhelmingly preoccupied with His nature instead. I am finding that the key is that I continue to strive to take my eyes off of myself and focus them fully on the beauty of Jesus. Join me in proclaiming like John the Baptist, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

 

 

November 18, 2017

The Woman Who Jumped the ‘I Need a Miracle’ Line

Once again we’re back with Carol Hatcher whose blog is titled Sheep to the Right.

When Someone Gets in Front of Your Miracle

He was desperate.

Yet in that despair came a glimmer of hope. He’d heard stories of the one they called Teacher. He’d never seen any of the miracles, but there was talk of him healing the sick and even raising the dead.

So with a modicum of faith, Jairus went in search of Jesus to help his daughter. When Jairus found him, the pomp and circumstance that usually accompanied synagogue leaders such as himself, crumbled as he fell at Jesus’ feet. In despair he cried, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” (Mark 5:23 NIV)

So Jesus went.

The Bible states it simply. Christ didn’t ask questions. He didn’t give instructions for the disciples to pass out tracts while he ran on his miracle errand. He just went.

Jairus must have been thrilled. I imagine him trying to move briskly in the direction of his home suppressing the urge to break into a sprint. But there were all those people. I would have run, shoving men and women as I went. Shove now, apologize later. There was a life at stake after all.

Then this woman showed up – hoping for a miracle of her own. The embarrassment over her “unclean” condition was perhaps what motivated her to touch Jesus in secret. She probably thought, I’ll keep my head covered and just touch his clothes. He is so powerful, even the fibers woven to adorn his body will be enough. No doubt, she intended on slipping out of the crowd as soon as she was healed, but Jesus was aware of her presence.

He knew that power had gone out from his body. (v. 30)

Who touched me?” Christ asked, wanting to look upon the face of the woman with such faith.

Let’s freeze that moment and talk a minute about those around Jesus and what they were thinking. We know the disciples were thinking their Lord was loco (crazy). The Bible doesn’t tell us their tone, but one can only imagine.

After Jesus’ question, their response was, “You see people crowding against you, and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” (v. 31) I can almost see the sarcasm dripping from the words.

What I want to know is what is Jairus doing? This man is desperate for his daughter to be healed and is afraid she is going to die. If it were me, I might have been silent on the outside, but I’d be screaming on the inside, “Let’s go! Okay, okay. She’s healed already – besides the fact she totally jumped in the ‘I need a miracle’ line. Let’s go!”

Back to the situation at hand.

In terror, the woman came forward and collapsed at Jesus feet. The same feet Jairus gazed upon mere minutes before. Her story came spilling forth, and instead of criticizing her, Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.

But before Jesus can even finish speaking these words, some men from Jairus’ house approached Jairus with the nightmare he had been trying to avoid. “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Can you imagine the agony? He succeeded in getting Jesus to come only to have his daughter die before they could arrive. Once again, the Bible is silent on Jairus’ response, but we can infer from Jesus’ next words that Jairus was upset.

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” (v. 36)

Can I share with you the words that struck me? “Ignoring what they said…”

How many times have you heard the worst? Perhaps the doctors have given no hope. Maybe your family laughed when you shared your dream. You thought you heard the voice of God, but now you are not so sure.

Take Jesus’ advice – ignore what they said. Then don’t be afraid. Just believe.

Sometimes in order to achieve the impossible, we have to disregard the obstacles. When God is in it, all things are possible.

You see, Jesus went on to Jairus’ house, telling the people there the girl was asleep. And guess what the people did? They didn’t fall down and worship. They didn’t even run in her room and place a mirror under her nose. Instead, “they laughed at him.” (v. 40)

But Jesus went into her room and brought the child back to life. She got up and had a fruit snack. (Just a guess. Dried figs would qualify as a fruit snack, right?)

So today I ask what impossible task are you facing? Perhaps you need to ignore the discouraging words and the laughs.

Then don’t be afraid. Just believe.

November 17, 2017

The Chosen Lady: To Whom Was 2 John Written?

1 John:1 The elder,

To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. (NIV click here for the full text)

Note: Today’s devotional contains only highlights of the linked article. You are strongly advised to read this in full at source, along with a wealth of footnotes and annotations. (I’ve left the footnote numbers in, but not the notes themselves.)

This should give you an idea of the challenges faced by academics when trying to help all of us have a better understanding of Biblical texts. We don’t normally include writing like this here, but wanted to give you a taste of it.

The author is Marg Mowczko. Click the title below for the full article.

Who was the Chosen Lady in 2 John?

John’s second letter in the New Testament is addressed “to the chosen (or elect) lady and to her children” (eklektē kuria kai tois teknois autēs). In this short letter, John warns the lady and her children about false teachers “who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (verse 7), and he instructs them not to offer hospitality to the false teachers (10-11). As in his Gospel and other letters, John emphasises the themes of truth (verses 1-4) and love (verses 5-6).[1]

There has been much speculation as to who the original recipients of 2 John were. In particular, who the “chosen lady” was? Was her name Electa, Kyria, or Martha? Was she a mother, a house church leader, or a congregation?

WHAT WAS THE CHOSEN LADY’S NAME?

Electa?

Εklektē means “chosen” or “elect.” This woman addressed in 2 John was a Christian chosen by God, as all Christians are. While it is more likely that the word “elect” is simply used to describe the lady, Clement of Alexandra believed that eklektē was this woman’s name, a name we would translate into English as “Electa.” If so, eklektē kuria in 2 John 1:1 could be translated as “to Lady Electa.” However, the sister mentioned in the last verse of 2 John is also given the description as being “elect.” While it is not improbable that two women, somehow related, would have the same name—in Roman times, sisters could have the same name—it is more likely that the chosen lady and the chosen sister are individuals like Rufus, a man described as “chosen” or “elect” in Romans 16:13

Kyria?

If her name was not Electa, could 2 John have been addressed to a woman called Kyria?

