Christianity 201

October 27, 2019

The Chain of Grace – Part Two

NLT.2Cor.5.20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

The Voice.1Cor. 1.17 The mission given to me by the Anointed One is not about baptism, but about preaching good news. The point is not to impress others by spinning an eloquent, intellectual argument; that type of rhetorical showboating would only nullify the cross of the Anointed.

CEB. 2Tim.4.5 But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances. Endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the good news, and carry out your service fully.

Yesterday we looked at what I could call the vertical chain of grace; the idea of one generation passing its faith and faith-values on to the next.

There is also a horizontal chain of faith that happens when peers share their faith with friends, relatives and acquaintances (neighbours, workmates, fellow-students) who respond. One of the best stories I ever heard in church a youth service where a girl, got up and (I’m changing the names at this point, I am sure) said, “My name is Amanda…” and then went on to tell the story of how her life was changed because of a friend named Brittany. Then the next one stepped up and began, “My name is Brittany…” and told her story of coming to faith because of the influence of a girl named Crystal. Next — and you’re probably guessing the pattern already — a girl stepped to the microphone and started with “My name is Crystal…” and told her story which included being invited to an event by her friend Danielle.

You might think this all sounds too contrived to be true, but when the last girl got up and said, “Hi, I’m Danielle…” I swear there wasn’t a dry eye in the church. You could hear a pin drop.

My goodness, this works! This sharing your faith thing really, really works, and just last night we heard a very similar story involving three different peers…

…There is a third element to the chain of faith model, and as we thought in terms of horizontal (width) and vertical (length), we couldn’t think of a word to describe a depth of cooperation between various parties, so feel free to comment, but I’m calling this a trans-sectional chain of faith.

I took a picture of this page from The Message Bible to use in a presentation my wife and I shared yesterday morning. It’s from Romans 10:14.

NIrV.Rom.10.14 How can they call on him unless they believe in him? How can they believe in him unless they hear about him? How can they hear about him unless someone preaches to them?

What I believe sets this model apart is that it applies to a single conversion story and there may be different parties involved in the calling and sending of those who do the work of an evangelist. Different people responsible for the training and equipping. Different people responsible for the accountability and oversight. Different people caring for the follow-up and discipleship of this one individual.

Perhaps the above verse doesn’t have this as finely tuned, but it talks about process. Believing follows an awareness of the Jesus redemption story, which follows a presentation of that same story.

Perhaps this one is clearer, but I did want to include the above passage as well.

NLT.1Cor.3.It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.

It’s similar to the horizontal chain, but each part is now serving a different purpose in a single story. Each participant is one part of a chain of grace leading a single person to faith.


Go Deeper: What’s involved in the decision making process? Refer back to this model we presented in January, 2018, The Steps to Decision.

 

October 26, 2019

The Chain of Grace – Part One

“When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed” (Acts 13:36).

Barrel of MonkeysThere was a toy years ago called Barrel of Monkeys where you dump out a small barrel containing plastic monkeys, each one having a leg reaching down and a hand reaching up. You use the leg of one to pull up the hand of another — or take turns doing so — and then keep adding new monkeys to see how many can be lifted at one time. You end up with a whole bunch linked together, the foot of one holding the hand of the next.

The “overlap” aptly describes how each generation passes on the ways of God to their children, and then they teach these things to their children. In this case by “children” I also mean spiritual children, the next generation at your church or in your community. We’ve also looked at this concept as a “chain of grace” here and here.

I was drawn to this verse after it appeared in the summer of 2014 at DailyEncouragement.net. Stephen and Brooksyne write:

Our life is a part of the overall fulfillment of God’s purpose. Consider the first part of the second daily text, “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation.” In the historical books we have a lot of information on David. Apart from Moses, we may have more biographical information on David than any other Old Testament personality. But the apostle Paul, preaching in a Jewish synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, makes a simple statement concerning David’s life, “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation.”

