Christianity 201

September 18, 2019

Does Your Church Bite?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.
 – Galatians 5:15 NLT

Our car is going to be at the shop for a few days, so I cleaned it out before leaving it with them. In the cupholder was a small piece of paper which simply said, “Gal 5:15.”

I had written that down several years earlier, but reading it now, I’m not sure what the particular point of emphasis was to be.

So now you know the why of today’s text.

Let’s look at some context, taking two verses before and two verses after from the Common English Bible:

13 You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. 14 All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. 15 But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other! 16 I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. 17 A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires.

As I looked around the internet for further insights into this passage, I landed at Verse by Verse Commentary. We’ve used them before here for brief quotations, but I’ve never shared the full text of how they treat a passage; I’ve never allowed you to see the format. It’s more like ‘word by word’ or ‘phrase by phrase’ commentary; the type of source material so helpful in expository preaching. Click the header below to read at source.

Galatians 5:15

by Grant Richison

“But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!”

The Galatian church entered onto a stage of conflict because of legalistic thinking. Paul now warns them about a consequence of this. All doctrine, whether false or true, has practical implications.

But if you bite

Secular Greek used the verbs in this verse of “bite,” “devour” and “consume” for wild animals that bite with the teeth in lethal battle. Legalists lacerate those who believe in grace with reproach. 

and devour one another,

The word “devour” means to gulp down. It comes from two words: to consume by eating and down. The idea is to completely consume something. Evidently there is such a thing as Christian cannibalism! The Galatians did not nibble on one another!

beware

The idea of “beware” is to keep our spiritual vision sharp. The word comes from a word for to see. If Christians do not stay alert, they will fall into divisions that result from legalistic belief. Legalism is always divisive and censorious.

lest you be consumed by one another!

Christians can destroy one another by legalism.

Principle:

Legalism produces a censorious spirit

Application:

Paul never fuses legalism and grace because they are opposites. Neither can we harmonize them into some sentimental doctrinal glob. We should set legalism and grace in stark contrast if we are going to life the Christian life as it should be lived. If we do not separate these two ideas, we will also experience rivalry in the church.

Legalists are contemptuous and severely critical people who show little mercy. However, true Christian love makes allowances for others and takes account of their frailties. Genuine love compensates for people.

“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins‘” (1 Peter 4:8).

Christians cannot afford to play god and become the judge of other believers. When we take the role of a critic, we put ourselves in the position of god. If we find fault with one another and tear each other’s reputation apart, we will destroy the Christian community. All that we see from some churches God has used mightily, is smoke billowing from the ruins of wrath. The people of God could not get along. There is a great difference between the fruit of love the ruins of wrath.

 

September 17, 2019

Let There Be Grace

grace

We continue where we left off yesterday, with another scripture medley. Today’s post is entirely scripture, prepared using BibleHub.com, an online Bible resource.

As I slowed down to read through each verse in many different translations, I was very much aware of:

  • Who was speaking (made clear by the reference)
  • Who it is who was or is the recipient of grace
  • Whether the verse was testimony, instruction, promise or warning
  • The centrality of the theme of grace in scripture

I hope you’ll take some time with this and not rush through…

But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me–and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.
– I Cor. 15:10 NLT

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ
– I Cor 1:4 KJV

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.
– Titus 2:11 NIV

I do not misapply God’s grace, for if righteousness comes about by doing what the Law requires, then the Messiah died for nothing.
– Galatians 2:21 ISV

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it.
– 2 Corinthians 6:1 NLT

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
– 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
– Hebrews 12:15 NLT

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.
– Ephesians 3:7 NIV

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you
– Ephesians 3:2 NIV

Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord;
– Acts 11:23 NASB

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
– Hebrews 2:9 ESV

The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
– Luke 2:40 NASB

We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you.
– 2 Corinthians 1:12 NLT



Here’s another collection we posted previously:

Galatians (NLT) 5:4 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

Romans (Voice) 10:4 But Christ makes the Law no longer necessary for those who become acceptable to God by faith.

Hebrews (AMP) 10:14 For by a single offering He has forever completely cleansed and perfected those who are consecrated and made holy.

Romans (NASB) 5:19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.


And one more passage:

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.   Titus 3:5-7

September 16, 2019

Let There Be Light

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , , , ,
Light is a factor in the name of the ministry organization which I work with.

Light is a factor in the name of the commercial ministry entity which occupies many of my waking hours. A searchlight can shine into the night saying, ‘something is happening here;’ but can also be mounted on a boat, airplane or vehicle to search for the lost. In today’s devotional, the meaning is different, the light of God is the light of truth, exposing and convicting people of sin.

We begin with a scripture medley about light:

  • “You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light” (2 Samuel 22:29).
  • “He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light” (Job 12:22).
  • “You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light” (Psalm 18:28)
  • “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
  • “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). (This was quoted by Jesus when He began to preach Matthew 4:12-17).
  • “But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23)
  • “When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
  • “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46).
  • “I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17,18).
  • “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12).
  • “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
  • “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
  • ‘You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5).
  • “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
  • “Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8)

Back in 2015 Steven and Brooksyne Webber wrote about light at their blog, Daily Encouragement.:

…The understandable grandeur of John 3:16 may tend to diminish the rich, instructive material that follows. Bible students differ as to whether John 3:16-21 are the words of Jesus following His discourse with Nicodemus or whether these are the interpretive words of John when he wrote his gospel late in the 1st century. Either way they are God’s inspired Word!

Regardless of whether these are the words of Jesus or a part of John’s inspired teaching we should seek to understand this portion in its context. Today’s text is a macro assessment of the human race.

“Light has come into the world.” The Greek has the definite article “the” before light and we believe this is very significant. In the Gospel and Epistles of John “the light” is Jesus Christ (see John 1:4-9; 8:12: 9:5; 12:46; 1 John 1:5). The Light coming into the world is at the very heart of the Gospel message.