Kuria (or kyria) is the feminine equivalent of kurios, a common word in the New Testament. BDAG gives two definitions for kurios: (1) “one who is in charge by virtue of possession”, and (2) “one who is in a position of authority.”[2] Corresponding with these definitions, kurios is usually translated into English as “lord,” “master,” or “sir.”[3] The feminine kuria is usually translated as “lady” or “mistress” in texts outside of the New Testament.

While the word only occurs in 2 John 1:1 & 5 in the New Testament, kuria occurs several times in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.) It is used of Sarah as the mistress of Hagar the slave girl (Gen. 16:4, 8, 9); it is used of the widow of Zarephath who was mistress of her own household (1 Kings 17:17); it is used of Naaman’s wife (2 Kings 5:3); it is used metaphorically of God as mistress (Psalm 123:2); and it occurs in sayings that figuratively contrast a mistress with her slave girl (Prov. 30:23; Isa. 24:2).

Furthermore, I’ve come across the word in several Jewish and early Christian non-biblical Greek texts. For example, kuria is used in direct address by Isaac to his mother Sarah in The Testament of Abraham (3.10 recension A) (circa 100 AD); it is used by Hermas to his former owner Rhoda in the Shepherd of Hermas 1:5) (circa 100 AD); and it is used by Perpetua’s brother and father to their sister and daughter, respectively, in the account of Perpetua’s martyrdom (para. 4 & 5) (202 or 203 AD). Thecla is also referred to as a kuria in The Acts of Paul and Thecla (para. 10)  (circa 150 AD)…

Kuria is not an obscure word. Considering how the word is used, it is apparent that kuria was a term of respect, and used for a woman in a powerful or elevated social position. Nevertheless, some believe kuria may have been the chosen lady’s name.

Athanasius was possibly among the first to propose that Kyria (a common transliteration of kuria) was actually the woman’s name.[5] John Wesley (who did not have access to many of the ancient Greek documents that are now available, such as the ones mentioned above) also believed that Kyria was the woman’s name.

Martha?

It has been suggested that the chosen lady may have been Martha of Bethany, a friend of Jesus mentioned in the Gospels of Luke and John (Luke 10:38-41; John 11; 12:1-3).[7] Kuria is a Greek equivalent of “Martha,” “Martha” being the feminine form of an Aramaic word meaning “lord” or “master.”

Martha was a woman of tremendous faith and spiritual insight (John 11:22, 24, 27). She was also the mistress of an affluent home that was spacious enough to accommodate Jesus and others (John 12:1-5). Martha may well have hosted and led a church in her home after Pentecost. Was “the chosen sister” (mentioned in 2 John 1:13) Mary of Bethany, Martha’s sister? As appealing as this idea may be, there is no evidence in this letter, or from early Christian writings, that “the chosen lady” was Martha.

Other Speculations

Some people believe that the chosen lady was Mary the mother of Jesus. Certainly, Mary would have been worthy of the title “lady.” However she would most likely have been deceased by the time John wrote this letter (circa 90-100 AD). Also, it seems unlikely that John would have had to write a letter to Mary, of all people, to warn her about being deceived by false teachers…

…Others suggest that the chosen lady was one of Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:8-9). Early church writings inform us that Philip’s daughters were held in high esteem by the early church. Perhaps the chosen lady was one of Philip’s daughters, and the “chosen sister” another daughter. Some of Philip’s daughters went to live in Asia Minor, and it is commonly believed that the “chosen lady” was in Asia Minor.

WHAT WAS THE CHOSEN LADY’S ROLE?

While we do not know this woman’s name, there are some details in John’s second letter which indicate her role. This becomes even clearer when we compare 2 John with John’s other two New Testament letters, especially 3 John, as there are several distinct similarities between 2 John and 3 John.

A Mother?

Some people who take the word “children” (tekna) literally believe that this letter was written to a mother with believing children (2 John 1:1, 4 & 13).[9] What these people have failed to take into account is that, in each of his three letters, John frequently used the word “children” (tekna and teknia) as a term to refer to Christians, to “spiritual children.”[10]

In 3 John 1:4, John writes to a man called Gaius[11] saying, “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”[12] Compare this with what John writes to the chosen lady in 2 John 1:4: “I rejoiced greatly having found out from [some of] your children that they are walking in the truth.”

3 John 1:4 is very similar to 2 John 1:4. The children of 1, 2 and 3 John are “spiritual children,” not natural biological children. The children of the chosen lady were her “spiritual children,” Christians she personally cared about, her congregation.

A Church?

Some Christians who are reluctant to accept the possibility that a first-century woman could have been a house church leader believe that 2 John was addressed to a Christian community which John metaphorically referred to as “the chosen lady.”[13] They also believe that the “chosen sister” in 2 John 1:13 refers to another Christian community.

The shortcoming of this view is that nowhere else in the New Testament (or in later writings) is a Christian community referred to as a “lady” kuria (or a “sister” adelphē).[14] John uses the word “church” (ekklēsia) three times in his third letter: in 3 John 1:6, 9, 10. Why would John use the word “church” plainly in 3 John, but supposedly refer to the church metaphorically as a “lady” in 2 John? …

A Leader of Women?

Still another speculation is that the woman was indeed a church leader but that her congregation consisted only of women. This speculation, however, does not stand up to the Greek grammar of the text. When John speaks about the children as those “whom” he loved in verse 1, the relative pronoun translated as “whom” is grammatically masculine in the Greek. The participle for “walking” in verse 4, referring to the “children,” and the reflexive pronoun “yourselves” in verse 8 are also grammatically masculine in the Greek…

A House Church Leader?

For the first couple of hundred years following the day of Pentecost, most Christian churches were house churches. We have ample and, I believe, irrefutable evidence that some of these churches were hosted and led by women. In the New Testament, there are several women mentioned who were hosts and leaders of house church leaders.[17] It seems that John’s second letter was written to such a woman.

The simplest and most straightforward explanation of who the “chosen lady” in 2 John 1:1 & 5 was, is that she was a host and leader of Christian house church whom John addressed directly at times in his second letter. The most straightforward explanation of who her “children” were, is that they are members of her household and congregation… I believe that the chosen lady was a female house church leader.


