Christianity 201

August 30, 2015

Keeping Your Thought Life Pure

This weekend at Thinking Out Loud we’ve been running two articles which deal with your thought life. (They are each double articles, so really we’ve run four over Saturday and Sunday.) You can connect with those articles here and here. In going through my files I discovered I also covered something similar at C201 — perhaps it’s a different type of purity of thoughts — and while we rarely repeat a devotional here…

Purity of Thought = Purity of Heart

Love Believes The Best

James 3:17 (NIV) But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

James 3:17(Message)Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced.

I Cor. 13:7(Amplified) Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

I Cor.13:7 (CEB)Love is always supportive,
loyal, hopeful, and trusting.

I Cor 13:7(TLB) If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.

Matt. 5:8(KJV) Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

We live in a time where when we think of purity we think in terms of moral purity. Surrounded as we are by images and ideas that are sexually licentious, we tend to characterize purity as the absence of those influences.

Surely no one would argue the importance of this, and I have written many times here and at Thinking Out Loud on the importance of controlling our thought life and endeavoring to cultivate a healthy mind.

But purity in scripture can mean so much more than abstinence from thoughts about sex or not engaging in immoral behavior. It can also mean a wholesome outlook, and a wholesome attitude.

When we look at the character of Christ, Philippians 2:5-7 does not say

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,who did not think lustful thoughts or look covetously at women.

Yes, the scriptures are careful to tell us he did not sin:

Heb.4:15(NASB)For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Rather, the Philippians passage talks about his servant heart. His life is characterized by the things he did do, he humbled himself, he took a servant role, he submitted himself to death.

From our opening scriptures, we see that purity of thought, or purity of heart will involve things like:

  • working for peace
  • consideration of others
  • a submissive (teachable) spirit
  • acts of mercy
  • impartiality
  • sincerity
  • getting along with others
  • gentleness
  • consistent character
  • possessing an enduring hope
  • supportive and loyal
  • trusting
  • always expecting the best

It is the last characteristic (and the verse in James) that launched this study today in my own heart. The pure in heart have a positive, non-critical spirit. Love may critique, but it doesn’t criticize. Murphy’s Law may suggest that things are going to go wrong. The Peter Principle may suggest you’re going to get reassigned to a job you can’t do well. But the Christ-follower is buoyed not by a blind optimism, but by an attitude that believes the best and expects the best.

Their outworking of spiritual wisdom begins in holiness and righteousness; that’s what makes their advice, their counsel, their entire comportment pure.

Image: WalkGood (click image to source)


The second link in the introductory paragraph is to an article which ends with this story…

We are all fighting a battle within ourselves… The illustration goes like this: There is a old Indian chief telling a story about how each of us have two rival dogs, a good dog and a bad dog. Both are always fighting each other. Sometimes it seems like the good dog is winning other times it appears like the bad dog is winning.

One of the tribal members asks, “So, how do you know which one will win?”

To which the chief replies, “It depends which dog you feed.”

August 29, 2015

Does God Cry?

Today we pay a return visit to Faithviews which, like us, features different authors. To read this at source, click the title below.

Does God Suffer?

Dr. Jeffrey Johnson is a humanitarian, author, and sought-after lecturer on Jewish roots and Bible Prophecy. He was a pastor for over 17 years and received his Master’s Degree from Moody Bible Institute and his Doctorate from Louisiana Baptist University. He is a member of the American Society of Church History as well as Evangelical Theological Society. He has authored several books including God Was There, Childhood of Jesus, and Life After Death: What Happens Next? His latest book, The Moses Papers, will be released this fall. For more information visit http://www.IsraelTodayMinistries.org.

The last few years, we have found ourselves in a position to minister to and comfort the suffering people of Israel, both Jews and Arabs. We have helped those who have lost their homes in northern Israel, being victims of rockets launched from Hezbollah’s lair in Lebanon. We have wept with families who lost their children in suicide bombings. Daily, the school children in Israel race to bomb shelters when they hear the “red color” sirens sounding the alarm that Hamas in Gaza fired more rockets into their town. They wet their beds and rock back and forth in fear. They suffer from nightmares; parents weep and struggle because they have no money to buy food. Holocaust survivors live in poverty within the walls of Israel. And now, the new threat of the so-called Arab Spring with the change of power and the emboldened nefarious leaders, clanging swords and killing their own neighbors. Does God feel this suffering and fear?

The early church fathers, both Latin & Greek, insisted upon what is called the “impassibility” of God. Basically, this means while man, created by God, experiences suffering, God himself does not. Yet, portions of the Hebrew scripture narrative imply God does have feelings and does react to His creation.

Understandably so, those who advocate a strict “impassibility” realize that God is not completely apathetic. On the other hand, when the scripture narrative describes God in human terms, i.e., hands, eyes, etc., we understand that God is a spirit and is bigger than our physical universe, or our ideas and understanding of personifying God. Notwithstanding, is something to be learned from the scripture when it ascribes human emotions and human features to God – does reveal something about the Creator God?

Before the Incarnation of the Messiah we find it stated of God:

1. “His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel (Judges 10:16).”

2. “Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the LORD (Jeremiah 31:20).”

3. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred (Hosea 11:8).”

After the Incarnation it is stated of Jesus:

1. “Now it happened, the day after that He went into a city called Nain;…And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow…When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, Do not weep…(Luke 7:11-13).
2. “Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled…Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, See how He loved him (John 11:33-36).”
3. “But when He saw the multitudes He was moved (Matthew 9:36).”

Looking at these passages, we learn that before the birth of Jesus, God was directly affected by the trials and anguish of his creation. After the Incarnation, we find God identifying with human pain and responding with immeasurable love.

Our suffering causes God to grieve; God cries when we cry; God hurts when we hurt. This, of course, does not diminish who God is in terms of his essence, being all power, all knowledge, everywhere present. If human beings, created in God’s image, can make suffering their own through their love for others, how much more can God, who is love, make suffering His own. In other words, if a human being is affected by another’s sorrow and pain, God is more affected. Why? God created us out of an act of love, and is not indifferent to the angst we experience. He created us and is involved and identifies with us – even proving his involvement by taking it to the ultimate expression of love and concern– the Cross.

