Christianity 201

March 16, 2018

God’s Longing for Your Life Will be Fulfilled

I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ! – Phil. 1:6 (TPT)

Currently, much attention has been focused on a new version of the New Testament, The Passion Bible. This has in turn resulted in interest in the author, Brian Simmons and his other writings. We decided to check out his book of 52 devotions, I Hear His Whisper.

The style of this devotional places the text in the first person as though God Himself is speaking. We’ve previously discussed that this style is used in classics some as Come Away my Beloved and more recent books such as 66 Love Letters. In order to emphasize this, I’ve set today’s devotional in italics.

“I am Building Your Life into a Masterpiece of Love”

Just as a builder lays a foundation for a large and strong house, I have laid a deep foundation in your life. This foundation is built upon the Rock of Truth. I have set up your walls and strengthened your being. You will be a stronghold of My presence, and I will display you to the world as My beautiful, artistic masterpiece!

Sacred blood I gave for you. Holy hands were opened to receive your nails. Beautiful feet that walked the streets of Jerusalem were pierced so that you would walk the streets of holiness with Me. I will bring My plans to pass. My longings for your life will be fulfilled. Do not look at the structure and say that it is inferior.

Look at My wisdom and say, “You do all things well.” Even now I am preparing the next steps of your journey with Me. I am building you into a house of glory that I might show My overcoming, conquering strength on your behalf. Slowly and carefully, as the Master Builder, I have constructed you and built you up. The superstructure is now seen, and I will finish what I have begun.

Many times you have asked me, “Why does this take so long?” I speak to you this day: believe in My wise plan for your life, look to Me and it will come to pass. My power and grace will rise up within you, and what now seems impossible will be lifted from you. Your limitations are invitations for My power to deliver you. I will never fail you or disappoint you. My promises are rainbows of hope that cover you. My declarations over your life are greater than your heartache. Your tears are liquid words that I read and understand. Never doubt My conquering love, for I have determined to build you up into a spiritual house filled with trust, hope and love.

Psalm 38:9 (TPT)

Lord God, you know all my desires
And my deepest longings.
My tears are liquid words
And you can read them all.

• Stand back and look at your life as if it were a building being constructed. Can you see His wise plan coming together? Reflect on His faithfulness to you throughout the different stages of your life.

-from I Hear His Whisper (Broadstreet, 2015) pp. 111-113

Other key scriptures in The Passion Translation:

Each year there are many new translations of the Bible released, but only a select few reach a level whereby they find acceptance and are known by the broader Christian community. We’ve seen conservative translations such as the ESV and more recently the CSB do this but there are also versions of the Bible which attempt to do something new and different, while still remaining faithful to original language documents. Such was The Message and more recently The Voice; and it’s into that marketplace that The Passion Translation (sometimes being referred to now as TPT) by Dr. Brian Simmons enters. Hardcover editions are now available and several leather editions, and in addition to the NT contains Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Songs.

Ephesians 2:8 – For it was only through this wonderful grace that we believed in him. Nothing we did could ever earn this salvation, for it was the gracious gift from God that brought us to Christ!

Matthew 28:18 – Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 3:16 – Every Scripture has been written by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. It will empower you by its instruction and correction, giving you the strength to take the right direction and lead you deeper into the path of godliness.

Romans 10:9 – And what is God’s “living message”? It is the revelation of faith for salvation, which is the message that we preach. For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will experience salvation.

Romans 8:28 – So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.

Romans 12:2 – Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.

Philippians 4:13 – I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.



March 15, 2018

Preparing Like Jesus? Or Like the Religious Leaders?

by Clarke Dixon

What are you preparing for? You don’t need to tell us, we can tell by your actions. If you are buying a crib and setting up a nursery you are probably expecting the arrival of a baby. Likewise if I grab my motorcycle helmet and jacket I am likely expecting to go motorcycling. Our preparations show our expectations, what we believe to be next.

There is a lot of activity in Mark 14:1-42 which we can describe as preparations. In verses 1,2 the chief priests and scribes are preparing to eliminate Jesus.

The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; Mark 14:1

In verses 3-9 Jesus speaks of his body being prepared for burial.

She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Mark 14:8

In verses 10-11 the preparations by the religious leaders to eliminate Jesus continue with the cooperation of Judas.

When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. Mark 14:11

In verses 12-25 preparations are made for the Passover which become preparations for Jesus becoming the Passover lamb. During this celebration Jesus prepares the disciples to expect his death (verses 22-25), and the New Covenant (verse 24). Later he prepares them to expect his resurrection (verse 28) and that they will be at their worst (verses 26-31).

And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’ Mark 14:27

Finally, Jesus prepares himself for what is ahead through prayer (verses 32-42).

He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” Mark 14:36

There is an obvious contrast in the preparations between the religious leaders and Jesus. That contrast in preparations reflects a contrast in expectations. Since the religious leaders see Jesus as nothing but a troublemaker, they expect nothing but trouble. We learn more about this in the Gospel of John:

So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”  But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all!  You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” John 11:47-50

Since the religious leaders expect Jesus to bring trouble they prepare to eliminate him. In contrast to this are the expectations of Jesus;

He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for manyMark 14:24 (emphasis added)

Jesus expects God’s purposes of reconciling people to Himself will be fulfilled through him. Therefore, while the religious leaders prepare to take a life, Jesus prepares to give his life.

What are our expectations for the future? Specifically, we might ask what are our expectations when we die? How do we prepare?

Most religions are based on a sense of cosmic or divine judgement. If you expect to be reincarnated, you will prepare by working off bad karma. If you expect to stand before a God in divine judgement, you will prepare through striving to be good enough to be declared innocent. Most religions are based on the notion that you get what you deserve.

Or we can consider those who would deny, or be apathetic toward, any kind of divinity or afterlife. If you expect nothing at all when you die, you may prepare by striving after some sort of immortality through significance, fame, or children. Or you may prepare by trying to reconcile yourself to a universe that lacks meaning and purpose. On a purely  materialistic model not only will your life end, but so will all life eventually.

All these world-views are based either on getting exactly what you deserve, or there being nothing to deserve.

While many think that the Christian worldview is based on divine judgement, fact is, the Christian worldview is based on divine grace.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4

This does not mean there are no preparations.

  • When we expect to enjoy the presence of God for eternity, we prepare by spending time in His presence now, through worship and prayer.
  • When we expect to experience God’s perfect justice in His Kingdom coming, we prepare by seeking justice now.
  • When we expect to enjoy forgiveness and reconciliation, we prepare by being a people of forgiveness and reconciliation now.
  • When we expect to experience God’s love, we prepare by leaning into love now.
  • When we expect God to surprise us with things that are currently mysteries to us, we prepare by trusting God with all that we cannot comprehend now.
  • When we expect to see the wonders of God’s re-Creation, we prepare by standing in awe of the Creator and enjoyment of creation now.