Click the title above to read the full article as well as the referenced endnotes.

 

November 16, 2017

More than a glimmer of hope

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:26 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

“I lift up my head, the world is on fire”. This is a lyric from a song that struck me as being all too true these days. It seems every time you look up, something bad is happening in the world or to your loved ones. The lyric is from a song called “Pray“, by Sam Smith, which captures a tension that many people feel today. Here is a selection of the lyrics:

I lift up my head and the world is on fire
There’s dread in my heart and fear in my bones
And I just don’t know what to say

Maybe I’ll pray, pray
 Maybe I’ll pray
I have never believed in you, no
But I’m gonna pray . . . .

You won’t find me in church (no)
 Reading the Bible (no) 
I am still here and I’m still your disciple
I’m down on my knees, I’m beggin’ you, please
I’m broken, alone, and afraid . . . .

And I’m gonna pray (Lord), pray (Lord), maybe I’ll pray
Pray for a glimmer of hope

On the one hand, where is God when the world “is on fire”? On the other hand, what else can people do but pray for a glimmer of hope? Here is another take on hope from another man whose world was on fire:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

What a contrast. From prayer out of desperation, to a prayer of confidence. From a glimmer of hope, to hope shining brightly. What is the path to having hope, to more than just a glimmer of hope? Let us go back to where Paul’s discussion of hope began:

7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,
9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, …
Romans 15:7-13

Hope is found in the promises of God.  Jesus is the evidence that God keeps His promises. The phrase “the truth of God” refers to the fact that God will do what God says He will do. He is honest. Jesus is the confirmation that God is making good on all His promises. The apostle Paul goes on to give a sampling of some of these promises from the Old Testament Scriptures. Let us make some observations on them.

First, there will be praise:

. . . and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name”; Romans 15:9

. . . and again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him”; Romans 15:11

Far from questioning the existence of God, the goodness of God, or the love of God; when we come to realize He has fulfilled His promises in Jesus, we instead praise the Lord for who He is, what He is like, and for His amazing love. As we grow in our relationship with Him, lingering doubts are replaced with confidence. We should not think of this praise as being dutiful and forced, but spontaneous and joyful. When we see God keeping His promises, how could we do anything but joyfully praise Him?

. . . and again he says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”; Romans 15:10

Second, those who are oppressive rulers over us now will be replaced by Christ and His rule:

. . . and again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.” Romans 15:12

The emperor was the ruler at the time Paul quotes these Old Testament verses. Something we should know about the emperors in those days, that whatever you may think of Donald Trump, they all made President Trump look like an angel! Hope is dashed when our leaders fail to lead well. Hope shines brightly when we have good leadership. There is no better shepherd than Jesus!

When we think of people that have oppressive rule over others, we should also think of things that can rule over us. Things like poverty, addiction, disease, toxic relationships, discrimination, abuse, bullying and the like. Whatever things seem to rule over you now, gets the boot. Jesus is Lord and He shall reign. We begin seeing this in the here and now. We will see it fully in the days to come.

Third, God’s promises are accessible. The word that shows up through all the Scriptures quoted by Paul is “Gentile”, i.e. non-Jew. Though God had chosen a specific family to be the people through whom He would work out His promises, His promises went far beyond them:

2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Genesis 12:2-3 (emphasis mine)

In the first three chapters of Romans Paul speaks about the Jews and non-Jews alike. There was an advantage to being Jewish in that the Jews had a much fuller revelation of God and a closer relationship to God. However, that advantage was similar to the advantage of someone stuck on a  Caribbean island without drinking water compared to someone stuck in a desert lacking drinking water. I think we would all agree, that the person on the island has the preferable situation. Yet without water, they both face the same outcome. So, in conclusion, “both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin” (Romans 3:9). They will both pay the penalty of sin, which is death. However, Jesus is the water. Both can come and drink and live. The invitation is open to anyone who thirsts. Including you. The words of Jesus:

37 “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” John 7:37-38

When we look at the world around us, when we lift up our heads and see the world on fire, we may wonder if there will ever be a glimmer of hope. When we look back at the promises of God, promises confirmed by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, hope shines brightly.

(All Scriptures are taken from the NRSV)

 

 


Read more at clarkedixon.wordpress.com

November 15, 2017

Is This the End?

This our ninth time returning to the writing of pastor B. J. Rutledge.  These articles kicked off a sermon series at his church.  First, he wrote a shorter introduction:

Sometimes I think we’ve become a desensitized to the tragedies that happen around us. The news will sensationalize it for a while, but then there’s the next story. We care about the people impacted, but if it doesn’t hit close to home we don’t dwell on it too long. However, when we experience a personal tragedy, a question that lingers in the back of our mind or may be asked is: “Where’s God in all of this?”

Our country has been experiencing many tragedies over the past few months: the horrific shooting[s]… hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding. We’re also very aware of the tragedy that impacted our southern neighbors as another earthquake ravaged Mexico City. There’s horrible violence and flooding going on in Asia…

Two days later he posted our key article for today:

Are These THE END TIMES?

In light of all the chaos going on in our country and world, I get asked this question from time to time.  Here are a few things I believe.

Throughout history when there have been major wars or many natural disasters, there’s an increased focus on “the end times” among Christians.   This is good because it reminds us to focus on the fact that Jesus will return and time as we know it will end.

Every day we get closer to the End Times, and Scripture gives us numerous signs we can look to and expect; like what Jesus told us in Matthew 24.   However,  Jesus was clear to His disciples and us:    36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.  42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.    Matthew 24:36-42 NIV

Here’s what I suggest we keep in mind:

  • Jesus will return as He promised
  • Every day we’re getting closer
  • No one knows when He will return
  • We need to be ready every day  (1 John 2:28)
  • We need to share the truth about Jesus with as many people as possible

He then linked to an article from the Billy Graham Association:

Q: How bad is the world going to have to get before God finally steps in and Jesus comes back? I get very concerned when I see all the evil things that are happening in the world today. Are we living in the last times?

