Christianity 201

May 25, 2015

When Love Output Exceeds Love Input

Matt. 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

We make a point to try to revisit writers who have appeared here before. Such is the case with Mark McIntyre at the blog Attempts at Honesty. To read this at source, click the title below.

water pumpLove, duty and honor

When a pump tries to put out more water than it takes in, it experiences a condition called cavitation. The end result is that the internal turbulence caused by the cavitation tears up the pump and eventually renders the pump useless. The pump only works well when it takes in as much as it tries to put out.

I find a cavitating pump a fitting metaphor for what I’ve observed in churches over the years. The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 4:19 that we love because God loved us first. John also tells us in John 13:35 that love is to be the distinguishing mark of the church. Jesus himself told us that the two great commands are to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40).

We are commanded to love, but the source of that love must be God himself. I have firsthand experience of what happens when the church tries to convey love without relying on God as the source of that love.

Without reliance upon God as the source of love, the church (and the individuals that make up the church) tends to replace love with duty or honor. Duty is a sense of responsibility to others. Honor is an attempt at maintaining a reputation. One is focused outward the other is focused inward.

Both duty and honor are good things in themselves. There is nothing wrong with having a proper sense of responsibility to our fellow man. I see the connection between duty and fulfillment of the second command to love your neighbor. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to have a good reputation. One of the qualifications that the Apostle Paul gives us for a church leader is that he is to be a man of good reputation (1 Timothy 3:2).

The problem is that even these good things are no substitute for experiencing and conveying the love that God has for us. Duty without love becomes a hard, unyielding taskmaster. How many times have I seen people “serving” in church with little joy and even less fruit? Duty without love produces zombie Christians who lurch around but are not fully alive.

Honor without love becomes narcissistic or forces one into very superficial relationships. I cannot let you too near to me if I want to maintain the illusion that I have everything under control. Therein lies the pressure to be superficial. The narcissistic tendency manifests itself in the “look at me” aspect that rears it’s head in churches. People want to be seen “doing ministry” and get hooked on the affirmation that it provides. The smiling face may hide an ugly heart.

Perhaps we all have an inclination toward these false foundations. But I find that when I am properly connected with the love of God, I want to serve those around me because I want them to experience the same sense of God that I have. When I am properly connected with the love of God, I don’t have to worry about my reputation. If I am following God, my reputation will take care of itself. Also, if I am experiencing the love of God, I don’t have to worry that you will see my failures and weaknesses. God knows all about my failures and loves me anyway.

As with the cavitating pump, failure to allow the love of God to be the driving force and the content of our message will cause a life to eventually fall apart. If you have any doubts about this, I point you toward the most chilling words that Jesus ever uttered in Matthew 7:21-23. In this passage Jesus tells us that many who worked for duty and honor will not find entry into Heaven. It is only those who have been in relationship with him and have experienced his love and forgiveness will gain entry.

The stakes are very, very high.

 

May 24, 2015

More of Jesus

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. ~James 4:8a NASB

When the disciples were meeting together, it was already the feast of Pentecost, though the word, as Wikipedia reminds us, did not have its Christian meaning:

Shavuot commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the entire nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai, although the association between the giving of the Torah (Matan Torah) and Shavuot is not explicit in the Biblical text.

Rather, Pentecost in a New Testament sense commemorates the giving of the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to rush through this too quickly, so take a minute to pause and think about it:

  • the giving of the Word
  • the giving of the Spirit

Do you see the beauty of this? The parallels and the balance in the Christian life between Word and Spirit are not the purpose of today’s thoughts, but the Christ-follower needs both.

In the 21st Century Christian milieu, certain notions about the work of the Holy Spirit in general, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit in particular, are often thought to be more the province of Charismatic and Pentecostal churches. I am sure that today, the expression of Pentecost Sunday was quite different in Episcopalian churches than it was in Assemblies of God churches.

Regardless of the particular emphasis, we would all have to agree that on this day, the disciples received something more. And that’s the launching point for our thoughts. Perhaps you would resonate with someone who says,

  • “There must be more to Christianity.”
  • “I feel like I’m not all in.”
  • “I’m not sensing the Holy Spirit’s presence.”
  • “I think there’s things in the Christian life that I’m missing out on.”
  • “I want more of God in my life.”

In some ways, I think this gets even more complex than salvation when it comes to discerning next steps.

Some churches that believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a second work of grace; a particular post-conversion experience that takes place after salvation. Others believe that we receive all of the Holy Spirit at salvation, and that there is no subsequent experience, and yet these also admit there are times they sense that God has something new for them, and wants to lead them into greater a greater experience, what others might call the deeper Christian life.

Either way, we all could agree with the 5th quote above, that we want need more of God in our lives, and some of you, like the 4th quote, feel this more acutely; you’re heart is really crying out to God, not for something you might receive (healing, etc.) but for more of God Himself.

I believe you just need to ask God for this. I base that on today’s verse at the top of the page. As one of my former pastors, Dr. Paul B. Smith would say, “If you take one step toward God, God will take ten steps toward you.”

Take the time as you listen to the song below to ask God to give you more of Himself. Ask for a greater awareness of the Holy Spirit in your life. Ask for the filling; a saturation of the Holy Spirit.

Break my heart and change my mind
Cut me loose from ties that bind
Lead me as I follow you
Give me strength to follow through

More, more, I want to be more like Jesus

More of Jesus less of me
By his power I will be
Like a flower in the spring
Brand new life in everything

Holy spirit fill me up
Gently overflow my cup
Touch my eyes and let me see
Me in you and you in me

More, more, I want to be more like Jesus

More of Jesus less of me
By his power I will be
Like a flower in the spring
Brand new life in everything

More, more, I want to be more, I need to be more like Jesus


Go Deeper:
Take a close look at the lyrics of A.B. Simpson’s best known poem/hymn, Himself.

May 23, 2015

Keep on Asking

If you grew up in church, this KJV verse from the Sermon on the Mount is quite ingrained:

Matt. 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

However, we’ve all heard sermons where preachers have stressed that this is a continuous imperative.

We previously looked at what that means:

Our pastor used the example of running a race or two versus being in regular training for running races that earn podium positions at the end. The example I’ve always used is a little simpler. Consider these two sentences:

  • “Shut the door.”
  • “Answer the phone.”

