Christianity 201

May 23, 2018

The Love of Money and the Teaching of False Doctrine

Today’s devotional’s title is actually a new title for something which appeared here five years ago. I re-titled it because I wanted you to see that there might be more than a casual connection between the two. Yes, false teachers teach falsely about many subjects — not just finances — but the often-quoted verse about the love of money is found in a larger context of something different: False doctrine.

It’s always good to frequently remind people in your sphere of influence that the chapter headers and paragraph headers in modern Bibles are not in any way part of the text. A few days ago here, I learned that when you create a particular headline, you send peoples’ thoughts in a particular direction that doesn’t allow what is written to speak for itself. It’s the same with the publishers of Bibles.

I Timothy 6 (NIV sans header) begins:

6 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2 Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare[a] of their slaves.

These are the things you are to teach and insist on. 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

In the Full-Color Bible edition of the NIV (a newer Bible from Standard Publishing formatted similar to the Rainbow Study Bible) there is a header that says,

Danger of loving money

That header tends to funnel us directly to the “love of money” section at the expense of the earlier verses, at the expense of what precedes it.

Here is how some of today’s popular Bibles highlight this passage:

False Teachers and the Love of Money (NIV – middle of vs. 2)
False Teaching and True Riches (NLT – middle of vs. 2)
False Teaching and True Riches (NRSV – middle of vs. 2)
False Teachers and True Contentment (ESV – middle of vs. 2)
Instructions to Those Who Minister (NASB – start of entire chapter)
Warning about false teachers (CEB – start of vs. 3)
The Lust for Money (MSG – start of vs. 2)
The dangers of false doctrine and the love of money (Phillips – start of vs. 3)
False Doctrine and Human Greed (HCSB – middle of vs. 2)

The second part of verse five is the pivot around which the text moves into a discussion of finances, but we emphasize those verses about the love of money to the point of neglecting the section about those who teach false doctrine, especially as described in verse 4 and 5a.

  • he is conceited, understanding nothing, but has a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words. (HCSB)
  • …has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words… (NRSV)
  • …has an unhealthy craving for controversy… (ESV)
  • …He is puffed up with pride and stupefied with conceit, [although he is] woefully ignorant. He has a morbid fondness for controversy and disputes and strife about words… (AMP)
  • They don’t understand anything but have a sick obsession with debates and arguments. (CEB)
  • …he is a conceited idiot! His mind is a morbid jumble of disputation and argument, things which lead to nothing but jealousy, quarreling, insults and malicious innuendos—continual wrangling (Phillips)
  • If others are teaching otherwise and bringing unhealthy conversations to the community, if they are not sticking to the sound words in the teaching of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, if they are not teaching godly principles— 4 then they are swollen with conceit, filled with self-importance, and without any proper understanding. They probably have a gross infatuation with controversy and will endlessly debate meanings of words. (The Voice)

Certainly any look at what takes placed in the Christian blogosphere and in the comments section on news websites dealing with religion stories shows the preoccupation for words and controversy. Many of those writing are simply not qualified to make blanket, authoritative pronouncements.

But it’s interesting that many of these very people are also called out for their preoccupation with money. It is as though the two conditions go hand in hand.

The second half of vs. 5 in the NIV also needs to be considered in the light of prosperity teaching:

“…who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”

This is the message of many faith teachers; that living life God’s way will result in financial gain, whereas the scriptures teach God’s provision for needs. Matthew 6:33 says that if we seek God’s kingdom “all these things” will be “added” to us, but the “things” referred to in the preceding verses are food, drink, and clothing; in other words physical necessities.

Does this work both ways? If the unhealthy obsession with doctrinal controversy leads to wrong teaching and wrong prioritization about finances, can a wrong attitude about money also warp our reading of scriptural truth that impacts our core theology? It would be hard to make a case that one causes the other, but the characteristics we see in people on particular issue “A” often indicate a potential for problems with topic “B” …or “C” or “D” or “X.”

Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Don’t let the Bible’s teaching about the love of money in I Timothy 6 cause you to miss that money issues are often part of a larger issue, either in someone’s character or in their methodology for interpreting the Bible.

 

 

May 22, 2018

Pluck Out the Eye that Causes Sin

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out”

by Russell Young

What is a person to make of the Lord’s admonition that it is better to cut off a hand or foot or to pluck out an eye if it causes him or her to sin? (Mk 9:47) This passage is easy to dismiss because it is so extreme and contrasts so greatly with the concept of God’s love, and the supposed freedom through grace given to believers. Like many biblical teachings, this one is easy to dismiss as an hyperbole certainly not as something that should be taken literally.

The Lord went on to explain that the consequence of practicing sin through the hand, foot, or eye would be “to go into hell where the fire never goes out.” (Mk 9:44) Surely teaching that advocates cutting off a body part or plucking out an eye cannot have literal meaning, and if it does, Christ must have been addressing “non-believers.” If sin has been pardoned once and for all, why would such an injunction exist for those who have confessed faith? If sin has been forgiven, why should a person consider plucking out an eye?

In light of current teaching concerning God’s grace, the Lord’s admonition does not make sense, after all the practice of sin is to have been forgiven and has no eternal consequence; it has been fully covered by the blood of Christ. It is not the admonition that lacks merit, it is the freedom offered by God’s grace that is misunderstood. Concerning “the end of the age,” the Lord has stated, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Mt 13:41) Those who do evil and those who cause sin will not be part of his kingdom. Their eternal state will be dependent upon their actions. The very real possibility of missing his Kingdom is the reason for Christ’s admonition. The confessor’s hope is not to be achieved through an empty confession or pledge of Christ’s lordship but upon the testimony of his or her life practices and upon the honour that they have allowed the Spirit in their lives.