“But men loved darkness instead of light.” Again we have the definite article in the Greek prior to both light and darkness precisely reading, “But men loved the darkness instead of the light.” (See here for Greek interlinear scrolling down to v.19.) This is a matter of fact statement that explains much about human nature and the response to the Gospel. Many people would prefer to live in the darkness rather than the light. This preference, a result of the fall, leads to spiritual troglomorphism. [ed, note: Look it up]

“Because their deeds were [are] evil.” For those of us living in the glorious light of Jesus Christ we marvel that anyone would choose darkness but many do. The awful consequence of spiritual troglomorphism is that the more one spends in darkness his eyesight for spiritual things is diminished and he increasingly becomes blinded.

The next verse continues, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:20). And, of course, many are unwilling to do that so they continue to live in the darkness. In fact they become spiritual nyctophiliacs [ed. note: That one, too.] who love the darkness.

When we come into the light we must deal with our evil deeds, confess, and repent. As we do so we experience another word with morphis in it, metamorphisis in Romans 12:2, which is translated transformed!

Today, we encourage believers all over the world to join us as we live in the light of Christ and walk according to the light of His Word! May this statement be true of us today, that we love light rather than darkness! We come under the truth of Jesus Christ: “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:21).

September 15, 2019

Worship Moments in Creation

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

Today I went back for a third visit with a writer we’ve used here before only to find the blog no longer active. I decided to pursue it further however, and came up with one of the original posts from 2012 that I felt would fit well here. Jonathan Parrish wrote for six years at Walking With Christ Daily; click the header below to visit the site. The same creation which inspires our worship is part of the general revelation of God that leaves the unrepentant without excuse.

Creation Proclaims: Psalms 19:1-6

Before you read this, I want you to take a moment to think of a place you’ve been where you were just awe-inspired by Creation. That place for me is the Grand Canyon. All I used to say about it was that it was just a giant hole in the ground, but when I stood there on the edge looking over the expanse of this creation, I saw God. God had created this giant, amazing, beautiful hole in the middle of the desert. I was humbled in my heart by the idea of God’s majesty and power and how He had spoken it into existence as stated in the first chapter of Genesis.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
(Psalm 19:1-6 ESV)

Of all the books of the Old Testament, the book of Psalms represents the faith of the Lord’s followers. The psalms are Holy Spirit-inspired responses of the human heart to God’s will and revelation. David becomes inspired and proclaims that the heavens declare the glory of God. David goes on to say that Creation is always proclaiming the existence of God and that He rules over it. Though it isn’t audibly heard, its message extends to all the ends of the earth, to every nation and people, proclaiming the Glory of God.

As Christians, we see the night sky full of stars, the sunrise over the horizon, and the sunset in the west, but do we really think of God when witnessing such beauty? Do we praise God for His creation and glorify His name? Are we humbled in our hearts by such an awesome God or do we just snap a photo and walk away?

Believers know the truth in these vast arrays of God’s creation. However, for non-believers, “they are without excuse” as Romans 1:18 explains:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
(Romans 1:18-20 ESV)

Paul exclaims here that God is revealed in Creation and that humanity suppresses the truth because of our unrighteousness. Because of this, we have no excuse not to recognize the truth in Creation. So when a non-believer stands before God and says he never heard the truth, he will have no excuse because everything had been already revealed to him.

In Psalms 19, David talks about the sun and how it rises and sets each day. It’s seen by all creation and is yet another instrument aiding in the glorification of God. Did you know if the earth was closer to the sun, we would not be able to survive because the planet would burn. If we were back farther from the sun the planet would be too cold to support life? God placed us perfectly in space so we could survive and live to glorify Him..

When you as a Christian think of Creation, do you think of God, or is it just some cool thing? Do you feel humbled by the awesomeness of God who created the universe in six days? Do you realize that God created all this knowing He would have to send His Son into the world to die on a cross for our sins?

 

September 14, 2019

One Person at a Time

When I post something here or at Thinking Out Loud, it’s like I’m broadcasting to everyone in general but no one in particular. It’s the same on Facebook, though I am aware of the list of people who can interact with what I’m posting, but anything spiritual I post there is like preaching to the choir, because most of my friends are Christians.

Then I discovered the Christianity page at Reddit. It was a whole new world. I resisted creating an account since I’m already busy enough online, but after a year of wanting to add my opinion to various discussions, I jumped in. Now instead of scattering messages to the wind — some days it feels like that — I’m answering or responding to one person who is essentially asking for information or opinions. And I’m finding it more personally satisfying on the days I feel I have a unique response to offer…

…Today we’re back with Jack Wellman at the site Rhetorical Jesus. He reminds us that being the hands and feet of Jesus may not involve creating a website or launching a media ministry, but it might involve connecting with one person.

Click the header below to read this at source. Each day Jack offers a Facebook-ready, Pinterest-ready graphic that you can use to link to the devotional.

How can you change someone else’s life for the better today?

Matthew 25:35-36

For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.

Changing the World One Person at a Time

Many believe they can’t change the world because there is so much wrong with it. We see so much to do that we won’t do anything, but we can at least change one person’s life today. Perhaps like a ripple in a pond, the effects can keep extending outward when this person who is changed for the better helps to change someone else’s life–it goes on and on. It’s like paying it forward. It is a change that keeps on giving change to others. Jesus said that we can make a difference. When you see someone hungry, provide them with something to eat; when you see someone is thirsty, give them a drink; and when you see someone who is a stranger, make them feel welcome (Matt. 25:35). When someone’s underdressed, give them some of your own clothing; when someone’s sick in the hospital, go and visit them; and when someone’s in prison, go see them, or at least write them a letter (Matt. 25:36). You can’t change everything, but don’t settle for nothing.