Simply, God cries when someone dies; He has compassion on those who are ill; He sorrows for the children who do not have a meal; His heart yearns for the one gone astray; He has sympathy for those in need.

Our sorrow is mingled with joy because Christ, the Passover Lamb, brings hope and answers in our time of need. God expressed his love through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The resurrection proves that he is God. God is not indifferent to the sorrows of this world – and that brings an amazing comfort to our hearts.

Being created in God’s likeness we can emulate Him by being His hands and feet bringing comfort to fellow human beings. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalms 30:5).”

August 28, 2015

Scripture Medley: Light

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

It turned out we weren’t the only devotional website doing a scripture medley last week. Daily Encouragement spent two days considering Spiritual Troglomorphism. (Don’t worry, it’s not going to be on your systematic theology exam.) You can read the two articles here and here. Part two also contained an exposition of John 3 which follows.

  • “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)

John 3:16 is certainly one of the best known verses in the entire Bible. Most of our readers can quote it from memory and more than a few can go on and quote verse 17 as well, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”

However 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.

“This is the verdict.” (NIV)  Other translations render it “this is the judgment” (NASV, ESV), “The [basis of the] judgment (indictment, the test by which men are judged, the ground for the sentence) lies in this” (Amplified), “This is why people are condemned” (GW) The sense is that what follows is the explanation for man’s condition.

“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.

“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 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).

Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber


*You’ll have to click through to the original articles to get this!

August 27, 2015

The Reward of Sacrificial Following

Today we’re at the website TillHeComes.org and before we jump into the text, here’s the setup from the previous verse:

28Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.”

Peter’s ears perked up when Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor, and then come follow Jesus. This is very close to what Peter and the other apostles had in fact done.  And so Peter is a little curious. He says, “Hey, we’ve done what you told that rich young ruler to do. We have left everything. We have followed you. What does that mean for us?”

And Jesus, knowing that all of his apostles except Judas truly has believed in him for eternal life tells them what their sacrifice and service will result in. He doesn’t rebuke Peter for asking a selfish question, for it is not a selfish question. There is nothing wrong with seeking the things of God.

Many times we refer to the cost of following Christ, but in Luke 18:29-30, Jesus, replying to Peter, suggests there is also great reward, even reward to be had in this life (“in the present time”) as well as the age to come, which the commentary below emphasizes.  The webpage here — and we’ve linked to Jeremy Myers before — deals with a much longer section, verses 18-30.  To read it all (encouraged!) click on the link below.

Paying the Entrance Fee

29So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

You see, good works and sacrificial service are very beneficial, but only AFTER one has believed in Jesus for eternal life. They earn reward and privilege and greater responsibility in this life and in the next. It most often will not be financial reward, but spiritual rewards of one sort or another.  And this verse should not and must not be used to justify neglecting your family for ministry. We know when we get married and have children, our first sphere of ministry is in the home. Men, your primary ministry is to your wife and children. If you fulfill that ministry and have time left over, you can serve some at the church. Women, same thing for you and your ministry with your husband and your children.

What Jesus means by talking about leaving parents, brothers, wife and children is to make sure that they are not holding you back from God’s will for your life. Ministering to them is God’s will for your life, but if there ever comes a point where they try to keep you back from doing the rest of God’s will for you life, this is when you must choose to serve God or serve others.  If you choose to serve God, and leave your family for the sake of the kingdom, Jesus says that your reward will be great, both in this age, and in the age to come.

Here Jesus teaches his disciples about reward. He doesn’t rebuke Peter for wondering what he is going to get in heaven. Instead he encourages Peter to keep on serving in the Kingdom of God, because the better you serve, the more reward in heaven you get. It is not selfish to seek the things of God.  We all want more of God in our lives. That is not selfish. We all want to know the Bible better. That is not selfish. We all want God to answer our prayers. That is not selfish. We all want God to be at work more in our lives and to see his hand at work in our presence. That is not selfish.  Neither is it selfish to want riches in heaven, and to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The rich young ruler, though he came asking about eternal life, revealed that he was only seeking to hold on to his worldly wealth. Peter and the other apostles, after having believed in Jesus for eternal life, gave up their wealth and worldly relationships. As a result, they earned for themselves great reward in heaven.

How great? The Bible tells us that in the Millennial kingdom, the twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones ruling over the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt. 19:28). Israel will be the greatest nation in the world and will rule over the entire world also, and so the apostles will be some of the twelve most powerful men on the earth during that time. And we are fairly certain that it was Paul who will take the place of Judas.

Now, Luke 19:11-27 tells us that the rest of the world will be divided up and given to faithful servants of God to rule over. That means that you and I, if we are faithful servants, may also be given cities or maybe even countries which Jesus Christ will want us to rule. Not all will rule, some will simply be subjects in the kingdom, and they will be ruled over, rather than be rulers.

Some Christians will be given positions of reward and responsibility for a life lived in faithful service to Jesus Christ. Other Christians will enter the kingdom because they have believed in Jesus for eternal life, but they won’t have much gold, jewels, precious stones or crowns that will be given to them.  We will be talking about eternal rewards a lot more in the weeks to come. Let me just close with this. The lesson from the rich young ruler is that all of us are sinners. If a person is self-righteous like the rich young ruler, the law can be used to shows them that they have indeed offended a holy God.

And once they have seen this, it is much easier to show them that they only way they can be reconciled to God is by the blood of Jesus, through our faith in Him.  But once we have done that, we must make sure we do not stop there, for there are great rewards and blessings in store for those who make service to Christ a top priority. And we’ve seen the two extremes today. One man, the rich young ruler, who didn’t want to give up his riches. And one man, Peter, who gave up all to follow Christ.

Which category do you fall in? Are you seeking the things of this world, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, or are you seeking after the riches of the world to come? The first may give you momentary pleasure while on this earth, but the second will give you everlasting joy in the kingdom which is to come.

August 26, 2015

Why Choose Christianity?

 Acts 26:1 ESV So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently…

Why Choose Christianity and Not Something Else? Or Nothing Else?

2295355354_e65354babd_nby Clarke Dixon

Why would we choose to be a Christian and not something else? Why follow Jesus when there are so many other options including an attempt at following no one? With so many religions, how can we settle on one, or should we even settle on one? One answer appeals to the tension that exists between naturalistic explanations and supernatural explanations.