It is certain that the Lord does not want anyone to cut off a hand or foot, or to pluck out an eye. He is not really endorsing it. The point that is being made is that the practice of sin has serious consequences and should be diligently avoided and that confessors should give attention to the way they live their lives. Considering the possibility of enduring God’s wrath for disobedience through continued sinning, the confessor would be better off to be maimed than to be cast from his Kingdom. Paul told the Romans that he had been given “the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God sanctified [purified, made holy] by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:16 NIV) Gentiles must become an offering suitable for God’s heavenly kingdom if they are to dwell there. The philosophical-theological perception that sin lacks consequence needs to be reconsidered. “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14) Holiness is developed through slavery to righteous living. (Rom 6:22)

John wrote, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God.” (1 Jn 3: 89 Italics added) Either this passage is true, or it is false. It very well may be that current theological teachings have so missed the great truths of God’s Word and have given such licence to sin that little effort is being made to avoid its draw. Christ said, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Lk 13:24 Italics added.)

Sin is serious. John said, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6) Those who claim the name of Christ and seek his kingdom must gain victory over the issues of the flesh. How should the believer deal with the admonition to cut off the foot or hand or to pluck out the eye that causes him or her to sin? They must learn to hear the voice of Christ through his Spirit and respond obediently as he leads. Peter has said that “[Christ’s] divine nature (his Spirit) has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Pet 1:3) He did not say that he has given us life and godliness. Those who proclaim that all sin ever to be committed has been forgiven should seek definitive, supportive scriptural evidence of that fact. The Word reveals that the righteous requirements of God as revealed in the “first covenant”, the Old Covenant, were forgiven (Heb 9:15; 2 Pet 1:9) and that under the New Covenant they are fully met through obedience to the Spirit. (Rom 8:4) Believers are to live in the light (1 Jn 1:7) and sin is to be repented and confessed. (1 Jn 1:9). The life of Christ is to be lived in the believer (Col 1:27; Gal 6:8; Rom 8:14;4, 1 Jn 2:6)

The admonition of Christ to pluck out the eye that causes sin was not meaningless. It is obviously very serious and would have been considered serious in his day. Those who had lived under the law of the covenant would have understood it as such. We are not freed from law under the New Covenant, but it is the law of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2) or the law of Christ (1 Cor 9:21) that must be honored. Those who live humbly and committedly before God will not need to maim the body.

All scriptures NIV except as noted


Author Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here every other Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

 

May 21, 2018

The Unsaved Aren’t Afraid of a Hell They Don’t Believe Exists

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today we’re featuring, for the first time, the writing of Kaleb Tillman who calls his blog The Controversial Christian. Kaleb has an extensive background in Christian music and broadcast media. Click the title below to read this at source.

Can a Fear of Hell Save?

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:6-12‬ (ESV)

Very, very rarely are salvation and hell mentioned in the same sentence in the Bible. Any call to Jesus, you will find, often avoids the subject of hell entirely. Hell is obviously a thing, and it’s obviously what people are being saved from, but it doesn’t seem so important when the apostles are trying to convince people to follow Jesus.

Now think of every evangelist you’ve seen with a sign during a sporting event, or the televangelists who present the gospel, or the hellfire and brimstone preachers of old, or the people that come and preach on your college campus even though everyone is more interested in yelling at them than taking what they say to heart. What do they have in common?

Well, in most cases, their main selling points are either getting to heaven or not going to hell. They appeal to your fear. And, of course, it’s not just them. Plenty of pastors, evangelists and everyday Christians trying to reach out will bring up the idea that if you don’t accept this idea of Jesus, you are going to hell.

But we never see that approach taken from the apostles in the Bible. Jesus will mention hell, but mainly to people who are already following him, or at least people who claim to be religious leaders. Never is that line of logic used to convert someone in the Bible. Why?

Well, because it doesn’t work.

There are some major problems with using the fear of hell to evangelize:

1) The people who actually need the evangelizing don’t believe in hell.

Here lies a major practical problem. We evangelize to people who don’t believe Christianity. That means they don’t believe in God, the Bible or the concept of heaven and hell, or at least not the Christian versions of those things. Tell them your Bible says they’ll go to hell and they laugh. They don’t think hell exists, so they have nothing to be afraid of. This is why it also doesn’t work to tell people who don’t believe in Jesus that they need to stop sleeping around, for instance. They don’t believe in the concept of sin and don’t hold themselves to Christian standards, so why should they? You have to lead them to Jesus BEFORE they’ll accept the rest of the Bible.

2) It’s viewed by non-Christians as intentionally judgmental and offensive.

Yes, Christians are supposed to be extremely difficult to offend, but we can’t apply those standards to non-Christians while we’re evangelizing. Have you ever been in a discussion about, say, Star Wars with someone who has a different opinion on it than you? What if you were talking about how good the prequel movies are and the person you’re discussing with suddenly says “Well, if you like the prequels, you must hate children.” This guy is now attacking your character for seemingly no reason, and you likely won’t respond well.

To a non-Christian, hellfire and brimstone evangelism feels like that. This random person is attacking your lifestyle when he doesn’t even know you. Everything the person is saying may be factually true, but they hear it as an attack only designed to incite anger and start an argument. And when you see someone like that, you don’t want to listen, but you may listen to someone who’s telling you there’s a God who loves you for who you are, which is also true.

3) Fear doesn’t save people.

By far more important than any other reasoning I could give, fear of hell doesn’t work as a path to salvation. As the passage at the top says “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. ”

Salvation comes from a knowledge of who Jesus is, what He did and His love for us, along with us giving our love in return. No one has ever been scared into honestly loving someone. “Love me or die” does not usually get actual love in response. People may act better, go to church, read their Bibles, preach, anything out of fear of going to hell, but without love there is still no salvation.

Now, I’m not in favor of changing the Bible to appeal to people. Hell is still there, and we can’t pretend otherwise. If someone we’re speaking to asks about it, we should absolutely tell them the biblical truth. We as Christians should acknowledge it, and we can even use it as motivation to lead the ones we love to Jesus.

But that’s not the pitch. If our goal is for people to understand the gospel so they may accept the salvation of Christ, especially if we only have a short window to do it, then we need to tell them the information that actually matters: God loves you, Jesus died for you, and if you love Him, He will forgive you. If we can convince people of that, they can come to understand the rest in time. Just something to think about.