Starting a One-Person Ministry

Have you ever thought of helping one person at a time? We have a nursing home ministry, which has touched so many but one precious lady in particular. This woman has family that lives far away. She doesn’t have any friends in the city, and she receives no visitors, so our visits mean a lot to her. I believe it helped me more than it has helped her. Our church elder sees those who are in nursing homes the same as those who are in prison. They’re not there for a crime, but they are imprisoned by their own physical limitations.  They cannot come and go as they like, so they are, in effect, prisoners of their age or disability. I think Jesus would see what our church is doing for the beautiful souls in the nursing home as doing it for Him (Matt. 25:40). What do you think?

Being Part of the Body of Christ

All believers have a ministry. Even though we might not be a pastor, we are all ministers of God, sent by Him to be part of the Body of Christ. In this way, even one person can make a huge difference in the world. The church is called the Body of Christ for a very good reason: We can be His hands that touch lives (Matt. 19:13-14; John 13:13-17), we can be His ears that hear the cries for help (Matt. 20:29-34), we can be His eyes to look for the crushed in spirit (Matt. 9:35-38), we can be His voice to tell people they must repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15), and we can be His feet, bringing the good news to our own area of the world (Luke 10:1-6; Rom. 10:13-15). If we truly have the mind of Christ, we will esteem others better than ourselves and we will treat them as such (Phil. 2:2-8). Why not change someone’s life for the better today? Start one person at a time.

A Closing Prayer

God, my Father, I know You want me to be Jesus’ hands, ears, eyes, voice, and feet and that I need to have the mind of Christ. Please point me to where You would have me go to change lives starting today with one person, and in Christ’s holy name I pray. Amen

 

September 13, 2019

Water to Wine: Miracle, but also Symbol

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
Tags: , , ,

This is our tenth time with Ben Nelson at the site Another Red Letter Day. This is a much shorter devotional, but I really liked the insight. Click the title below to read at source.

Then I’ll be back after with an additional comment.

Water to Wine

In John 2, the writer tells us about a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. Mary, Jesus’ mother attended and brought Jesus and the boys.

You know the story – if not check it out here.

One of the striking statements in this story comes from the head waiter.

… “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”John 2:10

I’ve heard this interpreted a bunch of different ways, but today the Lord put in my heart a simple idea.

From the beginning of creation, God wanted companionship from us.

Isaiah tells us

“For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth.Isaiah 54:5

So God gave the law to Moses and invited Israel to be His people, His bride. But the law was inferior wine. God invited folks to a wedding, but there was no joy. The bride couldn’t keep her garments clean and the whole thing went bust.

The law was inferior wine.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,Romans 8:3

So God took water and turned it into the best wine.

God through His Spirit, put His seed into the womb of a woman and filled a human water pot with a new kind of wine. Wine filled with the Spirit of God. He put His own Son into flesh and blood man and brought joy unspeakable to the wedding feast of the ages.

Anyway–just a thought.


…As I read this I was reminded of an analogy that N.T. Wright introduced when we were taking a course with him in July at Regent College. The study was on the book of Galatians and how Paul was trying to teach the people at Galatia that the law was good for a time, but it was a precursor to something greater that was yet to come.

It was the week of the 50th anniversary of the American lunar landing, and he pointed out that the law was like the booster rocket needed to get the space capsule out from the pull of earth’s gravity, but once it escapes that, the booster rocket is jettisoned an no longer needed.

It’s interesting that the phrase we often use is “the law and the prophets.” Neither Ben nor myself mentioned prophets to this point, but I wanted to end with Hebrews 1:1-2a

In the past God spoke to our ancestors many times and in many ways through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son. (GNT)

The coming of Christ brought an end to both law and prophets.

If you’re thinking that means that I mean the end of the gift of prophecy, I am not saying that, just as the coming of Christ didn’t mean an end to the prohibitions regarding lying, stealing, adultery, idol worship or taking God’s name in vain.

It was instead, as Ben said above, “a new wine.”


 

 

September 12, 2019

A Christian Nation No Longer: How Did We Get Here?

After a few weeks off, we welcome back Thursday regular contributor Clarke Dixon. I not only get to post this today, but I was able to hear the sermon on which this is based as it was originally given on Sunday. Although it reflects a Canadian context, it’s equally true of the U.S. as well; it’s just that the UK and Canada are further down the road of secularization. This kicks off a series on the book of Daniel.

by Clarke Dixon

Does it feel like we are no longer living in a Christian nation? The influence of Christianity seems diminished compared to just a few decades ago. We, who are Christians, may feel like we are now outnumbered. With the pace of change in Canada, we might feel like we are living in a new and strange land with new and strange values.

How did we get here? Who gets the blame? Who is responsible for the diminished role of Christianity in Canadian society? Should we blame the government for changing laws? Should we blame the people for a lack of interest in Christianity?

Scholars have been pointing to the Old Testament Books of the Bible from the time of the exile of God’s people as a good mirror of our position today. The Northern Kingdom fell in the 700’s BC, while the Southern Kingdom, Judah, fell to the Babylonians in the 500’s BC. Those who were deported to Babylon from Judah, including Daniel and his friends from the Book of Daniel, found themselves living in a new and strange land with new and strange values.

How did they get there? Who gets the blame? Who is responsible for the likes of Daniel and his friends winding up in Babylon? Could they blame the Babylonians for being cruel? Could they blame their own government for defence cuts?

Where the responsibility lies is made quite clear in the Old Testament:

15 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. 16 For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.
17 “But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, 18 then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy. Deuteronomy 30:15-18 (NLT)

Long before God’s people were deported to Babylon, covenant promises were made as recorded in Deuteronomy. God’s people were not deported from their land because the enemy was stronger, but because their devotion to God was not strong at all. They refused to listen to God over the course of hundreds of years! God’s people themselves, were responsible for their ending up in a strange land.

