Christianity 201

November 16, 2018

Just Because it Took Courage, Doesn’t Mean it was Good or Right

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we return to pastor and counselor Josh Ketchum who writes at the site Life in the Kingdom. Click the title below to read at source.

Don’t Equate Courage with Righteousness!

Christians value courage.  Americans esteem courage.  We seek to be courageous and teach our kids to be courageous.

So this has formed a natural link in our minds that courage is always right and good.

Being courageous isn’t necessarily right or good.  Just because someone has courage, in the sense that they do something that takes guts and bravado to stand up against a majority or perceived enemy, doesn’t mean it is a praiseworthy act.  Christians must not fall to the trap of branding every courageous deed a right and good action.  We live in a culture that is quick to praise courage.  Standing up against societal taboos or “going against the flow” is praised as courage, no matter whether the action is morally right or wrong.

For example, I can list numerous acts in the Bible and in history that required courage on the person’s part, but were not righteous or good acts.

Here are a few biblical examples:

  • Jacob deceiving his father Isaac when he was old and poor of sight.
  • Aaron leading the people to give their gold to build a golden calf to be worshipped while Moses was on Mount Sinai.
  • Samson visiting a harlot in a Philistine city leading to a trap, which required him to tear down the gates to free himself.
  • Absalom’s rebellion against David.
  • Paul’s persecution of Christians.
  • The actions of Diotrephes in opposing John the Apostle and putting people out of the church so he could have preeminence in the church.

Here are a couple from history.

  • John Wilkes Booth actions of shooting President Lincoln where viewed by many in the south as a courageous act.
  • The terrorist who commandeered the airplanes on 911 and flew them into various targets were courageous in deed.

Christians need to understand this truth.  We don’t need to just throw every supposedly courageous act in as being righteous and good.  We also don’t need to go into foolishness by saying it doesn’t take courage to stand up against the crowd.  But standing up for what is wrong is still wrong!

Let me give you a few examples from our current culture.

  • A young woman courageously decides to abort her unborn child.  She goes public with this decision and uses it as an opportunity to argue for the rights of women.  While it may be courageous, abortion is still morally wrong!
  • A person comes out with family and friends on social media as being  homosexual.  He or she describes their life as trying to live a lie, but now, they finally have the courage to come out and be who God made them to be.  While certainly courageous, homosexuality is still a sexual sin and lifestyle opposed to Scripture.
  • A celebrity chooses to pose nude for a magazine, or appear in filthy love scene in a movie, and is described as courageous for stepping out of her typical role and pushing the envelope.  Immodesty and lewd behavior is still sinful behavior, even if it takes courage to take your clothes off!

Each of these, and more, could illustrate the truth that Christian people must always openly consider the righteousness and holiness of an act by itself.  Just because it required courage or fortitude for someone to do the act, doesn’t make it a righteous act.  It may still be a sinful act, that is wrong in the eyes of God.

“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)

November 15, 2018

Sailing Lessons for the Super Religious and Irreligious

by Clarke Dixon

Listen to the 35-minute message on which this devotional is based at this link.

“Since God loves us so much, we ought to be super-religious, zealous for learning and keeping all the rules!” Or, “Since God loves us so much, we can be irreligious. It does not matter what we do!” Which is it? What kind of impact does the love of God through Jesus have on our lives?

Paul helps us sort this out in his letter to the Galatians. Paul discovered that the Galatians had become super-religious, expecting non-Jewish people to become Jewish in order to become Christian. That is, all Christians should keep all the Old Testament commandments right down to the strict dietary restrictions. Most Christians today regularly disregard such laws. Should we start worrying about all those rules? Should we become super observant of the Old Covenant laws? What do we learn from Galatians? Here is where the sailing lessons begin . . .

We are no longer one-design racing. This summer we bought a sailboat that happens to be a “one-design” racing boat. It has all the bells and whistles of a racing boat. It is also built to exact specifications. Should I show up for a one-design race, everything would be checked out to ensure that my boat still fits the exact specifications. Should we fail to meet even one of the rules, we will be disqualified. We will be stuck on the beach.

This is like relating to God through the Old Covenant. Should even one law be broken, then the covenant is broken. You are disqualified, stuck on the beach. Problem is, no one could ever race! Everyone was stuck on the beach. Through the Old Covenant, God was teaching His people their need for His grace. He was pointing to Jesus:

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed.  Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. Galatians 3:23-26

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. Galatians 4:4-5

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

We no longer relate to God through the Old Covenant. Now we relate to God through the New Covenant, through the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It is like my boat which is now retired from one-design racing. I need not be concerned that I will be stuck on the beach because of the rules. I am free to sail! We are not under the Old Covenant, we are not fearful of disqualification, being stuck on the beach for breaking a rule. We are free to sail!

So this means that we can do anything? There are no rules at all? Not so fast! We might not be one-design racing with all the rules and regulations, but we are sailing. A sailboat has sails, a rudder, a centreboard and all such things required for sailing. A sailboat has different equipment from a powerboat. A sailboat sounds and feels different out on the water than a powerboat. We can think of it this way; while we are free from all the rules and regulations of one-design racing, we are called to go sailing with God rather than continue power-boating alone. The early Christians had learned that non-Jews did not need to become Jews on their way to becoming Christians. But neither could they remain “typical Romans” either. Paul explains:

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14

We are not to live by the law, but we are to love, we are to live by the Spirit:

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Galatians 5:16-18

While the non-Jews were not called to become Jews on the way to Jesus, they were called to be different from what they were. We can think of them as being called from a life of power-boating to a life of sailing, only they are not required to enter a one-design race. In being called to follow Jesus, we are not called to just stay as we are, we are called to live by the Spirit, not the rules.

Sailing is best enjoyed under full sail. My first sailboat had a lot of character. That is a nice way of saying it was old and in rough shape. In our first summer of sailing part of the deck ripped away making it impossible to use one of the two sails. I could have kept sailing without that sail and a section of the deck for the years I owned the boat, but it was much better sailing once fixed. The Christian life is like that. We can keep living with brokenness in our lives, with blind spots to our sin. But the Christian life is so much better under full sail. What does that look like?

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25

Is your deck broken? Is your sailing hampered by sin and brokenness? Perhaps you are not as loving as you think? Or patient? Or kind? Or generous? Or gentle? The fruit of the Spirit is a good place to look when we are checking our boats over for needed repairs.

As for my boat, I didn’t fix it. My Dad did! We should note that the fruit of the Spirit is precisely that. It is not the fruit of our labours. It is not the fruit of our efforts at keeping the law. It is the fruit of God’s work in our lives. Our heavenly Father does the repairs.

Are we to be super-religious or irreligious? Are we to be bound by religious rules or are we free to do anything and everything? Neither, rather we are to experience relationship with God through Jesus, being moved and changed by His Holy Spirit. Let us conclude by noting that the words for Spirit in both the Hebrew and Greek of the Bible also are the words for ‘wind.’ Happy sailing!


Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Ontario, Canada.

Check out Clarke’s blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV


 

November 14, 2018

You Can’t Be Affluent in Faith and Ignorant in the Word

Today we’re back with Lori Thomason at Pure Devotion. Click the title below to read at source. Click here to read her story. To read this at source, click the title below.

Speak for Your Servant Hears

I Samuel 3:8-10 (NKJV) And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you did call me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.”