May 20, 2018

As We Address Different Aspects of God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NIV Ps 61:1 Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.

2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

4 I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
5 For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

6 Increase the days of the king’s life,
his years for many generations.
7 May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.

8 Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
and fulfill my vows day after day.

Today we’re introducing another writer for the first time. The site is titled Two Years of Psalms. Click the title below to get you onto the page and then navigate from there to other articles.

Ps 61: 4 Praising Hats

Many people have come across the writing of Edward de Bono on the notion of “Six Thinking Hats.” The idea, which is presented within many other paradigms as well (e.g. Myers-Briggs), is that we put ourselves in particular points of reference to consider various aspects of a question, decision, or topic, in order to ensure that we’ve addressed relevant factors which might lay outside of our normal patterns of thinking.

In Psalm 61, we get a model of “4 Praising Hats”—as the psalmist takes us through several aspects of the character of God, in order to ensure that our faith and our praise is equally well-rounded and our approach to God is comprehensive.

In v.2, there is a cry to the HEAVENLY CREATOR, the one who hears us even from the ends of the earth, and who exists above us all.

• In v.3, we address the MIGHTY WARRIOR, the ultimate protector and defender who is the very definition of strength.

• In v.4, we appeal to the GRACIOUS RULER, the one who opens the borders of His Kingdom and offers sanctuary to the refugee who would choose to flee to Him.

• In v.5, we acknowledge the INTIMATE PARENT, who, like a mother hen, spreads open His wings to permit us hatchlings to gather near to Him, sheltered, nourished, and loved.

This is the Lord to whom prayers are offered (v.1), who listens (v.5) and acts (v.6-7).

If we are to join the psalmist in making “music to your name for ever” (v.8), we can do so only if our view of God is as fully-orbed as possible.

Of course, there are many other names and images of God (shepherd, husband, deliverer, lion, lamb, etc.) and it can only benefit our faith and our praise to explore each of these facets of His nature and character deeply, regularly as we seek to live lives that bring Him and honor and glory, and as we turn to Him in repentance, faith, and worship.

 

May 19, 2018

Identifying the Source of Our Opposition

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
 – Eph 6:12 NLT

The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out.
 – John 12:31 NLT

For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
 – 2 Cor. 11:13-14 NIV

We’re back again at Done With Religion by Jim Gordon. If you click the title below and then click the banner at the top of their page, you’ll see that this is a blog written from the perspective of ones who left the institutional church, a numerically significant group. He is able to make contact with people that other blogs, including this one, might not. To see some of that dialog, click this link and read the comments.

Fight Evil Not People

Growing up in church we have always been told that God was a god of love. In fact, it is stated in the bible that God IS love. Yet so often we have seen more of a judgmental and condemning God by the actions of many christian people over the years.

Take for instance a popular song I remember singing while growing up in the church: Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war. Now I know the intent was to show we are in a battle, but the battle is a spiritual one. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but so often we fight people rather than spiritual forces and principalities. We turn people into enemies rather than the spiritual forces of evil.

SpiritualWarfare

To often these days we seem to live in a spirit of war rather than love. We spend more time arguing over doctrine and interpretation with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We argue so much over sin that we become judgmental and condemning toward those who see things differently or are not of faith or belief in God.

Over the years many churches have taught that although God is a god of love, he was also judgmental, mean and condemning. We are told that we better do our best to please him or we will be in danger of judgment.

Yet Jesus came to show us what the Father was really like. He showed love, compassion, acceptance and forgiveness to everyone, especially to those most of the religious world would have no contact.

Even though Jesus showed us that God loves us, we still turn the cross of Jesus into a weapon for our personal cause or belief rather than a symbol of love and good news.

If we are going to be Christian soldiers let it be against spiritual forces and not against our fellow human beings. Rather than fight and argue, let the love of God touch everyone you meet throughout each day.

May 18, 2018

The “Fallen World” Explanation versus The “Mystery of God”

We’re back once again with Mark McIntyre at the blog Attempts at Honesty. Click the title below to read at source.

Allowing God to be Mysterious

Someone recently asked me about how to respond to a man whose family was killed by a drunk driver. The questioner wanted to know how to break through this man’s grief and explain why a loving God would allow this.

From a big-picture standpoint, Christians believe that all bad things happen as a result of the fall of man. We rebelled, wrecked the world and have to live with the results. But this explanation provides little comfort to those who are dealing with tragedy in their lives.

As I have grown older, I have become increasingly comfortable with allowing God to be mysterious. This has relieved me of some of the pressure to provide explanations for particular events.

I believe that Scripture supports me in this. God told Habakkuk:

“For I am doing something in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it” (Habakkuk 1:5)

Through Habakkuk, God announced that he was going to use Babylon to punish Israel for her rebellion. When we read this 2,500 years after the fact, we can lose touch with what went on. Really, really bad things happened to people when they were conquered by Babylon. The fact that God announced it ahead of time does not make this event less tragic for those who were wounded, killed or taken captive.

In a sense, in the quote mentioned above, God is telling Habakkuk that he won’t get his head around what God is going to do and perhaps he shouldn’t even try.

In the same way, when we are speaking with someone who is forced to endure a difficult situation, we can lose sight of the fact that the pain is real and that no explanation will alleviate that pain.

We are doing everyone a disservice when we try to explain God’s motives for allowing a particular event.

In the book Embodied Hope, Kelly Kapic draws from John Swinton to highlight three negative consequences of attempting to explain why God allows an event.

  1. The explanation often ends up justifying or rationalizing evil. By doing so they end up calling evil or suffering “good.”
  2. The explanation often silences the voice of the sufferer. The danger is that we can “smother the wounded with useless and often inaccurate explanations.”
  3. Explanations as to why the evil has occurred “can actually become evil in themselves, promoting further suffering rather than providing genuine comfort.”