The first one is easy.  Once you shut the door, it’s shut.  Work done.  But the second one has an implication that’s deeper; it really means:

  • “Answer the phone if it rings and take a message; and then, if it rings again, answer it and take a message; and then if it rings again, answer it…”

While translators are certainly aware of this, most of the newer ones seem inclined to continue to keep the verse in its more familiar form. But a few venture out to give us more of the sense of the original meaning:

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. (CJB – Complete Jewish Bible)

“Be asking, and it will be given to you; be seeking, and you will find; be knocking, and it will be opened to you. (DNLT – Disciples Literal New Testament)

Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. (AMP – Amplified Bible; NLT is similar)

“Continue to ask, and God will give to you. Continue to search, and you will find. Continue to knock, and the door will open for you. (ERV – Everyday Reading Version)

Just ask and it will be given to you; seek after it and you will find. Continue to knock and the door will be opened for you. (The Voice)

The reason for examining this topic today is that I have to confess that over the past 24 hours I’ve been realizing that my whole perspective on this verse has had to do with tenacity in prayer over a specific request. In other words, I’ve always felt the verse is telling us that if you’re in a situation, even if you don’t see the answer, keep bringing it before God.

While I think that’s a perfectly acceptable way of looking at things, I believe the verse offers us even more. I would suggest looking at it:

If you’re consistently in prayer over (a), (b), and (c) and not seeing results, and then situations (d) and (e) arise, don’t let this discourage you from bringing (d) and (e) before God.

In other words, I believe that God is telling us through this text, don’t lose heart and give up on the prayer process over what you see as a lack of past results. I know that’s something that I need to be reminded of. It’s easy to fall into pessimism, or to ask, but with what James 1:6 calls wavering.

Some of us grew up with a plaque in our homes that simply said, Prayer Changes Things, but then as we grew older we heard teaching that as we draw close to God the key thing about being in his presence is that prayer changes us. That is true, 100% of the time.

But I think we also need to have the perspective that God is positive disposed and favorably inclined to intervene in the affairs of his children, if he deems that best. He can and does step into the scene to orchestrate things “in ways thou knowest not.” (Jer. 33:3)

So today’s conclusion is don’t give up praying in whatever situation you find yourself, but also don’t give up on prayer.


More on today’s topic at C201:

 

May 22, 2015

Mercy to Those Who Doubt

Late last night, I was re-reading a 2013 article at the blog Parchment and Pen by Michael Patton dealing with doubt. It drew me to verse 22 of Jude:

Jude 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

The Reformation Bible Commentary states:

The exact Greek text of these verses is disputed, and it is hard to tell whether two or three groups of sinners are in view. Whatever the textual solution, Jude clearly recognizes that different pastoral strategies are to be employed with different people. Some can profit from gentle counseling (Gal. 6:1). Others will require confrontation or action of some sort, to pull them “out of the fire.”  (emphasis added)

That sets the tone I believe for anything you read in other commentaries on this verse. The Asbury Bible Commentary states:

Despite his vigorous exposure of the opponents’ errors, in vv. 22-23 Jude calls the church to evangelize them. Jude holds out the evangelistic hope for renewal, even to selfish schismatics who upset congregational fellowship and mission. Jude’s prescription of edification for the saints and evangelism of the schismatics is an effective antidote for contemporary church fights as well.

which seems to reflect that “doubters” would refer to Jude’s opponents or those unevangelized.

But Matthew Henry sees this referring to “brethren” who have fallen into error.

He directs them how to behave towards erring brethren: And of some have compassion, etc., Jude 1:22, 23. Observe, (1.) We ought to do all we can to rescue others out of the snares of the devil, that they may be saved from (or recovered, when entangled therein, out of) dangerous errors, or pernicious practices. We are not only (under God) our own keepers, but every man ought to be, as much as in him lies, his brother’s keeper; none but a wicked Cain will contradict this, Gen. 4:9. We must watch over one another, must faithfully, yet prudently, reprove each other, and set a good example to all about us.

(2.) This must be done with compassion, making a difference. How is that? We must distinguish between the weak and the wilful. [1.] Of some we must have compassion, treat them with all tenderness, restore them in the spirit of meekness, not be needlessly harsh and severe in our censures of them and their actions, nor proud and haughty in our conduct towards them; not implacable, nor averse to reconciliation with them, or admitting them to the friendship they formerly had with us, when they give evident or even strongly hopeful tokens of a sincere repentance: if God has forgiven them, why should not we? We infinitely more need his forgiveness than they do, or can do, ours, though perhaps neither they nor we are justly or sufficiently sensible of this. [2.] Others save with fear, urging upon them the terrors of the Lord; “Endeavor to frighten them out of their sins; preach hell and damnation to them.” But what if prudence and caution in administering even the most just and severe reproofs be what are primarily and chiefly here intimated–(I do but offer it for consideration); as if he had said, “Fear lest you frustrate your own good intentions and honest designs by rash and imprudent management, that you do not harden, instead of reclaiming, even where greater degrees of severity are requisite than in the immediately foregoing instance.” We are often apt to over-do, when we are sure we mean honestly, and think we are right in the main; yet the very worst are not needlessly, nor rashly, nor to extremity, to be provoked, lest they be thereby further hardened through our default.—“Hating even the garment spotted with the flesh, that is, keeping yourselves at the utmost distance from what is or appears evil, and designing and endeavoring that others may do so too. Avoid all that leads to sin or that looks like sin,” 1 Thess. 5:22.

I suspect Matthew Henry has more there than was in view in the article that I read. The short Jude passage raises rich and complex issues. Michael Patton was dealing more with the issue of assurance of salvation which we looked at here recently and also here. Looking at people — especially in the Reformed tradition — who have seemingly crossed the line of faith but lack assurance that they are among the elect.

The question is Can one be absolutely sure that they are a believer and how important is this assurance in their walk with the Lord? Many Christians don’t believe an individual can be assured of their ultimate salvation. Many believe one can lose their salvation. Catholics believe that “mortal sins” (really nasty sins such as adultery,  rejection of the perpetual virginity of Mary, or missing Mass without a valid excuse) can cause a Cathlic to lose their salvation. Arminians and Wesleyans believe one can cease to believe, thereby forfeiting their seat in heaven. Therefore, from the perspective of those who don’t believe salvation can be lost, these belief systems cannot offer any assurance. The criticism would be that no one could ever be sure, until death, whether or not they are saved. After all, what if I decided to sleep in on Sunday and then immediately died of a heart attack without repenting? How do I know for sure if my faith is going to last until the end? For Catholics, the fact that one cannot be assured of their salvation is dogmatized.