God speaks to people every day. Whispering within by His Spirit inviting us to sit in His Presence, meditate on His Word, speak with Him in prayer, and listen to what He says. Though desperate for our attention, the Lord does not speak above soft utterance. He is a gentleman who vies for one’s acceptance but would never force us to come. The Lord called to Samuel. Just a servant to the prophet, the boy served in a time when the “word of the Lord was rare” and there was no “widespread revelation”. God had a word. He needed a voice. He spoke to Samuel.

It would be natural to seek out the only one close by. The person you expect to hear from which in Samuel’s case was Eli. Eli, now advanced in years, depending on the boy as the word of God says, “his eyes had begun to so dim that he could not see.” I believe this is a natural and spiritual reference. So when the Lord spoke to him, it was only natural for him to assume it was his earthly master calling out. However by the third time, Eli realized that the Lord was speaking to the young man and so instructed him to go lie back down and if he heard the voice again to say, “Speak Lord, for Your servant hears.”

God is speaking to you today. You may not hear him or understand that it is the Lord but I promise you that the Lord is trying to tell you something. There are secrets and hidden things that belong to you and God will only reveal to you. Personal, life changing, and intimate details of a future that is absolutely too good to be true. Things that will change your hopeless perspective to a faithful pursuit. It is time to stop running with every little question to the men and women of God, family, friends, acquaintances, social media, and any other mentor or advisor. God is speaking His Word directly to you today. You must only say, “Speak Lord, for Your Servant hears.” Are you listening for the voice of the Living God today?

Deuteronomy 29:29 (NKJV) “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Every secret thing belongs to the Lord our God. What does that mean? There are things not written in His Word for you and me that can only be discovered in an intimate relationship with God. Righteousness gives us full access to God including every secret and hidden thing reserved for you. His Word defines His Nature and His Intentions for us. It creates familiarity so there can be discernment in the voices heard within our heart and head. In other words, by reading, studying, mediating and coming to know God’s Written Word (the Law) – then and only then can we distinguish between them all. Secondly, Jesus is the Word. Without the person of Jesus Christ, there is no salvation or righteousness. We must have a personal relationship with Jesus (who is the Word of God made flesh) to know and understand the communication of God with His People. The keys to the Kingdom unlock the secrets and hidden things to God’s People.

Isaiah 45:18-19 (NKJV) For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in vain’; I, the Lord, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17) You cannot be ignorant in the Word and affluent in faith. It’s contradictory to think you can have all of God’s Promises randomly because faith in God is intentionally sowing our life in the Kingdom of God and reaping faith’s productivity. Faith is completely believing and being fully assured of God’s Faithfulness outside of every natural sense that people rely upon. It means taking God completely at His Word. Are you seeking God in vain? By ignoring the Word of God as our way of life, we are living the same life expecting different results which some might call insanity.

Isaiah 48:5-8 (NKJV) Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol has done them, and my carved image and my molded image have commanded them.’  “You have heard; See all this. And will you not declare it? I have made you hear new things from this time, even hidden things, and you did not know them. They are created now and not from the beginning; and before this day you have not heard them, Lest you should say, ‘Of course I knew them.’ Surely you did not hear, surely you did not know; surely from long ago your ear was not opened. For I knew that you would deal very treacherously, and were called a transgressor from the womb.

In Jeremiah 29:11 [we read] that the Lord knows the plans that He has for you. Thoughts of peace and not of evil. To give you a future and a hope. This is confirmed in other scriptures including Psalm 139, Ephesians 2, and Romans 8. God has revealed His Purpose for us and instilled it us with a measure of faith to attain it. There is no such thing as coincidence without separating ourselves from God. Why? God is Sovereign. Coincidence implies a compromise in God’s Sovereignty. A breach in His Power and Authority. It means that He is not the Great I AM. Creator of the World and everything it in. It crumbles all foundations of faith because it compromises the Truth. The Word. Coincidence is not possible when Roman 8:28 is true. God not random. He is reckless only in His Love for us.

Ephesians 3:8-12 (NKJV) To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

Oh friend, God is speaking to you today. He has a voice that is absolutely worth hearing. Daniel said, “He reveals deep and secret things…He knows what is in the darkness and Light dwells within Him.” (Daniel 2:22) He knows everything about you. Every significant and insignificant detail. His Grace is always sufficient. He wants to have a relationship with you unlike the superficial friendships formed in this world. He sent us His Word. An instruction book for better living and a new life. God then sent His Son, the Word wrapped in flesh, to be a poignant love letter of the deepest devotion and utmost affection for lost and dying people like you and me. He continues to speak though few are listening. Jesus said that while He was speaking in parables fulling the prophecy, “I will open My Mouth in parables; I will utter things kept in secret from the foundation of the world.” Pay attention to the red letters. What Jesus spoke in parables always contain even greater hidden truth and meaning. The manifold wisdom of God is available to us but cannot be complete until we listen to the still small voice of God whispering secrets and hidden truths to us just for us that cannot be given by another only confirmed. There is no such thing as a coincidence in the life of a Christian. God has an intentional plan and is devoted to its fulfillment. Jesus came to give you and I access to the Father including a rich and satisfying life. We must avail our eyes, ears, mind and will to the spoken word of God and when He whispers to respond, “Speak Lord for your servant hears!”

I Kings 19:11-13 (NKJV) Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 

November 13, 2018

Convincing Witnesses

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Six months ago we introduced you to Martha Anderson who has been writing devotions at Strengthened by Grace since 2014 and is the author of four books available on Lulu.com. Click the title below to read this one at source.

Full of the Spirit

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said ‘Go stand in the Temple courts and proclaim to all the people the words of this life.’  Acts 5:20

This is what has stuck with me throughout this week, along with a few other thoughts.  It was the apostles that got tossed into jail for telling about Jesus and new life in Him.  The religious leaders were filled with jealousy, which is what 5:17 tells us.  It wasn’t any complicated scheme–just jealousy.  Anyway, an angel let them out and told them to go back to the Temple court and keep teaching.

What catches me is that the angel told them to teach about ‘the words of this life.’  The whole first few chapters of Acts are flooded with the accounts of the Early Church–about how the Holy Spirit has come and landed on them like tongues of fire.  And how when they prayed the place where prayed shook with power and everyone was filled with boldness.  And then there was so much Holy Spirit power that people brought the sick and they passed by Peter’s shadow and they were healed.

So when they went back to the Temple Courts, they talked about Jesus being risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand as a Founder and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses of these events and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.  

I’m sure the apostles didn’t just mumble a sorry testimony and invite them to Temple too.  No, they were convincing witnesses about the resurrection of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.  That’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Go on to Acts 6 and read about Stephen.  He was described as being “full of the Spirit,” “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and “full of grace and power, who was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”  Now that’s an eye-catcher.

People are looking for something to fill the holes in their empty lives, something big enough to occupy the space that they’re filling with things like their fascination with technology, the NFL, materialism, sex, drinking and other addictions.  If we offer a wimpy version of the Christian life, it is no more appealing than picking up an old textbook, or visiting their grandmother’s church.

But if you show them the real Jesus, and the “life that is truly life,” as 1 Timothy 6:19 says, or the abundant life that John 10:10 talks about.  And 1 Corinthians 4:20 it says that the kingdom of God is demonstrated not in idle talk but in power.  