A:

The Bible warns us against making precise predictions about the exact time of Jesus’ return—but His return is certain, and we may well be living in the last days before He comes again. The Bible says, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Romans 13:12).

Shortly before returning to Heaven Jesus told His disciples that someday He would come back to establish His Kingdom. But before that could take place, He said, certain things would have to happen—and we see many of these today. For example, He said that before His return the Gospel must be preached throughout the world (see Mark 13:10). Never before has this been possible—but now it is, through radio and the Internet and other modern means of communication.

You also have placed your finger on another sign Jesus gave: Satan’s final attempt to halt God’s work through a massive onslaught of evil. Our world is no stranger to evil; Satan has always been working to stop God’s plans. But God’s enemies now have access to modern weapons of mass destruction, and no one can predict what the outcome will be. Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. … Nation will rise against nation” (Matthew 24:6-7).

The real question, however, is this: Are you ready for Christ’s return? You can be, by turning to Him and putting your faith and trust in Him. Don’t take His warnings lightly, but commit your life without delay to Jesus Christ.

Are you ready for Christ’s return?

Read the full set of five questions and answers from Rev. Graham at this link.

November 14, 2017

“I Have Lost Everything!”

by Russell Young

I recently heard a committed believer lament, “I have lost everything!”  Perhaps as someone endeavoring to walk “in the light,” as John puts it (1 Jn1: 5─7), you are struggling through a valley experience; you feel that you are being attacked from all sides. The committed believer does not need be overwhelmed with loss, the only things that those “in Christ” can lose are sin, sin’s practices, right to self-determination, and your status “in Christ.”

The greatest fear that any believer can have is his or her failure to remain “in Christ.” Many teach that such a fear is unbiblical, that a person cannot lose his or her position in Christ. However, Christ presents this change in status as a very clear possibility. “[My Father] cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.” (Jn 15:1; Italics added.) Further, the Lord spoke about the blessings that arise “If [a person] remains in him” (Jn 15:5, 7, 10), and promises that he will remain in the person who remains in him. (Jn 15:4) A person remains in him if he or she obeys his commands. (Jn 15:10) The believer—a believer is one who obeys him—need not fear loss, but all who claim his name need to be believing–belief must be ongoing. In another place Christ also spoke of the possibility of impermanence in the family. (Jn 8:35)

It is important for the believer, the person “in Christ,” to understand the reality of what is transpiring in his or her life. Valley experiences require that time be committed to prayer and meditation. Truth must be separated from feelings and losses from gains. Certainly, disappointment, the thwarting of dreams, and even the loss of “friends” or financial security can weigh down a sensitive spirit, but these may not be losses from the Lord’s perspective; consequently, they should not be considered losses from the believer’s perspective. This is easy to say for someone not involved, but reflection will reveal that losses, in fact, may not have been losses at all.  “Losses” bring a person up short. They greatly impact the progress of life and call for an alteration in some sense. However, the Lord is looking out for the good of those “in him.”  Paul encouraged, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28 NIV) It is easy to become distracted and to stray from the Lord’s will and it can hurt to become re-oriented, to have ungodly interests chipped away, and to be maintained on the narrow path.

The Word never taught that all things would go painlessly for the believer. In fact, he promised persecution (2 Tim 3:12) and trials (1 Thess 3:3; 1 Pet 1:6) and even discipline (1 Cor 11:32; Heb 12:5-7; Rev 3:19) and punishment. (Heb 12:6) Discipline and punishment apply to those he loves.  (Heb 12:5) “God disciplines us for our good that we might share in his holiness.” (Heb 12:10 NIV)

God tests hearts. He did it for the Israelites in the wilderness (Ex 12:25, 16:4, 20:20; Deut 8:2, 16, 13:3;) He tested Abraham (Gen 22:1), Job (Job 23:10), and Jeremiah (Jer 12:3). He even tested the heart of his Son (Mt 4:1; Mk 1:13; Lk 4:1) Those who claim the name of Christ will be tested also. (Job 7:18; 1 Chr 29:17; 1 Thess 2:4; Jas 1:12) God tests hearts and the faithful will be found walking obediently with him.

The only way a believer can “lose everything” is for him or her to abandon the Lord and the position that was provided for them. Trials must be faced for what they are…trials. This life is not easy. Imperfections must be cut away; holiness must be built through righteousness practices. (Rom 6: 19, 22) All those who want to remain in Christ and attain to the resurrection must live as he did. “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6)

When you are counting your loses, it is important to consider them from an eternal perspective.  Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Mt 16:25 NIV) Loss is often a very good thing.


Russell Young’s column appears on alternate Tuesdays. He is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

November 13, 2017

Your Sin: Your Enemies’ Opportunity

NIV Ps. 38.4 My guilt has overwhelmed me
    like a burden too heavy to bear.

My wounds fester and are loathsome
    because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low;
    all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain;
    there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed;
    I groan in anguish of heart.

All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
    my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
    even the light has gone from my eyes.
11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
    my neighbors stay far away.
12 Those who want to kill me set their traps,
    those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
    all day long they scheme and lie.

13 I am like the deaf, who cannot hear,
    like the mute, who cannot speak;
14 I have become like one who does not hear,
    whose mouth can offer no reply.
15 Lord, I wait for you;
    you will answer, Lord my God.
16 For I said, “Do not let them gloat
    or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip.”

17 For I am about to fall,
    and my pain is ever with me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
    I am troubled by my sin…

Today for the sixth time, we return to Mike Leake at the website Borrowed Light. Click the title below to read this at source.

What to Do When Your Sin Makes Your Enemies Pounce

“It is a marvel that any man escapes ruin, the dangers which beset even the best being many and terrible.” –W.S. Plumer

Have you noticed 90% of news stories necessitate a person being ruined? Occasionally the ruin is not a result of a bone-headed decision or immoral choice. But more often than not, it is because sin has caught up with someone. And if you and I are being honest we’d have to admit that our absence from the front page isn’t for lack of opportunity but rather because of grace.