…Ironically, for the Catholic, to believe that one can be assured of their salvation would be the means by which they lose their salvation!

He continues,

There are three primary reasons Christians doubt. The first has to do with objective intellectual issues. These doubt the Bible’s truthfulness, Christ’s resurrection, and even God’s existence (among other things).  Another group doubts God’s love and presence in their lives. The last group doubts their salvation and the reality of their faith. These are always wondering if they have true saving faith or a false faith. This last group lacks assurance.

It may surprise you to know that just about every contact I have had with people who are doubting their salvation are Calvinistic in their theology. In other words, they believe in unconditional election. These are the ones who believe in perseverance of the saints. These are the ones that believe that we cannot lose our salvation! Yet these are the ones who are doubting their faith the most.

Their issue has to do with their election. Are they truly among the elect? If they are, they believe their faith will persevere until the end. But if they are not, there is no hope. But how are they to know for sure whether they are elect? Maybe their faith is a stated faith? Maybe it is false. The gentleman I talked to today was so riddled with doubt, he was having thoughts of suicide. “How do I know my faith is an elect faith?” He wanted assurance so badly, but felt that his Calvinistic theology prevented him from ever having such assurance.

He adds,

When we present the Gospel to someone and they say they have trusted in Christ, we do them a disservice to force assurance upon them. After all, how do we know that their faith is real? We don’t. Instead of assurance, maybe we should give them some of the Hebrews warning passages. Maybe we should speak to them as Christ spoke to the seven churches in Revelation: “to him who overcomes . . .” Maybe we should encourage them to “test their faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). Maybe we should warn them that there is a possible disqualification. (1 Cor. 9:27). This may not fit into your thinking, but we all know there is a faith that does not save (James 2:19). Why not bring this up?

I encourage you to read the entire article.

May 21, 2015

Remember Who?

Forgotten Apostles

by Clarke Dixon

I grew up watching wrestling, specifically the show “Maple Leaf Wrestling.” Part of what I remember is how predictable most of the matches were. The first contender would be be announced, usually a man no heavier than myself, nor taller, nor more muscular. Then they would announce the “big name,” someone like Big John Stud or Andre the Giant who would go on to decimate them. The outcome was always predictable. I’m not sure why the small guys even bothered to get into the ring, except of course that they were being paid to lose. And don’t ask me their names for they were forgettable as wrestlers next to the giants.

Perhaps we may feel that our performance as Christians is meagre, even forgettable. We may feel that it makes no sense to step into the ring for there are spiritual giants who do the Christian thing so much better than we do. We can think of the call to witness to a seeker, the call to righteousness, the call to investing our lives in the lives of others, the call to getting over ourselves, the call to love, the call to forgiveness, and the call to prayer. We can think of people who do these Christian things so much better than we can, they are spiritual giants. Let them enter the ring since they have so much more to offer. We may choose therefore to make Christianity a spectator sport and never get into the ring ourselves.

If you feel your Christian service is forgettable, you are in good company. Consider Matthias who was chosen to replace Judas in the earliest days of the Christian Church. Matthias was chosen for an extremely important role and he had the right qualifications:

So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us– one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” Acts 1:21-22 NRSV

Since Matthias fits this description we know he was well versed in the teaching and life of Jesus. He could attest personally to the death and resurrection of Jesus. He also had the Lord’s blessing on his choice as Judas’ successor:

Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 1:24-26 24 NRSV

The interesting thing about Matthias is that he just disappears from the pages of the Bible. Despite amazing credentials and the Lord’s blessing we never hear about him again. His work for the Lord, his response to God’s every call has, apart from a few mentions outside the Bible, been forgotten by history. He was not a “spiritual giant” like Paul, or Peter, or John. In fact, the service to the Lord of most of the disciples in New Testament times has been forgotten. And down through the centuries, though there has been a rich tradition of spiritual giants like Spurgeon, Carey, C.S. Lewis, and others, the vast majority of the Lord’s servants have been forgotten.

If you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, consider the men and women God has used to reach you. You have heard the Gospel from someone who has heard it from someone who has heard it from someone, and so on down through a long line of mostly forgotten servants of Christ. For the most part, the Lord has not used spiritual giants to reach you with the Gospel, but forgotten servants. Or perhaps you did come to faith in Jesus through the ministry of a spiritual giant, through a Billy Graham crusade for example. Yet even in the “spiritual ancestry” of Billy Graham are a lot of unknown and forgotten Christians. Or maybe you came to faith through reading the Bible, with no one to help you at all. Yet how many forgotten and unknown scribes can we thank for preserving the Word of God for us. God has used hundreds, if not thousands, of unknown servants to make the Gospel known to you. We can be grateful to God that they did not stay out of the ring just because they were not spiritual giants.

We may be less like Paul and more like Matthias, likely to head into obscurity in just a few generations. But there are two things to note:

  1. God’s impact through you may grow long after you are forgotten. Because you have responded to God’s call on your life, people may be influenced by people who have been influenced by people who have been influenced by someone you have influenced. God may reach people for many generations to come because you got into the ring.
  2. You may be forgotten by history, but you will not be forgotten by God. You may not make it into the history books, but as a follower of Christ you will have your name in the God’s “Book of Life.

Most of God’s servants throughout history have been forgotten. But God has accomplished amazing things through forgotten people. You may feel that your contribution and participation in God’s Kingdom work is meager, even forgettable, but don’t stay out of the ring just because you are not a spiritual giant. Get into the ring with your words. Get into the ring with your actions. Get into the ring with your presence. Get into the ring with your time, talents, and treasures. Get into the ring with your prayers. The Lord is already there waiting for you.


May 20, 2015

The Weight of Sin

 Hebrews 12:1b

…Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up. (CEB)

…We should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fall.  (ERV)

…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us… (KJV)

let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely… (NRSV)

…let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace… (The Voice)

The 3rd Choice (The3rdChoice.org) is an apologetics website. Many of the articles are much longer than what we’ve shown below. This is a great site for someone who is investigating Christianity or has just recently begun their journey with Jesus. To read today’s article on their site, click the title below, and then look around.