There are perfectly good explanations for how the vast majority of religions arose, explanations which make no appeal to the supernatural. For example, it is not hard to see how ancient myths involving a pantheon of gods arose out of need to understand things beyond understanding. Bad things happen because the gods are angry, sometimes at humans, sometimes at each other. As understanding increased, the gods were pushed out as being not a very good explanation of the facts. The naturalistic explanation, saying “men came up with myths about Zeus and others” fits all the data we have available much better than an appeal to a supernatural explanation; “men spoke about Zeus and the rest because those gods were real.” Similarly, to say “Islam arose because Muhammad was impressed with neither the people nor theology of Jews and Christians and so founded his own religion” fits all the data available better than “Islam exists because Allah revealed himself to Muhammad.”  We can follow similar lines of reasoning for 99% of all the world’s religions. In this sense, atheism is a powerful ally to Christianity for the atheists help us make the case for why we reject the vast majority of religions. We should note that in fact the early Christians were accused of spreading atheism! They were going around saying that all idols and myths were human invention.

However, for Christianity, the supernatural explanation provides a better explanation of all the available facts than the naturalist explanation. To give some examples:

  • The supernatural explanation accounts for the amazing consistency of the Biblical message despite the many authors writing over many, many years, from different contexts, writing for different purposes. There is a simple explanation of this: the scriptures are “God breathed.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for why people in the days following the death of Jesus were going around saying “Jesus is risen, I have seen him” and were willing to die for that claim. Appeals to hallucinations and/or fabrications do not account for the facts very well.
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for sudden birth and rise of an unexpected Christianity theology. The theology of Christianity is not what you would expect from Jewish scriptures and expectations, but it is what you would expect from Jewish scriptures and expectations plus the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for the staying power of Christianity and why so many people over so many years have some claim of a personal relationship with God through Jesus. The Christian message was not popular to either Jews or non-Jews from the get go. And yet it caught fire and continues to do so today despite still being unpopular to the point of persecution throughout the world. Yes, other religions have had staying power also, but you can come up with naturalistic explanations for this. Christianity would have died out ages ago if God were not in it.
  • The supernatural explanation accounts for the big questions like “Why is there something rather than nothing? Why is there life when the odds are against there being such? How did the universe get started? Why is there something startlingly different about humans compared with other animals? Why is there such a strong yearning for purpose among humans? Why do humans reflect on morality so much? Why is there evil and what can be done about it?” Naturalism struggles to explain what Christianity simply and  profoundly answers.

Within the Bible itself we find an example of this tension between a natural and supernatural explanation. In Acts 26 Paul shares with King Agrippa, the local governor Festus, and many others how he came to be a Christ follower including his experience of the risen Jesus. But at some point Festus has had enough: “And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.’” (Acts 26:24) With that Paul says “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” (Acts 26:25) Here we have a tension between a naturalistic explanation given by Festus; ”Paul, you are mad, no gods here,” and a supernatural explanation from Paul: ”Jesus appeared to and spoke with me.” Paul could have gone for a naturalistic explanation himself “perhaps the stress is getting to me and so I had some sort of hallucination.” However any naturalistic explanation could not fit all the facts, including the fact that his companions experienced something also, “we had all fallen to the ground,” (Acts 26:14) not to mention Paul’s further experience of regaining sight through the ministry of a Christian (Acts 9:10-19). No naturalistic view could account for these things.

So why Christianity and not another religion, or no religion? Why follow Jesus and not someone else, or no one else? Because Jesus rose from the dead, because Christianity is true. That Jesus rose from the dead and that Christianity is true makes the best sense of the all the facts we have. Yes there are naturalistic explanations offered for the rise and spread of Christianity and they are many, diverse, and complicated. But there is a simple explanation that covers all the facts, the supernatural one; Jesus rose from the dead. How should we respond when people say we are crazy for believing in the supernatural? Just like Paul did with Festus: “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” (Acts 26:25)

There is one more thing we should mention about all this. There is no religious perspective that if found to be true could offer more hope, both for this life and the next, for more people, than Christianity. That Jesus rose from the dead and Christianity is true is not just a rational conclusion, it provides for an amazing hope in God’s amazing grace.

All Bible references are taken from the ESV.
photo credit: Interfaith Banner via photopin (license)

August 25, 2015

Christ on the Cross

golgothaThis is, I believe our 6th time visiting the blog Strengthened By Grace. The first was in 2010. I really appreciate the faithfulness it takes to keep writing for such a sustained period. As usual, reading this at source sends “link love” to the various writers who appear here. Click the title below.

Take your time to read each verse, and note that unlike similar outlines you have seen, all the verse references are from a single book, in this case, Hebrews.

Why did Jesus die

At our Good Friday service, one of our pastors shared these reason, from the book of Hebrews, for Jesus’ death! May it help you focus on the purpose of Christ’s suffering and what it accomplished on our behalf!

To be crowned with glory and honor after tasting death for us!

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)

To be perfected through suffering

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (Hebrews 2:10)

To free us from bondage to the fear of death

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14–15)

To be a sympathetic and helpful high priest

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15–16)

To know experientially what obedience was like

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8)

To give us a clear conscience

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14)

To be an eternal high priest

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:24–26)

To rescue us from judgment

so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28)

To offer a once-for-all sacrifice

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,” (Hebrews 10:11–12)

To make us holy, blameless and perfect

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)

To give us access to the holies place

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,” (Hebrews 10:19)

To gain our joy and His

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

To call us to follow His example of costly love

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:3–4)

To free us from the slavery of sin

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.” (Hebrews 13:12)

To set the stage for His own resurrection from the dead

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20–21)

August 24, 2015

We’re Only Here for a Short Time

Roger Knowlton blogs at Entrusted With The Gospel, and has been a pastor at Edgewood Community Church in Waupun, Wisconsin, for the last 15 years. This was our first time visiting his blog, and there were a lot of great pieces to consider, but with so many of you dealing with kids off to colleges and universities, this seemed the one to share today. Click the original title below to read at source.

Longing For Another World

A slight melancholy fills the Knowlton home lately. Last Wednesday we drove to Three Lakes and dropped off Elisabeth at Honey Rock camp for “Passage”, Wheaton College’s adventure-based orientation program for first year students. After camp on Thursday, a bus will take her to campus where we will meet again and unload the paraphernalia for her new dorm home. She will start classes next Wednesday.