If we were found within this passage of Mark, where would we be? Would we stand with the religious leaders and Judas, making preparations to eliminate Jesus? Or would we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Jesus actively preparing for God’s will to be done, His purposes to be accomplished, His promises to be kept?

All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Listen to the audio of the full sermon on which this based (33 minutes).


March 14, 2018

The Afflictions are Temporary; Please Stand By

I am so appreciative of the ministry of Gordon Rumford and his devotional website.  This is his 8th time featured here. Click the title below to read this at source.

Why All The Suffering?

“ so that no one would be unsettled by these trials.
For you know quite well that we are destined for them.”
1 Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV)

A wise person once said, “Suffering is having what you do not want or not having what you do want.” Some of us are independent of others for our daily needs but struggle under other pressures, others of us are poor and dependent on others for our daily bread but we long to be financially independent.

This describes so many people in our time. We long for peace and go on living in turmoil or we find circumstances tie us down and prevent us from being or doing what we want.

Dissatisfaction with life is pervasive. Movie stars have more money than they can spend so they get what they want. However, many of them go through marriage partners the same way we go through family cars. They swap partners every few years so they have what they want only to discover a few years later that what they wanted is now unwanted.

A time tested rule is that money does not usually bring happiness with it. Of course a lot of people want to get lots of money to try and prove that rule wrong. Sadly, as we look at many of the world’s wealthiest people we find they are also often among the most unhappy people in the world.

When we look at people who have journeyed through life with serious limitations they are often the happiest of people. Somehow this reality doesn’t seem possible. How can people be happy when they are poor, have health issues, or lose loved ones early in life?

In Luke 12:15 we hear Jesus say,

“Your life does not consist in the abundance of things you possess.”

Here is the One Who possesses all things (Colossians 1:16) and He tells us that material wealth is not the key to a fulfilling life.

Jesus should know what makes for a great life because His life was full and rich with really great treasures. Though He was poor He made many eternally rich. Although He was mocked, scorned and finally murdered by jealous people, He provided the basis for an eternal relationship of joy and love with our Creator.

Of all people, Jesus knew that to gain lasting satisfaction in life we must die to ourselves and give ourselves in the service of others. The path that leads to the life of eternal joy is the one that takes us through temporary valleys of tears.

A slogan that some physiotherapists use with their clients who are recuperating from surgery is, “No pain, no gain.” This group of health professionals regard the pain of exercising as necessary to recuperation. In the spiritual realm it is the same. For us to grow into the image of Jesus we must be subject to adversity.

God our Father faithfully leads His children through sorrow into joy. Why the pain? It is the gateway to life. Paul wrote 2  (Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV),

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us
an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.


March 13, 2018

Freedom from Sin through Death

by Russell Young

Paul has written that “anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:7 NIV) This, of course, makes sense. If a person is dead, he or she can no longer sin. It is an impossibility. The intent that Paul is trying to convey is not so simple, however. Prior to these words he had stated: “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom 6:34 NIV)

The thought of being baptized into Christ’s death should not be readily dismissed. Give it careful deliberation! Meditate on it. What does it mean to you? By choice the person who has been baptized has chosen to have died to this world making the claim to have died with Christ, to be whelmed by the death of Christ, and has identified himself or herself as being dead along with Christ. Being immersed in his death means that it has seeped into every pore of a person’s flesh. Nothing has been left untouched. The death is to be permanent and complete, one from which resuscitation is not allowed.

Although Christ physically died, we have not; however, we are to “count” (Rom 6:11), consider, or reckon that we have died. This may be more difficult than many would like to accept. By his or her will the person baptized into Christ’s death will not allow the flesh to command their attention; its interests can have no draw on the believer since it has been put to death.

It is easy to excuse earthly interests. The flesh demands pacification, the world’s interest is in the flesh, and the means for its appeasement is everywhere; however, to entertain fleshly interests can be flirting with destruction. (Gal 6:8; Phil 3:19) The Lord does not allow the freedom that many suppose. He requires that the misdeeds of the body be put to death (Rom 8:13), holiness (Heb 12:14), and commitment with all the believer’s heart, soul, and mind. (Mt 22:37) The believer in Christ cannot live passively but must be actively pursuing God’s will. Paul wrote: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5 NIV) If the flesh has not died, the confessor has not died. If he has not died, he has not died with or in Christ, or to the world. It should not be accepted that a mystical death has occurred…a death without dying. Accepting such a perspective will grant licence to live in the flesh, satisfying its desires, while entertaining the comfort that death has occurred.

Paul wrote of his crucifixion: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20 NIV) Faith is not only a possession, it is evidenced through the practice of obedience to Christ.

Is the Lord expecting too much from those who would claim to be believers? Is his call reasonable? Many would claim that the idea of personal death is more than Christ demands; however, the Lord has said that only a few would find the small gate and narrow road that lead to life (Mt 7:17), and that those on the faith journey must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow him. (Lk 9:23) The cross is an instrument of death and when earthly or bodily interests start to emerge, the believer is to crucify himself or herself again. If a single crucifixion had been sufficient, the cross would not have to be carried daily, nor would it have to be constantly available.

Paul wrote that the purpose of the believer’s crucifixion was so that he or she “could live a new life.” (Rom 6:4 NIV) Baptism is a pledge (1 Pet 3:21) to God and to others that the confessor has acknowledged his or her death, having all their past sins washed away. (Heb 9:15,) Consequently, the confessor has been provided with the Spirit (Gal 3:14) so a new life might be lived.

Paul wrote of baptism saying, “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (Rom 6:5 NIV) “If” is a conditional word. Accordingly, Paul has rested the hope of resurrection in a person’s willingness to be united with Christ in his death. The life of death to the world (Lk 17:33) and to its interests is lifelong (Mt 24:13) and is the life of faith.

Christ said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (Jn 14:6 NIV) and Paul has revealed that “Christ in you [is] your hope of glory.” (Col 1:27 NIV) The “life” is his life in the believer and he is their hope of glory. Those seeking his eternal presence must be united with Christ in his death.