God places us all on this earth for a season, a period of time known as our “own generation.” The amount of time we have varies; some die young, others in their middle ages and yet others at a “ripe old age”, one of the most colorful descriptions of age in the Scriptures! (See Genesis 25:8.) But like David, all of us (except the final generation) will eventually fall asleep (die) and our physical bodies will decay though our spirits will soar.

We can live our life for self or in consecration to God’s purpose. Many of you have heard the saying, “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Today, let us, like David, seek to serve God’s purpose in our generation! I ask you, how are you impacting others for Christ and eternity?

Authors Kerry and Chris Shook write about this passage. Be sure to read this in context by clicking the link.

…Every generation must face that same challenge. David accepted it in his day. The Gospel writer, Luke, records it in Acts 13:36 when he wrote, “David served God’s purpose in his own generation….” We’ve seen how he courageously stood against the giant Goliath, became the greatest King Israel ever had and led them to become the most powerful nation in their day politically, economically and spiritually. Think about it. David could have simply coasted out the rest of his days in ease! Yet, there was one longing, unfulfilled dream in his heart. David passionately pursued his desire to build a Temple for God, a permanent resting place for the presence of God to dwell among the people of God. Up to this time, Israel still worshipped out of a tent that went back to their wilderness wanderings with Moses. Now was the time, he thought! “This will be a lasting legacy of faith for generations to come to secure the spiritual welfare of Israel!”

David’s love for God extended far beyond his own lifetime and personal comfort. He wanted future generations to know God and love Him as well. In Psalm 22:30-31, David wrote, “Our children will also serve him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done.”…

A few years ago, Australian blogger Susan Tumut wrote on this passage:

God chooses to use people to do the many different tasks that he wants completed. God doesn’t have to use people. After all he could have created robots or puppets but rather he gives us the privilege of being involved in his plans. Since God’s plans are eternal we are involved in something that has lasting significance. We can “leave our mark” on the world by being connected to the One with who has already left, and continues to leave, His mark on the world.

The tasks God gives us are not impossible. In this chapter we read that “As John was completing his work…” (v.25) and “David had served God’s purpose in his own generation” (v.36). John the Baptist and David completed the tasks God gave them to do. Vastly different tasks but both God initiated tasks. Not always done perfectly, David made many mistakes in his personal life. Yet God looked at his heart and said, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” (v.22).

John the Baptist had moments of doubt. He testified that Jesus was the Son of God, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me…” (John 1:32-34). However later he was not so sure: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). Yet ultimately John completed the task God gave him.

Likewise, we can complete the tasks God gives us.

Tomorrow: We will take a look at a different two other models of the chain of grace.

August 21, 2014

Your Part in the Chain of Grace

1David summoned all the officials of Israel to assemble at Jerusalem: the officers over the tribes, the commanders of the divisions in the service of the king, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of all the property and livestock belonging to the king and his sons, together with the palace officials, the warriors and all the brave fighting men.

2King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. 3But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’

4“Yet the Lord, the God of Israel, chose me from my whole family to be king over Israel forever. He chose Judah as leader, and from the tribe of Judah he chose my family, and from my father’s sons he was pleased to make me king over all Israel. 5Of all my sons—and the Lord has given me many—he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. 6He said to me: ‘Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. 7I will establish his kingdom forever if he is unswerving in carrying out my commands and laws, as is being done at this time.’

I Chronicles 28; NIV; to read any verses in other translations, click the verse numbers

I wrote a few months ago about the idea of the “chain of grace” and compared it to the children’s plastic toy/game known as Barrel of Monkeys!  It’s a very popular theme when I am speaking with people but I was surprised to see how little it’s reflected in my blogs. We are part of a very huge, overarching story in which we are recipients of grace and agents of grace. We pass that on to others.