And now two of our happy band of five are missing.

We should have known this would happen; we saw it happen to others. We even saw it happen with our own when Josh left two years ago, but going from 5 to 4 still leaves a slightly noisy house. From 4 to 3 is…different. As I write, nobody’s home now. Diane is working. Annie is at Bible study. It’s just me, and I keep playing a song over and over again.

And then we said goodbye to Jeff Thompson and family on Sunday. For you who don’t attend Edgewood, Jeff has been our Worship Arts Leader for the last 8 or 9 years. He is so very gifted, and we will miss him.

If I sound depressed, I’m not really. Not really. I’m just feeling…sehnsucht, the German word which Wikipedia translates as “longing”, “yearning”, “craving”, or “intensely missing”. Maybe you could put it like this – sometimes I find myself more cognizant that I was not made for this world. And I think I know why this is…you see, there is an “impermanence” here…that doesn’t quite feel right.  I’m aware of that this evening.

We feel impermanence when our children leave the home, but of course, there is another…greater impermanence: my friend Jon Van Houten’s mom Gretchen died Friday, and her funeral was today. She was elderly…and godly, but we all know something is out of place.

We know that things should be more lasting than they are. Something within us knows that is the case. But when I step back and consider it, I’m really thinking about the other world…the one I was truly made for. C.S. Lewis first taught me about sehnsucht, and he elaborated on the phenomenon in his book, Mere Christianity

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Yes, that’s it…and as I feel those desires more acutely in recent days, my eyes are being lifted to another world, and thus to that time when this world will begin

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (ESV)

Paul closes these beautiful thoughts with a command…

Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 (ESV)

Maybe this song that’s been on my heart this evening, Even so Come, by Kristian Stanfill will be such an encouragement to you…


August 23, 2015

Plugged into the Power of the World Yet to Come

Spiritual PowerPastor George Belobaba was in full-time ministry for over sixty years and was married to his wife, Zena, for 65 years. They had one son and five daughters. Through almost 750 posts, Susan E. Johnson copied the pastor’s writings so they could be preserved on the internet at the blog Scripture Nuggets. Today’s post here is among the final two which were posted. Click the individual links below to read at source and look around the rest of the topics.

Living Off The Powers Of The World To Come

Hebrews 6:5… “And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come” (KJV). The NLT reads, “Who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come.”

What a great verse. It tells of saints who learned how to live in troubled times. They learned how to pray and how to believe in the Word of God. They tasted God’s utterances and experienced how good God’s message is. They were nourished by the Word, and the results were fantastic. They lived off the miracles of the world to come. Mighty works were in abundance. When they believed the Word, they set in motion the powers of the supernatural world. If we know how to pray, we know how to live. If prayer sags, life sags along with it.

I was meditating on this text some time ago, and of the possibility of entering into and reaching into the world to come, taking from that world, bringing into this world, and living by the powers of that world. The NCV reads,

They found out how good God’s word is, and they received the powers of his new world.”

Of course, the powers of the world to come was in receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. If Christians today can grasp this… That coming age was the “age of the Holy Spirit,” the New Testament era. It is now. I personally believe that soon there will be extraordinary manifestations of the power of God that cannot be explained away. “Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:29, KJV).

Prayer will help us to penetrate through the natural world into the supernatural world, the realm of God. Prayer draws from His realm the needs for our realm. We can live by the abundance that He provides. If prayer lags, supplies sag. The New Testament teaches that it is by faith we have access (Romans 5:1-2), and by the blood of Jesus the way was opened for us to come in (Hebrews 10:19). There are things in God’s realm that will not come to us unless we pray and believe. God is willing to supply all our needs when we are willing to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). The saints in our text learned to live by tapping into the supernatural by prayer and by faith.

The disciples saw Jesus praying. He relied on prayer for fellowship and communion with the Father. He prayed first at His baptism (Luke 3:21-22), and the Holy Spirit came upon Him. Prayer brought the Spirit, and with the Spirit came the power and the abundance. Jesus prayed for many things as well. When the disciples saw Jesus praying, they asked to be taught how to pray (Luke 11:1-4). Jesus taught the importance of relationship (“Our Father”). He taught them the power of the Name of Jesus (“Hallowed be Thy Name”). He also taught the necessity of the Holy Spirit (Thy kingdom come”). In the early manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke, the words “Thy kingdom come” reads as “Thy Spirit come upon us” (Cambridge Bible, 1910). In the 1950s, I was reading the Lord’s Prayer and came to the words “Thy kingdom come.” The Holy Spirit said to me that this refers to the Holy Spirit coming upon us, and that when we pray, the Holy Spirit needs to be in our asking. It’s the Holy Spirit that brings the powers of the world to come into our living today.

Living Off The Powers Of The World To Come, Pt. 2

The 120 started out with prayer and waited for the coming of the Spirit (Acts 1:14). They did not start out with, “Lord, give us power and success to do miracles.” They were very careful in that they did not use prayer for ego-expanding requests, nor did they use God for their own selfish purposes. Prayer is not capturing Jesus to make Him serve us. Both Jesus and the disciples began on the right foundation. They prayed for the coming of the Spirit. The Spirit makes intercession for us (Romans 8:26-27). The Spirit helps us to pray according to God’s will. 1 John 5:14-15 mentions the words “according to His will.” The qualifying power for answered prayer is “according to the will of the Lord.” Too often the will of God is not in our praying. Faith in what He has said will bring the answer. The 120 prayed for the Spirit, and what each wanted for themselves, they wanted for all. With the Spirit came the miracles from the world to come.

The disciples saw Jesus’ countenance change when He prayed (Luke 9:28-29). Prayer changes the way you look. The glory of the Father manifested itself on the body of Jesus and it will do the same for ours. Paul writes of these things in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. Through prayer, we become alive, aglow, anointed, and permeated with His glory.

Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance” (Acts 2:28, KJV).

The disciples saw Jesus praying in Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46). Jesus prayed that He would carry out the purposes for which He came–the cross and shedding of His blood for the remission of sin. Prayer was generated to accomplish a specific purpose. Prayer gave Jesus a divine compulsion to do the Father’s will. Prayer gives us a mission and the power and ability to carry out that mission. When saints pray, they soon exchange the chip on their shoulder for the Lord’s hand upon their shoulder, capturing them for Kingdom purposes.