As Paul told the Romans, “In the same way [Christ’s death to sin] count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in [through] Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11 NIV) Freedom from sin is not an automatic state that is gifted to the believer; it must be a moment by moment commitment to deny the interests of the body that cause death. If the needed victory is to be gained a humble and obedient walk with Christ is needed. Such a walk is not an option that only “super” believers are to entertain. John has taught, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 26 NIV) The person who has died with Christ will also be resurrected with him. Even Paul professed that he “wanted to know Christ and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead,” (Phil 3:1011 NIV) and he confessed that he had not already obtained all of this. Being alive, he still had the option to entertain the flesh and to sin.

There is much to appreciate about the need for death to self, however, only through the practice of death to the body and through obedience to Christ can sin be defeated and victory gained.

Author Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: 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.


March 12, 2018

Staying on Track When Christians Seek Political Influence

Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.
 -2 Timothy 2:4 NLT

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.
 -2 Peter 2:20 NIV

Again we’re revisiting the writing of Amy Simpson, author of Troubled Minds and Anxious. Amy is current at the forefront of the intersection of Christianity and the study of mental health issues.  Her new book is Blessed are the Unsatisfied: Finding Freedom in an Imperfect World (InterVarsity) and you can read chapter one from the book for free at this link. (Look around her blog for chapters two and three as well!) To read today’s post there, click the title below.

Be Careful: Power Tends to Corrupt…Our Faith

Several years ago, my family and I spent a weekend visiting friends in North Central Indiana. Although this part of the country is home to lots of regular Indiana folks, it’s one of the places known as “Amish country,” a handful of regions in the United States that are home to large Old Order Mennonite and Amish communities. Although we were there to visit friends, not to engage in “Amish tourism,” we did visit the Menno-Hof Amish/Mennonite Information Center in Shipshewana, Indiana. Part museum, part educational experience, it features interesting exhibits about the history, beliefs, and contemporary experiences of Amish and Mennonite people.

The experience began with a quick multimedia presentation of a couple of thousand years of Christian history, starting with the birth of Jesus and showing how and why the Anabaptist movement emerged in sixteenth-century Europe. Through this perspective, one prominent theme emerged: bad things happen when religion and political power get cozy.

These folks should know; their history serves as brutal illustration. The center’s exhibits highlighted the European experiences of Anabaptists and other minority religious groups. An underground dungeon shows the lengths to which powerful state churches would go to suppress the rights and views of minority groups. A ship, ready to sail for the “New World,” illustrates the lengths to which they went in order to find a place where they might peacefully practice their faith and honor their conscience.

In fact, among those of us with European roots, many are descended from people who came to this land seeking escape from state-sponsored religious persecution in Europe. They saw for themselves how political power and religion, when they get all mixed up, can be a recipe for oppression. And we see it for ourselves today, in nations all around the world, where faith and power are used as both justification and tools in the fight for domination. Whether we like it or not, the entire Western world is at war with one such system. How tremendously ironic that American Christians can’t seem to let go of our own appetite for political power.

Now, I’m no separatist. I’ve never even read an Amish romance novel. And I’m a firm believer that Christians ought to be as engaged–and personally invested–in our cultures as anyone else. But I think these Anabaptists got something right–political power has the potential to corrupt our faith as thoroughly as it can corrupt any other area of life. As soon as people perceive a threat to their power, they often begin to lose their way as they focus on trying to cling to it. I’m afraid this is one form of sickness currently infecting the American church.

We are here to live in relationship with God and wield our influence in the direction that relationship leads us. We are not here to make or keep ourselves powerful. That is not part of our calling. Does this mean we ought to eschew power and influence, automatically yielding it all to people who have no misgivings about the relationship between power and faith? Absolutely not. But graciously exercising power is far different from grabbing for it, hoarding it, or wielding it only in our own self-interest. Humbly and generously seeking the common good is vastly different from seeking to hold over others the kind of power that God himself chooses not to exercise.

Many of the people who are quick to point out power’s corrupting influence on people who have disappointed us–like lifelong politicians, corporate kings, and media moguls–are foolish enough to believe it won’t have the same effect on us. Take a look around and think again.

These are messy times, like all other times in human history. I’m not naive enough to believe any one attitudinal shift will bring ideological peace to our society. But clinging to power at all costs has never brought lasting peace or fostered a kinder, more livable culture. In fact, those who refuse to share, without exception, eventually lose everything they worked so hard to amass. Let’s take a lesson from our own stories. Let’s imitate the all-powerful King of Kings and Lord of Lords, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8).


March 11, 2018

Sunday Worship

Oh, that we might know the Lord!
    Let us press on to know him.  – Hosea 6:3 NLT

High Versus Low Thoughts about God: A.W. Tozer

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. …

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ”What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow. …

A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God….

It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.

All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him….

The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is – in itself a monstrous sin – and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges….

The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place. ‘When they knew God,’wrote Paul, ‘they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.’

Then followed the worship of idols fashioned after the likeness of men and birds and beasts and creeping things. But this series of degrading acts began in the mind. Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise.

The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, Chapter 1

••• The quotation in the first paragraph figures largely into the opening of John Mark Comer’s book God Has A Name.

  • For a 50-minute video teaching of this material, go to this link on our other blog.
  • For a review of the book, go to this link at Thinking Out Loud.
  • For an excerpt from the book, go to this link from here at C201 two weeks ago.

••• For more about A.W. Tozer:

  • A classic A. W. Tozer Devotional; go to this link from C201 in November, 2013.
  • Tozer on the Trinity — Job Descriptions: Who Does What? Go to this link from November, 2014 here at C201
  • For excerpts by Tozer on Christian Leadership which then links you to a series of short excerpts, start at this link from C201 in October, 2013

••• Other Tozer readings here at Christianity 201:


March 10, 2018

Encouraged and Satisfied

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

Elsie Montgomery is one of the most faithful devotional writers I encounter when preparing these articles to share with you. She’s now in her 12th year of writing and this is her 14th article here at C201. Click the title below and read it at her blog, Practical Faith.

Content with God’s plan?

God arranges devotional readings to fit whatever is going on in my life. I don’t know how He does that but am so thankful for it. Some days I need correction or a rebuke. He knows and does it. Some days I need something new to challenge me. He does that too. Some days I need to be encouraged and He always knows what to say, both from the Scriptures and from A.W. Tozer’s refreshing perspectives.

My main function in the Body of Christ is prayer. I used to teach and be more involved with other people. Now I am still with people, yet my role has changed from talking and teaching to observation and intercession. God is teaching me to pray as I listen to the Holy Spirit. It is a wonderful thing, yet at times I feel disconnected. I sometimes wonder if this is all He wants.

Tozer says that many ordinary folks may have nothing to recommend them but a deep devotion to the Lord and the fruit of the Spirit which they unconsciously display. The Lord says to me, “This is where you fit.”