Last Sunday night I was at our County Jail for Bible study.  There were six Native American women and another jail chaplain and myself.  We talked for a bit to catch up on how they were doing, and as I began the study, there was a male inmate calling out loudly the whole time.  I stopped and asked what that was.  The women said it was a man in the holding cell. They felt bad for him and said he had been yelling out all day in about ten different voices.

I asked if any of them had been at church with me the last summer when one of the women did the same thing and we stopped and prayed–and she stopped yelling out.  The women immediately begged me, “Please stop and pray.  Please pray.”  So we stopped.  The other gal with me prayed out loud first and me second.  We prayed that the spirits that were oppressing him would be bound and that the peace of the Holy Spirit would rest upon him.  Within one or two minutes the man was totally quiet.

I said, “Hey, do you hear that?”  And they said, “Hear what?”  I said, “My point exactly. It’s dead quiet out there.  Jesus did that.  He hears our prayers and has the power to work.  He will do that in your life.”  We got back into the Bible study and the jailers were stirring up a mighty commotion out in the hallway.  I mean it was like a circus out there.  It went on and on.

Finally I stopped and said, “I’m praying again.  This circus has to stop.”  I prayed that God would silence the commotion in the hall and that it would be so quiet that they could hear a pin drop.  Again, within a minute the noise stopped.  And again, I said: “Do you hear that?  Jesus did it again.  That’s what He wants to do for you.”

Today I met with a Native American gal that just got out of jail and treatment.  She came to church and is resolute about “doing the next right thing.”  She is making a break from the bonds of meth and alcohol.  I told her the story of what happened in jail last week.  Her brother is in prison, but God has gotten a mighty hold on him and he is a living, walking evangelist everywhere he was been incarcerated.

She told me about when he was back at the County jail and was with a guy I’ve known since he was a kid.  He was telling this other guy about Jesus and the other guy kept saying that he was a Native and believing that.  Her brother was telling him that it wasn’t helping his life and that  Jesus is the only way, and that He’s real and wants to save him too.

The guy said, “Well, if Jesus is real, I’ll pray for something sweet.”  Maybe he was being sarcastic, because it was 10 at night and he knew it wasn’t going to happen.  But they prayed that S— would get something sweet and that S— would see that God is real.  Not even 5 minutes later a jailer came to their pod where 5 other guys were, at 10:00 at night and said, “S— I have a cupcake for you.  I just thought you’d like it.”

This guy S— got down on his knees and started sobbing and said, “I believe, I believe.”

Now that’s proclaiming the words of this life!  Words of power, words that aren’t just words, but are about life changing abundance that people can grab onto and say, “Yes, He is real and can do things in my life.”

Now, I have to go stand in the town courts and speak words of this life…


Want more? Check out this article by Martha: A Stripped-Down, Boring Jesus.

November 12, 2018

The Bridegroom Prepares the Way for the Bride

Today we’re paying a return visit to Dylan Tarpley at the blog One Thing. He’s currently working his way very carefully through Song of Songs, with several blog posts devoted to a single verse. Click the title below to read at source.

Hephzibah | A Bridal Paradigm

Growing up in church, I only remember hearing people talk about God as a righteous, angry judge. While this is certainly a part of who He is, that is the only side of Him that I ever knew. This only produced fear, guilt, and shame in my heart. No matter how often I heard about how God was angry with my sin, it never seemed to help me grow out of the sin patterns that were in my life. I just ended up like Adam who tried to cover his sin and hide from the presence of God.

For others, God is a distant being that is uninterested and not involved in their lives on earth. He spoke the earth into existence and then sat back as it took its course. In this view, God has no interaction with us on earth.

While there are many facets of who God is, I believe that the most paramount way to view God is through the eyes of a bride who is passionately in love with her Bridegroom King. While God may act as a righteous judge who is angry because of sin, He is also a tender Father who longs to walk with us in the cool of the day, just as He did with Adam in the garden.

As a young man, I remember being afraid that my dad would get mad at me. This had a measure of impact on the way that I behaved, but for the most part I just kept doing the same things. I would just try to hide it from him. There came a transition though as I grew in maturity to where I was no longer afraid of him being angry with me. Rather, I actually wanted to please him. I wanted to make him proud of the decisions I made. I assure you that one was much easier than the other, and made for a much better relationship between us. I have found this in marriage as well. Your marriage will always be a struggle if you are constantly afraid that your spouse is going to leave you or be angry with you. However, I have found marriage to be easy as long as you are in love. The same is true in our relationship with Jesus. We must mature to a place where our obedience is no longer only motivated by fear, but instead by love. This is the only way to experience true holiness.

It’s easy for most people to recognize their affection for God. In one sense, it is easy to love God. He’s holy, He’s perfect, He’s beautiful. What is perhaps more difficult is for people to understand God’s affection towards them. We find this in the beginning of the Song when the Shulamite begins to explain to the Beloved, “I am dark!” This type of thinking has caused many people to reject the love of God in their lives because of a false humility and a faulty way of thinking that says they are dark in the eyes of God.

As we watch Jesus prepare for His ministry on earth, there is an interesting transaction that takes place between Him and the Father. In Luke 3, the heavens are opened and the Father declares, “You are my beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” Even Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, had to be baptized into beloved identity before operating in the fullness of what was intended for Him. We must begin to ask ourselves, if Jesus needed to receive affirmation from His Father, how badly do we?

David modeled this in his life as the man after God’s heart. After living in a compromised state for some time in Ziklag, God delivers David from harm and David’s response is profound. He says in Psalm 18:19, “He delivered me because He delighted in me.” If we are honest, none of us would respond this way. We would put ourselves in some sort of Spiritual time out where we would make ourselves suffer for awhile, beating ourselves up because of our mistakes. Not David though. He was so rooted in beloved identity that even in a season of compromise, He was confident that God delighted in Him.

One of my favorite illustrations of this is found in Isaiah 62:4-5

You shall no longer be termed Forsaken,
Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate;
But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah;
For the Lord delights in you,
And your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a virgin,
So shall your sons marry you;
And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
So shall your God rejoice over you.

What a promise! There are two words that I want you to focus on: Hephzibah and Beulah. Hephzibah means, “My delight is in her.” Beulah means, “married.” Many of us are content with the idea that He no longer calls us forsaken or desolate. We’re simply happy with the idea that He has forgiven us. Jesus longs for much more though. He does not simply want to bring you out of your desolation, He wants to give you a new name called “Delightful” and “Married.”

The entire story line of the Bible was built around a Bridegroom preparing a way for His bride. What if I told you that there was more to this journey than only going to heaven, but that Jesus died so that He could marry you here and now? It sounds too good to be true, huh? I agree, and that’s the best part. Dr. Brian Simmons has an interesting commentary on Jesus’ declaration on the cross, “It is finished!” Did you know that it was possible that Jesus actually says, “It is finished, my bride!” Jesus declared that it was the joy set before Him that empowered Him to endure the cross. You were that joy. As He was beaten and tortured, He was filled with the joy of one day being married to you.

I am praying this prayer tonight, “Jesus, sing your song of love over my life. Baptize me in beloved identity. I want to know how You feel about me.” I encourage you to begin to meditate on this idea that Jesus died, not only so that you go to heaven when you die, but that He could be married to you, today. You are always on His mind. I want you to get alone with Him and allow His love to wash over you as you begin to feel His affection for you as His bride. The Spirit and the bride say, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.”