So, when a friend, family member or church associate is struggling to deal with a difficult situation, understand that it is not your job to explain it. By attempting an explanation, the most likely outcome is that you will misrepresent God and hurt the person you are attempting to help.

May 17, 2018

Can Science and Religion Be Anchors for the Soul?

by Clarke Dixon

We threw out the anchor, but nothing changed. At the age of thirteen it was my first year as a sailor in an old wooden sailboat which we bought with everything needed including an anchor. Except that it wasn’t really an anchor. More of a tin of beans filled with concrete and a hook. We threw it out as a last attempt in too strong a breeze for inexperienced sailors. It didn’t help. Yes, we remembered to tie a rope to it, but it didn’t help. It was not a good anchor.

We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul . . . ” Hebrews 6:19 (NRSV)

The Bible describes hope in Jesus as a good anchor. But is it? Are there other anchors, or even better anchors, for our souls?

Can science be an anchor for the soul? On the one hand science provides good reason for hope. Having a son with Type 1 diabetes, I am very hopeful that a cure will be found someday. I am also hopeful that the technology will get better while scientists work toward that cure. My hope in both these things won’t be realized without scientists doing their thing! On the other hand, hope in science cannot be an anchor for our souls for at least two reasons.

First, nothing kills hope like what we learn from scientific discovery. Centuries of scientific observation tells us that we will not be alive for very long. Even as we attempt to extend our lives through better medical care, scientists tell us that the universe will not always be life permitting. Ultimately there is no hope for humanity if science is all you can base your hope on.

But more importantly, science cannot tell us everything about everything. Science has its limits. For example, scientists cannot teach us the facts of history. As a scientist, if you knew nothing about airplanes, you could, by observation, figure out how they work. However, you will never know about the many people, engineers, designers, and test pilots for example, who were behind the evolution of the airplane. Scientists can tell us a lot about how things work, but we rely on historians to teach us about the who behind things, the creators throughout history.

Science cannot teach us about things beyond the reach of the telescope, microscope, or any other instrument used to “observe” things. It cannot discover spiritual realities. Going to a scientist to learn about spiritual realities is like going to an auto-mechanic for heart surgery. Sure, the mechanic may know something about the heart, but heart surgery is not her or his expertise. Going to science to learn everything about reality is like buying a house off the internet based only on photos of the outside. There is much that can be learned from those photos, but there is so much more to learn. Science provides too narrow a view. There is so much more that cannot be seen or measured. Science cannot be a good anchor for the soul, for it is far too limited in the truths it can discover.

So religion is the anchor for our souls, right? Well, not so fast. Perhaps I might start my own religion. Let me begin with the promise that you will live forever if you give me $1000. Will you buy in? Why not? You know you will die and I will be $1000 richer! Placing your hope in my made-up religion is unreasonable. Placing our hope in any made-up religion is unreasonable. Every man-made religion, even though it may contain elements of truth, is not going to be reliably true in the things that really matter. The religious leader may point to things the scientist could never discover. But the religious leader may be far from the truth in what he thinks and says. Mere religion cannot be a good anchor for our souls, for it can be unglued from reality.

In what can we anchor our souls if neither religion, nor science, provide good anchors? The question turns out to be not “in what” but “in Whom?” Hope in Jesus Christ provides a good anchor for our souls for it is grounded in realities that science cannot discover, and reality religion cannot reasonably point to.

Hope in Christ is grounded in realities that cannot be observed, and which therefore scientists could never discover through science alone. There is no hope of finding just the right camera or instrument to be able to see God. But God has revealed Himself to us throughout history, to the patriarchs, people, and prophets of Israel, then supremely though Jesus. Through scientific discovery we may infer the presence of a creator, but we cannot discover the truth about the fall of humanity and God’s rescue operation. However, God can reveal it.

No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. John 1:18 (NLT)

But how do we know that all this Jesus-talk is not just more made-up religion divorced from reality? Unlike man-made religion, hope in Christ is grounded in realities that have been observed. It is based on real events experienced and observed by real people, many people. For example;

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,  and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (NRSV)

The call to trust in Jesus is not a call to believe what one man claims to be true without providing any evidence for its truthfulness. It is a call to trust what many eyewitnesses were testifying to and willing to die for. It is a call to trust that the New Testament exists for good reason, not because a few people were trying to create a religion that would get them killed, but because so many people were responding to the events around Jesus, including his resurrection. It is a call to trust the reality of God as experienced through His presence as recorded in the Bible. It is a call to study history. There is a long history of God revealing Himself and people experiencing Him.

Our hope in Christ is also a hope that neither science nor religion could provide:

We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever . . . Hebrews 6:19-20 (NRSV)

The talk about a curtain, inner shrine, and high priest relates to Old Testament symbolism around the presence of God. The temple, the “Most Holy Place” within the temple, and priesthood all symbolized God’s desire to be with people, but also the impossibility of a sinful people being able to approach, and so be fully with, a holy God. So there was a sacred space and a whole lot of rigmarole to teach people about holiness and the Holy One. Enter Jesus, who being God the Son, is the only One Who could dwell fully in the presence of the Father. He became our “high priest”, meaning that He is the mediator between ourselves and God. Through His death and resurrection Jesus did what religion could never do. He also did for us what we will never be able to do despite the wonderful advancements being made through science. He reconciled sinful people to a holy God. Neither science, nor religion, can do that.

As a church we are called to help people walk with Jesus in hope. We do that best by living as people of hope, anchoring our hope in Jesus while always being ready to say why:

. . . you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.  But do this in a gentle and respectful way. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT)

This is part five in a series based on the tagline of our church: “To the Glory of God, Helping People Walk with Jesus in Faith, Hope, and Love”)


Clarke Dixon is the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (31 minutes).

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

 

 

 

May 16, 2018

Trying to Do it All

Part of our mandate here at C201 is to present you with devotionals across a broad spectrum of Christian writers. You might have noticed that many of our writers are women, but periodically, I like to include visits to websites written specifically to women, rather than just having women writers.