Moses led his people but only to the edge of the promised land. David served God, but did not see his dream, the building of the temple, through to completion. Acts 13:36 tells us,

We all know David died and was reduced to dust after he served God’s purpose in his generation  (The Voice Bible)

Our responsibility is to serve the purpose of God in our generation.

What got me thinking about this was the following excerpt from Love Well: Living Life Unrehearsed and Unstuck by Jamie George. How willing are we to build up the ministry of others instead of feeling we need to do it all? He tells the story of feeling directed to take a drive out in the country where God would speak with him.

My conversation with God went like this:

“I know You wanted to meet with me today.  Sounds like You have something in mind.  But before You get rolling, do you mind if I say something?”

Sure.

“Thank you.  One basic, overarching question.  Why did You send me to plant a church in Franklin, Tennessee?  It seems like there is a church on every corner.  I mean, people introduce themselves here and ask, ‘What church do you go to?’  This is crazy.  Why didn’t You send me to Brasil?  Seriously, why am I here?”

Are you finished?

Love Well - Jamie George“Uh.  Yeah.”

Wrong question.

“Huh?”

You need to get over yourself.

This is My story, not yours.

I will send you where I wish.

Jamie, all of your life you have told people you want to ‘change the world for God.’  And at times, your motives were pure.  But all too often, you wanted to change the world for Jamie.

I know your story.

No friends in middle school, a misfit in college, an underdog mentality from an underdog town.

Let’s be honest, much of your life has been about proving your worth.

“Oww. Okay. Yeah.

Can’t deny it.

I am sorry.

I repent.”

Rather than change the world, I want you to touch the life of someone else who will change the world.

This statement would alter my life forever.  I stared for a while at this point – at the trees, the sky, the leaves.  There was something solemn about the moment.

Touch the life of someone else who will change the world.

Do you understand what I am saying?

“Yes, I think so.  I’m supposed to empower other people and let them get the credit.  As much as I love ‘the stage,’ I am supposed to lean into subtlety and move away from the ‘big show’.  Rather than a bold and brash, clean and shiny church, we are supposed to become a quiet but confident family of faith.  Rather than wave the banner and give the cheer, we will invite the broken and steadily serve whomever we find in need.  And along the way, You will use someone other than me to influence the world.”

You have the idea.

“God, I have spent most of my life trying to become a great leader, and very little of it learning to become a great listener.  Starting today, I’ll begin seeing people not as chess pieces to move around in a grand strategy, but rather as stories that are unique and magnificent, individuals to be released to their God-designed life.”

July 7, 2021

When We Learn Our Lives Mattered to Others

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Pastor and author Greg Laurie is featured here at least once a year. Click the header below to read this on the devotional blog of Harvest Church in Riverside, California. You can also listen to a reading of this devotional at this link.

An Eternal Impact

When the Rapture takes place, not only will we meet the Lord in the air, but we’ll also rejoin friends and loved ones who have already gone on to be with the Lord.

Isn’t that wonderful to know?

If you’ve lost loved ones who were believers, then you will see them again. That’s a great comfort for anyone who has ever lost someone they cherished in life. Death is the great separator, but Jesus Christ is the great reconciler. Jesus will bring together those whom death has separated.

The Bible also reveals that we’ll not only be reunited with Christian relatives and loved ones, but we’ll also be reunited with those who trusted in Jesus through our witness.

For example, the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19 NKJV).

Paul was saying that his spiritual children would be his crown of exaltation in the Lord’s presence when He returns. From this it would appear that in Heaven, each of us will have those whom we helped to believe in Jesus grouped around us. Think about that.

Understand, God gives the increase in evangelism. I’ve never saved anyone, and neither have you. But God, by His grace, does allow us to participate in the wonderful process of seeing people to come to faith.

You might have sown seeds of the gospel in someone’s life, or you may have had a key role in watering a seed that another Christian had sown as you shared your faith in the Lord.

Ultimately, when we get to Heaven, we’ll be able to see what kind of impact that our lives on Earth have had.