November 11, 2018

Thanks to God – Remembrance Day

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:11 am
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Today is Remembrance Day in Canada; our version of Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day all rolled into one. For that reason, I’m posting today’s column earlier than normal at 11:11 EST on 11/11.

Liturgy by Ruth Wilkinson

(based on Psalm 9)

We will thank Yahweh with all our heart;
We’ll be glad, and we’ll sing about and declare Your name, Most High.

Because when You uphold a just cause,
when the wicked retreat, stumbling and falling,
You are seated on Your throne as a righteous judge.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home!

You have rebuked the nations,
You have destroyed the wicked;
The enemy comes to eternal ruin,
But You, Lord, are enthroned forever.

Only You can judge the world rightly;
Only You can fairly execute judgment on the nations.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

You are a refuge for the oppressed in times of trouble – You remember them.
You don’t forget the cry of the afflicted – You are their hope.
You lift us up from the gates of death.

Those who know Your name trust in You
because You haven’t abandoned the ones who seek You, Yahweh.

Time like an ever-rolling stream
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten as a dream
dies at the break of day.
.
Your word commands our flesh from dust,
Returns all sons of men;
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

The nations fall into the pit they made;
their foot is caught in their own hidden trap.
And the Lord has revealed Himself.

So, sing to the Lord who is with us; proclaim His deeds among the nations.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home!

Father, we thank you:

  • for freedom to read and speak and live Your words.
  • for the hands and the hearts, the feet and the minds that have worked and built, fought and healed, and always done their best.
  • for all who let fall their own dreams to do what had to be done.

We live in a nation not at war, but there are still battles that you call us to fight.
Battles that require courage, humility, wisdom, gentleness and a kind of love that we’re still learning.

Like the people we remember today, we have an opportunity to take a stand.

To stand with You –
To speak the truth,
To provide for the needing,
To defend the vulnerable,
To love with Christ’s love the ones who live on the fringes of society.
To share what we have and because we know what we know.

Jesus said:

Much will be required of everyone who has been given much.
And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.

Out of around 200 countries in the world, we in Canada live in the 5th most prosperous.
If there were 8,000 people on earth, only 24 would be better off than we are.

We have been given more than almost anybody in the world.
What does He expect of us?

Text adapted from HCSB; link above is NIV

November 10, 2018

Mercy and Judgement in Tandem

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

Today we’re paying a return visit to Pam Larson at the blog Knowing God Through His Word.  Take a minute to carefully see what she’s noticed in this passage.

Amazing mercy from a faithful, covenant-keeping God!

In Ezekiel 27, the downfall of Tyre is compared to the shipwreck of a fine vessel.

    Now you are wrecked by the seas,
        in the depths of the waters;
    your merchandise and all your crew in your midst
        have sunk with you.—Ezekiel 27:34 ESV

Tyre was proud, thinking that they were perfect. But they were allied against Israel.

“Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord GOD:

    “Because your heart is proud,
        and you have said, ‘I am a god,
    I sit in the seat of the gods,
        in the heart of the seas,’
    yet you are but a man, and no god,
        though you make your heart like the heart of a god— Ezekiel 28:2 ESV

And in verse 17:

Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
        you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
    I cast you to the ground;
        I exposed you before kings,
        to feast their eyes on you.—Ezekiel 28:17 ESV

The chapter goes on with a prophecy against Sidon, another one of Israel’s enemies.

Behold, I am against you, O Sidon,
and I will manifest my glory in your midst.
And they shall know that I am the Lord
when I execute judgments in her
and manifest my holiness in her. —Ezekiel 28:22

Notice the twist here.  In addition to judgment, the people of Sidon will get mercy in the form of God showing His glory, His holiness and they shall KNOW that He is the Lord! And for Israel? Amazing mercy from a faithful, covenant-keeping God! Here is how Ezekiel 28 ends:

“Thus says the Lord GOD: When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and manifest my holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they shall dwell in their own land that I gave to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell securely in it, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall dwell securely, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God. —Ezekiel 28:25-26 ESV


Although Pam didn’t refer to it, some of you probably thought of this scripture from Luke 10:

13-14 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had happened in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But it will be more bearable at the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.

This passage is also found in Matthew 11.

November 9, 2018

God is Listening

112413We live in a world where everything we say has the potential to be recorded and analyzed by others. Since September 11th, 2001, technology is being employed which tracks both your online and verbal communication. Phone calls which use certain key words trigger further attention. We love the benefits of that technology offers, but we often forget the loss of freedom the constant monitoring creates.

For the Christ-follower, this isn’t a big deal, since we’ve always believed in a God who is omniscient and omnipresent, as we have equally believed in the possibility of a judgment where every idle word will be brought into account.

Still, it was arresting over the weekend to hear someone speak of “God listening in to our conversations.” The host of the talk show I was tuned into was equally surprised. The phrase is taken from Jeremiah 8:6 (NLT). Here is the full context:

4 “Jeremiah, say to the people, ‘This is what the Lord says:

“‘When people fall down, don’t they get up again?
When they discover they’re on the wrong road, don’t they turn back?
5 Then why do these people stay on their self-destructive path?
Why do the people of Jerusalem refuse to turn back?
They cling tightly to their lies
and will not turn around.
6 I listen to their conversations
and don’t hear a word of truth.
Is anyone sorry for doing wrong?
Does anyone say, “What a terrible thing I have done”?
No! All are running down the path of sin
as swiftly as a horse galloping into battle!
7 Even the stork that flies across the sky
knows the time of her migration,
as do the turtledove, the swallow, and the crane.
They all return at the proper time each year.
But not my people!
They do not know the Lord’s laws.

8 “‘How can you say, “We are wise because we have the word of the Lord,”
when your teachers have twisted it by writing lies?
9 These wise teachers will fall
into the trap of their own foolishness,
for they have rejected the word of the Lord.
Are they so wise after all?

The idea of God listening, in and of itself, is not a concern. When we pray, we want to think that God not only hears our prayers, but is positively disposed and favorable inclined to respond. But God listening in on our conversations? Why does that seem inappropriate, as though the person in the restaurant booth next to us is locked in on everything we’re saying?

The broader context here is Israel turning its back on God; a recurring theme among the prophets both major and minor. (We have to be careful that no one reading this tries to turn this passage — or thinks I am turning it — into something derived from a secondary or tertiary emphasis.)

The NLT is alone in using the word conversations in this verse, however. But try to remove the sense of God ‘eavesdropping’ or ‘listening in,’ on all we say, and you diminish both God’s all-knowingness (his omniscience) and his desire to commune with us and have us desire to commune with him.

The radio show guest went on to say that since God hears every word we speak, there is a sense in which every word of concern for a particular individual or situation, is in itself a form of prayer. I’ve heard this before; in fact, a long time ago, after a long time in which I was discussing a concern with a friend, he suggested that it would be good if we were to take some time to pray about it. Without thinking, I said, “I think we just did.” In the sense that God was with us and hearing our focused thoughts toward whatever it was we were discussing all those years ago, we were indeed bringing it before the throne of grace. (I think we ended with a brief, “God you’ve heard our thoughts on this and you know the need; please accept our prayer.”)

The problem is that in our security-conscious world, we look at ‘listening in’ as invasive, or even creepy, or an affront to perceived rights of privacy. But if the high-tech monitoring of our online or verbal thoughts is for our good, we have to believe that a God who is taking the time to monitor those same communications is doing so for our good as well.