Biblical Woman is one such site which we’re showcasing today. You may find articles which are written specifically addressing ‘Ladies’ or ‘Sisters’ but I hope the guys reading today will derive benefit from this as well. As always, click the title below to read at source.

Maybe You’re {NOT} Supposed to Do It All

by

“Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

~Colossians 4:9

In our culture, moms are called on to do more than they have ever had to do before. While we also have more help with smartphones and fast food and efficient appliances, most moms feel the pressure of being spread too thin. The commitment to raise children, the commitment to our jobs (professional, volunteer, home-based, etc.) the commitment to our marriages, and the commitment to our homes can leave even the most organized woman drowning in over commitment.

At the very end of Colossians, almost as an aside, Paul adds a note to a fellow brother in Christ, Archippus. Paul addresses him by name and says to “take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” This Archippus is thought to be Philemon’s son that is mentioned in Philemon 2, so it’s likely that he routinely hosted the church in his home and he was more than likely very involved in the church body overall. We are only left to speculate what Paul meant with this challenge to Archippus, but I do believe there are specific things that we, as moms, can glean from a simple statement by Paul.

Take heed or pay attention…

I know, as a mom, I can allow myself to be greatly distracted by everything. Without a plan, I can spend my day chasing rabbits or following the demand of the urgent. However, in our schedules, Paul reminds us to pay attention. We have to discipline ourselves to focus on what we are called to do.

To your ministry…

What are you called by God to do? We are most effective when we have a clear purpose and a clear goal. Take the time to pray about what God would have you to do. Discuss it with your husband. Without clear purpose, we leave ourselves open to the waves of whatever comes our way.

Which you have received in the Lord…

Where did you receive the call to do all the things you are trying to do? Ladies, this one is hard to accept, but it is imperative that we listen to what Paul is trying to say here. We can receive our “duties” from many different places, mainly other people, our kids, or our own selfish aspirations, just to name a few. But if we attempt to put on our plate every job that comes our way from any source, then we will be too tired and too distracted to actually hear what God is calling us to do. Make a list of all the responsibilities you have. Then, beside each responsibility write who gave you that job. If you ultimately did not receive it from the Lord, then, with much prayer and trust, begin working on releasing that job.

Fellow mommas, the Lord has called us to great ministries and responsibilities. Only those that we receive from Him have eternal consequences. If God did not call you to a job, the stretch of your influence will be stunted in that position. Release it and take heed to those we have received from Him.

That you may fulfill it…

Doesn’t it feel good to complete something? For a mom, it’s a special treat. The only reason I like laundry is because there is a beginning (dirty clothes) and an end (clean clothes). It is a great feeling to see a job to its completion. God desires us to accomplish something, not to work aimlessly chasing everything that comes our way. If we will pay attention to only the ministry that we receive from God, then the feeling of accomplishment is within our grasp. Are you always starting and never completing anything? Maybe you are trying to do more than what the Lord has planned for you right now.

One of the biggest lies our culture tells us is that we can do it all and have it all right now.

I know sometimes I listen to this lie and before I even realize it, I am working myself into a frenzy. As moms, the cost is too precious to waste our energy on tasks that are not from the Lord. I encourage you to join me in examining my own life and discipline myself to only heed the ministries that the Lord has given me that I might fulfill them to His glory.

May 15, 2018

The Reluctance of Moses to Serve

Today we’re back at Lightsource, but this time on the page for the In His Grip Devotional, which features the writing of Dr. Chuck Betters from MarkInc.

…God’s confrontation with the Old Testament patriarch, Moses, gives us a glimpse into our own hearts and often excuses for turning down God’s invitation to partner with Him by using our own gifts to introduce others to His son, Jesus.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Moses, when given the task of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, objected strenuously (Exodus 3:1-4:17). First, Moses questioned, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

God responded, “I will be with you,” the very promise He made to Abraham (and to us, Matthew 28:28).

Second, Moses objected, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is Him name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God responded, in effect, “Tell them that Jehovah, the faithful and trustworthy God of their fathers, has sent you.”

Third, Moses doubted. “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” Moses probably remembered his earlier rejection by his people and questioned why this time would be any different.

Throw Down Your Staff

God responded that Moses should throw down his staff, the symbol of his identity as a working shepherd. Without his staff he could not take care of the sheep or protect himself. God changed the staff into a snake, the national symbol of Pharaoh’s alleged sovereign power. God changed it back into a staff when Moses obediently picked it up. This was no magic trick; it underscored God’s power and authority over Pharaoh. Moses had to surrender his shepherd’s calling in order to accept God’s commissioning. Though Moses carried the simple staff of a shepherd, God had invested it, as indeed He had invested Moses, with a power far beyond its humble appearance.

Fourth, Moses continued to object, claiming he was not a man of words. “O Lord,” he complained, “I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since You have spoken to Your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

God responded, reassuring Moses and promising him that the Lord Himself would help him speak and teach him what to say. As with Moses, God also promises to give us the strength and abilities we need. As it says in the book of Ephesians, every child of God is “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (2:10).

Fifth, Moses decided he wasn’t the best man for the job. God’s promise of His presence, power, and authority was apparently not enough for Moses. He desperately exclaimed, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it(Exodus 4:13).

This is the first time during this encounter that God actually became angry with Moses. He bluntly told Moses that his eloquent brother Aaron would serve as Moses’ spokesman.

Moses at last acquiesced and obeyed. On his long journey back to Egypt and into the jaws of his enemy, however, Moses did not travel alone, for God was with him.

Since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt – to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)

Everyone who answers God’s call to know Him intimately must confront His call to courageously serve as Moses did.

Look around your local church. Are you the missing piece needed to reflect God’s compassion and mercy in a broken world? Which of Moses’ excuses is your favorite one behind which you hide?

What gift, talent, or resource are you hiding in your pocket?

Are YOU the missing piece in your local church? Share the love of Jesus in you, by sharing the gifts He has given to you!