Then Tozer goes on. He says the church could not carry on without these people. Some of them are the first to come forward when work is required. My health spoils this, but then he says some are the last to go home when there is prayer needed. The way I see it, prayer is always needed. Tozer says I might not be known outside of the local church because faithfulness and goodness are rarely newsworthy, but people like this are a benediction wherever they go.

I am encouraged. Being great might produce admiration in carnal people but God helps me be content to walk with Him in the fullness of His Spirit that I might pray His will and be satisfied that this is a relatively hidden ministry. He also encourages me in small ways that far out-weigh any accolades. For instance, in the past month He put on the hearts of three children, a three-year-old girl, a boy of about six and a girl of about four to make cards for me. One said, “We hope you are feeling better. I love you.” The boy’s said, “I pray that you are not afraid because God is with you.” Last week, I was blessed by a card with hearts and handprints. Her mother said it was totally the child’s idea to make it for me.

Today’s verses are about what comes from the heart. The children’s cards tell me of their openness to the Holy Spirit and as a result are blessing others. The devotional does that too. Those verses begin with Jesus’ rebuke to the hypocrisy of religious leaders:

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:34–37)

Those children leave a fragrance of Christ that lingers in my heart. I want to be like them. God assures me that in praying for them and for others, this role in His kingdom has great value. He hears my heart, puts blessing into the hearts that listen to Him, even the hearts of “the least of these” so that they become a blessing to others, even to me. There is great joy in being loved by little people who hardly know me. Imagine the joy in the heart of Jesus when those who know Him express their love by obedience and by loving others.

Dear Lord Jesus, Tozer ends with this: “Come unto God, unite yourself to God, and the doing power you have is infinite!” You have encouraged me. Prayer is sometimes a delight, yet also at times very hard work. It is spiritual warfare for the enemy wants to stop me, but also is an unimaginable link to You — and it sometimes results in great surprises.

March 9, 2018

Should Christians Take Each Other to Court?

We’re paying our third visit to the online resource, which includes various blogs, podcasts and Bible study materials materials available on everything from a phone app to print. They feature various authors, but our writer today, Keith Harris, was presented here previously.

Lawsuits & Social Media

Should a Christian file a lawsuit against another Christian? Is there ever a time when you believe it is appropriate to the courts in order to settle a dispute with a brother or sister? Suppose a fellow Christian was a financial planner who handled accounts for church members. If this planner misappropriates, mismanages, or embezzles funds from a church member, is this worthy of taking him to court?

If you are like me, your mind recalls Paul mentioning something about the topic of taking a brother to court. It is in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth. “When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints” (1 Corinthians 6:1)? He goes on to ask, “So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church…Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?” (1 Corinthians 6:4-6). Why do you think Paul is so concerned about a brother taking another brother to court? Why would it really matter? If a brother or sister has been wronged by another person, even if that person is a fellow Christian, doesn’t the offended party have a legal right to seek restitution? The question of legality arises in the context of Paul’s discussion on this subject. “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Historically, we have not connected this statement with the concerns raised regarding lawsuits. But I have become more and more convinced that this entire chapter deals with the foundational elements of Paul’s concern with unity among the Christians in Corinth.

So how do these issues which Paul addresses in this letter relate us today? Is there any parallel we can draw between their context and our own? I think the connection becomes clear when we begin to see Paul’s juxtaposition of the unrighteous and the saints. Check out 1 Corinthians 6:1 again, “When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?” He goes on to offer examples of those that are unrighteous: sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Paul says these will not inherit the kingdom of God. This list of examples of those that are unrighteous is place just prior to his clear statement concerning those within the church at Corinth. “And such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11). You used to be numbered among the unrighteous. You were once involved in these unrighteous activities. But…

“…you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Paul once again presses the saints up against the unrighteous. Why? His point appears to be helping these Christians see how foolish it is to bring grievances among brothers and sisters before those who have no interest or standing in the church. This picture, graphic as it may be, is illustrated in Paul’s exhortation to not be joined to a prostitute. It is the picture of one who has been cleansed of filth and dross taking a dip in a sewage pond. What sense does that make?

Paul concludes his thoughts by exhorting, “So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). This is a statement that incorporates all that he has stated to this point in the larger context of this chapter. Refrain from joining with the unrighteous. This is not Paul saying they should avoid all contact with those outside of Christ. After all, how would they accomplish the will of God if they never interacted with those outside the faith. Basically (and I understand I have greatly simplified this), what Paul is saying is that there is no reason why two Christians should take their grievances to those outside the church. Doing this would be the same as a Christian joining his/her body with a prostitute. For the Body of Christ to do this fails to bring glory to God.

Now…what about our context? I am saddened by the vast number of Christians who rant and rave on social media. Often, message of disdain and disrespect fill the news feed. And all too often, Christians pour their hearts out over issues within the church. And they do this in front of the whole world. Is it possible that doing so is congruent with what Paul addresses among the Corinthians? Why is it that so many have no problem airing their differences and grievances regarding the Body of Christ on social media for all to see? And I mean all to see. Paul would say, “So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 6:4-5). Without a doubt, Paul’s major concern throughout his ministry was the church. This letter, this discussion, is no different. What do our actions and words say about the Church for which Jesus died? What impact are we having on the unrighteous? How are we influencing the unrighteous? Maybe closer to home…what impact are we having on our children/teenagers? How are we influencing them?

Technology, even social media, can be very beneficial. Think about the number of people that can be reached with the message of Christ through these avenues. Think about the number of people that can be turned away from God through these avenues. We must be diligent to remember the power of a word. Our message must be one of love and hope. We cannot allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking that it is okay to abuse and slander a brother or sister. It is not okay to overtly, or passively (as is the case with far too many), berate a fellow Christian. When we speak/type/post, we must allow the love of God to penetrate every word. So glorify God with your body. Glorify God with your speech.

March 8, 2018

Signs of the End: Mark 13

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

by Clarke Dixon

Should we expect the world to end soon? Are the signs that the end is near lining up? Some take Jesus’ words in Mark chapter 13 to refer to the end times and the signs to watch for. However, others think it has nothing to do with the end of the world and everything to do with the destruction of Jerusalem long ago in the first century. How are we to know? Let us dig into Mark 13 and see what we can learn:

1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, . . .  Mark 13:1-5

Let us first consider that we have a statement, a question, an answer, and a fact.

  • First the statement: Jesus says the Temple will be destroyed.
  • Then the question: The disciples ask when the Temple will be destroyed.
  • Let us jump now to the fact: Forty years later the Temple indeed lay in ruins.