November 8, 2018

Was the Flood of Genesis a Hate Crime?

by Clarke Dixon

Was the flood in the days of Noah a hate crime?

Imagine you are alive sometime between Noah and Moses but you are not part of the Hebrew people of Moses. There are stories of a great flood being passed down from generation to generation. How do you suppose people accounted for the reason behind this flood? You might think of a god or several gods hating people.

Indeed there were stories of a flood being passed down in those days which were quite similar to the Biblical account. One such story is called the “Epic of Gilgamesh”. According to it, the people of the earth were so noisy that they were disturbing the peace of the gods. Extermination would fix that! These are the kinds of things people came up with as they tried to make sense of life’s experiences in a prescience and very superstitious time and place. However, the Bible was coming into existence. The Biblical account of the flood, though being very similar to other flood accounts in some ways, is very different in others. It sets the record straight.

In setting the record straight, the reason for the flood is given:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. Genesis 6:5-6

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Genesis 6:11-13 (emphasis added)

The evil of humankind was the reason for the flood, and a very specific kind of evil; violence. Indeed, upon leaving the ark, violence is addressed as being of first importance:

For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life.
Whoever sheds the blood of a human,
by a human shall that person’s blood be shed;
for in his own image
God made humankind. Genesis 9:5-6

The very first ethic given to Noah and his family for dwelling on the earth is an ethic of flourishing in a world of non-violence. The flood was to be a new beginning for humanity, a new beginning without the violence of the past.

The Biblical flood account of the flood continues to set the record straight in our day. Did God flood the earth because He hates people? Was this a hate crime?

What God hated was the violence people committed against one another. Had he hated people we would just be talking about the flood, and not Noah’s ark. Of course we would not be talking at all for humanity would have ceased then and there! God would have acted in complete justice to end all life at that flood.

. . . the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23

But instead there was a new beginning, and a promise of mercy. This is not a story of God hating people, but of God heading down the road of loving and loyal relationship.

Most translations have “bow” where we expect “rainbow”. This is on purpose for the Hebrew word behind “bow” literally is the kind of bow used to fire arrows. The bow is a weapon. Some Bible teachers have pointed out that when God puts the bow in the sky, it is symbolic of how He is hanging up his weapon. God is refusing to use a weapon to bring about justice. He is giving mercy rather than letting His perfect justice roll.

A rainbow is a very fitting symbol for God’s love and mercy. To have a rainbow you need just the right amount of light and moisture. To have the existence of life itself requires just the right amounts of light and moisture. God commits to keep providing both. Jesus speaks of light and moisture when He teaches about love:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. Matthew 5:43-45

God has been keeping His promise. He has been holding back the immediate execution of His justice. He has been merciful to every generation.

As Bible teachers have pointed out, if mercy is not being treated as we deserve, then grace is being treated as we do not deserve. The Biblical account of the flood is a prelude to grace. God hung up His bow, His weapon, and called for humanity to do the same. But then God came to us in Jesus and we hung Him up on our weapon of choice for violent execution. God Himself was the One to suffer human violence in Jesus. If ever a worldwide flood was appropriate it was as Jesus hung on a cross. But instead of letting justice roll, God let forgiveness flow:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

If the flood account in Genesis is setting the record straight as to what God is like, how much more is Jesus Christ setting the record straight as to what God is like.

“God is love” 1 John 4:16

Far too many people think they are rejecting God when they are rejecting an image of God created in their own minds or in the minds of others. Let God speak for Himself. Let Scripture set the record straight. Let Jesus set the record straight. Let us not create an image of God according to our own way of thinking, but look to God to set the record straight on His Justice, His mercy, and His grace. The Biblical account of the flood sets the record straight on these things, Jesus Christ does even more so.

Was the flood a hate crime? It was the justice of God rolled out upon a hate filled world. The fact that humanity is still around speaks of God’s mercy. The offer of eternal life in Jesus speaks of God’s amazing grace.


For more, be sure to visit Clarke’s blog at ClarkeDixon.wordpress.com

November 7, 2018

Studying the Envelope vs. Reading The Letter

I didn’t set out to give this devotional the title it bears, but at the end of spending about two hours considering a particular aspect of John’s Epistles, it seems an appropriate conclusion. (Perhaps I’m just tired.)

But I know that in my own life, it is easy to get caught up in discussions about — I don’t want to use the word superficial — tangential aspects of a text to the point where we miss the core of what the text is saying. I can think I’m going deeper (which is part of C201’s tag line) when in fact I’m devoting my energy to an aspect of the text that isn’t the primary emphasis. 2 John isn’t in our Bibles so that we can debate the salutation.

Its message is that love means walking in obedience to His commands. (verse 6)

This week I found myself revisiting a passage of scripture that we had studied here a year ago. It is the subject of much discussion among Bible scholars, and I’m only scratching the surface here; perhaps whetting the appetite of those who want to go deeper with this one.

The text section at the beginning is the same as we presented before, but for subscribers, everything that follows is fresh content. Since it represents a complete rewrite of the original article, I thought I’d share it here as well.

1 John:1 The elder,

To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— 2 because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:

6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

7 I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. (NIV click here for the full text)

So who is this woman?

The IVP Bible Commentary offers this:

The congregation to which he is writing is designated metaphorically as the chosen lady and her children; we would say “the church and its members.” Regularly in the Scriptures Israel or the church is designated as a woman or the bride of Yahweh or Christ (Is 54:1, 13; Jer 6:21; 31:21; Lam 4:2-3; Jn 3:29; 2 Cor 11:2; Gal 4:25-26; Eph 5:22; Rev 18—19). Chosen recalls Jesus’ statement in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” The church is not a voluntary organization but the fellowship of those called together by Christ. For such a fellowship, family imagery is all the more appropriate, for it suggests the bonds of intimacy and love that bind the family together. Family imagery also underscores that it was not by the children’s initiative that this family came into existence.

Matthew Henry* would disagree:

The apostle here salutes an honourable matron and her children…This lady and her children are further notified by the respect paid them, and that,

1. By the apostle himself: Whom I love in the truth, or in truth, whom I sincerely and heartily love. He who was the beloved disciple had learnt the art or exercise of love; and he especially loved those who loved him, that Lord who loved him.

2. By all her Christian acquaintance, all the religious who knew her: And not I only, but also all those that have known the truth. virtue and goodness in an elevated sphere shine brightly. Truth demands acknowledgment, and those who see the evidences of pure religion should confess and attest them; it is a good sign and great duty to love and value religion in others. The ground of this love and respect thus paid to this lady and her children was their regard to the truth

So why not just name her? Jamieson-Faussett-Brown’s (JFB)* commentary notes:

Dionysius of Alexandria (in Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 7.25]) observes that John never names himself in his Epistles “not even in the Second and Third Epistles, although they are short Epistles, but simply calls himself the presbyter, a confutation of those who think John the apostle distinct from John the presbyter…”

So both writer — admittedly John — and recipient are anonymous here. Or is it? JFB continues:

The address of the Second Epistle is more disputed. It opens, “The elder unto the Elect lady” (2Jo 1). And it closes, “The children of thy elect sister greet thee” (2Jo 13). Now, 1Pe 1:1, 2, addresses the elect in Asia, &c., and closes (1Pe 5:13), “The Church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you.” Putting together these facts, with the quotations (above) from Clement of Alexandria, and the fact that the word “Church” comes from a Greek word (kyriake) cognate to the Greek for “lady” (kyria; “belonging to the Lord,” kyrios); Wordsworth’s view is probable. As Peter in Babylon had sent the salutations of the elect Church in the then Parthian (see above on Clement of Alexandria) Babylon to her elect sister in Asia, so John, the metropolitan president of the elect Church in Asia, writes to the elect lady, that is, Church, in Babylon. Neander, Alford, and others, think the Greek “kyria” not to mean “lady,” but to be her proper name; and that she had a “sister, a Christian matron,” then with John.