May 14, 2018

Having a Revival in the Parking Lot of Another Church

Today we’re back at Dust Off The Bible, a website I first introduced you to at the time last year and this entry features the writing of Justin and Lydia who are working their way through the Revised Common Lectionary.

Apostles Do Many Signs and Wonders

Text: Acts 5: 12-16

Apostles Do Many Signs and Wonders


12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.


Observations and Reflections


It appears that the apostles are continuing to preach and heal people and what’s even more impressive is that it’s happening in Solomon’s Portico, right inside of the Temple walls. This would be the equivalent of having a revival in the parking lot of another church. I would imagine that most pastors would not be impressed with people trying to steal the attention of church-goers as they entered into the church. It’s likely that this enraged the religious leaders and the temple guard even more so than before.

However, since Peter was healing people and displaying great signs, a renewed interest in traveling to the Temple in Jerusalem was revived, as people would travel from afar to seek healing. It would seems as though Peter’s ministry was mimicking Jesus’, right in the face of the Jewish leaders. But, many of those same people would have likely also participated in the temple services so there is a possibility that it was not all negative for the Jewish leaders. Is it possible that the ministry of Peter and the apostles could have provided a side benefit to the Jews? It’s is possible but the religious leaders would have still been bothered at the notion that Jesus was being preached and the narrative that the religious leaders killed the messiah. Any side benefits would have been negated by such preaching.

The only answer to this problem is to get rid of the apostles, which will be the subject of the next passage.

– Justin


The Church is on the move to spread the Gospel and serve others. Peter and the rest of the apostles are standing strong despite the previous attempts to stop them and scare them from speaking the name of Jesus Christ. It is a beautiful display we see of faith and devotion to doing God’s work. The Holy Spirit is pricking at the hearts of many believers and lost souls are being saved.

Preaching the Gospel is so much more then just using words. It is absolutely necessary to speak the truth and yet is still just as important to follow up with action. Peter and His apostles are putting their words of Jesus’s love on fully display. In healing the sick and freeing those of unclean spirits, they are showcasing the truth of God’s power and love at work.

Their actions are not of their own doing and accord. It is what God has called them to do and it is by His power alone that they are able to do these things.

Being bold for the name of Jesus Christ can create and amazing ripple affect. The healing of the crippled man in the previous chapter set off a widespread eagerness to many who sought to follow after Jesus Christ. It stirred up a hunger in those who were seeking to know more about Jesus and the price He paid on the cross for our sins.

The only way in which the disciples were able to do this successfully was through faith and prayer. As the Church it was their role to continually seek God’s hand in all that they do and here we are witnessing faith and prayer at work.

– Lydia


Apologies to subscribers for the confusion on the weekend. Saturday and Sunday’s devotions got posted 2-minutes apart. Not noticing this until Sunday morning, I re-released Sunday’s devotional at the regular time. I’m just curious if any of you received it twice. Let me know.

 

May 13, 2018

You Have a Heart Condition

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we have a new writer (to us), John R. Shuman writes at Truth Fully Spoken. Click the title below to read this article in full at the original site.

Worship In The Heart

True Worship

I have done lots of reading, and all the theologians have there theories on worship…. true worship, and how it is to be done, but I look to the truth to find out what it is, because it is usually a lot simpler than they make it out to be.  So first I look to what The truth said, (Jesus Said “I am the truth…”)  and John 4:21-24 tells what Jesus said about how God wants his children to worship.

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

We must worship in spirit and in truth… The truth is easy, look around you, everywhere you go there is God, everything you see was created by God, all the joy you have was given by God.  These are the truths of the matter, there is no denying it.  But what about worshipping in the spirit?  Well, that is where the heart comes into play.

Modifying The Heart

Isaiah 29:13 reads:

13 The Lord says:

“These people come near to me with their mouth
    and honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
    is based on merely human rules they have been taught.

God says, people come and worship Him, but only from the rules they were taught, it is not in their hearts.  God knows what is in their hearts, and He knows that is where the true worship comes from.  We can go to church all of our lives, be taught to pray, be shown the love of God, even preach the good news to all we see…. But without a heart focused on God, without the “fear” of God in our soul, we are just going through the motions.

And, we read in Romans 12:1-2 what we need to do to make sure our worship is true…

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 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.

We need to renew our minds to go against those of this world, we need to offer our lives as a sacrifice to God, we MUST renew our hearts, (the lifeblood of all we are) to the ways of God and His perfect will.

You Have a Heart Condition

We, all of us, have a heart condition.  Good or bad, we have one.  And we need to determine what our heart condition is, is our heart good and strong, or is it weak and in need of attention.  Our physical heart goes unnoticed most of our lives, but it is a huge part of what keeps us alive.  The same can be said for our spiritual heart… We go most of our lives not really paying attention to it, but it is the primary part of what keeps our spiritual life going.

Matthew 25:31-46 shows us exactly how God feels about our condition of the heart…

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Are you a sheep?  Following the shepherd, listening to his voice? Or are you a goat?  following your own ways and not listening to the one leading and just doing what the world wants?  I know it sounds like an easy question, but it really isn’t…. because to truly answer the question you need to examine your heart and most of us really do not want to know what is located there.

Heart Surgery

So, we know we want a proper heart, so we can worship God the way we are supposed to, what do we need to do?  Well, after we have answered the question dealing with the condition of our heart, we must decide if we need to correct the issues we find.  And I happen to know someone that can take care of it.  The greatest heart surgeon to ever walk this planet.  Jesus… If you want your heart to be healed, if you want to worship God as He wants you to, then all you need to do is talk to Jesus, He has a miraculous way of healing heart conditions, and any other issues you might have…

Prayer Time

God, thank you for helping me to look at my heart’s condition.  I pray that you work on my heart accordingly… making it strong and healthy, repairing the areas that require your attention.   And that also goes for the other aspects of my life.  Thank you God for fixing the broken me, and for being the great physician that you are.  I praise you for all you have done for me, and for all you are doing to keep me focused on you.  I pray for your guidance in every aspect of my daily journey, allowing me to stay focused on you.