Do we, as Christians in Canada bear any of the responsibility for the fact we find ourselves in a strange land? Yes, for several reasons.

First, we have watered Christianity down.

We have tried to make Christianity palatable to a people who find the beliefs and values to be weird. By “we,” I of course do not mean all of us, but many of us, too many of us. Many Christian teachers have downplayed the supernatural elements of Christianity, focusing instead on faith as being ‘helpful’. The messaging has been; become a Christian, not because it is true, but because it is useful. However, when we water down Biblical teaching, when we delete the supernatural, Christianity becomes tasteless. Who could be bothered?

The Psalmist tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8 NLT). In many churches you can taste and see that the social club is good, but perhaps not as good as the senior’s centre; the entertainment is good, though perhaps not as good as Lady Gaga; that the celebrity pastor is good, though not as good as Oprah; that the good works are good, though maybe not as good as the cancer society. Church needs to be a place where people experience that God is good. Church needs to be a people who know that God is good. We cannot water down the teaching of God’s goodness and grace.

I recently attended a church where the vision statement was something like “helping people on whatever journey they are on, wherever it leads, thanking the earth for its goodness.” Where did God go? What about Jesus? When Christ is diminished in our churches, don’t be surprised when Christianity is diminished in our society.

Second, we have added unnecessary ingredients to Christianity.

My Mum once tried adding a tin of Heinz baked beans to Kraft Dinner. That did not work. The beans destroyed the Kraft dinner. Likewise there are beliefs and practices people try adding to Christianity that don’t work. These are destructive to Christianity.

By adding in religiosity and making it all about the rules and traditions, we have made Christianity taste awful. When Christianity is all about being religious, and not at all about being in relationship with the living God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, then it becomes just another religion. When Christianity is just another religion, don’t be surprised when people choose another religion.

Also, by adding in unBiblical doctrines, we have made Christianity taste awful. I heard of some big-name Christians “de-converting” in recent years. Their faith began to unravel when they realized that what they were taught, that obedience leads directly to blessing from God, just didn’t work out in real life. However, that theology misses the mark with regards to what the Bible teaches. When Christians have trouble holding onto the theology of a church, because it is apparently not how the world works, then don’t be surprised if no one else is interested either.

Third, we have taken away important ingredients from Christianity.

Some people don’t need cream or milk in their coffee, but I do. I have great difficulty drinking coffee without a wee bit of something. Likewise, many will struggle with Christianity without some helpful ingredients.

Here is one helpful ingredient; the possibility of expressing doubts. Christian churches, movements, and even denominations can become subcultures which are based on certainties on practically everything. Doubts are not allowed, often about anything. Leaving out this ingredient leaves a bad taste in many mouths.

Here is another helpful ingredient; the encouragement of thought. Thinking is often discouraged in Christian circles. Christian artist, Marty Sampson from Hillsong, recently expressed his doubts publicly. In his post he listed some things along with “nobody is talking about it.” Actually Christians are talking about the things he listed, perhaps just not in his church. He also said that ‘science has pierced’ religion. Maybe science and faith don’t mix well in his church, but they work well together in ours, and many others. Freedom to be able to think through things, including how Christianity and science interrelate, can be a very important ingredient for many of us.

If thinking is discouraged, if the expression of doubt is impossible, if understanding is not there, then don’t be surprised if people are not there either.

Daniel and his friends found themselves in Babylon as a consequence of their own actions. If we, who are Christians, find ourselves in a strange land, we should not blame the government or the people of the land. We bear some responsibility for where we are. In spurning Biblical teaching we have watered down Christianity so that it has no flavour. In adding in unBiblical rules and doctrines we have added unnecessary, even harmful ingredients, to Christianity, so that it tastes awful. In taking away opportunities for people to express doubts, to think and rethink, and grow, we have taken away important ingredients. Before we call Canadians to repentance, let us look to what we need to repent from.

(This is an introduction to a series on the Book of Daniel called “Outnumbered. The Book of Daniel and Living As Christians In A Not-So-Christian Society.” Watch for the rest in the weeks to come.)

September 11, 2019

Jarrid Wilson: Love Jesus More Than Anything

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , ,

For many of us, our world was rocked this week to learn of the untimely death of Jarrid Wilson, a longtime outspoken voice for mental health, by suicide at age 30. Jarrid was an associate pastor at Harvest Church in Riverside, California. (Read more at Religion News Service.)

The article below contains a section which he tweeted not long ago, which has now been shared online countless times. Taken from his blog, this gives the full context.

He ended with a link to Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Love Jesus More Than Anything

The great Charles Spurgeon once said, “If Christ is anything, He must be everything.” And over one-hundred years after these powerful words were written, I believe Spurgeon’s writings are now more than ever, a vibrant truth needed in today’s spiritual climate.

And while many Christians claim this is, in fact, the way they are living, I believe their actions, words, and social media feeds speak differently, even if they’re not necessarily intended to speak this way.

We read throughout the Bible that anything raised above that of Christ is an idol that must be lowered back to its rightful place. Why one may ask? Because the moment we find ourselves talking more about our political party, sexual identity, or possessions more than you do about Christ, we’ve officially made that “thing” a god in your life. It’s become the very thing we worship. It’s become the who and/or what we’ve decided to place our identity in. And that my friends will lead us all down a road of disappointment and brokenness.

The story of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22) is a perfect example of this. God saw how much of an idol Isaac had become in Abraham’s life, so God asks him to prove his loyalty to by sacrificing his son. God, being sovereign and forgiving, stopped Abraham before he could go through with the act, but this wasn’t before he saw Abraham’s heart change and put God back in the rightful place he deserved; above anyone/everything else. God is jealous for us, and he yearns to be our number one priority in life.