A story is told of an old riverboat pilot. A passenger had marveled at the pilot’s skill in navigating the paddlewheeler up and down the river, “You must know where all the sandbars are.” “No,” said the pilot, “but I know where the channels are.” Jesus knew the channels that led to a Spirit-empowered life… so did the early saints. That channel is prayer and faith in God’s Word. Because they knew how to pray, they knew how to live (which was by the powers of the world to come).

We can experience the miraculous abundance of the world to come as the early saints did. The key is prayer and having faith in what God says. Prayer brings the Spirit, and with Him comes poise, peace, purpose, and power. Many saints seek only the proof of prayer when they should be seeking the practice of prayer. Prayer is talking something over with God rather than trying to talk God out of or into something.

August 22, 2015

Scripture Medley: The Grace of God

grace

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 was 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


August 21, 2015

For Those Who Serve, Preach, Teach…

This post was in our draft file for nearly two years and I discovered it last night. The link is to a blog called Justified and Sinner, which redirects to A Simple Christian. The author is not named. This will resonate with those of you have devoted time to helping people in their spiritual growth.

Is it insane to keep doing/teaching/preaching the same thing over and over, and expecting…

 1  In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and because he is coming to rule as King, I solemnly urge you 2  to preach the message, to insist upon proclaiming it (whether the time is right or not), to convince, reproach, and encourage, as you teach with all patience. 3  The time will come when people will not listen to sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and will collect for themselves more and more teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear. 4  They will turn away from listening to the truth and give their attention to legends. 5  But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances; endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the Good News, and perform your whole duty as a servant of God. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (TEV)

\573         Please don’t abandon the task, don’t deviate from the way, even though you have to live with people who are full of prejudices: as if you thought the basis of arguments or the meaning of words were fixed by their behavior or by their assertions. Do try to get them to understand you… but if you don’t manage it, carry on anyway. (1)

There is a point in ministry that occurs when you realizing you are bashing your head against the wall.

An example – someone comes to you looking for spiritual guidance, and you offer it, and they go – thanks, and then going back to the same behavior that caused them to come to you in the first place.

Or someone who asks you to help them understand a Bible passage, you take the time to work it through with them, and then watch them return to the confusion, only to ask the same question in a similar manner a few weeks down the road.

It has been said that insanity can be defined by doing the same thing repeatedly, but hoping for a different outcome.   In this case, many pastors, priests, teachers, counselors are not just simply insane, but completely insane.

There see to be two options to this insanity, first – keep doing the work in the same way, but give up caring about the results, or second, change things regularly, looking for the precise combination that will work in your community, in your parish, in your classroom.  Sometimes we even bounce between the two, depending on who we last heard that appears to be successful, that appears to at least give an answer to our dilemma.

This glass half full/half open pendulum, and the second guessing and thinking that our “return on investment” must result in a immediate result that is satisfactory dominates our churches.  We are blown about by winds of, not of doctrine, but of some definitions and measurements of “faithfulness” and “success.”.  We are hurt because we get into these fields because we desire to change the world, and would like to at least change some lives.  We know the answer is Jesus, (as does every pre-schooler !) we know where people will find the answers, we are trained to give them both clearly and in a way that should appeal to people.

And then we wonder if they will ever hear us…

And eventually we wonder if we are insane (in the sense above) or we act on the lack of success and desperately try new ways.  Even to the point where we don’t give them time to see if they will work.

The nearly identical advice is seen above, (I saw St. Josemaria’s first – my Bible devotional reading was somewhere else).  Our endurance in the midst of our preaching, teaching, counseling is not based on their changed lives.  It’s not about “faithfully” doing it by dialing it in either.  It is about realizing our role is to give the message, Because Jesus is coming back, and that is news that is incredible to anyone who trusts in Him, and if they don’t hear it, they won’t be able to trust in it.

Days preaching and teaching and counseling aren’t supposed to be easy, they often demand great sacrifice, it often requires us to carry on, to keep looking at Christ and realizing the treasure that they need.  Ministry and teaching and counseling isn’t about our strength, its about the glory of God in which we work, sustaining us, encouraging, helping us endure, and driving us when needed.  We are going to have to suffer in this role.  Not just because of persecution, but because of those who do not hear the message, who we weep for, even as Christ wept over Jerusalem.  We need to realize that this struggle is okay.

That’s the example we have in Christ, and in our Father in Heaven.  They have kept calling us, hounding us even though the results haven’t been all that spectacularly different.  We still sin, we still forget about God, we still struggle, then repent, then worship.  And still God loves and calls, and forgives and comforts and is here with us.  He doesn’t change… He never will… although the results can’t be seen by us yet, He knows them, and dances with joy as He realizes those who trust in Him, who treasure His love.

In Him, we find the strength and the patience to avoid the insanity of reacting to what the world thinks is insane.  So let us keep our eyes on Him, He who begins faith and completes it is us, and in those who hear our message.


(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2448-2452). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

August 20, 2015

Love the Sinner. Period.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
 -Romans 5:8 NIV

This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
 I John 4:10 NLT

Today’s author was recommended to us, and the topic under discussion is a phrase that we often hear used in Christian circles, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  This really got me thinking, though I’m not sure I have this resolved yet, because like many of you, I’ve grown up around verses like:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
 -Romans 12:9 NASB

The LORD hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to Him:
arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil,

a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.
-Proverbs 6:16-18 HCSB

You might want to keep these last two verses in mind as you read what follows. How do you incorporate their principles and at the same time not develop a harmful attitude toward people in your sphere of influence?

John Pavlovitz is an writer who came recommended to us, and describes himself as “pastor, blogger, speaker, and author.” There are a number of other thought provoking articles on his site; click the title below to read this at source, and then navigate the website to see other topics.

 

3 Reasons “Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin” Is An Abomination

Love the sinner, hate the sin.

Rarely in history has there been a greater mis-characterization of the heart of Jesus or a more egregious bastardization of the Bible than these six words.

The damage that LTSHTS has done in the lives of billions of people and to the public perception of Christians can never be fully calculated, but one thing is certainly true: it’s an embarrassment and a sin and a total abomination—and here are three reasons why:

1) Jesus never said it. 