Given that Jesus tells the disciples the Temple will be destroyed, the disciple ask when, and the Temple is in fact destroyed within forty years, it is reasonable to expect that at least some of Jesus’ answer has something to do with that destruction of the Temple. But is Jesus only speaking about the destruction of the Temple? Let’s take a look and think about how it affects us today.

Verses 5-13 can be understood to refer to either the first century or to the end times. The followers of Jesus did experience persecution then, and have continued to experience persecution at various times and places ever since. But let us dig deeper into the rest of the chapter.

14 “But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 15 the one on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; 16 the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 17 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not be in winter. 19 For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. 21 And if anyone says to you at that time, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘Look! There he is!’—do not believe it. 22 False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be alert; I have already told you everything. Mark 13:14-23

Ironically, in our day it is so easy for the reader to not understand what the “desolating sacrilege” refers to in verse 14. But in the first century, the typical Jew and Jewish Christian would have understood the reference to the book of Daniel as pointing to previous sieges against  Jerusalem by foreign armies. Jesus is teaching the disciples here to watch for signs of another siege. When it happens, do not fight, but flee. Some will point to verses 19 and 20 and declare that such intense suffering can only refer to the end times. However, Jesus is using the common literary device called “hyperbole” and Bible scholars point out that the Jewish historian refers to this same destruction of Jerusalem in a similar way. We should also point out that under a siege in the first century, many Jews would have been watching for a Messiah to rescue them from the enemy. Hence Jesus’ instruction to watch out for false Messiahs. By the time Jerusalem falls Jesus has already effected a much grander rescue.

24“But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. Mark 13:24-27

Some think these verses continue to refer to the destruction of the Temple in the first century. However, many many think this refers to the return of Jesus that we still await sometime “after” (verse24) the suffering of the destruction of Jerusalem. We ought not to get too caught up in expecting stars to literally fall. This is poetry here and just as we might call an event of great significance an “earth shaking event”, the stars falling and the powers shaking alert us to a very significant event. The destruction of the Temple in the first century was a significant event as it signalled a new era. However the return of Jesus will be even more significant, signalling the beginning of a new “age“.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Mark 13:28-31

Those who understand all of Mark 13 as referring only to the end times tend to trip over verse 30 since that generation certainly has passed away and we are still waiting. However, there is no problem when we understand that Jesus is referring here to the destruction of the Temple. In fact while many translations tell us, like our NRSV here, that “he is near” in verse 29, the “he” is supplied and some translations go with “it is near”, that is, the destruction of the Temple. Jesus is now answering the original question of the disciples. Verse 29, “when you see these things” refers back to verse 14, “when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be”.  So to answer the question of the disciples, watch for the armies approaching (and run for the safety!).

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” 13:32-37

Here we have a contrast. The signs of the destruction of Jerusalem are clear, and you need to act on those signs. However “that day”, that is, the day of the Lord’s return as spoken of in verses 24-27, will come suddenly and without warning. There are no signs to watch for, one just needs to be always ready.


  1. Take to heart that Jesus was correct about the destruction of the temple. Mark, along with most of the NT was written prior to the destruction of the Temple. Jesus’ prophetic words of judgement against the Temple did come about. He is to be trusted.
  2. Take Jesus seriously. With regard to his return, there are no signs to watch for. We do well to keep this in mind when people try to sell us books about when we can expect Christ’s return. They don’t know.
  3. Look Forward with Hope and Anticipation. In verse 7 the Greek word telos is not just “end”, but “goal”. It really is not the end, but a milestone, and a new beginning. We can also think of the “birth pains” of verse 8. No one asks a pregnant woman “when does your pregnancy end?”. We ask when the baby is to be born. What begins is worthy of greater excitement than what will come to an end.
  4. Be ready. How do we get ready? We look to the One who gets us ready. Within a week of speaking of the destruction of the Temple and his Second Coming, Jesus gave his life for us on the cross. Are you ready?

Should we expect the end to come soon? No one knows but God alone, but we should be ready for Christ could arrive at any moment.

All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

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


March 7, 2018


This is what the LORD says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the LORD, have spoken! ~Jeremiah 9:23-24 NLT

Today we’re paying a second visit to Tara who blogs at PursuePeaceBlog. Click the title below to read at source.

The Heart of a Sinner

In high school I had a friend with very low self-esteem. She always pointed out her accomplishments and waited to be complimented—your standard fisherman of compliments. Even as a teenager, I knew low self-esteem was her problem. I saw that she was broken, but still, I chose not to love her. When she would start drawing attention to her greatness, I would do just about everything but compliment her. I have never been able to embrace a boastful person. I would avoid eye contact with her, change the subject, pretend I didn’t hear—all because I did not think a person as arrogant as her deserved to be praised. The irony here, however, is that this friend of mine was not arrogant. She was anything but arrogant.

Over ten years later, I am an adult—a wife, a mom, and a daughter of the King. However, boastfulness and arrogance still crawl under my skin more skillfully than any other sin. I can’t stand a boastful person. Being in the presence of one causes me to start locating the exits. I want nothing to do with arrogance.

Boastfulness is certainly a sin. God says in Matthew 6:1-2,

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”

Then in James 4:6,

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Seeking validation from anyone but God means we care more for this world than for Him. However, our human nature causes us to crave praise from just about everyone. Some of us seek it more fervently than others, but we are all boastful—small, insecure beings who want someone to notice how fantastic we are. Even though God commands us to not be part of this world, the world’s praises is the very thing many of us desire the most.

Recently in a conversation with an overtly boastful person, God began to heal my own brokenness. As I visited with this person, trying so hard to love her and acknowledge her accomplishments (hating every minute of it), I began to realize that despite the sins and worldly desires of this woman, I, too, was in need of God’s grace. I sat there in judgment of this woman because of her sin, never considering that my inability to embrace her was my sin, equal to her boastfulness. As I judged and ridiculed the heart of a boaster, God revealed the sins of my own heart. Let me worry about her heart, Tara, you must take care of your own.

By God’s grace, my next encounter with a self-conscious person who seeks my approval and praise, will be one where I exhibit the love of Christ. Because this person’s sins are not greater than my own, I will not condemn them nor despise them, but love them.

“He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” ~Luke 11:28

Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom
Or the strong man boast in his strength
Let not the rich man boast in his riches
But let the humble come and give thanks
To the One who made us, the One who saved us

This song was written by Paul Baloche. You can watch and listen to his original version (with lyrics) at this link, or this cover version:


March 6, 2018

John Newton Quotations

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He, whose Word cannot be broken,
Formed thee for His own abode;
On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
Thou mayst smile at all thy foes.