Clarke’s Commentary* offers not one, but two possible names:

The elect lady – Εκλεκτῃ Κυρια· As Κυρια, kuria, may be the feminine of Κυριος, kurios, lord, therefore it may signify lady; and so several, both ancients and moderns, have understood it. But others have considered it the proper name of a woman, Kyria; and that this is a very ancient opinion is evident from the Peshito Syriac, the oldest version we have, which uses it as a proper name koureea, as does also the Arabic kooreea.

Some have thought that Eclecta was the name of this matron, from the word εκλεκτη, which we translate elect, and which here signifies the same as excellent, eminent, honorable, or the like. Others think that a particular Church is intended, which some suppose to be the Church at Jerusalem, and that the elect sister, 2 John 1:13, means the Church at Ephesus; but these are conjectures which appear to me to have no good ground. I am satisfied that no metaphor is here intended; that the epistle was sent to some eminent Christian matron, not far from Ephesus, who was probably deaconess of the Church, who, it is likely, had a Church at her house, or at whose house the apostles and traveling evangelists frequently preached, and were entertained. This will appear more probable in the course of the notes.

We could go on, but clearly we see numerous possibilities both for the woman and her role in the early church. This article is a good overview written in more modern language.

So why do we sometimes find generic characters in scripture? I often think of Barabbas, the name literally meaning ‘the son of his father.’ Barabbas goes free and Jesus is crucified in his place. The former is an Everyman type of character, standing in for both you and I. We should have been crucified, but Christ dies in our place.

The balance of 2 John is for all of us; all “who love truth” but especially those who lead. We can get caught up in to whom it was written and lose the importance of what it says. Reiterating a part of it and then adding a few more verses is probably an appropriate ending; and for this we’ll switch to The Message translation

4-6 I can’t tell you how happy I am to learn that many members of your congregation are diligent in living out the Truth, exactly as commanded by the Father. But permit me a reminder, friends, and this is not a new commandment but simply a repetition of our original and basic charter: that we love each other. Love means following his commandments, and his unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love. This is the first thing you heard, and nothing has changed.

7 There are a lot of smooth-talking charlatans loose in the world who refuse to believe that Jesus Christ was truly human, a flesh-and-blood human being. Give them their true title: Deceiver! Antichrist!

8-9 And be very careful around them so you don’t lose out on what we’ve worked so diligently in together; I want you to get every reward you have coming to you. Anyone who gets so progressive in his thinking that he walks out on the teaching of Christ, walks out on God. But whoever stays with the teaching, stays faithful to both the Father and the Son.

10-11 If anyone shows up who doesn’t hold to this teaching, don’t invite him in and give him the run of the place. That would just give him a platform to perpetuate his evil ways, making you his partner.


* At least two dozen more Public Domain commentaries are available at BibleHub

November 6, 2018

Have You Been Deceived?

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

by Russell Young

Paul cautioned about deception. (Gal 6:78; 1 Cor 6:9) Having been deceived is being led into believing something that is not true or accurate. It means having been led astray, to err, to be seduced, or to wander from the way. Paul cautioned the Galatians not to be deceived. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature reaps destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8) To deny God’s provision and requirement of living righteously through the Spirit is “mocking” him. “He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4 Italics added) The nature of a person’s “sowing” or living will determine his or her eternal outcome. No wonder Paul taught of the necessity to “work out (complete, finish) your own salvation with fear (terror) and trembling.” (Phil 2:12)

The necessity for righteous living has not been annulled by Christ. He came to fulfill the law through his life in the believer. (Rom 5:10; Jn 6:63) All humankind have been called to repent of their sin and the hurt that it has caused the heart of their Creator (Gen 6:6) and it must be avoided in the lives of believers. He commanded them to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Mt 3:8; Lk 3:8) Paul described his ministry in the same manner. “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20) “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14)

The Spirit saves by enabling victory over sinful practices, thereby accomplishing the righteousness for which we hope (Gal 5:5) and producing fruit that is acceptable to God in the life of believers. This can only be achieved through a humble and obedient walk with God, the Spirit, who is the Lord. “Believers” are believers because they have been convinced that Christ is their means of righteousness and of their eternal salvation and consequently cling to him because of their faith (trust) in his ability to meet their need. Avoiding the deceptions of the evil one requires a committed and intentional walk. “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Cor 6:9─10)

Many deceptive teachings permeate modern theological thought and the person seeking an eternal hope would be wise to consider without bias and to verify the doctrines that he or she accepts as truth. Although it is true that teachers will be judged “more strictly” (Jas 3:1), all will be held accountable for the way they have treated the Word of God. Believers have been cautioned to stand firm with the belt of truth bucked around their waist (Eph 6:14) and the husband has been instructed to “cleanse his wife by making her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Eph 5:26)

While many teach that eternal salvation is a “gift,” (see a previous writing: The Nature of “Gift” Concerning Eternal Salvation) Paul has revealed that something is required of the person seeking eternal life. Believers have to sow to please the Spirit. It is often repeated that eternal salvation is accomplished solely by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross; however, Paul has taught

  • that it is achieved through the Spirit (2 Thess 2:13; Jn 6:63),
  • that the believer must be led by the Spirit (Rom 8:4, 14; Gal 5:18),
  • that it comes through obedience (Heb 5:9),
  • that the believer must be a slave to God (Rom 6:22) and to righteousness (Rom 6:18), and
  • that judgment awaits all people for what they have done in the flesh (2 Cor 5:10).

He has also presented that “If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14) These requirements do not indicate a “gift.”

Some promote that all sin has been forgiven allowing the belief that for the confessor the nature of his or her walk will bring no eternal consequences. Those who claim the name of Christ and who walk in sinful, rebellious ways thinking that God’s grace has covered their sins, have been deceived. Old Covenant law did not give freedom to sin; neither does the New Covenant. (1 Jn 3:9) God has not changed nor will he ever. He is building a holy nation. The “old” or first covenant was a “covenant of the letter”; the second, or “new”, is a covenant of the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:6) The first was engraved in stone; the second is entrenched in the heart which is dynamically informed by the Spirit. As the Spirit enabled Jesus to live righteously during his time on earth in the body prepared for him in the womb of Mary, he can do so in the body of each person willing to submit to his authority. Claiming right to self is having been deceived.

Although freedom has been given from Old Covenant law, Christ’s law (1 Cor 9:21) or the law of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2) must still be honored. That “law” exists in the recognition of the Lord’s sovereignty as displayed through conformity to his commands. (Heb 5:9) Believers are to be transformed into his likeness (Rom 8:29) becoming “an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:16) “Living according to the Spirit” requires obeying the Spirit. (Rom 8:14; Gal 5:18) Unfortunately, many have been deceived and are not aware of this need.

Effort is needed to enter through the narrow door, and although many will try, not all will gain the kingdom. (Lk 13:24) Many will be “thrown out” because they were “evildoers” (Lk 13:27; Mt 7:23) or because they are “lukewarm” (Rev 3:16), lacking commitment or conviction. Making an effort is not a passive act; it requires energy, action, and determination.