Lots of Christians would have us believe that Jesus would be totally on-board with LTSHTS, but the simple truth is that he never prescribed anything like it in Scripture. Jesus was crystal clear in his teachings about our calling to love: God, and our neighbor as ourselves, one another as he loved us, our enemies, sacrificially, extravagantly, relentlessly—but never with caveats or qualifications. He never let anything about a person’s life keep them from intimate fellowship with him (and he was the only one qualified to do so).

LTSHTS supporters will ask rhetorically, “Well doesn’t Jesus preach against sin and therefore hates it? Isn’t hating sin just being obedient to him?” Jesus always spoke to people about their own lives; about the sins they were personally called to address in response to him. Whatever repentance Jesus was inviting people to, it was on their behalf, it was never on behalf of anyone else. His words were never given as license to police someone else’s moral condition, but to use a mirror to assess one’s own. Any behavior modification, any inner conviction, any heart change would be between Jesus and those hearing his words. Only he decides the work he does. We don’t get to play middleman between Christ and another human being. We are assigned the tasks of feeding, healing, and caring for those we cross paths with, in his name.

Unfortunately for those so clinging to LTSHTS, Jesus commands us to love people—period.

2) It’s cowardly and morally inconsistent.

Let’s be honest here. Whenever any Christian uses the phrase LTSHTS, it’s never in the context of anything other than gender identity and sexuality, which itself is an indictment of the words themselves. It isn’t as though these faithful folks spend their entire lives dispensing the kind of behavior-based malevolence that LTSHTS always comes packaged with. It’s not as though they continually scour the Scriptures, applying their theological understandings of sin to those in their midst who might lie or steal or commit adultery or love money or drink to excess. If they truly loved those “sinners” and hated those “sins” enough to treat people as horribly as they treat the LGBTIQ community for the sins they charge them with, they’d have nobody left who could ever stand to be in their presence. LTSHTS is simply an exercise in selective, subjective sin-shaming and targeted discrimination disguised as righteousness.

If you’re a Christian and you’re going to choose to be hateful or biased toward people based on their gender identity and sexuality, you may as well just come out and say it. Own your discomfort or displeasure. Hiding behind LTSHTS is just using Jesus as justification for the kind of behavior he would be quite appalled by. It isn’t Christlikeness, it’s cowardice.

3) It’s a relationship-killer.

At the core of LTSHTS is the argument that gender identity and sexual orientation are somehow choices (an idea that runs counter to everyone’s experience of both, of course, but that’s neither here nor there). The speaker of LTSHTS believes that the person in question is making a decision to do something that the speaker believes is inherently sinful, yet (the speaker claims) they are able to somehow separate a sexual act (which they despise), with the person engaging in said act (whom they supposedly love). I’d really like a practical unpacking of how that all works with actual people, but I doubt it will be forthcoming.

Never mind that gender identity and sexual orientation are for all of us, both far greater than simply any physical acts we perform, and therefore to characterize LGBTIQ people as inherently sinful for only those acts themselves, is completely flawed from both a Biblical and common sense perspective.

But someone’s sin isn’t really the issue here and we don’t even have to agree on that. Regardless of our theological perspective, we can’t ignore that at the heart of Jesus’ life and ministry is the way he drew people close to him, listened to them, touched them, broke bread with them, wept with them, and treated them with dignity, as equals.

When a follower of Christ claims that they LTSHTS, they are saying two things loudly and unquestionably to a LGBTIQ person:

One, that he or she knows that person’s body and heart from a distance, better than the person in question knows from the inside.

And two, that what those people are telling them is involuntary about themselves, they are characterizing as despicable. They are declaring them as inherently defective, vile, evil. I’m not sure those who wield LTSHTS so causally have any real idea how damaging and hurtful that is; what it really speaks to the hearer’s heart. If they did, I’m certain they would see the complete absence of Jesus in it.

To say to a LGBTIQ person, “I love you but I hate your sexuality”, is the same as saying to someone, “I love you, but the color of your eyes disgusts me”, or “I love you, but I hate the way you laugh”, or “I love you, but God believes that the freckles on your shoulders and cheeks are an abomination.”

LTSHTS is not (as its practitioners allege) a balanced phrase, but a hateful phrase; one that never makes a relationship between two parties better or closer or richer, it only severs or prevents the very kind of intimate fellowship Jesus forged, even with those he disagreed with. To utter it is to stand in complete opposition to the life he lived and to the ministry he practiced.

Christian, there are many more reasons why “Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin” needs to be killed and buried forever, but those are a great start.

The bottom line, is that it is a phrase that injures, demeans, judges, and ostracizes people who are made in the image of God, and those are things that should never be on the agenda of someone claiming to be following in the footsteps of Jesus.

We’re talking here about important conversations, regarding extremely complex issues, with incredibly diverse human beings. These all deserve much more than a cheap, insulting catch-phrase. They deserve far greater effort than a lazy religious platitude which doesn’t work when fleshed out in real relationships and serves no redemptive purpose.

LTSHTS is about as sinful as we can get, friends. 

To never utter that phrase again, may be the very repenting Christians ought to do—but that’s between you and Jesus.

As for me?

I love you, Christian, but I really hate the way you, “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

August 19, 2015

The Source of Wisdom

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

wisdomDesiring Wisdom? Desire God

by Clarke Dixon

There has never been a time of greater access to information. We have so much information, knowledge, and opportunities for education in our society today and yet sometimes people seem to make the craziest choices!  Just having access to information does not ensure that we will use the information to make good decisions. Recently I discovered that a major Christian website has deleted the comments sections from its blogs. Why? I suspect it is because some people say the dumbest things in the dumbest ways and the editors could not keep up. People comment without wisdom, just as people often speak and act without wisdom. We need more than information to make good choices. We need wisdom.

Solomon was known for his wisdom. In 1 Kings 3:1-15 we learn about how Solomon came to be wise. Solomon had recently become the king in place of his father David, and God told him to ask for one thing. Solomon asks for wisdom.  There are six things there we can learn from his request in our quest to speak and act with wisdom:

First, in seeking to be wise Solomon acknowledges God.