If Jesus is really who you call Lord, then shouldn’t he be the very person we talk most about, and live most for? Idols come in various shapes and forms. And we must learn to love Jesus more than anything else in the world, no matter how important or awesome these “other” things might be to us.

Love Jesus More:

  • Love Jesus more than your job.
  • Love Jesus more than your finances.
  • Love Jesus more than your possessions.
  • Love Jesus more than your family.
  • Love Jesus more than your spouse.
  • Love Jesus more than your kids.
  • Love Jesus more than your church.
  • Love Jesus more than your pastor.
  • Love Jesus more than your political party.
  • Love Jesus more than your country.
  • Love Jesus more than your president.
  • Love Jesus more than your ethnicity.
  • Love Jesus more than your sexuality.
  • Love Jesus more than your sexual identity.
  • Love Jesus more than your opinions.
  • Love Jesus more than you love yourself.

This type of ideology might not be very popular, but this doesn’t mean it’s not the reality of the Christian life. This is how Jesus intended his followers to live. And the beautiful thing is how fulfilling life becomes when we actually choose to put Jesus over everything and anyone.

Yes, I’m aware it’s quite opposite of what culture and society tell us about living, but remember, we were never called to look or live like the world in the first place. This is Christianity 101. We’re called to be different, look different, shop different, vote different, love different, speak differently, and act differently. We’re called to move contrary to that of the world’s flow. (Romans 12:2)

Put Jesus over everything.

—Jarrid Wilson

 

 

 

September 10, 2019

The Purpose for Preaching the Gospel

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

by Russell Young

Has the purpose for preaching the gospel been distorted?

Preaching is intended to convey a vital message to those who are listening, and Peter has presented its purpose. It is not primarily to present the salvation message, but to inform both the lost and those who consider themselves to be eternally saved concerning specific truths.

The purpose for preaching the gospel was to inform people about life in the Spirit and judgment for things done in the flesh. That is, all will face judgment for things done in the body and that they can live to please God through the Spirit. “But they (pagans) will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.” (1 Pet 4:5−6) This passage might be understood more clearly if the clauses were reversed. That is, ‘For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are dead so that they might live according to God in regard to the Spirit but be judged according to men in regard to the body.’

All will be judged, but all can also avoid its negative consequences by living in the Spirit. Preaching the gospel is intended to inform and to bring clarity concerning these issues. Peter does not present that the many attributes of God…his great mercy, love, and grace are not to be the main issues of preaching but the nature of a person’s living and the judgment that will follow are paramount. Of course, the Lord’s sacrificial offering and his mercy and grace are part of the gospel, but the real purpose of preaching is to inform all people of the means of averting God’s wrath. The reality of judgment is seldom preached and with it the “good news” of the gospel seldom heard or appreciated.

Pagan-ish behaviors are not acceptable to God and all will be judged according to their ungodly interests and practices. Confessors are not to live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but for the will of God. (v 2) They, along with all others, will be judged for things done in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10) The truths about judgement and life in the Spirit need to be loudly proclaimed since their proclamation is the purpose of gospel preaching.

Understanding the practice of living in the Spirit is necessary for the kingdom-seeker. The flesh leads to all kinds of ungodly practices. In fact, Paul calls it the “body of death,” (Rom 7:24) and has stated that we are to be united with Christ in his death so that we can die to sin. The Spirit ministers to transform the heart that is not acceptable to God into one whose thoughts and practices are righteousness. God’s grace does not cover defiance of the Spirit by deliberately continuing to sin. Those who are led by the Spirit will become sons of God (Rom 8:14) since it is the Spirit who enables a person to meet God’s righteous requirements. (Rom 8:4) From Peter’s perspective, the gospel was preached so that people would know how to become an acceptable offering to God sanctified by the Spirit (Rom 15:16) and thereby to avoid judgment.

When “freedom” from the consequence of sins by God’s grace becomes the focus of gospel preaching, the warning is lost both for the wicked and those who have confessed Christ as their savior, and both remain vulnerable to God’s wrath for disobedience. The Biblical presentation of “freedom” from “past sins” (2 Pet 1:9) does not allow escape from personal judgment by God. (1 Pet 4:17; Heb 10:30; 2 Thess 1:7−8; Mt 12:36) All will come under judgment for their activities in the flesh. The gospel is to be preached to make people aware that all will be accountable to God and that they can avoid destruction through the guidance of the Spirit. Those who preach freedom from judgment and neglect the need to live according to God’s will through the Spirit must not be addressing the purpose of gospel preaching.

All confessors know of the wrath that will befall those outside of Christ, but many do not appreciate the fullness of their need. Although the confessor’s “past sins” may have been forgiven, the need remains for them to live in obedience to the Spirit if they are to be acceptable to him. Because the focus has been taken off the purpose of gospel preaching its intent has been lost and with it so will the imagined hope for many.

The sinful nature has been the guide and remains the guide of pagans. They know nothing of the Spirit. The natural spirit takes direction from the flesh which would seek comfort and pleasure without regard to God. Ungodliness in its various forms must be overcome and this truth is clear in God’s Word. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:11−12) Paul has written, “For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:13−14) According to Peter the gospel was preached that a person might know to avoid destruction through the judgment that will face people for the ungodly practices of their body and commit to Spirit-led living. The purpose of preaching the gospel must be honored for the eternal welfare of all people.



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His first book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link.

 

September 9, 2019

Restraint and Self Control

Six months ago, on our nine year anniversary weekend, we introduced you to the writing of Tonia Slimm at the site Growing with God. Let me say that I really like what’s being presented on this site. She’s in the middle of a series from Proverbs, and while I considered one of the introductory posts, this one was too good to pass up.

Use Caution and Restraint–Proverbs 23:1-3

Proverbs 23:1-3 (NIV)
When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive.

Proverbs 23:1-3 (MSG)
When you go out to dinner with an influential person, mind your manners:
Don’t gobble your food, don’t talk with your mouth full. And don’t stuff yourself; bridle your appetite.