 

May 12, 2018

God is Saying, “Get Off My Throne”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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Sam Williamson is the author of Hearing God in Conversation, a book I was privileged to be able to review a few years ago. Today I decided to catch up with him and found what follows. There’s also a longer introduction this, so click the title below to read the entire piece.

What A Fool I Was!

Admitting Our Foolishness

Last week, I read the story of King Jehoshaphat. He is one of the “good” kings. Scripture says,

“The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the ways of David (2 Chron. 17:3).

He was also a powerful king, and for most of his reign, neighboring kingdoms paid him tribute.

In his later years, though, three enemy kingdoms formed a coalition to destroy him. He is told that a “multitude is coming against you.” And he turns to the Lord. Jehoshaphat is at the pinnacle of his career: he is stronger than he’s ever been; his kingdom is at it richest under his rule; and his wisdom is just peaking. He prays:

Lord … we do not know what to do. (2 Chron. 20:12)

I wonder if the epitome of wisdom—the meaning of my gray hair—is to admit, “Lord, in all my wisdom, I finally realize, I do not know what to do. And I probably never did.”

The Battle Belongs to the Lord

I have a friend who I believe is making a mistake in his life. I think my discernment may actually be from the Lord. I wanted to tell my friend what he’s doing wrong. But a couple weeks ago I read this quote from Oswald Chambers:

Beware of getting ahead of God by your very desire to do His will. We run ahead of Him in a thousand and one activities, becoming so burdened with people and problems that we don’t worship God, and we fail to intercede.

God is calling me simply to pray for my friend. It feels weird. As though prayer isn’t enough, as though my friend needs my wise words more than God. Which is stupid of me. Foolish even.

When King Jehoshaphat seeks God’s word for this upcoming battle, God speaks:

“Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” (2 Chron. 20:15b)

As I get older, and hopefully wiser, and as my hair turns gray, I am coming to realize that all the battles are the Lord’s, not mine. There are times God may ask me to raise a sword, but even then, the battle belongs to the Lord, not me.

God is saying to this graybeard, “Get off of my throne!”


I also encourage you to check out the author’s website, BeliefsOfTheHeart.com

May 11, 2018

Jesus Redefines Success

I’m currently reading and enjoying the newly-released book Evangelism in a Skeptical World by Sam Chan. What follows is not from the book, but I went hunting around online to see if I could find some other writing by him to share with you and found this at City Bible Forum.  As always, click the title below to read this at source.

How to be rich and successful without losing your soul

The road to success comes with much uncertainty – am I good enough? Can I stay successful?

I spent a large chunk of my life studying for exams. So why do we do exams? Because they are a gateway to success. If we can pass our exams, we get a qualification. If we get a qualification, we get a job. If we get a job, we’re successful.

We can define success as getting what we’re looking for. Maybe it’s wealth. Or respect. Or a trophy family. But if we can find it, then we’re finally successful.

According to our modern Western narrative, we have to earn our success. It’s not given to us. We have to gain it by being smarter, faster and better than those around us.

But this will lead ultimately to fear and insecurity. Because there are so many factors that are out of our control. For example, what if I get sick on the day of my exam? What if a GFC comes and wipes out my profits? What if one of my children is born with a learning disability?

And we’ll never know if we’ve done enough. How much do I have to study? How much money do I have to make? How much tutoring will my children need?

We will always fear falling behind. Because there will always be someone else who is smarter, faster and better than us.

In Jesus’ story about a rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), he teaches us how to re-define “success”. First, success is a gift from God, rather than something we gain. The hint is in verse 16 where the ground produced a good harvest for the rich man.

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.” (verse 16)

For us it’s the same. God controls the factors that determine whether we will be “successful.”

So we need to re-define “success.” If I get what I’m working for, I need to be humble and thank God for my success. But if I don’t get what I work for, then I need to trust that God has a better plan for me.

Second, true success is to be “rich toward God” (v. 21).

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (verse 21)

In the end, the most important thing is that we’re in a rich and flourishing relationship with God.

This also is a gift from God, rather than something we gain. Jesus dies for us and now lives for us. This new life is something we receive from God. I can never gain it by my own effort.

A man once told me his sad story. He said his dad never spent time with him. Instead, his dad would give him lots of money. But the man said, “My dad never got it. I didn’t want his money, I wanted him.”

It’s the same with us. God doesn’t want our riches. In the end, he wants us to be rich to him.


Sam Chan also blogs at his EspressoTheology.com

May 10, 2018

Helping People Walk with Jesus In Faith

(This is part four in a series based on the tagline of our church: “To the Glory of God, Helping People Walk with Jesus in Faith, Hope, and Love”)

Who will take the first step? Who will trust God? I like to imagine the conversation among the Hebrew men as they stood before a divided Red Sea, with walls of water to the left and to the right. Sure, God did made that happen. But can God be trusted? Who will take that first step of trust? I can also imagine one of them saying, “since this is a rescue operation, perhaps it should be women and children first?”

There were already trust issues when God’s people stood between the Egyptian army and the sea;

As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Exodus 14:10-11

Moses encourages the people to trust in God;

But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” Exodus 14:13-14

But even Moses himself seems to have some trouble trusting;

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. Exodus 14:15

The sea divides. They are to walk through! But who will take that first step? Will they trust God? This is not exactly a trip through Ripley’s Aquarium! They all took the step and walked through in faith.

When we invite people to walk with Jesus, we encourage them to trust God every step of the way. It may sometimes feel like there are walls of water to the left and right and an army behind. The Christian may endure suffering, trials and tribulations. Is God really with me as I keep plodding along the bottom of the sea? For someone who is not a Christian, the first step of faith may feel like the hardest. ‘I will be misunderstood and mocked. People will think I have lost my mind.’ A person on the verge of faith may feel like they are standing at the sea with a very scary fist step ahead. As a church family, we are to help people walk with Jesus in faith whether they have been walking with Him for a long time, or considering a first step. Each step with Jesus is the very best next step you could take no matter where you are right now.