Psalm 38 is a painful Psalm. David is the guy on the front page whose life is ruined because of a personal transgression. And his whole world is coming apart. His relationship with God feels strained, his friends are keeping him at a distance, and his enemies are using this as an opportunity to pounce. The worst part is that David isn’t an innocent victim, he’s a guilty sinner. His conscience is not on his side.

Thankfully, I have not had an experience which totally fits King David’s scenario. I have said and done things which are dumb and/or sinful. I have had to endure consequences of my mistakes, but I do not believe I have experienced fully what David is going through in Psalm 38, at least not to this depth. And I hope I never do.

Of the many lessons we could learn from Psalm 38, one I’d like to consider is what to do when you’ve legitimately blown it as a leader and now your enemies are using this to pounce on you. This could be applied when you’ve front-page-of-the-paper blown it and when you’ve messed up and you’ve given those who are enemies a bit of fodder for their cannons. I see at least five things to take from this passage on that topic:

  1. Don’t try to spin your sin, own it. David’s response in verses 13-14 is the correct posture for being in this position. He doesn’t give excuses. He doesn’t, at least at this stage, try to plead his cause against those who “seek his heart” and “speak of ruin”. He doesn’t attempt to save face or launch a PR campaign. He becomes as one who is mute, even while his enemies are laying snares for him.
  2. Repent where necessary. Not all the accusations the enemy threw at David had merit. But some of them did. Where he was actually guilty David pleaded with God for mercy. He confessed his sin (v18). It’s tempting when folks are lying about us to move from the position of sinner to that of victim and ignore our very real guilt and sin. Let the Lord deal with the lies and repent of the truth in their fodder.
  3. Acknowledge you are overwhelmed and cannot get yourself out. David’s sin was over his head. His friends weren’t able to help, and his enemies certainly weren’t going to be there for him. Dealing with actual sin is difficult enough, when those who are against you pile on unreasonable accusations, and often with violence, it becomes too much to bear. David became as a “deaf and mute man”. He was so overwhelmed that words escaped him, so he turned to prayer. When you’ve dug a hole you cannot get yourself out of it’s time to cry out for a hand of rescue.
  4. Wait upon the Lord to vindicate you. It’s generally a good principle to let the Lord plead your cause. How much more is this the case when your sin has brought reproach upon you? You’ll sound like a real schmuck if you say, “I’m guilty of this, but I’m hurt that you’d accuse me of that”. Pray that God will allow the full truth to come out.
  5. Rest in God’s character. In verse 9, David takes great comfort in the fact that God knows every bit of his crying. Though God also knows the depth of his sin, David is comforted by the truth of God’s omniscience. It also helps to know that God is merciful. As one has said, “It is both an affliction and a comfort to a good man to see the hand of God in all his troubles—an affliction, inasmuch as it shows us how vile we must be to need such sore corrections from the loving One:—a comfort, because we may be assured that mercy shall order everything.

I pray that I’m never in the depth of a Psalm 38 situation, but I know I’m not above it. Though our situation might not rise to the magnitude of Psalm 38 we can find help for our lesser trials. Because of the gospel we know that even if our sin puts us on the front page, the greater news story is that Jesus washes us clean.

November 12, 2017

Sunday Worship

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
  – Romans 12:1

“The problem with a living sacrifice is that it tends to crawl off the altar.”

Today we return to a recurring theme verse here at Sunday Worship. It reminds us that worship is something we do, but rather worship is something we are. Years ago, Christian musician Chris Christian wrote,

We lift our voices
We lift our hands
We lift our lives up to You
We are an offering1

I really try to eschew pithy illustrations and stories here at C201, but I find this one most appropriate:

A chicken and a pig were discussing how they could do something for the farmer. Finally the chicken said, “He loves a good breakfast; why don’t we give him bacon and eggs?”

To this the pig replied, “That’s easy for you. All it demands of you is an offering, but for me it demands total sacrifice.” 2

Here are some things I think will help us remember what it means to live our lives as a living sacrifice. Each starts with the letter ‘s’ followed by a different vowel.

Sacrifice

If we are to judge it, the measure of a sacrifice is not the size of what is given, but the size of what is left over.

A sacrifice will cost us and it will be consumed. There is no taking back the investment of our energies, gifts or material possessions given up in the service and pleasing of God. The last distinction is important. In service we see tangible results. But God is sometimes pleased by our giving up of things. Ask yourself: How much cash would you put on the offering plate if, as it was in Old Testament times, what was giving was then burned? That’s what our Old Testament predecessors did with the best of their grain and animals.

Set-Apartness

If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

In a world that values conformity, no one wants to be the odd duck. Yet the book of Leviticus is essentially God wanting to insure that his people could maintain a distinct identity. It was all about showing yourself to be different.3

Sinlessness

Jerry Bridges has written,

Jesus said, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). We must honestly face the question, “Am I willing to give up a certain practice or habit that is keeping me from holiness?” It is at this point of commitment that most of us fail. We prefer to dally with sin, to try to play with it a little without getting too deeply involved. 4

Sovereignty

“There is a God. You are not Him,”

Jesus himself deferred to his Father on many occasions; providing us a reminder of who is in charge.

Surrender

When Abraham is asked to sacrifice is only son, we have the advantage that Abraham and Sarah didn’t; we know how the story ends. They did not, and yet Abraham is willing to do whatever it takes to obey God.5

Although we speak very different languages, two symbols are universal throughout the worldwide church. One is the word “Hallelujah” which I’m told is rendered the same in most languages. The other is lifted hands as a sign of surrender.

A writer at Charisma points out that our fingers, hands and arms are also most associated with human strength, power, creativity; both in a human sense and if we examine the Biblical record of God’s actions presented in a way we can best understand them. 6

 


1 Full video at YouTube.

2 This story is often used by leadership coaches as well. Here’s a longer version with the punchline contrasting contribution and commitment.