Proverbs 23:1-3 (AMPLIFIED)
“When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is [set] before you; for you will put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for it is deceptive food [offered to you with questionable motives].”


“Self-control is the exercise of inner strength under the direction of sound judgement that enables us to do, think, and say the things that are pleasing to God.” ~Jerry Bridges

Restraint and self-control are synonymous. They both imply the need to control, hold back, or check oneself. They involve harnessing one’s body, emotions, and appetites.

In principle six we find Solomon giving warning for the need to be cautious and using restraint. We will find in life that there may be times in a relationship or situation that the other party involved may have an ulterior motive in “wining and dining” us.

BEWARE OF THE FLATTERER!

Solomon admonishes us that not everyone can be taken at face value. Be cautious and use restraint.

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” ~Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

Principle 6:

“When sitting down to eat with a ruler, take a moment to think about who you are with and what you are doing. If you are the type who eats too much too fast, do whatever is necessary to curb your enthusiasm for food. Also, do not eye the ruler’s delicacies, for the food may not be what it seems.” -(VOICE)

Solomon tells us that when we are invited to the home of a ruler, leader, or influential person that we need to be cautious. Consider what is before you and why. Consider the moral, ethical and spiritual precepts that might be affected by your proximity to this person in authority. Ask yourself a few questions:
1.) Why am I here?
2.) What is the motivation of the person who invited me?
3.) What are my boundary lines?
4.) Will I remain true to God’s standards?

The first two questions will need to be answered as you sit in the presence of this person. The last two questions should have already been decided before you arrived to sit at their table.

“When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, with a person of influence and power, consider diligently what is before thee, keeping in mind throughout the dinner that it is a mightier and loftier one at whose invitation one is present, and put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite, keeping the usual gluttonous appetite in leash by the strongest warnings and threats, restraining the least sign of self-indulgence. Be not desirous of his dainties, craving the finest food on the table; for they are deceitful meat, literally, “bread of deception,” it is a deceptive meal, the object of the powerful person not being to dispense free hospitality, but to make use of his guest in some manner.” ~ Paul E. Kretzmann (The Popular Commentary)

We need to notice Solomon’s warning against gluttony as well. Do not go into this situation blindly, focused only on what is immediately before you, food, and making a pig of yourself. The tasty morsels before you may in fact be a way to compel you to become obligated to this crooked leader. BEWARE! Take Caution! Use restraint.

“Therefore see that you walk carefully [living life with honor, purpose, and courage; shunning those who tolerate and enable evil], not as the unwise, but as wise [sensible, intelligent, discerning people], making the very most of your time [on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence], because the days are [filled with] evil.” -Paul Ephesians 5:15-16 (AMP)

There is wisdom in using caution and restrain. This does not mean that we should be questioning everyone’s motives. But it does mean that we need to be careful to in tune with the Holy Spirit’s leading. It does mean that we need to know where we stand, at all times, and why. It does mean that we need to be in the Word and know what God’s standards and boundaries are so that we are not over stepping them.

“If we know that the aim of the Holy Spirit is to lead man to the place of self-control, we shall not fall into passivity but shall make good progress in spiritual life. “The fruit of the Spirit is self-control” ~Watchman Nee

My Prayer:
Lord, I have fallen victim to those smooth talkers before. I have ignored the still, small voice within and rushed in to areas that angels fear to tread. Forgive me, please. Help me to learn self-control and caution. Help me to constantly listening to the promptings of your Holy Spirit and being obedient too. Give me your wisdom in all situations, so that I can stay within your boundaries, I pray.

September 8, 2019

Our Christian Heroes are Equally Vulnerable as We

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

On the days I rotate through writers we’ve used previously, I’m always pleased to see the name Elsie Montgomery appear because I know I’m going to find some quality devotional material to read for myself, and then choose one to include here. (This is her 20th time appearing here, and we frequently break our six-month rule to include her!) Click the header below to read this at her blog, Practical Faith.

Don’t Put Anyone on a Pedestal

When a teenager, I idolized a few singers, including Elvis Presley. After becoming a Christian, that tendency to put stars on a pedestal was soon shaken. God showed me that no matter how popular or ‘great’ a person might be, as a friend used to say, they put their pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else.

I’ve been put on a pedestal by a few well-meaning people; and hated it. One extreme was having my mistakes overlooked or excused making transparency and confessing sin awkward to say the least. Not only that, if I did make even a small error, some would treat me as if I’d ruined the world. Pride likes a pedestal, but only to a point!

None of the above is biblical. God does not play favorites and tells His people not to do it either. Each member of His family has struggles, ups and downs, human needs, skills and weaknesses. Paul, an easy person to put on a pedestal, reveals reasons why this is not to be done. He was human like the rest of us and every time I read this section, I identify with him and feel empathy. That can’t happen if I put him up there somewhere rather than alongside me. Paul writes to Timothy:

Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:9–18)

I feel his loneliness in this passage. He was needy. He forgot his cloak, books and Scripture in Troas. He had been opposed by someone, perhaps a person he’d trusted. He also had been deserted and attacked while alone by that roaring lion — Satan. He knew the pressures of suffering without anyone to help him, yet the Lord was with him. These are the words of a ‘spiritual giant’ yet they sound like the words of every Christian. Each of us struggles with the same things.

A couple weeks ago in a small group discussion about seniors, I mentioned what I thought most seniors struggled with — feeling abandoned and useless. Two were over ninety, another a bit younger and they nodded vigorously. They had not expressed this as a problem but seemed totally relieved that it came out in the open. They are people who appear spiritual mature to everyone else, yet in their hearts have struggles with basic issues — just as everyone else.