Blest inhabitants of Zion,
Washed in the Redeemer’s blood!
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
Makes them kings and priests to God;
’Tis His love His people raises
Over self to reign as kings,
And as priests, His solemn praises
Each for a thank off’ring brings.

~ Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken – John Newton

Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. (Psalm 87:3)

Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. (Isaiah 33: 21-22)

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King… As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. (Psalm 48: 1-2,8)

No doubt like many of you, we sang Amazing Grace in our church on Sunday. It’s author, John Newton said many other things too! First, Wikipedia reminds us that Newton “was an Anglican clergyman in England who served as a sailor in the Royal Navy for a period, and later as the captain of slave ships. He became ordained as an evangelical Anglican cleric, served Olney, Buckinghamshire for two decades, and also wrote hymns, known for “Amazing Grace” and “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” [see above]. Newton started his career at sea at a young age, and worked on slave ships in the slave trade for several years. After experiencing a period of Christian conversion Newton eventually renounced his trade and became a prominent supporter of abolitionism, living to see Britain’s abolition of the African slave trade in 1807.

Because his change of heart on the matter of slavery did not happen until much after his spiritual conversion, he marked the date of the latter annual but would say he was not a true believer until he became an abolitionist.

You will likewise find advantage, by attending as much as you can on those preachers whom God has blessed with much power, life, and success in their ministry. And in this you will do well not to confine yourself to any denomination or party for the Spirit of the Lord is not confined. Different men have different gifts and talents. I would not wish you to be a slavish admirer of any man. Christ alone is our Master and Teacher. But study the excellencies of each: and if you observe a fault in any (for no human models are perfect), you will see what you are yourself to avoid

Experience is the Lord’s school, and they who are taught by Him usually learn by the mistakes they make that in themselves they have no wisdom; and by their slips and falls, that they have no strength.”

Assurance grows by repeated conflict, by our repeated experimental proof of the Lord’s power and goodness to save; when we have been brought very low and helped, sorely wounded and healed, cast down and raised again, have given up all hope, and been suddenly snatched from danger, and placed in safety; and when these things have been repeated to us and in us a thousand times over, we begin to learn to trust simply to the word and power of God, beyond and against appearances: and this trust, when habitual and strong, bears the name of assurance; for even assurance has degrees.

Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.

I compare the troubles which we have to undergo in the course of the year to a great bundle of sticks, far too large for us to lift. But God does not require us to carry the whole at once. He mercifully unties the bundle, and gives us first one stick, which we are to carry today, and then another, which we are to carry tomorrow, and so on. This we might easily manage, if we would only take the burden appointed for us each day; but we choose to increase our troubles by carrying yesterday’s stick over again today, and adding tomorrow’s burden to our load, before we are required to bear it.

Your constitution, your situation, your temper, your distemper, all that is either comfortable or painful in your lot, is of his appointment. The hairs of your head are all numbered: the same power which produced the planet Jupiter is necessary to the production of a single hair, nor can one of them fall to the ground without his notice, any more than the stars can fall from their orbits. In providence, no less than in creation, he is Maximus in minimis. Therefore fear not; only believe. Our sea may sometimes be stormy, but we have an infallible Pilot, and shall infallibly gain our port.

Happy is that family where the worship of God is constantly and conscientiously maintained. Such houses are temples in which the Lord dwells, and castles garrisoned by a Divine power.

The Bible is the grand repository … It is the complete system of divine truth, to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be taken, with impunity. Every attempt to disguise or soften any branch of this truth, in order to accommodate it to the prevailing taste around us, either to avoid the displeasure, or to court the favour, of our fellow mortals, must be an affront to the majesty of God, and an act of treachery to men.

It belongs to your calling of God as a minister, that you should have a taste of the various spiritual trials which are incident to the Lord’s people, that thereby you may know how to speak a word in season to them that are weary; and it is likewise needful to keep you perpetually attentive to that important admonition, “Without Me ye can do nothing.

I endeavored to renounce society, that I might avoid temptation. But it was a poor religion; so far as it prevailed, only tended to make me gloomy, stupid, unsociable, and useless.

And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.

The Word of God is not to be used as a lottery; nor is it designed to instruct us by shreds and scraps, which, detached from their proper places, have no determinate import; but it is to furnish us with just principles, right apprehensions to regulate our judgments and affections, and thereby to influence and direct our conduct.

When people are right with God, they are apt to be hard on themselves and easy on other people. But when they are not right with God, they are easy on themselves and hard on others.

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
in a believer’s ear!
It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds,
and drives away our fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole
and calms the troubled breast;
’tis manna to the hungry soul,
and to the weary, rest.

If two angels were sent down from heaven,–one to conduct an empire, and the other to sweep a street,–they would feel no inclination to change employments.

Sources: Christian Quotes, A-Z Quotes, Inspiring Quotes, Timeless Truths,  Grace Quotes, Hail and Fire,





March 5, 2018

Vertical Devotionals

There’s a story here. My other blog runs a feature every week where we do a news and opinion roundup called Wednesday Link List. This week, we’re running edition #400, so we went looking to find #1. We located it in early January, 2010, and decided to try the links. One of them was to a blog called More Than Useless, written by Thom Fowler who pastors two churches and also works full-time in retail. There we found he has continued to be faithfully writing ever since, even though we’d lost contact over the years.

So we emailed him (which we don’t usually do) and told him how it all came about and asked if we could use his material here at C201 and asked him to select a few pieces. Today we present you with two of them which are vertical in orientation, in other words, prayer-like in their composition. He describes his process as, “Basically, my blogs are taken from my journal, typed just as I have written them. I open with a short prayer and then read a passage of scripture. After that I usually write whatever I feel the Lord saying to me about the passage.” Click the titles to read at source.

I Have a Tree

Father, thank You for getting me up this morning. It was very tempting to remain in bed but I cannot, my spiritual fitness suffers if I do not take time to regularly meet with You. Thank You for caring so much about my spiritual health, not just this morning but for everything You have done so I can find salvation in You.

20 Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. 21 Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness.

1 Timothy 6:20-21

I would ask, Lord that you would help me to guard what You have entrusted to me. Please give me the strength and the courage and the wisdom and the love to proclaim Your Good News to everyone I can.

Our world is replete with “godless, foolish” notions and there is so much banter back and forth. Help me to invest my time, thoughts and efforts wisely – putting my efforts into things worthy of eternity and Your kingdom.