3 We looked at maintaining a distinct identity in this March, 2017 article.

4 We included more quotes from Jerry Bridges on this topic in this article.

5 This is excerpted from a fuller look at Abraham’s trip up the mountain with Isaac at this link.

6 See the full article about lifting hands at this link.

November 11, 2017

Humility – Part Two – As We Are to Live It

Yesterday and today we’re doing a rare “Best of C201” and looking at a topic which appeared several times in 2014 with each containing a key passage from Philippians 2…

Some of you know that in the last two or three years my go-to portion of scripture has been the place in Philippians 2 where Paul breaks out into a section that translators set out from the text as poetry, leading many to conclude it was either a creed or something that had been set to music as an early church hymn. This is the passage I mentally recite when I can’t get back to sleep, and if you invite me to speak at your church on less than 72 hours notice, this is the passage I will speak on.

I’ve created my own version of it, but for sake of familiarity, this is the NKJV, which is usually not my default translation:

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who,being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So in practical terms, how do you adopt that mindset, that attitude; or to put it another way, how do you get to be humble?

He took on the role of a servant

Of the four things the text states this is really the only one that is open to us. We have already entered into the human condition, and we will almost certainly taste death, even if it is not the excruciating form that Jesus endured. Since we have no options vis-a-vis three of the four things stated, what we must press into is the idea of adopting the towel and the basin as our personal symbols; to give up the stallion in favor of a donkey; to take a seat at the back, not the front; and to seek not be served, but to serve.

We need to remember our sin

When spiritual pride comes knocking at the door, we need to remember our sinful condition. Like David, our sin is ever before us. If you’ve mastered holiness, good for you; but I still live in the middle of two conditions, in the warfare of two wills, two natures battling for control of my mind and actions. Without making this a confessional, suffice it to say that, like my apostle namesake, I haven’t attained it, but press on to it. Remaining in Christian community will help keeps us transparent and accountable.

It’s a really big planet

We are also humbled when we consider not only our place in the universe, but that we are members of a tribe seven billion strong. No matter how large your Facebook friends list, or whether you take significance in being either a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond; on a global scale sense of personal importance fades dramatically. You may be a superstar in your local church, or your denomination, or you may have won public service awards in your community, but on an international scale you’re probably not such a big deal.

Identifying humility’s opposite

I wrote about this a few days ago and suggested that while we often name pride as the culprit that undermines a humble spirit, ambition can be equally deadly. Being able to name the players in the spiritual battle that’s always ongoing really helps us see the root of the problem. Philip Yancey, in What’s So Amazing About Grace wrote about how the larger society operates by the rules of un-grace. Probably most people equally operate by the laws of un-humility. Timothy spoke of the last days being characterized by people who were “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy…” We certainly do see a lot of that. When I remember how contagious these attitudes are I recognize the need to guard myself from trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’

I have a good example to follow

The whole point of this passage is comparison. Let the attitude or mindset that was in him also be in you. Three months ago, I wrote about the classic CCM song Understudy that uses Hollywood imagery to describe us apprenticing to the one with the starring role. No wonder the early followers of Jesus were called “little Christs.” Or, if you prefer, you can think of the students of who “walk in the dust of the rabbi;” doing everything their teacher does.

What other aspects of Christian living can serve to keep us humble?

November 10, 2017

Humility – Part One – As Jesus Demonstrated It

Today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday) we’re doing a rare “Best of C201” and looking at a topic which appeared several times in 2014 with each containing a key passage from Philippians 2…

John 13:3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him… 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

I rather frequently return to the theme of the humility of Christ, and I honestly don’t know why I’m drawn by this so often — maybe there’s a reason I don’t see — but I hope readers here are up for another look at this.

In most of our Bibles the passage above has a subheading such as “Jesus washes His disciples’ feet.” This is true as far as it goes, but I think “Jesus demonstrates humility” would make a better focus. We often use this passage to talk about “servant leadership” and many have suggested that in addition to the cross, the towel and the basin should be the symbol that represents Christianity.

However, I feel that it’s so easy to miss the full impact of verse 3:

  • Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God (NIV)
  • Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God (NET)
  • The Father had put everything in Jesus’ control. Jesus knew that. He also knew that he had come from God and was going back to God. (God’s Word)

What a contrast between that set-up and the action that follows. It’s like a symphony that is building in a giant crescendo, and just as it reaches the penultimate note of the scale and you wait for that grand chord that resolves everything, the orchestra suddenly is silent, and you’re left with just the sound of a single violin or piccolo:

  • he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet

I say all that as a setup for some verses I’ve covered here many times:

Phil 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

The progression is rather simple in verses 7 and 8

  • took the nature of a servant
  • entered into the human condition
  • was obedient even to experiencing human death
  • and a death of the worst kind at that

If you look at the study we did on this in May of this year, you’ll notice I switched the order of the first two clauses in these verses. Surely, God enters humanity first — that’s the point of incarnation, the season we are about to celebrate — and then does so as someone whose birth lineage is controversial, whose occupation is that of a carpenter’s son, and whose short career as a rabbi is marked by things like foot washing. Right?

But then I started thinking about it, and recognized that the humility of Christ begins prior to the incarnation. Before the moment when “he left the splendor of Glory,” he has already taken on the role of a servant inasmuch as the incarnate Christ is submitted to the Father.

So although doctrinally the Father and Son are co-equal, and equally divine, in the incarnation we see passages such as:

John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.’

and

Matthew 24:36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

not to mention the passage where Jesus prays at Gethsemane Garden for the Father to introduce a Plan B that won’t involve the torment of crucifixion.

In other words, the humility of Jesus extends even so far as humbling himself before the Father, the One with whom he co-created the universe.

That’s submission. That’s humility.

…As I was preparing this, I was also listening to a sermon by Andy Stanley on pride, which is of course humility’s opposite. Nebuchadnezzar learns this the hard way and basically says that you either are humble or you get humbled.

Daniel 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

In my personal life and ministry I do encounter people who are arrogant, and I also find myself having to guard against arrogance and pride. God help me and all of us to develop a spirit of humility without having to be humbled. God help us to learn from Christ’s humility that is not only symbolized by a towel and basin, but by submission to God the Father’s will.