Several times at Christianity 201, we’ve looked at what I’ve heard described as the chain of grace and how we can be play a part in it. Although we just ran it in October, 2019, I love telling this story over and over.

One of the best stories I ever heard in church a youth service where a girl, got up and (I’m changing the names at this point, I am sure) said, “My name is Amanda…” and then went on to tell the story of how her life was changed because of a friend named Brittany. Then the next one stepped up and began, “My name is Brittany…” and told her story of coming to faith because of the influence of a girl named Crystal. Next — and you’re probably guessing the pattern already — a girl stepped to the microphone and started with “My name is Crystal…” and told her story which included being invited to an event by her friend Danielle.

You might think this all sounds too contrived to be true, but when the last girl got up and said, “Hi, I’m Danielle…” I swear there wasn’t a dry eye in the church. You could hear a pin drop.

In today’s devotional, Greg used the phrase “we’ll also be reunited with those who trusted in Jesus through our witness.”

Will there be people in eternity because we modeled life in Christ?


For a complete list of devotionals here where we’ve used the phrase “the chain of grace,” click this link.


Acts 2.42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

June 26, 2020

The Security of God’s Protection

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A friend of mine shared this on Facebook in the last few days, but it was originally written in late March at the outset of the pandemic in North America. The author is Dianalyn Conrad. With over 3,700 posts here, I don’t often source things on Facebook, and perhaps it’s not your go-to for devotional content, but sometimes someone posts something worthy of consideration, perhaps even worthy of sharing, as I did here. She didn’t indicate where she got the image, but I’m adding it here as well.

Shut in Safety

I have always thought that Noah was safe inside the Ark because he built it according to God’s specifications. I thought that perhaps it was the strength of the gopher wood and the soundness of the architecture that ensured that the waters of the flood would not come into the Ark.

But today I encountered a verse that shifted this whole paradigm. Let’s read what Gen 7:16 says ..”The animals going in were male and female of every living thing as God had commanded Noah…THEN GOD SHUT HIM IN….

Don’t miss this…. even after Noah had built the Ark, ~ it was God Himself who shut him in, in order to shut out the waters of the flood… In other translations this verse says “The Lord sealed them inside.”

May the Almighty God seal us inside His Ark of protection through this Pandemic sweeping the planet.

It is not the fact that you have locked your house that keeps you safe at night, it is not your good driving skills that keeps you safe on the road, neither it’s your healthy eating habits that keeps you healthy – only God can shut you in and shut out the devil that is seeking to devour you.

~Father we pray that in these times, during this Pandemic, as we walk into the streets and as we drive on the roads, Oh God shut us in. Father we pray for each other and our children that in the midst of the dangers of becoming contaminated, that You will shut us in, and keep us safe. Not only from the Contagion but also out the flood waters of abuse, rape, murder, accidents and untimely deaths… Oh God shut us in, shut us in your Ark of protection , into your Ark of compassion..

In Jesus Mighty Name we pray, May GOD SHUT US IN AS WE OBEY HIM AND TRUST IN HIS WORD


There were hundreds of comments but they were all quite short. However, on the page of the person that I know who shared this, someone added,

The ark is a picture of Christ;
the wood = his humanity;
the covering of pitch = the atonement.

Those in the ark were safe, while all others perished in that watery grave of death and judgment. All that God shuts up in Christ are safe. He absorbed the the Father’s wrath, and the just judgment of the law. He took all the hits for his people. “In Adam all die; In Christ shall all be made alive.”

That (the reference is I Cor. 15.22) reminded me of another image, one which we’ve used in the past on the sidebar here at C201.


Speaking of sharing things, you never know when you can be a part of what I call “the chain of grace.” I’ve always felt that anything worth ‘liking’ is possibly worth sharing; and that ‘share’ could be a critical element of someone else’s story. You might not be an evangelist, but you can leverage your small corner of social media to make a difference in someone’s life.