Sin: Not Real Popular in the Culture, but A Big Deal in the Bible

Sin is a very big idea in the Bible, and most people seem to misunderstand it, so it’s something we need to know about truthfully. Sin is defined in a few different ways, but you’ll catch a common theme quickly.

Deone Drake defines sin as thinking, doing, or being anything that demonstrates a dissatisfaction with God.

Gary Anderson says, “There are many metaphors in circulation about sin, but the one that gets 80-90% of the textual space [in the Bible] pictures sin as a weight or burden that has to be carried. And so, in many texts in the Old Testament, forgiveness is conceived of as taking away a burden.”

The word “sin” in the New Testament means “to miss the mark; err; swerve from truth and right; go wrong.”

I think you’re getting the idea. People seem to think it’s doing something bad (which isn’t too far off the mark), and they think if they’re generally good people, sin really doesn’t matter that much. After all, most of aren’t criminals, right? That’s where they’re missing the boat.

The Bible explains that sin is our nature as much as it is our behavior (Romans 7.25* and others). In other words, we don’t just do sin, we are sin, as much as a cat is a cat and a dog is a dog. A dog acts like a dog, but even he meows, he’s still a dog, y’know. We may learn to be good people, for our own sake, to please others, or for the good of society. Whatever. Sin is our nature—it’s what we are. So even though you may be a good person, you still have sin in you because if you’re human, you’re sin.

Now add to that that even if you’re not doing wrong, but you don’t do the good that you ought to do—that’s sin too (James 4.17**). Remember the time when your brother was lying to your parents, and you knew he was lying, but you didn’t say anything? Yeah, maybe you thought you were helping your brother, but what you did was wrong. In a way, you were being an accomplice and were guilty of lying too, because you let the lie stand.

We also find out from the Bible that sin separates us from God. God is life and holiness. Sin is death and depravity. So God doesn’t have any sin in him; but since we do, it separates us from him, just as the same poles of two magnets can’t be put together.

Well, you still may think you’re a pretty good person, and maybe you are, but even the smallest amount of sin matters. Let me put it this way: if you have a glass of sewage (ew!), would you drink it? No. Yikes. It’s SEWAGE. OK, but what if have a glass of water, and only a quarter of it is sewage. Pretty good water, right? Would you drink it? Ew, no—it’s SEWAGE.

What are some sins? The biggest one in the Bible is pride. Self-centeredness. Selfishness. There’s also greed, anger, lying, cheating, stealing, envy, jealousy, disobedience to parents, and a long list of other things. Whatever is not like God. Unfaithfulness, disloyalty, dishonesty. That’s what sin is.


* So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (NIV)

** If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (NIV)


Go Deeper: Jesus Gives Life (JesusGivesLife.blogspot.com) is another website designed for people who want to learn the basics. Check out the approach they take to today’s opening verses in this post.

May 19, 2015

What Impedes Brotherly Love?

Today you will have to click through to read the real meat of the article, but overall it’s not long.

Here’s how the article begins. Click the title below to start at the beginning, or the one at the bottom to continue to the five factors the author mentions. The article is by Nebraska pastor Erik Raymond and appeared at ChurchLeaders.com

How to Prevent Brotherly Love

Let brotherly love continue. (Hebrews 13:1)

Brotherly love is the love that comes from God and functions within the context of our new family, the church. And we come to experience and express this love by repenting of our sin and trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation. A love like this is so very precious. It is little wonder then that the author of Hebrews says, let brotherly love continue. It is something that is so very costly! Christ gave his own life; he died to purchase this love. This is not cheap, fleeting, diminishing love, but costly, enduring and replenishing love.

However, this verse indicates a potential for brotherly love to stop. This all-important, ever precious, God-reflecting love from within the church—could potentially come to a grinding halt. This is very concerning to the writer of Hebrews. This should be very concerning to Christians. This is why he urges his hearers, and all Christians who would come after them, to let brotherly love continue.

If we are going to persevere in this brotherly love amid adversity, we need to know what the problem is. What impedes brotherly love? What derails it? What suffocates it?

In short: selfishness.

In other words, we oppose it. The love of self will suffocate a love for others. John Calvin got it exactly right when, thinking about this verse, he said, “When someone thinks more of himself than he ought, he will love others less than he ought.”

Selfishness is such a helpful word when thinking about what impedes our progress in holiness. Selfish. It is to be focused on, preoccupied with, in love with, concerned with—self. It is the characteristic of a heart that is turned inward upon itself. We love self, preserve self, honor self, serve self and defend self.

Selfishness is actually self-worship. Anything we elevate above God and his commands is what we worship. So, if we don’t obey God’s commands because we don’t like how it will make us feel or look, or because we just don’t want to—then we have identified our selfishness.

What does this look like? What impedes brotherly love in the church? We could list 500 things, but here are five big ones…

May 18, 2015

Skipping Church

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As I prepared to post today’s devotional, I was reminded that next Sunday, a well-known U.S. megachurch is simply shutting down for the Memorial Day weekend. I have a great admiration for these people, but I think this sends the wrong message. If lived in their community and attended their church, I would voice my displeasure next week by not showing up. (Oh, wait… never mind!)

Today we pay a return visit to the blog, Finding the Holy in the Mundane by Rachel Stephenson.  Click the title below to link.

Going to the Chapel

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 (MSG)

Hebrews 10                        Romans 12:1-5

As I child I don’t remember missing church. At some point during my childhood, I’m sure I did, but nothing springs to mind. It wasn’t until my sometimes rebellious young adulthood that I would skip church on purpose.

When I did, and my mom caught me, she would quote the verses above to me.

Like I shared with you all the other day, I’m not a great rule follower. The people I work with will attest to that. It’s not that I’m opposed to rules. I’m all for rules. I just need to understand the reason for the rule. I like to call myself a “big picture person” because it sounds better than “rebellious.”

Why should the believer attend church or meet together with other believers? That sounds like just another rule someone made up until you look back to the beginning of Hebrews 10. The author does a great job explaining the difference between the old ways of relating to God, through repeated animal sacrifice, and the new way made possible by Christ’s death on the cross.

The writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah. The Message paraphrases it this way:

This new plan I’m making with Israel isn’t going to be written on paper,
isn’t going to be chiseled in stone; This time “I’m writing out the plan in them,
carving it on the lining of their hearts.” Hebrews 10:16 (MSG)

God’s agreement with humanity now involves a relationship, not simply a contract. Christ’s sacrifice makes it possible to come directly to the Father. God wants an intimate, personal relationship with each person. He wants those who believe in Him to be a living example of personal connection and relationship.

The church is more than a building. The church is an entity that ministers God’s love to the world. No individual can accomplish what the connected, interrelated, united body of believers can accomplish. When Paul wrote to the Romans, he compared the church to the human body. Each person is interdependent on the others in the body to accomplish the work God plans.

Paul says that each believer finds meaning in being part of the body. No organ or body part would be productive or function properly on its own without all of the parts of the body working together. In the same way, a believer who does not make himself a functioning part of the church body by attending and being involved, will never be fully realize the potential God has for him.

While the combined effort of organized believers influences the world outside the doors of the church, there is a ministry within the body as well. The mix of young, old, male, female, seasoned and novice believers, the serious and the carefree, the detail oriented and the big-picture dreamers all come together to help each other affirm and motivate one other as each individual lives life. Varied experiences and gifts allow individuals to encourage and minister to the needs each other in the body.

As the day of Christ’s return draws near, the church is a place of refuge for both the believer and non-believer.

Be part of The Body—it’s crippled without you!

Father, thank you for giving us a living example of the intimate relationship you want to have with each of us. I will be active in the body of believers and do my part to share, motivate and encourage those in the church.

May 17, 2015

Wherever You Serve God, Be All In

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Romans 12:11

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…
Ecclesiastes 9:10a

Today we pay a return visit to Done With Religion by Michael Donohoe. To read this at source, click the title below.

What’s Your Passion?

My wife and I have some friends who are very much involved and active in certain areas of ministry. We were recently talking about the passion these friends have for their particular ministry.

That got me to thinking about passion. The dictionary says passion is: ‘a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything’. This certainly describes our friends and we are happy that they are involved so much.

We both stated that we felt we did not have a passion like this for any particular thing. It actually made us feel a little disappointed and wondered why we did not seem to have a passion like our friends.

I think passion is great. In some ways, passion for the wrong things or done in extremes can be very tiring and frustrating. A passion for money can cause a person to work many hours, consuming their energy. Passion like that can take your strength and drain you of all energy. Yet, people who have passion for showing God’s love, helping others and use it in moderation see their lives enriched, strengthened and seem to have endless energy.

The only trouble I see with passion is that it can sometimes become an obsession with the ones involved, and they can begin to expect everyone to have the same passion they have for the same thing. This is where we have to realize that God designed each of us with different gifts, abilities and passions, and they are displayed differently in each of us.

I think each of us has a passion for what God designed us to be. We may not be as outspoken or even act the same way as others with passion, but God works through us in a way that is effective according to the personality and gifts with which he designed us. We may not even realize the passion that shows through us to others, but rest assured, God will work through us to touch others with his love.

We are all designed differently, and we all act and respond in our uniqueness. I think it wrong to think we are not useful to God because we do not act like someone else. God works in us and through us based on the way he created us, each unique temples of the Holy Spirit, each making an impact on those we have contact with, through the power and love of God within us.

May 16, 2015

Thankful for Mercy

Common English Bible – Phil 4:6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.

A year ago we introduced you to Hajnalka Elleh who works as a translator and writes devotional blog posts in both English and Hungarian. Click the link below to read the article in both languages, and if you know someone who speaks Hungarian, tell them about this blog.

Are You Thankful? – Selected Quotes, part 1

To be always in a thankful state of heart before God is not to be considered a high plane of spirituality, but rather the normal attitude of one who believes that ‘all things work together for good to them that love God, who are called according to His purpose’. – William Law (1686–1761)

The greatest saint in the world is not he who prays most or fasts most; it is not he who gives alms, or is most eminent for temperance, chastity or justice. It is he who is most thankful to God. – William Law

Yes, ‘give thanks for all things’ for, as it has been well said, ‘Our disappointments are but His appointments.’ – A.W. Pink (1886–1952)

We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning. ― Albert Barnes (1798–1870)

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Are We Thankful For Mercy? (Thomas Watson)

Our needs may send us to prayer, but it takes a truly honest heart to praise God. The raven cries; the lark sings. In petition we act like men; in thanksgiving we act like angels.

A godly man will express his thankfulness in every duty. He mingles thanksgiving with prayer: “in everything by prayer with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). Thanksgiving is the more divine part of prayer. In our petitions we express our own necessities; in our thanksgivings we declare God’s excellence. Prayer goes up as incense, when it is perfumed with thanksgiving.

A godly man expresses thankfulness …in every condition. He will be thankful in adversity as well as prosperity: “In everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18). A gracious soul is thankful and rejoices that he is drawn nearer to God, though it be by the cords of affliction. When it goes well with him, he praises God’s mercy; when it goes badly with him, he magnifies God’s justice.

When God’s spiritual plants are cut and bleed, they drop thankfulness; the saints’ tears cannot drown their praises.

Where shall we find a grateful Christian? We read of the saints “having harps in their hands” (Rev 5:8)—the emblem of praise. Many have tears in their eyes and complaints in their mouths—but few have harps in their hand and are blessing and praising the name of God.

Let us scrutinize ourselves and examine by this characteristic whether we are godly: Are we thankful for mercy? – Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686)

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“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”—1 Thessalonians 5:18

Matthew Henry was a biblical scholar who lived in England from 1662 to 1714. He is best known for the Bible commentary that bears his name. After being robbed one day Henry recorded this in his diary: “Let me be thankful. First, because I was never robbed before. Second, because although they took my wallet, they did not take my life. Third, because although they took my all, it was not much. Fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

Later in life, Henry suffered a stroke. Once his friend Illidge helped the dying man get to a bed. Henry said to him, “You have been used to take notice of the sayings of dying men—this is mine: That a life spent in the service of God and communion with Him is the most comfortable and pleasant life that one can live in the present world.”

If you can give thanks during the difficult times in your life you will tend to be thankful when things are not going well. Gratitude toward Christ and thanksgiving in difficult circumstances indicate Christian maturity. Thanksgiving during tough times brings growth in Christ. Today give thanks to the Lord not because of your circumstances but in spite of them.