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 1 Kings 3:5-6

Notice that Solomon does not immediately shout out his request. I think many of us would have done just that. Instead Solomon takes the time to recognize who God is and what God has done. Notice also that Solomon does not focus on his father David. Yes, David is mentioned, but it is God who is reason David did so well as king. God is the focus. If we want to make wise decisions we would do well by starting off with an acknowledgement of, and focus upon, God. This is one reason why weekly worship with other believers is so important.

Second, in seeking to be wise Solomon becomes humble.

And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 1 Kings 3:7

Notice again Solomon still has not rushed into his request. Before he does he acknowledges who he himself is, and what he is like. There is something about acknowledging God that inspires confession and humility in us. Many people do and say the dumbest things because they think they know everything already, therefore everything they speak and do must be good. They do not have teachable spirit. We will not speak and act with wisdom if we do not learn to say “I have much to learn.”

Third, in seeking to be wise Solomon recognizes the importance of his calling.

And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 1 Kings 3:8

Notice that Solomon still has not made his request yet. Before he does Solomon realizes the gravity of the situation. He is now responsible for many, many people. Not only that, but they are the people God has chosen, they are “your great people” v.9. Solomon understands that his role is very, very important. I wonder if people say and do the dumbest things because they do not realize that what they say or do is important. We can carry around the attitude that “it doesn’t really matter”, or “I am of no significance, I don’t really matter, so what I say or do is of little significance and does not really matter.” Every Christian person has a calling from God. Wisdom becomes a greater priority for us when we understand the importance of God’s call upon us.

Fourth, in seeking to be wise Solomon knows the importance of listening.

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people . . . 1 Kings 3:9a

Now Solomon finally gets to his request. I often go over the passage I preach on in the original languages, but please don’t think of me more highly than you ought for I am not a master of the Hebrew and Greek languages, I am a student. Being such I was amazed when in verse 9 I did not come across the Hebrew words I was expecting, words for “wisdom.” There instead was the word for listening. It reads something like “give your servant a listening heart.” This also rings through the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. But it does not ring through the English translations. We can have great trust in the English translations, but I wonder if something has been lost here. When we have the idea of listening, the obvious question becomes, “to whom are we listening?” Given that we have already seen Solomon acknowledge God, express humility, and recognize the importance of leading, not his own people, but God’s, it is clear that Solomon is asking for a heart that listens to and is obedient toward God. We can do and say the dumbest things because we are not listening to God.

Fifth, in seeking to be wise Solomon understands the importance of knowing the difference between right and wrong.

. . . able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people? 1 Kings 3:9b

Have you noticed that in educational situations in today’s society right and wrong, good and evil are barely talked about? The reason is obvious. If good and evil are real, then so is God. So instead we are given information and then asked to discern the best choice. Do you see the danger in this? The astute student (and they all are), figures out, even if only in the back of his or her mind, that while some choices may not be the best, they are still permissible. And so why not if it looks like fun? Christianity moves beyond a discussion of best choices, to right and wrong choices, good and evil choices. Many dumb decisions could be avoided if we knew the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. Solomon knew that.

Sixth, in seeking to be wise Solomon will need to remain committed to God.

Next follow three verses where God expresses his delight in Solomon’s request, and His desire to grant that request and more. But it will not always be automatic, there is a big “if”:

If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life. 1 Kings 3:14

Notice the emphasis on God’s ways, God’s statutes, and God’s commandments. These are not the ways, statutes, and commandments of the king, but of the King of kings. Solomon gets off to a great start, but there are already hints in the opening verses of 1 Kings 3 that Solomon will not always be wise. Indeed he does not listen to the wisdom of God concerning marriage as defined in Genesis 2:24. His many wives and concubines end up being his undoing. Somewhere along the line Solomon’s commitment to following God waned and he started doing dumb things. How is your commitment?

To conclude let us summarize: If you desire wisdom, desire God. 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever.
Psalms 111:10 

One final, but important thought: The most wise decision a person could make is to become a follower of Jesus. Some think that following Jesus and becoming a Christian is a stupid thing to do. But again we go back to acknowledging God, being humble, realizing the importance of His call, realizing the reality and implications of good and evil, and making a lifetime commitment. Some just don’t want to do that. But many of us find that following Jesus is the best and most worthwhile decision we have ever, and could ever make.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:1

All Bible references are taken from the NRSV


Regular Wednesday contributor Clarke Dixon @clarkedixon is a pastor in Canada and blogs at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

August 18, 2015

The Seasons of Life

This came in an email from the ministry Great Big Life, from whom I subscribe to Breakfast of Champions, a weekday devotional by Andy Elmes.

Get from Every Season All it has for You

John 4:35 (NKJV)

Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!

The journey (pilgrimage) of life is certainly a journey of different seasons. The art of living well is to make sure that you live (milk the goodness out of) each and every season by both sowing into and reaping from each and every one of them. Being alive means that we will all walk through the various seasons of life. Here is a classic verse from the wisdom of Ecclesiastes to make you think this morning.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (NKJV)

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted.

If you get the chance read the rest of this classic chapter to see the different types of seasons each and every one of us faces as we journey through this thing called life. Like King David said in Psalm 37:25, we will all experience being young and being old and every season in between. I have met some older people that live in the regret of not being a teenager anymore and I have met younger people that can’t wait for a later season of life (like being married), but the problem is they are missing the season they are in. Neither of these is good enough. The answer to how to get the most out of life is to love the season you’re in.

You can’t go back and re-live seasons gone but you can learn from them. You really don’t want to fast forward to future seasons because when the ones you are in are gone, like flowers when they have flourished, they are gone for good. The key for us all today is to carpe (seize) the one you’re in! So choose today to learn from seasons gone, love the one you’re in and, with faith and expectancy, have excitement concerning the ones yet to come that are promised by your God. Every season has something for you so make sure you harvest it out!

To everything there is a season. There are seasons of age, seasons of relationship, seasons of ministry and business, seasons for everything, and in them all there is a time to plant and a time to pluck (harvest) what was planted.

Here is some food for thought for you today as you consider the seasons that you are currently in:

• What seasons are you in today? Is it time to plant (sow) or to pluck up (harvest)?

• Are you getting from this season everything that you should be or could be? Are you milking out everything that is in the season to be had?

• What else do you need to do to enjoy and seize the season you are in?