Because we have some extra room today, this is a link to a very early C201 devotional on Noah’s Ark, which also included this picture which is actually part of a set of four by artist Tom DuBois called the Noah’s Ark Collection, with this piece aptly titled:  The Commission.    Tom is currently offering a  set of the pictures for only $2,900 at his website.

 

March 10, 2020

Those Early Church Descriptions in Acts 2 and Acts 4

Acts 2.42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

You’re read them.

I’ve read them.

Those classic descriptions of the early church that we find first in a section at the end of Acts 2, and then repeated more concisely at the end of Acts 4.

The early Christians would have trouble relating to so much of what preoccupies us, particularly in North America: Multimedia, megachurches, massive programs for children and youth. They simply met from house to house.

It was what Catholics might term, “the parish system,” but not because you were expected to go to the church closest to you (or the church in your parish) but because you couldn’t realistically go anywhere else in a world without mass transit.

Your churches were in homes because you were a small upstart group of rebels who followed something called “The Way” and believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the long awaited Anointed One, the long awaited Messiah.

At our parent blog, Thinking Out Loud, I recently wrote about how a thing so simple as the automobile sets us apart from the modus operandi of the church we visited in Cuba.

But here at C201, there’s something else in that description I discovered on the weekend in the shorter passage in Acts 4.

Acts.4.32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34a that there were no needy persons among them.

The verse numbering system is unfortunate here because it breaks up a phrase, in verses 33b and 34a, but on the other hand, that’s what drew me to the phrase,

And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.

Listen to how some of the other translations render this…

Phillips: a wonderful spirit of generosity pervaded the whole fellowship
The Living Bible: there was warm fellowship among all the believers
NASB: abundant grace was upon them all
The Passion Translation: great measures of grace rested upon them all
God’s Word Translation: God’s abundant good will was with all of them
NLT: God’s great blessing was upon them all.

Despite the variety shown here, the word grace is most often repeated among the English translations.

The overall picture is painted of a people who are recipients of grace, but are also issuers of grace. Grace flows through them.

Years ago I attended a fellowship in Toronto called “Reach Out.” The motto: “Everyone Gives, Everyone Receives.” Reach Out was based in I Cor. 14:26 which says, “When you gather together everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” (My paraphrase.) So people would jump up — sometimes suddenly — and say, “I have a Psalm;” and then read it; and other would jump up and say, “I have a teaching;” and would give a 60-second teaching; etc. They always said at the outset what it was they were going to say.

But their motto extended into being involved with their community as givers of grace. A place where you received grace and then extended it to the people in your own world; your personal sphere of influence.

At Thinking Out Loud last October, I also shared about the idea of being part of a chain of grace and offered three different models of what this phrase might describe.

Is the place where you worship a place people go to be the beneficiaries of grace and to be equipped to be distributors of grace? I hope so.

 


Postscript: Acts 4 also has another two of my favorite verses:

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

 

June 18, 2018

Christianity 201: Post #3,000

2 Timothy 2:2

You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.  (NLT)

You have often heard me teach. Now I want you to tell these same things to followers who can be trusted to tell others. (CEV)

2 Corinthians 3:5

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.  (NIV)

By ourselves we are not qualified to claim that anything comes from us. Rather, our credentials come from God (ISV)

I am always surprised when it will occur to me to mention something which I value of prime importance that I wrote about earlier at Thinking Out Loud and then I go there and discover I’ve never put that into print. I’ve spoken about it many, many times, but it never quite made it into writing on that blog, or for that matter, this one.

I think that each of us have what I would call prime spiritual values, things which perhaps aren’t the most important thing — that would be Christ’s death and resurrection — but things that are distinctives or things we feel that God has given us as primary mission or perhaps our primary legacy.

For me, the first scripture above demonstrates what I call the chain of grace. I didn’t invent this term, but it describes the situation whereby person A shares the truth about Jesus with person B, who then accepts that message and passes it on to person C, who then joyfully receives Christ and immediately tells person D.