In my mind’s eye, I see an orchard. I have my tree and everyone else has a tree, too. Each of our trees bears a regular harvest and that harvest is impacted by those things with which we feed and nurture our tree. We water and fertilize our trees but we can also graft in branches from other trees as well. All of these contribute to the kind of fruit we will glean from our trees and for that matter, the kind of fruit others will glean as well from our trees.

Lord, my tree is a gift from You – it is my life. I have done good and bad things to my tree but it is what it is. I have freely chosen to do with it as I will. First of all, I am grateful that I have given my tree back to You. You know what is best for its growth. You have trimmed out dead and diseased patches. You have grafted in branches that strengthen me and help me to produce better fruit. I still, quite often, have to interject things that hinder my growth. But You are patient and help me little by little rid them from my life. Lord, help me to guard what You have entrusted to me. Help me to be very careful with what I nurture my tree. My greatest desire is for the Master Gardener to use my tree as He sees fit and that its fruit will nourish others for years to come.

Swept Up into Your Arms

When I call You, Father, that denotes that I am Your child…and there is no better place to be. Life is a big thing. It is full of good things. It is full of bad things. As a child needs a parent to navigate through all the good and the bad in life, I need You.

Prior to writing this morning, I have already processed many things, good and bad. I’ve read of people’s love for each other, the joy of welcoming children into this world and the anticipation of the same. I’ve also read of people’s disregard for the preciousness of life and the audacity they have of expressing that mentality to others…and unfortunately the pain that such words can bring.

As I sit here, I need You Father. Not to just to hold my hand or to pat me on the head but I feel the need to be swept up into Your arms and to bury my face in Your strong shoulder. To be held tight. To feel Your strength…and Your love…Your understanding…Your comfort. Those are the things we so often need. These are the things we crave.

So many of us go through life and we never experience these things. The last part of James 4:2 states,

“You do not have because you do not ask God.”

Father, I am asking and I want to encourage others to ask, as well. You are willing and You are more than able. You can meet every single one of our needs. You can strengthen us for the paths we must tread. And much of that strength is in knowing that You are by our side. May we never forget what a great and awesome Father we have. Amen.

March 4, 2018

Sunday Worship

A Vision of the Glorified Christ

My wife had been working on this song a long time ago. Because our pastor was preaching on Revelation 1 and 2 this morning, she dusted it off and performed it for the first time after the sermon while we were receiving the Communion elements. It’s based on this passage:

HCSB.Rev.1.12 I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me. When I turned I saw seven gold lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was One like the Son of Man, dressed in a long robe and with a gold sash wrapped around His chest. 14 His head and hair were white like wool—white as snow—and His eyes like a fiery flame. 15 His feet were like fine bronze as it is fired in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of cascading waters. 16 He had seven stars in His right hand; a sharp double-edged sword came from His mouth, and His face was shining like the sun at midday.

Revelation 1

by Ruth Wilkinson

Jesus, your face shines like the sun with jealous love and pity
My face, my God, a brittle mask of who I try to be
Jesus, your feet are burnished bronze, with integrity you stand
My feet, My God, are clay and dust that crumble into sand

Jesus, your eyes are blazing fire that burns the fog away
My eyes, my God, unfocussed and blinded by the grey
Jesus, your voice a river’s rush, cleansing as it is pure
My voice, my God, a muddy stream, selfish and unsure

You hold the whole world in your hand,
The stars, the past, the sea
But with that pow’rful gentle hand
You reach to find, to touch, to comfort me

Jesus, your hair is white as snow – from eternity you are wise
And who am I? An empty fool – or your child in your eyes
Jesus you wear a sash of gold, my High Priest, all you’ve done for me
So I come, my God, in my tattered rags, ’cause I know you’ll cover me

Go Deeper:

Comparison to similar passages:

March 3, 2018

Can Any Christian Do Deliverance Ministry or is it a Specialized Gifting?

This is a question which came up today and I thought I’d share it with you, as this is a topic which, outside of Charismatic and Pentecostal environments, is not discussed among Evangelicals.

The issue is whether or not ‘the average Christian’ when in a situation of spiritual confrontation can move in the power of the Holy Spirit, or if they need to retreat and defer to ‘the experts’ in this area of ministry. An analogy to the movie Ghostbusters, while rather distracting, is not entirely out of place here. Who are you gonna call?

Before we begin, an important question to ask is, ‘Does the person seek healing and deliverance?’ If the person who needs Christ doesn’t particular want Christ’s help — and I’ve met people on both sides of this equation — then you’re possible going to proceed differently.

Another clarification needs to be made between deliverance ministry and spiritual warfare, something we looked at here in January, 2014:

The difference between deliverance and spiritual warfare is that deliverance is dealing with demonic bondages, and getting a person set free, whereas spiritual warfare is resisting, overcoming and defeating the enemy’s lies (in the form of deception, temptations and accusations) that he sends our way. Deliverance involves the breaking up of legal grounds, the tearing down of strongholds (offensive spiritual warfare), and the casting out of demons. Spiritual warfare on the other hand, is dealing with three key things the enemy sends at us: temptations, deception and accusations.

So we need to keep that distinction in mind as we proceed.

Deliverance is certainly similar to the supernatural gifts of the spirit in 1 Cor. 12, yet it is not one of them; of the nine listed, see especially these:

The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles… (12:9-10a)

This certainly gives the believer confidence that part of our ministry can include operating in the supernatural realm. Also, bringing relief to those in need was part of Christ’s mandate as shown in Luke 4:18 (AMP):

The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed One, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity]

and then he tells us (John 14:12-13)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.

In Luke chapter 10, Jesus sends out the 72 disciples and then we read in vs. 17:

When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”

The tone of the verse suggests a bit of surprise on the part of these short-term missionaries, but also implies something which came naturally or organically because of their connection to Jesus. We get this sense two verses later in 19-20:

[Jesus:] “Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”

While the last half of the 16th chapter of Mark has been disputed because of manuscript corroboration, it is there we find a ‘spiritual power package’ of instructions including verse 17:

These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.

You have the authority. So why have we relegated deliverance ministry to being a the purview of a very select few?

It might be that this passage brings with it the potential for deliverance ministry failure:

Mark 9.17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

19a Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you?…

25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil  spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”…

28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?”

29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.