God’s thought for me today is that we are all in this battle of life together. I’ve met famous preachers — they lose their car keys and forget their wives’ birthdays just like many ordinary people. I’ve met famous authors and they goof up too, burn the toast and worse, just like I do. Don’t put anyone on a pedestal.

The preachers I learn the most from are transparent and willing to share their quirks and foibles. One of our pastors recently shared getting a speeding ticket and how he felt when he saw the flashing lights, while waiting for the officer to come to his vehicle, during the conversation and after receiving the piece of paper. He was up on a platform in the church building but refused to be put on a pedestal. Some listeners expressed discomfort, yet all of us felt closer to this man and more aware of the love of Jesus that he preached about that day.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Lord Jesus, it is easy to talk about accomplishments and not as easy to share my mistakes, needs, or negative emotions or events, but Paul did. And he invites his readers to follow his example. We humans are in this together; we all struggle with various things and should never make anyone feel they are so ‘special’ that they cannot be honest about their lives. Pedestals make them feel uncomfortable because standing there forces them to be unreal, even dishonest. Guard my heart that I don’t do this to anyone or let anyone do it to me.

 

 

September 7, 2019

Straining at the Oars

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

Once again we’re featuring the ministry of Toronto area Bible teacher Gordon Rumford and his devotional website.  Click the header below to read at source.

Someone Is Watching You

“He saw the disciples straining at the oars,
because the wind was against them.”
Mark 6:48 (NIV)

Jesus and the disciples had just completed a tremendous day of ministry in which Jesus had performed a miracle that only God could do. He took the small meal of a poor boy and created enough food for over five thousand people to eat all they wished.

The miracle was so remarkable that the people tried to make Jesus king by force. They greatly desired someone with such miraculous powers to lead them to political victory over the Roman occupational forces.

Jesus would not have any part of such a political movement. He had already sent the disciples away from the scene into a boat to cross to the west side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus did not wish the twelve to have their minds infected with such political ambitions.

They were dealing with Galilean Jews in this scene and Galilee was the source of much political unrest. Various Galilean Jews had been involved in trying to set up a political uprising in Jesus’ time. So Jesus quickly got the disciples out of there.

Then He went up onto the mountain nearby to pray alone. Jesus had much to pray about just then. The crowds would reject His message the next morning. Herod Antipas, the Roman ruler of Galilee had recently beheaded Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist.

Further, the Jewish leaders, especially to the south, had initiated great hostility toward Him. So there was much to burden our Lord’s heart and cause Him to seek the Father’s help.

It was from this vantage point during the night that Jesus looked out on the Sea of Galilee and saw the disciples being threatened by a storm. Some of the disciples in the boat had made their living fishing on this sea at night, so they understood its temperamental ways. They had been in storms before but this one was so ferocious that it had all of them terrified.

We notice two very significant things as we read the account of the storm on the sea. First we must recognize that when the disciples obeyed Jesus and got into the boat to cross the Sea of Galilee they immediately found themselves in a life threatening situation. Obedience to God is no assurance of a safe and pleasant passage to heaven.

Through the centuries the witness of the martyrs has proven that following Jesus is often dangerous and deadly. There is no room for argument on this one. Right in the Bible we see the results of obedience to Jesus.

This is why it is recorded five times in the Gospels that Jesus said we should to take up our cross and follow Him. So Jesus calls His followers to die to personal ambition in order to live for Him.

Our Lord is constantly watching the journey of every follower He has, just as He watched the disciples on the sea. We never disappear from the watchful eye of the Lord.

Yes, we shall endure sorrow in this life but we may be assured that our beloved Saviour is watching and in His time shall appear for our deliverance.

…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Psalm 30:5 (NIV)

View in your web browser | View a PDF version 

September 6, 2019

It’s Your Breath in Our Lungs

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

As myself and the pastor have been planning Sunday’s worship service, we talked about introducing a song that would be new to this congregation, Great Are You Lord.

There’s a line in the chorus that says,

♪ It’s your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise… ♪

In other words, just as when we give our tithes and offerings, we’re only giving back to God what he has given us in the first place (giving us strength, intellect, creativity or a mixture of all three to earn income at our vocations), so also when we lift our voices at weekend services to honor God with are singing are we simply giving back to him the breath that he gave to us in the first place.

I was thinking about how we could present the song — because I believe it’s important when teaching a new worship song to also take at least 30 seconds to give the congregation the theological underpinnings of what they are about to sing — and I found the following scriptures (most are NLT):

1 Chronicles 29:14
But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!

Psalm 116:12
What can I give back to the Lord for all the good things he has done for me?

Isaiah 42:5
God, the LORD, created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the earth and everything in it. He gives breath to everyone, life to everyone who walks the earth.

Psalm 24:1
[David writes] The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.

James 1:17
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change…

It reminded me of the lyrics of yet another worship song, I Will Offer Up My Life. It’s almost presumptuous to pretend that anything we could ever offer to him would impress him, since he created it all, and it’s all his to begin with. The lyrics in the chorus are:

♪ Jesus, what can I give, what can I bring
To so faithful a friend, to so loving a King?
Savior, what can be said, what can be sung
As a praise of Your name
For the things You have done? ♪

Here’s another song — Great Are You by Downhere — that we posted about the greatness of God, back in July 2010. The line in this song that captures our smallness compared to God’s hugeness is the first line of the chorus.

♪ Because I’ll never hold the picture of the whole horizon in my view
Because I’ll never rip the night in two
It makes me wonder
Who am I, Who am I, Who am I
And great are you ♪

We can’t even see the whole horizon. Our eyes are limited to a maximum of 180 degrees view, but God sees the whole 360.

Have you allowed yourself to be overcome by God’s immensity? His power? His knowledge? His transcendence?

Here’s today’s featured song:

and to repeat, today’s key verse:

1 Chronicles 29:14
But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!

 

 

 

September 5, 2019

Blessed Are They That Mourn

Matthew 5.2 And He began to teach them.