Source/Forrás:

http://www.spurgeongems.org/fhg1-15.pdf; http://www.gracegems.org/Watson/godly_mans_picture4.htm; and an excerpt from Peter Kennedy’s “From Generation to Generation”, 1998. Source of illustration: here.  Translated by/Fordította: wordwatcherdawn

May 15, 2015

The Waiting Room of Faith

This is both parts of a two-part e-mail devotional by Andy Elmes of the UK ministry Great Big Life. It’s about the times you sense God has a purpose and plan for you which is somewhat specific, but you’re “on hold” or at the “in-between” stage. He compares it to waiting in the “corridor” or what we might in North America call the “hallway” or even “waiting room.”

The Corridor of Faith

2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

Oh, how we love instant arrivals and instantaneous miracles. Why? Partially because we live in such a fast-moving world, we love things to happen “like yesterday”. The problem is, most often God is not like that. He is not in the hurry we are so often in, and does not struggle with patience issues. In fact, I believe that God is more excited about the journey we take in faith towards what He has promised us than He is about our moment of arrival.

Recently I have been considering again something that I have named the Corridor of Faith, that time between when you get a promise or a dream from God and the moment you arrive or see the manifestation of it in your life. This gap between ‘leave’ and ‘arrive’ is a corridor that God provides not with any intention to crush or destroy us but rather to refine and make us. How we perceive and behave while being in a corridor of faith can actually determine how long we spend there, because it is not a place that is a mistake but rather one of design. You see, God works in us more in the corridor of faith than we realise. Often we don’t fully see what He has done until the moment we leave it. Think about all your favourite stories in the Bible – all of them have a ‘leaving’, a ‘journeying towards’ and an ‘arriving’ to them. This week I want to concentrate on that bit in the middle – the journey or corridor of faith you pass through en route to arriving. Hopefully this will encourage you and help you understand and behave in that journey as God would have you.

Abraham left Haran with a promise but no map, and journeyed many years, not a few days, to his “promised spacious place”. Did he arrive? Yes, he did – but consider all that God did in him during that journey.

Joseph had a dream as a boy of being a person of godly prominence that would lead his brothers, and indeed a nation. Did that happen the next week? No, there was a corridor of faith to walk through first. That must have been very confusing at times. Did he arrive at the moment God gave him in his dreams? Yes he did, but again, look at what God did in him and what God made him during the journey.

These, and so many other accounts, reveal to us that when God gives us a promise or a dream there is normally always a journey or “corridor of faith” that has to be walked through. This is a God design because what He does in us as we walk by faith through the moment in between actually makes us the person He needs us to be for the promise or dream He has given us. Joseph entered his corridor of faith a dreaming boy but came out as a wise prime minister. David entered his corridor a boy with a prophecy of kingship, and came out a king able to lead a nation. What is God doing in your present corridor of faith? Are you so anxious to “land the plane” that you are missing out on what God is doing in you and through you “during the flight”? If God gave you the dream or promise and you refuse to quit or walk away then you will arrive exactly where He said you would – but don’t forget the corridor of faith, that time between ‘leave’ and ‘arrive’ will make you everything God needs you to be for your moment of arrival.

Genesis 37:5-8 (NKJV)

Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

We spoke yesterday about ‘The Corridor of Faith’ – that time between dream or promise given and the arrival or manifestation of it. Let’s look further at Joseph’s Corridor of Faith to learn some things.

In our text today we see the moment when the “God dream or destination” is given. What we know about Joseph at this point is that he is just a young man, and a young man despised by his brothers. The dream related to them but was a much bigger promise, I believe, of the influential person God had appointed him to be. In the final verse you see the brother’s response to Joseph’s God-dream – a response of hatred and disdain that launched him into his Corridor of Faith. If you read on in his storyline you don’t see any form of instant arrival, rather a series of events that must have been totally confusing and given him daily the opportunity to quit on the dream. His brothers throw him in a pit and come up with a plan of faking his death; they sold him to a bunch of travelers; later in the story, when things are starting to go better, he is falsely accused of adultery, and he loses a job that looked like it was heading in the dream’s direction. He does a fairly long stretch in prison when innocent, also interpreting other people’s dreams while in there. But one day he opens his eyes, and he is Prime Minister of a nation, his brothers bowed before him, with the power and wisdom to save a nation from famine.

Let me underline this thought again: a boy with a crazy dream entered the corridor of faith, and a man able to lead a nation stepped out. Where did the change take place? In the corridor. It was what happened as he continued to journey by faith through things that did not make sense that made him the person God had seen when he gave him the promise.

God also promises us according to what He knows we really are, but sometimes He needs to journey us through a Corridor of Faith so that we can “find ourselves” and discover the potential we actually possess. I am not talking about sickness or infirmity, I am talking about ‘stuff’ – things that happen that don’t make sense at the time, but later, when you look back, you smile because you see that God was working in that moment for your good – not to harm you or allow harm on you but to make you the person He knows you can be. Faith is trusting God in the moments that don’t make sense, trusting Him that indeed in “all things He works for your good”. Trusting that God is not obsessed by our present moment, like we can so often be, but rather He is focusing on the larger picture of our lives. He is doing things now that will produce great things later. In these moments you need to believe that though weeping may endure for a night, rejoicing will come in the morning. It’s often not until we are leaving a Corridor of Faith, or a confusing moment, that we look back and fully understand the Godly ‘why’ to what just happened.

Trust Him – when you think you have worked it out and when you have not got a clue what His next move is, He who began a good work in you (started your journey) will complete it (bring you to a place of great arrival)!

May 14, 2015

“It’s a God Thing”

This article by Shane Pruitt is somewhat topical, as it looks at a popular Christian cliché that some of us use. I wasn’t sure whether to post it here or at Thinking Out Loud, but I thought the content was a good match here at C201. As always, click the title below to read this at the blog I Already Am.

Should We Be Saying, “It’s A God Thing”?

It's a God ThingIt was a total “God thing!”

If you’ve spent much time around church people, you’ve probably heard (and maybe said) this statement hundreds of times.

“It’s a God thing” is used in Christian culture when things unexpectedly work out the way we wanted them to. We raised the total amount of money for our mission trip, the chips fell our way, we were totally surprised by an event that popped up from out of the blue.