The Pulpit Commentary elaborates:

Though all things are possible to faith, some works are more difficult of accomplishment than others. This kind can mean only this kind of evil spirit, or demons generally. But the latter interpretation is excluded by the fact that the apostles had already exercised successfully their power over devils without special prayer or fasting. The words point to a truth in the spiritual world, that there are different degrees in the Satanic hierarchy (comp. Matthew 12:45); some demons are more malignant than others, and have greater power over the souls of men. In the present case the possession was of long standing; it revolved a terrible bodily malady; it was of an intense and unusual character. The mere word of exorcism, or the name of Jesus, spoken with little spiritual faith, could net overcome the mighty enemy. The exorcist needed special preparation; he must inspire and augment his faith by prayer and self-discipline. Prayer invokes the aid of God, and puts one’s self unreservedly in his hands; fasting subdues the flesh, arouses the soul’s energies, brings into exercise the higher parts of man’s nature. Thus equipped, a man is open to receive power from on high, and can quell the assaults of the evil one. (emphasis added)

Elliott’s Commentary adds:

The disciples, we know, did not as yet fast (Matthew 9:14-15), and the facts imply that they had been weak and remiss in prayer. The words are noticeable as testifying to the real ground and motive for “fasting,” and to the gain for the higher life to be obtained, when it was accompanied by true prayer, by this act of conquest over the lower nature.

or perhaps this passage from Matthew is in the back of someone’s mind:

17.14b A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.”

17 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well.

19 Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?”

20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.

We often refer to the website, Some non-Pentecostals or non-Charismatics downplay the need for this as a specialized ministry. Since you’ll find this thinking online in various places, here is a sample from their site:

…The Gospels and Acts relate that Jesus and the disciples cast out demons. The teaching portions of the New Testament (Romans through Jude) refer to demonic activity yet do not discuss the method of casting them out, nor are believers exhorted to do so. We are told to put on the whole armor of God…

…The Gospels and Acts relate that Jesus and the disciples cast out demons. The teaching portions of the New Testament (Romans through Jude) refer to demonic activity yet do not discuss the method of casting them out, nor are believers exhorted to do so…

…It is interesting that we have no record of Jesus’ instructions to His disciples on how to cast out demons…[and then the commentary goes on to list a rather significant number of ‘exceptions.’ Hmmm…]

Did we answer the question at the top of the page?

I think the issue here is not the office or title of the person rebuking the evil spirits, but rather the preparation of the person entering into such a ministry.

Of course, some situations are extremely short notice. We don’t know exactly when we might find ourselves seeing or being part of a direct demonic confrontation. I believe in those situations, a person who has heard God’s word on this subject, and is thereby aware of the powers that exist should resolve to act in whatever timely opportunity is available. (But I also believe God will give you some foreknowledge to be prepared to do so.)

In other parts of the world, I’m told that demonic activity is much more acute; much more visible. People in those situations don’t need to be told what they’re dealing with, they see its effects.

So the answer is both: It is a ministry that is the specialty of some pastors and Christian leaders, but it is also within the reach of any Christ-follower who has prepared themselves for the task.

Do you want to take this on?

It’s definitely worth remembering that the seventy-two were sent out in pairs. That might be a better way to apprentice in this type of ministry.

In any deliverance situation, there’s also the issue of providing ‘filling’ to someone whose ‘casting out’ of something has created a void or a whole. In Matthew we read the words of Jesus,

12.43 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”

There are some good resources online on this topic, be discerning as you search however, and recognize that there are differences of opinion on this issues from different theological traditions.

Scriptures today were all NLT (just because) except where indicated.






March 2, 2018

Pursuing Solitude, Silence, Prayer

This is an excerpt from the Prologue to The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God through Prayer, Wisdom and Silence (1981 edition, pages 1-5) by Henri Nouwen.

…As we reflect on the increasing poverty and hunger, the rapidly spreading hatred and violence with as well as between countries, and the frightening buildup of nuclear weapons systems, we come to realize that our world has embarked on a suicidal journey. We are painfully reminded of the words of John the Evangelist:

The Word…the true light…was coming into the world…that had its being through him and the world did not know him. He came to his own domain and his own people did not accept him. (John 1:9-11)

It seems that the darkness is thicker than ever, that the powers of evil are more blatantly visible than ever, and that the children of God are being tested more severely than ever.

During the last few years I have been wondering what it means to be a minister in such a situation. What is required of men and women who want to bring light into the darkness,

“to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor” (Luke 4:18-19)?

What is required of a man or a woman who is called to enter fully into the turmoil and agony of the times and speak a word of hope?

It is not difficult to see that in this fearful and painful period of our history we who minister in parishes, schools, universities, hospitals, and prisons are having a difficult time fulfilling our task of making the light of Christ shine into the darkness. Many of us have adapted ourselves too well to the the general mood of lethargy. Others among us have become tired, exhausted, disappointed, bitter, resentful, or simply bored. Still others have remained active and involved – but have ended up living more in their own name than in the Name of Jesus Christ. This is not so strange. The pressures in the ministry are enormous, the demands are increasing, and the satisfactions diminishing. How can we expect to remain full of creative vitality, of zeal for the Word of God, of desire to serve, and of motivation to inspire our often numbed congregations? Where are we supposed to find nurture and strength? How can we alleviate our own spiritual hunger and thirst? …

…But where shall we turn? To Jacques Ellul, William Stringfellow, Thomas Merton, Teilhard de Chardin? They all have much to say, but I am interested in a  more primitive source of inspiration, which by its directness, simplicity, and concreteness, can lead us without any byways to the core of our struggle. This source is the Apophthegmata Patrum, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

The Desert Fathers, who lived in the Egyptian desert during the fourth and fifth centuries, can offer us a very important perspective on our life as ministers living at the end of the twentieth century. The Desert Fathers – and there were Mothers, too – were Christians who searched for a new form of martyrdom. Once the persecutions had ceased, it was no longer possible to witness for Christ by following him as a blood witness. Yet the end of the persecutions did not mean that the world had accepted the ideals of Christ and altered its ways; the world continued to prefer the darkness to the light (John 3:19). But it the world was no longer the enemy of the Christian, then the Christian had to become the enemy of the dark world. The flight to the desert was the way to escape a tempting conformity to the world. Anthony, Agathon, Macarius, Poemen, Theodora, Sarah, and Syncletica became spiritual leaders in the desert. Here they became a new kind of martyr: witnesses against the destructive powers of evil, witnesses for the saving power of Jesus Christ.

Their spiritual commentaries, their counsel to visitors, and their very concrete ascetical practices form the basis of my reflections about the spiritual life of the minister in our day. Like the Desert Fathers and Mothers, we have to find a practical and workable response to Paul’s exhortation:

“Do not model yourselves on the behavior of the world around you, but let your behavior change, modeled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do” (Romans 12:2)…

…The words flee, be silent, and pray summarize the spirituality of the desert. They indicate the three ways of preventing the world from shaping us in its image and thus the three ways to life in the Spirit.



Next Page »