God bless you – I pray that this season of your life prospers. Don’t say, “In four months …”, but make the decision to live large today the life God has given!


This has always been one of my all-time favorite Christian songs. If you have 7 minutes, close your eyes and enjoy Seasons of the Soul by Michael and Stormie Omartian.

August 17, 2015

Manifestations of Spiritual Pride

Matthew 7:20 NASB “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21a“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…

Matthew 23:27 HCSB “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity.”

Proverbs 16:18 ISV Pride precedes destruction; an arrogant spirit appears before a fall.

 

This is from Wade Burleson at Istoria Ministries. Click the title below to read at source.

Spiritual Pride Is Seen By Its Fruit, Not Its Root

One of the greatest American theologians in our nation’s relatively young history – at least compared to Europe – is the brilliant Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).

Edwards once wrote an article showing the eight characteristics of spiritual pride, a disease he says “is much more difficult to discern than any other corruption because, by nature, pride is a person having too high a thought of himself” and therefore one afflicted would be unable to see it.

Edwards writes that pride “is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit to darken the mind and mislead the judgment, and the main handle by which Satan takes hold of Christians to hinder a work of God.”

Since pride is “so secretive, and cannot be well discerned by immediate intuition of the thing itself,” it’s best, says Edwards, to “identify it by its fruits and effects.” Edwards then proceeds to name eight characteristics of spiritual pride.

  • The spiritually proud person is full of light already and feels he does not need instruction, so he easily despises instruction and the offer of it.
  • Spiritually prideful people tend to speak loudly and often of others’ sins – like the miserable delusion of hypocrites, or the deadness of some saints with bitterness, or the opposition to holiness of many believers – and always finds fault with other saints for their lack of progress in grace.
  • Spiritually proud people often speak of almost everything they see in others in the harshest, most severe language.
  • Spiritual pride often disposes persons to act differently in external appearance, to assume a different way of speaking, countenance or behavior to be seen and praised by others, whereas the humble person never sets himself up to be viewed and observed as one distinguished.
  • Proud people take great notice of opposition and injuries, and are prone to speak often about them with an air of bitterness or contempt.
  • Another pattern of spiritually proud people is to behave in ways that make them the focus of others, coming to expect deference from others and forming an ill opinion of those who do not give them what they feel they deserve.
  • One under the influence of spiritual pride is more apt to instruct others than to ask questions.
  • As spiritual pride disposes people to assume much to themselves, so it disposes to treat others with neglect.

Surprisingly, Edwards sums up his examination of the fruit of spiritual pride by making a statement worthy of consideration by us all:

“We ought to be very careful that we do not refuse to discourse with carnal men because we count them unworthy to be regarded. Instead, we should condescend to carnal men as Christ has condescended to us.”

That there’s some heavy, thoughtful mental food for those of us who are living in a culture of carnality. Before we speak a word of condemnation about those we perceive to be in sin, we might want to take stock of Edward’s keen observations.

August 16, 2015

Lord, I Can’t Do This; Please Get Somebody Else

A few days ago we looked at how Moses was reluctant to be God’s chosen mouthpiece and his reasons why God should get someone else. Our particular focus there was the public speaking aspect of the job God was calling Moses to do.

But sometimes it’s not public speaking, we have other reasons why we just wish God would choose someone else. (After writing this, I realized there’s also a tie-in to our devotional from two days ago; that often we just wish we could be somewhere else.)

I never really thought of this verse in this context until a sermon I heard this morning, but certainly God understands when we are struck by our limitations:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses – Hebrews 4:15a

and an earlier verse in the same book:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity – Hebrews 2:14

In Christ we have a role model, who as he took on a mission that, in his humanity, as Calvary loomed large, caused him to ask if there were not a better way or a different way. It’s like he was almost saying, ‘Maybe someone else can take over at this point.’ Okay, I know that’s not the way it works, but you do get a sense of the anguish that Christ as feeling at that time.

But sometimes we hesitate to enter into the mission God has for us because of condemnation. This is a difficult subject to address because sin needs to be dealt with before a person is fit for public ministry (which might include everything from teaching a class to helping at the soup kitchen.) But sometimes the condemnation is simply an attack of the enemy.

I John 3:20 states,

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

From the Forerunner Commentary at BibleStudyTools.org:

When we commit the occasional sin, are we no longer acceptable to God? Is our fellowship truly cut off? While it is true that sin separates us from Him, do we remain unsatisfied because we feel there is no communion? Once again, God’s grace rescues us from what would otherwise be an impossible situation.

The answer to this confounding situation lies in a change of our natures arising from repentance, receipt of God’s Holy Spirit, and—perhaps above all—access to God through Jesus Christ. Through these come fellowship and experience with Them throughout the remainder of life and access to God’s merciful grace when we fall short. There can be no doubt we are saved by grace through faith. Our depression and extreme self-condemnation reveals a lack of faith in God’s willingness to forgive upon repentance. Though works are required of us, we cannot earn our way into the Kingdom through them because they will forever fall short in providing payment for sin.

As mentioned earlier, there is a tension between the two extremes of excessive guilt and feelings of worthlessness in contrast to the casual, careless, irresponsible, “God will just have to take me as I am” disregard of our responsibility to glorify God in all we think, say, and do.

This is why John says, “God is greater than our heart.” He is ever willing to accept us as Christ—even though we personally bring Him blemished offerings in our life’s experiences—as long as our attitude has not turned to trampling the sacrifice of His Son underfoot and treating it as a common thing.

We will never enter into God’s acceptance and fellowship based on any work of offering we sacrifice to Him. The only thing He will accept is the unblemished offering of Christ’s life, and because it accompanies or precedes us into His presence, we are accepted, have communion with Him, and are fed.

[read more at Bible Study Tools]

Ephesians 3:12 states:

 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

If we find ourselves in a battle, Ephesians 6:13b reminds us:

…[W]hen you have done everything you could, you will be able to stand firm. (ISV)

Our local congregations are in need of people who are able to give their time in ministry service, but many are afraid to step up because of what the commentary above calls excessive guilt; however, our texts today I hope help us see that this may just be another tactic of the enemy to get us to quit.

Don’t get discouraged and don’t get overcome by feelings of inadequacy.

 

 

 

 

 

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