November 9, 2017

When We Disagree (When Disagreements Arise, Part 3)

by Clarke Dixon

It is ridiculously easy to create disagreement in churches. Simply suggest painting the sanctuary, and presto, a disagreement arises over the colour. But you don’t even need to do that. Most churches harbour theological disagreements Sunday by Sunday, ours included. You won’t get very far into the Bible before disagreements arise. Some people from our church think that the earth and the universe is young, only several thousand years old. Others in our church family think our earth and universe is old, very, very old. Each can point to experts in the fields of science and theology to back up their claims. Both have different takes on how one should approach Genesis chapter one.

Certain passages of Scripture are tricky when it comes to knowing how to read them,  Genesis chapter 1 included. Is it a purely historical writing, or a poetic way of teaching theology without getting into the scientific details? On matters like these, and there are plenty of matters like these, most churches, even where there are strong opinions in the pulpits, have disagreement in the pews. What are we to do with such disagreements?

As “Convention Baptists” we could turn to the publication “This We Believe“, which we have agreed upon as our standard summary of belief. However, we will not find much within it regarding the age of the earth, or clarity on some other disputable matters we might want cleared up. Perhaps we could come up with our own supplementary summary calling it “This We Also Believe”? We could argue out all the details, declaring the winners on each point of theology until we had unity on each and every point of doctrine. We could then declare ourselves to be absolutely pure on doctrine. All five of us left once the smoke has settled.

Is there a better way? Scripture itself points us to a better way in Romans 15:1-7. Let us take a look at how Paul handled disagreement among the Christians at Rome. With some declaring freedom when it comes to Jewish sensibilities, and some finding such indulgence to be ungodly, let us see how Paul handled the disagreement:

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. . . . Welcome one another . . . Romans 15:1,7

First, let us notice what Paul does not do here. He neither declares a winner nor suggests holding a congregational meeting to determine a winner. A church council has already occurred to determine that Gentiles need not become Jews to become Christians. But here in Rome, the Gentile Christians are not to declare victory. Instead they are to put up with the fact and the results of the fact that some continue to see things differently. In fact, people on both sides of the issue are to “Welcome one another” (Romans 15:7).

Part of laying aside the desire to be declared the winner is putting aside the need to be pleased, which brings us to our next point:

2 Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. 3 For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” Romans 15:2-7

When we are in a disagreement, we are so quick to build a winner’s podium for ourselves. We will be pleased when we can stand on it having being declared correct. The way forward, however, is the building up of the people we are in disagreement with. This is the Christian way, for it is Christ’s way. Jesus was beat up. We are built up. Death on the cross hardly seemed like the self-pleasing option in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yet Jesus bore the cross for us anyway. To live in harmony with one another we may need to pick up a cross along the way.

Next, there is the encouragement to look back.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

Paul is referring to what we now call the Old Testament when he speaks of “whatever was written in former days”. What are we to find as we look back? What, from the past, brings hope? What brings hope is how God handles those who should be declared the losers. Promises are made in the Old Testament, for both Jews and Gentiles, that are fulfilled in the New. In Romans chapters 1 through 3, Paul teaches how both the Gentiles and Jews alike “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). They are in a place of being declared lost. Yet in Christ there is a wonderful opportunity;

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Because of sin and rebellion, those without the law (Gentiles) do not deserve God’s welcome into His presence. Likewise, those with the law (Jews) do not deserve God’s welcome into His presence. Yet now, “Christ has welcomed you” (Romans 15:7).

Instead of treating ourselves like winners, let us focus on treating those we think are the losers in the same way God treats those who are lost; with a sincere welcome.

Finally, instead of declaring victory, glorify God;

5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:5-7

We are to glorify God with one voice. As believers in Jesus Christ we are singing the same song. However, we may find ourselves sometimes singing a different note than the person next to us. God is not glorified if we stop in the middle of a hymn so that we can bicker about the notes. God is not glorified when our greatest priority is getting everyone to sing our particular note. God is glorified when we sing in harmony. If we can’t sing the same notes, let us at least sing in harmony!

Did you notice that verses 5 and 6 are a prayer? It is as if Paul knows that the Christians in Rome will find this all very difficult. So rather than simply tell them what to do, he asks the Lord’s help. Handling disagreements can be difficult. The Lord will help us sing in harmony to His glory!

 All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Catch up on any of this series you’ve missed here or at clarkedixon.wordpress.com

November 8, 2017

Don’t Stop Praying

Just hours ago we had another article scheduled to run here, but something about it simply did not sit right with me. As the author was developing a theme, I returned one more time to view the subsequent articles and I felt beyond the shadow of a doubt that including it here would only bring confusion. I don’t scrap articles often, especially when they’re all formatted and ready to go, but…

Today we’re grateful for the writing of J. Lee Grady who blogs at Fire in My Bones. Click the title below to read this at source.

You Can’t Stop Praying Now!

So you pray for something for years and then you wake up one day, breathe a big sigh and say to yourself: This is crazy. Nothing is happening. God must not be listening.

Congratulations! If this has been your prayer experience, you are not alone. You’ve been enrolled in the School of Persevering Prayer, and it’s not a one-semester class. It’s a lifelong journey designed to stretch your faith, develop your character, purify your motives, test your patience and increase your capacity to experience God’s amazing love.

I’ve been in this school for a long time. I think I may have failed a few classes and been required to repeat them. I don’t always make the grade.

This past week, in fact, I was whining about God’s delays. For many months I’ve been bringing the same requests to the Lord, yet the answers seem impossibly distant. My faith wavers from calm assurance to frustrated doubt. In my weakest moments I panic and say stupid things that I regret later, such as: “I’m quitting!”

Yet when I bring my complaint to the Lord, He always reassures me. He recently took me to Isaiah 62:6-7, NASB: “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.”

There’s just no way around the fact that prayer requires persistence. One friend of mine even coined a phrase to summarize this painful fact: “God is in the waiting.”