In the end, all will be judged for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10) and everything that causes sin and all who do evil will be weeded out of his kingdom. (Mt 13:41) As Malachi has recorded, “And you will see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” (Malachi 3:18)

When a proclamation is made that benefits a person, it is easy to accept it as truth. The more the falsehood is repeated and the more the speaker is esteemed, the more valid the declaration appears. The Word even prophesies that “the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Tim 4:3) Deception will be rampant.

People readily accept as truth proclamations that appear to benefit them but submitting to the evil nature will bring destruction. Satan is always ready to encourage the flesh in pursuit of its comfort and satisfaction. Those who love and practice falsehood, who deny Christ’s God-given authority as their Sovereign and Lord, and who live contrary to the will of God, will be found forever separated from their God. In the end many will have been deceived. Be wise! Carefully examine the Scriptures for their truths.


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

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also a feature-length article at this link.

November 5, 2018

Seeking the Kingdom When It’s Convenient

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we’re back with Mark DuPré who is an associate pastor, a film professor, a writer and a musician. He lives in Rochester, NY.

How He Gives Us What We Need

Luke 12:29-32 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

A good deal of the 12th chapter of Luke deals with the foolishness of pursuing riches before all else, and is an encouragement to us that God knows what we need and will supply. We all need to get it down deep in our hearts that “your Father knows that you need these things.”

Yet there is a different perspective we are to take to those things that we need. The Lord doesn’t say, “Seek after these things and I will make sure they shall be added to you.” The Word says “But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” That’s a whole different emphasis. Phrased different, God promises to meet our needs as we put Him first. That’s the order: Him first, then our needs are met.

Many of us serve God in our spare time, in effect seeking the kingdom when it’s convenient. What is locked down for many of us are a solid job and a “good life,” and then in that context, we serve Him as time and energy allow. But that is not how He promises to provide. He promises to provide as we put His kingdom first. Yes, that takes faith, and it doesn’t look like anything the world has ever known or modeled for us. God is gracious and full of blessing, and “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). He may have allowed you many a material blessing, but that doesn’t mean that you are putting His kingdom first.

What often gets lost here in our fear of letting go and seeking His kingdom first is the promise of v. 32: “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Unlike in the world, where we often have to swim upstream, fighting the “sharks” and burning the midnight oil to get ahead, God shows us His heart: He not only is willing to give us the kingdom, it is His good pleasure. He’s not only inclined to give us the kingdom; it brings Him joy to do so.

It can be greatly challenging to live a life of faith, where we put His kingdom first and believe that He knows our needs and will supply them. But some of the pain we encounter in trying to live this way is from not fully believing that He wants to give us His kingdom. We sometimes think that He is like the world, and that we have to strive against great odds for spiritual success, as we often have to do for success in the kingdom of this world.

We will always face spiritual warfare as we seek to put His kingdom first. But may we never forget that He has promised us victory in Christ. And before, during and after any struggle, it is always His good pleasure to give us the kingdom. As we keep putting His kingdom first, we come to see how very much He wants to give it to us.

Prayer: Father, help me to see this principle of Your kingdom more clearly than I ever have. Help me to make the spiritual leap to putting Your kingdom first and trusting You for the rest. Give me eyes to see how You give me Your kingdom.


If you enjoyed this article, check out another by Mark, Can You Hear Me Now?


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November 4, 2018

Bowing, Lifting Hands, or Just Looking Foolish at Church

Today’s article simply “landed” on my computer screen much earlier today. I’m not at all sure how else to explain it. The author, Micah Bosworth is the Music Pastor at Moses Lake Baptist Church in Moses Lake, Washington, and the article appeared in April on the website The Ministry Wire. Click the title to read at source.

Expressive Praise and Worship: Is it Biblical?

When I was a kid, and even in my teenage years, I would often make fun of, and mockingly mimic people who were expressive during congregational songs of praise and worship. It seemed to always get a laugh with my friends in the youth group since I grew up in a pretty conservative church. Whenever we would see “hand-raisers”, “swayers”, “shouters”, or the occasional “kneeler”, we would think of them as overly emotional. Because of our church’s culture, we would make sure to keep our eyes on the words, not get too emotional, and avoid being a distraction at all costs!

Today, as a music pastor, I evaluate praise and worship quite often. I watch videos of myself leading our church in praise and worship. I watch our choir to see if we are communicating the messages of the songs with true praise and worship. And I observe the congregation every service, as I watch and hear them joining me in our songs of praise and worship.

Then one day, I started to consider my personal walk with the Lord. I started to evaluate how I personally praise and worship my Saviour, behind closed doors. And I began to think about how I personally led the congregation in praising and worshipping. At first, I thought to myself, “I know all the songs! I’m confident in leading them. I’m consistent in reading my Bible. I’m praying constantly. I think I’m doing pretty well!” However, I couldn’t shake the conviction from God that something was missing. The Lord was trying to show me that there was more to praising and worshipping Him than just these things. And although I didn’t know it at the time, the Lord was about to show me that I was actually limiting myself in my praise and worship.

And I don’t think I am alone in doing so! I believe that there are believers all over the place that are limiting themselves in how they praise and worship our Saviour. Some do so ignorantly (they just don’t know what the Bible says). Some do so out of pride (they are afraid what others might think). And others do so out of tradition (I’ve never expressed myself that way, so I feel uncomfortable doing so).

However, the Bible tells us how to praise and worship the Lord. And although it does include music, it is almost exclusively expressive. But don’t take my word for it! Let’s look at what the Word of God says!

Bowing Down
Psalm 103:1
Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Psalm 72:15
And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised.

The key words in these verses are translated from the Hebrew word bārak.
H1288 bārak- to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration), —(Strong’s Concordance)

Psalm 103:1 has always been one of my favorite verses! And after finding out what the Hebrew words translated “bless” mean, I couldn’t help but love it more! In fact, most of the times the word “bless” is used in the KJV, it is derived from this word. With this meaning in mind, that verse gives the connotation that we would be humble before the Lord. All that is within me…bow before his holy name. My heart…bow. My mind…bow. My soul…bow. My body…bow!

This isn’t necessarily a new concept! If you were to look up all of the Hebrew and Greek words translated “worship” in the KJV, they all allude to the act of crouching low, kneeling, and bowing. God is very interested in His people bowing before Him. In fact, Jesus said to the woman at the well: “…true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship (bow before) him.”

It’s a humbling act! But it’s a reverent act! Our heavenly Father wants us to praise and worship Him by bowing.

The Lifting of Hands

2 Chronicles 20:21
And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalm 67:3
Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

In these verses, the word praise comes from the Hebrew word yādâ.
H3034 yādâ- literally to use (i.e. hold out) the hand; physically to throw at or away; especially to revere or worship (with extended hands) —(Strong’s Concordance)

This Hebrew word, yādâ, is translated praise, in our King James Bible, 52 times. We lift our hands to praise many things, and God desires that we would lift our hands to Him in praise.

Darren Whitehead says it this way: “Is there any more natural expression of excitement, wonder, or awe than raising your hands? Whether it’s the excitement that comes when your favorite sports team scores a goal, the joy of receiving an unexpected promotion, or the elation that comes with a declaration of victory in battle, aren’t we prone to expressing enthusiasm with upshot hands? It’s almost a primal instinct, something coded in our DNA. And regardless of the language you speak, the color of your skin, or your country of origin, haven’t you felt this urge?”