    Blessed are those who mourn—they will be comforted.

This summer I was given a copy of a book from Regent College Publishing, which is one of the best treatments of The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 that I’ve seen. Written by former pastor and Regent professor Darrell Johnson, it is titled The Beatitudes: Living in Sync with the Reign of God. I’ve offered a fuller review of the book at this link.



…the picture the second Beatitude suggests is not that of Jesus coming into our city, spotting people who are mourning, and reaching out to them with comfort. He did do that, blessed be His name. He spotted the widow in the town of Nain, following behind the funeral procession that was carrying her son’s corpse to the cemetery, and He reached out to her (Luke 7:11-17). He saw the tears flowing down the faces of Mary and Martha as they stood outside the tomb of their brother Lazarus, and He so reached out to them that he Himself began to weep (John 11:1-37). But those encounters are not the primary picture suggested by the second Beatitude. Rather, the picture is that of Jesus coming into our city, reaching out, and calling people to Himself who then begin to mourn. Yes, they (and we) begin to rejoice deeply! But they (and we) also begin to mourn deeply…

…”Blessed… for you shall be comforted.” When? When are the mourners to receive comfort?

In the end, when the kingdom of heaven is fully realized. When, as the Voice from the throne of the universe says, God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Revelation 21:4).

But we shall also be comforted before the end, even now. How? The word translated “comfort” is the verb parakaleo, a rich word. The primary meaning of parakaleo is to exhort, to encourage, or to embolden. It is used of soldiers cheering each other on. This is also the original meaning of the English word “comfort”: com “with,” fortis “strength” – com-fort, “strengthen by being with.”

Jesus is saying that as we dare to open ourselves up to pain and grief, we feel ourselves strangely strengthened.

How? Why? From the verb parakaleo comes the noun paraklete. Paraklete is the word Jesus uses for the Holy Spirit, with whom and in whom Jesus baptized His disciples. Before the end, when every tear is wiped away, the Paraklete, the personal embodiment of the kingdom, comes alongside those who are mourning.

When we become aware of the depth of sin, the Paraklete speaks His word of comfort: “Jesus paid it all. Your guilt is removed, your iniquity is forgiven, your sin is covered by the blood of the Lamb.”

When we feel just how broken the world is, the Paraklete speaks His word of comfort: He reminds us that even now the Father and the Son are at work, that creation is groaning only because it is in the throes of childbirth, that the turmoil in the world is due in part to the kingdom invading and disturbing the status quo.

When we feel despair over how far we are from the kingdom’s way, the Paraklete speaks His word of comfort: The kingdom has come near; the kingdom is breaking in all over the world, and nothing can ultimately stand in its way.

As you can probably tell, I have great vision of what can be.

pp 45, 53-55

 

 

September 4, 2019

When Leaders Walk Away

My people have become lost sheep; Their shepherds have led them astray” (Jeremiah 50:6).

At Thinking Out Loud we’ve linked to the writing of Dr. Claude Mariottini, but this is his first appearance here at C201. He is Emeritus Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary. He has pastored churches in California, Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois. I have published more than 200 articles and book reviews in English, Spanish, and Russian, and is a contributor to many scholarly works.

He wrote the article — linked in the header below — in the wake of several high profile departures from the faith by key leaders. This piece is a follow-up to a previous essay, Why People Leave the Christian Faith in which he presents three major reasons, but then here he devotes his attention entirely to a fourth reason. Again click the header for the full article.

When Leaders Fail

…Those who leave the Christian faith because they are offended or hurt by church leaders should remember the admonition of God: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5).

The decision that [these leaders] made to abandon the faith… is not unique to them. The people of Israel also abandoned God. The Lord said to the people of Judah, “You have abandoned me and turned your back on me, says the Lord. . . . I am tired of always giving you another chance” (Jeremiah 15:6).

Why did Israel abandon God? The prophetic books of the Old Testament give several reasons:

Israel’s prophets were arrogant; they were treacherous men (Zephaniah 3:4).

Israel’s priests profaned what was holy (Zephaniah 3:4).

Israel’s teachers taught lies and falsehoods and thus did not help the people to turn from their evil ways (Jeremiah 23:22).

The shepherds of Israel took care of themselves instead of taking care of their flock (Ezekiel 34:2-5).

But poor leadership was not the only reason the people abandoned God. The people of Israel were destroyed because they did not know the difference between good and evil (Hosea 4:6). They went into exile for lack of understanding of their responsibility before God (Isaiah 5:13).

In addition, the leaders of the nation and the people who followed them would not listen to the call for a change of attitude. The people were as stiff-necked as their ancestors had been. The people did not trust in the Lord their God. They rejected God’s teaching and the covenant God had made with their ancestors and the warnings God had given them through the prophets. They followed the work of their hands, worthless idols, and in turn they themselves became as worthless as their idols (2 Kings 17:14-15).

This is what Israel had done. The Lord said: “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me–the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (Jeremiah 2:13).

Notice that God said: “My people.” They were God’s people, but they had abandoned God. They had abandoned God, the fountain of living water in order to satisfy their own desires. They wanted to be satisfied with water from cisterns, the work of their own hands. Instead of trusting in God, the people of Israel decided to go alone, to do what they wanted to do. They decided to be independent of God only to discover that in the hour of their greatest need, they were all alone, deprived of divine help.

The tragic result of living without God is clearly seen in the book of Lamentations: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her” (Lamentations 1:1-2).

Jerusalem represents the people of Israel. The people of Israel had gone into an exile of affliction and hard servitude because they had left God in order to go alone. The people left God in order to find solace among the works of their hands only to discover that at the time of their deepest despair, when they were facing the darkest night of their soul, they were all alone, deprived of the God who could help them, with none to comfort them…

[…finish reading the article at this link]

 

Next Page »