Jesus told a parable about an unrighteous judge who granted a poor widow’s petition because she badgered him night and day (see Luke 18:1-8). Jesus asked: “Will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night?” (v. 7). Whatever request you have brought to the Lord, and regardless of how many times you have reminded Him of it, keep these points in mind as you trust Him for an answer:

  1. The work of God takes time. Most people in the Bible who asked God for big things waited a long time to receive their answers. Abraham turned gray waiting for his promised heir—and he is called the father of our faith. Joshua and his remnant company wandered in the wilderness 40 years before they possessed Canaan. Hannah endured taunts from Peninnah and insults from Eli while she prayed many years for a son.

Prayer is not a magic formula. Your job is to ask, not to dictate or control. You must let God be God. You must let patience have its perfect work. You will eventually reap if you don’t grow weary.

  1. Authentic prayer involves a holy process. Prayer is often compared to birth. When God gives you a promise, you essentially become pregnant with it. If you plan to carry this promise to term, you must wait—and then you must travail.

Surely this is what the apostle Paul experienced when he told the Galatians he would be “in labor” until Christ was formed in them (Gal. 4:19). We often think of the prayer of faith as triggering instant answers, but this was not the case with Paul. While God can certainly answer immediately, even with fire from heaven, frequently He asks us to carry a promise until we are mature enough to handle the answer.

  1. You have a Helper who is praying for you. You are not in this process alone. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us, Paul wrote, “with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). He is praying the perfect will of God, and we are invited to agree with Him. This kind of gut-wrenching prayer is messy and full of anguish; it is not formal or sophisticated.

When we truly pray in the Holy Ghost, we surrender our agendas and allow Him to pray through us. And this takes us deeper with God.

Have you ever been around a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy? She is often in a state of agitation—ready to give birth but weary of the strain. I know many Christians today who are in this same uncomfortable stage of spiritual travail. They’ve held onto promises for a long time. Some are in despair because the gestation period has been so long.

Jesus said: “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:8). The verbs used are Greek present imperatives, meaning constant asking, seeking and knocking. Prevailing prayer requires persistence, but when we feel too weak to press forward in faith, the Spirit provides the extra push.

You may be asking for the salvation of a wayward child, the funding of a ministry, the reconciliation of a relationship, the recovery of a business, the reviving of a stagnant church or the healing of a sick loved one. Or if you are really adventurous, you may be praying for the evangelization of a city or a nation that is currently in spiritual darkness.

Keep on knocking. Don’t give up. The God who moves mountains has heard your cry. You’re closer than you’ve ever been to a spiritual breakthrough.


J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010. Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organization that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression.

November 7, 2017

3 Books by The Apostle John; 3 Goals in His Writing

We’re paying a return visit to Rick Morgan, who blogs in the UK at Digging The Word. Click the title below to read at source.

Believe, Be Sure About It And Be Ready

John’s advice is still important today

The apostle John was a close friend of Jesus, he was in the inner circle of the disciples, he is the man that took care of Jesus’ mother for fifteen years after Jesus’ death and he was an early leader in the church.

John’s books are very significant part of the Bible, he gives us more of the teachings of Jesus than any other gospel writer, he also wrote the most unique book of the Bible from the vision that he experienced while he was exiled to Patmos.

We can see in John’s books that he wants us to believe in Jesus, be sure about it and he wants us to be ready for his return:

Believe

John 20:31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

John wrote his first book out of a desire to help you believe. It is easy to find something to believe but there is only one belief that is going to get you to heaven. So what are we supposed to believe?

Eternal life is only available by belief in Jesus and his work on the cross as a substitute for the punishment that I deserved.

Be Sure

1 John 5:13 I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.

John’s next book was written to help you be sure of what you believe. The same man that was unclear and lacked faith in who Jesus was wants to help you with your belief.

What you believe is so important to John because just like every other Jew, John held onto false beliefs all of his life, his beliefs didn’t get straightened out until after Jesus came back from the grave. Nobody understood that Jesus first coming wasn’t going to be his last.

In John’s three letters he wants to reassure troubled believers that they really do have eternal life so that they might enjoy it. (1 John 1:3; 3:18-19; 4:13; 5:13 / 2 John 5)

Be Ready

Revelation 22:20 He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

The first coming of Jesus was to give us eternal life and when he returns he will come to give us our eternal reward. Unlike the first time, when he returns again it will be too late to clear up any false beliefs, it is extremely important that you believe and that you are sure about it.

RELATED ARTICLES
10 Things Christ Promises To Reward (unlockingthebible.org)

 

November 6, 2017

Developing the Discernment to Call Out False Prophets

I am grateful for the writers and musicians who speak into my spiritual life. But it’s only through God’s Word that I have a framework to know if they speak from God authentically. I need to be assured that their words resonate with scripture before I allow them to resonate with me.

Today we return to Todd Sepulveda who lives in Houston and writes at Glorify God • Magnify Him in This World. Click the title to read at source.

All the Voices

Scripture

Then the prophet Jeremiah told the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah! The Lord did not send you! You are making these people trust in a lie!
Jeremiah 28:15 NET

Observation
Believers need to understand that not everything that proclaims to be from the Lord is truly from the Lord.

In Bible times, there were prophets whose message was different from each other. Both proclaimed to be prophets of God. Both proclaimed to have a message from God. But both had very different messages, one from God, one from wishful thinking.

Because people don’t necessarily want to hear a message of repentance and becoming holy, they usually listened to the false prophets. They listened to the wrong prophet.

At the most basic level, people who followed the false prophets we’re lazy. They didn’t care to know what the Word of God said. They didn’t examine or question the religious leaders. They new Jewish history, but they thought they were different.

And today, we have more access to the Word of God than any other time in history. Are you trusting what others say, or are you getting in the Word for yourself?

Application
There are so many voices vying for our attention. As a Believer, you should want the only voice you respond to, to be the true voice of God.

This means that you need to know Him, His Word, His presence!

Don’t rely on someone else to give you insight into spiritual matters only. Don’t fall into the trap of false teaching and false prophets, because there is much out there today! Don’t be lazy!

Start reading the Word today! Start praying today! Start walking with Him on a deeper level today. Nothing else compares.

Prayer
Lord, I desire to know You fully. Reveal Yourself to me as I read Your Word and I pray. Show me Your ways.

 

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