Walking in faith means we trust in the promises of God the Father. Like God’s people feeling trapped at the sea with the promise of a rescue, we have promises to hang onto. Walking in faith means we trust in the work of God the Son. Like Moses, we don’t need to cry out for what has already been promised. Our reconciliation has been accomplished in Jesus. Our part is not to ask over and over again for God to save us, like a child begging and pleading with an unwilling parent. Our part is to keep walking with Jesus. Walking in faith means we trust God to be present though the Holy Spirit. Just as God’s people walked through the Sea while God’s presence kept the Egyptians back, we can trust that God is not going to suddenly change his mind and leave us to the enemy. As a church family, we are to help people trust God, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, with every step.

When some hear “faith” they think “blind faith, belief without any evidence, or belief despite the evidence”. Those outside the church may think of church as helping you maintain a blind faith and will say no, thank you. Those within the church may respond with “you just gotta believe” and quote Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

But are we really to help people with a “blind faith”? We should ask what is “unseen” in Hebrews 11? What can’t be seen is the future. When the people walked through the Red Sea, they could not see the future, but they took the step of faith, trusting that God would rescue them.

Faith in Hebrews 11 It is referring to what we have not seen fulfilled yet, what God has yet to do. Before God’s people stood before a divided sea with a decision to make, they had known the works of God. They saw what God did to the Egyptians. They had evidence upon which to take a reasonable step of faith. They had not yet seen what God was going to do, but they had seen what God had already done.

We are not called to help people believe something despite a lack of evidence. We are called to help people trust Someone because of the evidence. We do well to step into the world of apologetics and become familiar with that evidence. In addition to the lines of evidence which we can present to others, there is evidence that is personal to us. We know the presence of God through the Holy Spirit. Moses had his own burning bush experience which he could tell others about, but which some might have trouble believing. However, he could also point to the evidence of God’s hand at work which the others had seen with their own eyes. In the same way we can each have and speak about our own personal experiences of God which others have not seen or experienced. But we can also point to those lines of evidence which can be seen.

The people did trust God:

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. Hebrews 11:29

To the glory of God, may we help people walk with Jesus, may we help them trust Him every step of the way, knowing that every step with Jesus is always the next best step.


All scriptures NRSV.  Clarke Dixon is the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Cobourg, Ontario.

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (26 minutes).

clarkedixon.wordpress.com

May 9, 2018

Awaking from Spiritual Slumber

Back in November I introduced you to Jay Mankus who writes at Express Yourself 4 Him, calling it at the time “a goldmine of devotional resources.” These posts today are recent and appeared back-to-back and it occurred to me they had sleep or unconsciousness as a common theme. Click the individual titles to read each at source.

Snap Out of It

Prior to the discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, most professional sports ignored game related concussions.  Athletic trainers often took smelling salts laced with ammonia inhalants to awaken concussed or knocked out athletes.  As portrayed in several older films, this trainer would apply the salt, then clap their hands over injured heads.  The goal of this archaic practice sought to help snap individuals out of their woozy state.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified, Galatians 3:1.

You don’t have to receive a concussion to be dizzy, slightly off or weak.  From a spiritual perspective, anyone can randomly stray off course.  During this period of time, your mind is susceptible to making poor decisions.  This prodigal mindset might even lead you to become bewitched, tricked into believing a lie planted within you by the Devil.  If you ever reach this state, you need the Holy Spirit’s help to snap out of it.

You were running [the race] well; who has interfered and prevented you from obeying the truth?  This [deceptive] persuasion is not from Him who called you [to freedom in Christ], Galatians 5:7-8.

The apostle Paul found a similar climate during a visit to Galatia.  Peer pressure, opposing views and a lack of guidance caused many from within the church to lose sight of what’s important.  Luke 4:8 sheds light on this, to worship the Lord and serve Him only.  Sure, there are plenty of worldly chores and exercises that must be completed daily.  Yet, in the end, human beings were created to worship God.  Falling short of this goal leads to compromise and temptation.  Therefore, snap out of it by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

The Greatest Temptation

Then Jesus returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter, Matthew 26:40.

When the Son of God spoke in the first century, eager followers flocked to hear his teaching.  Afterward the needy, poor and sick lined up, pushing their way to the front, hoping for a miracle.  To a certain extent, the twelve disciples became complacent, taking their access to the Messiah for granted.  During special occasions Jesus left nine disciples behind, confiding in his inner circle composed of James, John and Peter.  During his greatest temptation, surrendering to religious leaders to be beaten, crucified and left to die, Jesus urges his disciples to pray late into the night.  An hour later Jesus returns to find his trusted leaders sleeping.

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41.

Disappointed, Jesus addresses the unseen battle going on within the human body.  The Spirit is willing to yield spiritual fruit detailed in Galatians 5:22-23.  Unfortunately, these traits often lose out to a weakened flesh, Galatians 5:19-21, by giving into temporary pleasures.  Way too often the events of Eden in Genesis 3 are re-enacted daily with forbidden fruits replaced by modern delicacies.  While current readers can take Jesus’ advice at face value, all but one disciple were about to abandon Jesus in his greatest time of need.  John, the one whom Jesus loved is the only disciple who doesn’t go into hiding.  Only one man put Jesus’ words into practice.

He went away a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done,” Matthew 26:42.

Jesus was a victim of a mob mentality, innocent of the charges made against him accept of course for being the son of God.  Overcome by emotion, Jesus pours out his heart to God the Father in prayer.  If this was any other person, justification would be made to not go through with this sacrifice.  However, without Jesus’ death, there would be no forgiveness, left to rely on Old Testament animal sacrifices.  Realizing this fact, Jesus submits to God’s will, surrendering early Friday morning.  While there will always be new temptations that arise and attack your soul, the greatest temptation is to reject God’s will for your life.  May you find your purpose on earth using Romans 12:1-2 as a guide.  From here its up to you to apply Matthew 26:41 so that you will keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

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