I would say that all of us have experienced this kind of praise at one point in our lives. And although Psalm 67 was surely written for the Hebrew people, verse 3 implies a broader meaning, for sure. Let ALL the people praise thee. We should all be raising our hands to God in praise.

Looking Foolish

Psalm 149:3
Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.

Psalm 150
Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

H1984 hālal- to be clear (originally of sound, but usually of color); to shine; hence to make a show, to boast; and thus to be (clamourously) foolish; to rave; causatively to celebrate; —(Strong’s Concordance)

Now, before I even speak on this one, let me say this: I do not condone, nor do I encourage people to be a distraction during church services. I do not believe one needs to head bang, run laps, or go into an all out dance frenzy to praise in the capacity in which this Hebrew word expresses. However, I do believe that this word challenges us to go outside of ourselves, go beyond our pride, lay aside our solidarity, get past our culture of lethargy, and praise our Saviour in a more fervent, passionate, and enthusiastic way.
I’ve seen men like evangelist Dave McCracken wave a hanky in praise! To some that looks foolish! Are we willing to praise the Lord emotionally and expressively, even if it might seem foolish?

“Hālal” is the primary Hebrew word for praise. Therefore, I believe the Lord would have us forget what others might think, get out of our comfort zones and “hālal”. We have a

God who is worth making a show of! We have a God who is someone to boast and rave about! We have a Saviour who was willing to look foolish, shameful, and scandalous for us as He took our place on the cross of Calvary. And yet, instead of looking “clamourously foolish”, we would rather stand still, stare at words, and sing within our comfort zones. Instead, we need to bow, dance (gasp!), shout, sing out loud, and raise our hands in praise and worship to our King.

There are other words in Scripture that tell us what praise is:
• H2167 zāmar has to do with making music (Psalm 144:9)
• H8426 tôdâ references extending the hands and a choir of worshippers
(Jeremiah 17:26)
• H8416 tehillâ talks about songs and hymns (Psalm 22:3)
• H7623 šābah gives the idea that we would shout (Psalm 145:4)

We say that our God is worthy of ALL praise. God desires for us to give Him ALL praise. And we offer Him our praise and worship through music, but often fail to lift our hands, shout, bow, and “look foolish” for Him. And I believe that for us to neglect these other aspects of praise and worship is to essentially offer insufficient praise and worship to God. Anything less than ALL praise is insufficient.

So let’s evaluate ourselves. How is our personal praise? How is our corporate worship? Let’s get past our comfort zones and personal thoughts, and truly offer our God the same passionate, heartfelt, emotional, and “foolish” praise that the people of the Bible did. He is worthy of it all!

 

November 3, 2018

Standing Between You and Fruitfulness

Yesterday and today we’re back with Canadian devotional writer Elsie Montgomery at Practical Faith. As I said, her writing is a perfect fit for us here at C201, and we’ve used her many times over the past years. I’m breaking our ‘six month rule’ and running two posts back-to-back this weekend. Click the title to read at source.

Whatever prevents fruit must go . . .

We once had a crabapple tree in our yard. The tree was large and when we moved in, it had been neglected for years. It had blossoms in the spring, but only a few. No fruit. I thought it needed another fruit tree for cross-pollinations but after a bit of research realized the nearby wild berry bushes were sufficient for that. Research showed that the tree needed to be pruned.

I learned that in the pruning process, the vinedresser first removes the larger dead branches and works his way to snipping off the smaller ones and anything that shows signs of disease or rot. If the tree is not producing fruit, this pruning can be severe. When I was finished with that tree, I wondered if it would ever grow again, never mind produce apples. However, after a season of rest, it flowered prolifically and gave us bushels of crabapples.

Perhaps this experience is part of why I love these words from Jesus:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1–5)

God’s pruning removes the dead, useless stuff in my life. I’m saved by grace, so salvation is not the purpose of pruning. It is to bring me to the place where I am abiding in Him continually, living in the power of the Holy Spirit and producing the fruit that only the Holy Spirit can produce. If I am abiding, the results are eternal; if not, they are useless.

This is obviously about sin, but sin runs deep. The pruning axe begins on the big, obvious stuff, but then God picks up pruning shears and removes attitudes and activities that other people might not even notice. Eventually He uses a scalpel to rid me of anything that could be described as ‘going my own way’ rather than listening to Him and doing what He tells me.

Today, I have plans for my household responsibilities. Doing laundry and sewing the label on a quilt cannot be called sin. BUT if God urged me to call someone or go visit a shut-in and I refused to do that in favor of my to-do list, then that unwillingness makes ‘doing my own thing’ a sin.

Oh my, just now, while writing this, someone just called —a crisis. All my plans just became unimportant. God wants me to pray, perhaps the entire day.

Prayer: Oh Jesus, I’ve nothing more to say as the caller asked me not to share this frightening news with anyone, just pray. My prayer begins with, “Nothing is too hard for You . . .”

November 2, 2018

Sin Makes People Stupid

Today and tomorrow we return to Canadian devotional writer Elsie Montgomery at Practical Faith. Yes, her writing is such a good fit here that I’m taking the liberty of ‘borrowing’ two different posts, two days in a row. Click the title to read at source.

Learning from history . . .

Which one is the wiser statement: “Study the past if you would define the future.” (Confucius) or “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” (Edmund Burke)

Our ‘home group’ is studying the kings of Israel. I came away with one question. They recorded the activities and outcomes of their kings. Clearly, those who followed God prospered and those who did not did not. Each one of them made their own decisions. If they knew the historical patterns, why would any of them choose to worship idols and disobey God? These ‘evil’ kings knew yet repeated the past. It seems all they learned from any study of the past was how to replicate it in their own lives.

My conclusion may come across as crude, but it seems that sin tends to make people stupid. As we discussed this during the Bible study, we agreed that the laws of God are true and He never changes, but even the good kings occasionally pushed against the boundaries and got themselves into trouble. That is, we are doomed to repeat history even when we know it, and unless God intervenes, the past cannot help but define the future.

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:7–9)

This is a spiritual law that could be called cause and effect. It is illustrated in the physical realm of agriculture. If I plant a carrot seed, I will get carrots, not peas or corn. In my spiritual life, if I plan, plant and spend my energies in activities that are self-focused and driven by my old nature, I will reap a spiritually dead crop that amounts to nothing of eternal value. If I live according to the Spirit, the results will last forever.

The ‘evil’ kings were all about power and doing their own thing. They were not measured as evil by their building programs, achievements, battles, etc. but by their response or lack of response to God. The good kings were also not measured by any accomplishments as we might measure our leaders. They were measured by their faithfulness to God and His commands.

I look back at my own history and cannot make an accurate list of “this I did for God” and “this was fleshy junk.” However, I know both will be determined at the bema judgment seat of Christ:

“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:10–15)

Because of Jesus Christ, my eternal destiny is not shaped by mistakes or rebellion, but by faith in Him. What is affected by the law of cause/effect is eternal rewards. Some of life’s efforts will go up in smoke while some will shine like gold.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your Word motivates me to think about motivation and about the power behind everything on my to-do list. Some of it is obviously useless. Open my eyes and keep them open to see and obey the Holy Spirit that the resulting work not only pleases You but will pass that final test.

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