But, inevitably this statement always follows something good that has happened to us—a story of healing, a rare coincidence that worked out well for us, finding a parking space, getting a job or when our child stops warming the bench in time to hit the game-winning shot.

Who’s in Control?

Should this statement be a part of our vernacular? Well, first, let’s see if the phrase is even biblically accurate:

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” (1 Chronicles 16:31).

“Our God is in the heavens; He does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 135:6).

“The heart of man plans His way, but the Lord establishes His steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

“Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:10).

These five compelling verses tell us one clear thing: God is sovereign. And, there are literally dozens upon dozens of other verses that say the exact same thing.

God has supreme authority, control and power over all that has happened, is happening and will happen in the future in all times across all history. God has the right, the authority and the power to govern all that happens in accordance to His divine will. He has the right and the power to achieve His purposes. He is in control of circumstances that dictate whatever He wills to come to pass. He has complete control of everything and there is nothing that happens that is not done by or allowed through His will.

So, is the statement “It’s a God thing” accurate? Yes, of course, it is.

The great things that happen in our life—it’s a God thing! When things go our way—it’s God thing! We get that promotion we’ve been wanting—it’s a God thing!

All Things for Good

However, there is a flip side to that coin. When things don’t go our way—it’s still a God thing. When we don’t get the promotion that we’ve been wanting—it’s a God thing. Times of suffering, times of tribulation, times of loss—God thing, God thing. It’s all within God’s sovereign plans.

If God is truly sovereign, then He is in control of the “bad” days just as much as He is in control of the “good” days. Sometimes His plan is not what we may want or would plan for ourselves. Sometimes it’s hard to see where He is during the hard times. But we can trust that He’s there, that He cares, that this world is fallen, but He’s in control.

True faith is being able to say, “It’s a God thing” even in the midst of suffering, difficulty and heartache. When something doesn’t go my way, I can still know, trust and believe that God is working out all things for His glory and my good.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Maybe, the best way to look at the statement, “It’s a God thing” is to really understand that everything that is and occurs are all “God’s things” and not mine. And He can do what He wants with His things, including me.

(This Article was also picked up by RELEVANT Magazine online)

Go Deeper:  For a similar theme by the same author, check out Why We Stopped Saying, As Long As They’re Healthy”

May 13, 2015

No Greater Love

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:26 pm
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Loving as Jesus Loves. A Reflection on John 19:12-15

by Clarke Dixon

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12 NRSV

When you listen to the Beatles’ song “She Loves You” and then listen to “All You Need is Love,” you will probably be correct in thinking that the word “love” is used to refer to two different things. In our English language the word ‘love’ can have very different shades of meaning and one must sometimes be careful when using it. So when Jesus tells us to “love one another,” what is meant? I can remember a deeply theological discussion in grade five where a friend, with a recent Sunday school lesson in mind, declared that he loved a particular girl in a Christian sort of way. The more he talked though, the more it seemed that not hating her passed muster as a Christian kind of love. So when Jesus tells us to love one another, what precisely does that mean?

Thankfully, Jesus narrows it down for us by saying “love one another as I have loved you.” As we look at the rest of the passage, we will learn what it means to love as Jesus loves.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. John 15:12-14 NRSV

First, Jesus loves by laying down his life to serve the needs of others. Jesus is pointing forward to the day that he will literally lay his life down to bring salvation to his people. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” Mark 10:45 NRSV. His death and resurrection brings us reconciliation with God, life with God, indeed, eternal life with God. If we are to love one another as Jesus loves we are to learn to lay down our lives for others, to serve what is in the best interests of others.

And if laying down one’s life for one’s friends is an example of love, how much more should we be ready to lay down our lives for our most significant and covenantal relationships. We might say:

  • No husband has greater love than this, than to lay down his life for his wife.
  • No wife has greater love than this, than to lay down her life for her husband.
  • No mother has greater love than this, than to lay down her life for her child.
  • No father has greater love than this, than to lay down his life for his child.
  • No child has greater love than this, than to lay down his or her life for his or her mother/father.
  • No pastor has greater love than this, than to lay down his or her life for Christ’s Church.
  • No church family has greater love than this, than to lay down their lives for the community.

But does laying down one’s life in service fully express what it means to love as Jesus loves? After all, we can serve others while harboring an inner hatred, resentment, or apathy toward them. Is that really love? Let’s look again to our passage:

13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer . . . John 15:13-15a

Laying down his life is not the only expression of Jesus’ love, he also loves by extending friendship. Only two people in the Old Testament were known as being “friends with God,” these being Abraham and Moses. While God spoke to many people in the Old Testament these two seemed to enjoy a special intimacy with God. Jesus gives intimacy as evidence of His friendship:

15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. John 15:15 NRSV

How thrilling a thing it is to be extended a friendship and intimacy with God! So exciting we ought to remind ourselves that God is also due a proper reverence and respect. In teaching us to pray, Jesus points towards both the intimacy we can enjoy with God, but also the reverence we are to bring. We are to pray “Our Father,” the word in the Greek New Testament being a more familiar and intimate term like “Dad.” But we are also to pray “Our Father in heaven.” Lest we get too chummy this is a reminder of the transcendence of God. He is in heaven. We are not. He is righteous. We are not. He is Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. We are not. He is God. We are not. We enjoy an intimacy with God, he extends friendship, yet “the fear of the Lord” is still appropriate.

Having seen what it means to love as Jesus loves, through laying down our lives in serving the needs of others and extending friendship, we can think of the difference it makes to love as Jesus loves.

Think back to New Testament times and imagine that you are a slave owner. And now you are to love your slaves as Jesus has loved you, laying down your life in service to the slave and extending friendship. What a transformation to the master/slave relationship. We have a beautiful example of this in the Bible where Paul encourages Philemon to take back his runaway and thieving slave, Onesimus:

15 Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother– especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. Philemon 1:15-16 NRSV

And think also of the marriage relationship. One’s wife would no longer be thought of as property, but as a friend whom the husband will delight in serving. In fact Jesus’ teaching on love can transform marriages today. In pre-marital guidance courses I point out three different kinds of love, which correspond to three different Greek words. A friendship kind of love, philein, a romantic kind of love, eros, and a committed kind of love, agape. I used to say that marriage can survive on agape love, a commitment to the marriage vows, but will thrive on all three. Now I say that a spouse who has agape love for his or her spouse will actively pursue all three. When I love my wife as Jesus loves, I want her to know that she is my best friend. I also want my wife to know that, though I am not very romantic, all the romance I can muster up is for her and her alone. When a man loves a woman the way that Jesus loves, fidelity to marriage vows is not enough. Serving is important. Nurturing a deep friendship is important. You can forgive me for keeping to a male perspective here, but I must ask: How many marriages across our nation would be transformed if all men became avid followers of Jesus? And how many relationships would be transformed if all people learned to love as Jesus loves, laying down their lives in service, and extending genuine friendship?

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12 NRSV

May 12, 2015

The Lord’s Prayer, Expanded

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”  Luke 11:1

This is another reading by Laura Steen from our worship gathering on Sunday.

Our Father in Heaven
We can call God our “Father” because he is
revealed to us by his Son, Christ Jesus,
who became man.
Lovingly, he adopts us as Children of God.

” in heaven” is Gods way of being;
majestic, transcending everything
we can conceive of his holiness.
His dwelling place is our homeland
to which we aspire.
This holy God lovingly calls us to him!

Hallowed Be Your Name
“to hallow” means we recognize God as holy,
and we treat Him in a holy way.
If we truly hallow the Father,
then we respect him in our hearts,
and he allows us to enter into
His plan for us and our salvation!
He lovingly saves us!

Your Kingdom Come
The Kingdom of God is brought near in the
Word Incarnate – the son he lovingly sent,
and it has come in Christ’s Last Supper,
death and resurrection.  “Your kingdom come”
prays  for the growth of the kingdom of God
in the “today” of our lives,
bearing the fruit of new life.
He lovingly gives us new life!

Your Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven
God’s expression of his will is the commandment that
“you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
This commandment expresses his entire will.
We ask for God’s loving plan to be fully
realized on earth as it already is in heaven.
He lovingly calls us into obedience!

Give us today our daily Bread
“Give us” expresses, in communion
with our brothers and sisters, our bond
of trust in our heavenly Father and the
covenant between the Father and all men.
The Father who gives us life, lovingly gives us “our bread,”
the nourishment this life requires, both material and spiritual.
He lovingly feeds us!

forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors
We return to Him as His prodigals and begin our confession
as sinners in need of mercy. Our hope is firm, for in his Son,
whom he lovingly sent, we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He lovingly forgives us!

And lead us not into temptation
We ask God not to allow us to take the
path that leads to sin.
He gives us the Holy Spirit that helps us
discern between the trials,
necessary for the growth of the inner man,
and temptation, which leads to sin and death.
He lovingly sends us His Spirit!

But deliver us from the evil one
We pray in communion with the Church
for the deliverance of the whole human family.
Victory over the dark prince of this world was
won once and for all at the Hour when Jesus freely
gave himself up to death to give us his life.
He lovingly gives us life on earth!

The Kingdom is Yours, the Power is Yours,
and the Glory, forever. Amen.
This is the final doxology of the Lords prayer.
By the final “Amen,” which means “So be it,” we confirm what is
contained in the prayer that our Lord has taught us.
Let us lovingly offer him our prayers and praise!

We invite you to sing this prayer with us now.

May 11, 2015

Will I Find Faith on the Earth?

Several months ago we stumbled on a unique daily devotional site, Rhetorical Jesus written by Jack Wellman. Using a simple 3 paragraph format, plus a prayer, each day’s readings are supplied with an image tailor-made for posting on Facebook or Pinterest.

Every day we post items and here and tell you to click through to read them at source, but in this case, I really want you to experience the format and see the social media graphics. Daily devotions were never like this when I was young. The title below is the link. Is there someone you know who might enjoy this? Tell them about it.

Will I find faith on the earth when I return? Do you trust Me to avenge all wrongs?

Luke 18:8

I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Leave Justice to God

In this chapter, and particularly in the first part of this chapter, Jesus gives us the Parable of the Persistent Widow. Apparently, there are some issues she wants addressed where she had been wronged and wants justice executed by the unrighteous judge. Jesus ends this parable by saying that He will avenge all that is wrong in this world and that everyone will be held accountable for what they’ve done in their lifetime, including everything they’ve said (Rom. 14:10-12; Matt. 12:36). Jesus is asking the rhetorical question, “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them” (Luke 18:7)? The obvious answer is, of course, He will, and there will be no long delay when He returns.

Vengeance Is Not Mine

The church of God is not perfect, of course, and Paul may be addressing this when he tells the church at Rome to not judge our brothers and sisters for what they do and don’t do in areas where the Bible is silent or in nonessential areas. He wants them to trust that God will judge everyone for everything they’ve done and that He will judge rightly. Therefore, we should not be putting ourselves in the judgment seat, where God is the One Who deserves to sit. Each one of us will have to stand before God to give an account to Him. We are not to sit in God’s judgment seat and be the judge of others or take revenge on them when that’s not our job (Rom. 10:10-11).

Will Jesus Find Faith When He Returns?

This also is a rhetorical question where Jesus asks if He will find faith on the earth when He returns. The answer seems to be no, He won’t. This doesn’t mean that those who have repented and trusted in Christ won’t have saving faith, but looking at the context of Luke 18:1-8, it seems to be whether we will trust God to be the ultimate judge over all things. Even if we are troubled by what others are doing, will we have faith in God to make a perfect judgment on these things? Does He need our help? The faith that seems to be the subject of which Jesus speaks about is the faith that He will settle all accounts when He returns to the earth to judge both the lost and the saved. Do we trust Him to do that? Will we have the faith that He will eventually judge these things? The saved will be judged for their works, and their eternal rewards will be passed through the fire and either they will be burned up or the precious stones and gold will survive the fire (1 Cor. 3:12-15). For those who have never repented, justice will be executed perfectly according to what each one has done in their life (Rev. 20:12-15). God will “give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night” and “give justice to them speedily”; of that we can all be sure.

A Closing Prayer

Great God in heaven, I know that you look at the thoughts and intents of the heart and not only at the outward deeds and will execute perfect justice someday. Please help me to not judge others in areas that are not for me to judge and to accept others even when they do things differently than I, for I am not their judge, but You are. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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