I got to see this firsthand once, though the story was told backwards. It was a testimony of four high school students. It started with person D, who was so thankful for the influence of person C in their conversion; followed by person C who thanked God for the witness of person B who led them in a prayer of confession and faith; followed by person B who explained to us how they were moved to become a Christian by the care and concern of person A; and then we met person A who shared her story.

It was an electric moment. Decades later, I still wish I had a recording of that.

But that’s how it’s supposed to work. I am entrusting a message to you — the God story — but embedded in that message is the mandate that you will then entrust this message to others. (Who will then pass this message on to others. And so on.)

The second verse above is a reminder that we do this under God’s authority, not our own. We’re not trying to build our empire, but his. We don’t speak what we’ve reasoned, rationalized or otherwise deduced, but what has been given to us. 

We did not make this up.

…Every day at C201 — with the exception of the articles I write myself, and those of our two regular contributors — I go on a mission of hunting and gathering. About half the time it’s triggered by revisiting people whose writings I have found encouraging before, and the other half is a voyage of discovery.

I’m looking for people who have something valid to say to the wide variety of readers we have here which is rooted in scripture and goes beyond the superficial. At the same time, I’ve often included something very straightforward for that reader who lands here and is investigating Christianity for the first time.

There is so much great writing online, and I’m so happy to be in a position to celebrate those gifts and share the fruit of their writing with you here. I know that from one day to the next it might seem rather random — our writers have included Messianic Jews, Catholics, Charismatics, Quakers, Orthodox and ultra-Conservatives — but I hope you’ve found the mix enriching. I also try to break away from North American writers as much as possible to present a broader Christian worldview.

Would it be better to just stay with a single writer or a single theme or a single passage of scripture? Yes. Absolutely. That’s how I started my own devotional life, reading the works of the late Selwyn Hughes from the UK who would spend 60 days on a single theme.

Our mandate here is different. It’s a showcase of what God is doing in the lives of Christians across the internet spectrum.

In that, I hope you also can rejoice. Many of these writers normally get a half-dozen readers per day, but on one day, we can share their thoughts with a much greater readership. Some have far more readers than we do, but there might that one person who has never tapped into their books, podcast or online writing.

God’s family is so much bigger than we can imagine, and he is so active in the lives of his people.

Today, with this our 3,000th post, let’s celebrate that.

 

February 10, 2018

The Immensity of God’s Plans

Today’s writer is being featured for the first time here and came recommended. Cindy Dawson writes at Real Christian Women, with the subtitle, My Journey Unscripted. In this article she traces what I sometimes call “the chain of grace” that’s been at work in her church back 200 years. Click the title below to read this at source.

Does My Life Glorify God?

The Bible says, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:31) What does it really mean? My Pastor’s sermon last Sunday made me think.

He told us that two hundred years ago, a church of about 26 people in Rockfield, Ky were led by God to start a new church in Bowling Green. That church, started by four members of the Providence Knob Baptist Church, is the same church I worship in today.

To put this in perspective, 1818 is the year the famous American Patriot, Paul Revere, died. In fact, Warren County was named after General Joseph Warren of the Revolutionary War, who dispatched Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride.

The population of Warren County was less than 12,000 then, as compared to over 125,000 at the present time.

As I worshiped, I understood that the glory and praise being lifted up to God this very day in 2018 was God’s plan all along. A magnificent choir sings praises to our Lord. A team of singers and musicians lead the congregation in worship, little children sing of Jesus’s love.  An orchestra plays heavenly music in praise to the Lord. People are being saved. The Word of God is being proclaimed. God’s work is being done and God is being glorified.

I thought about those pioneers who, in 1818, prayed for God to build a church in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Their obedience and prayers resulted in God being glorified. When God answered their prayers, He did “immeasurably more” than all they could ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)

Did they see the fruit of their labor? Not unless they’re over 200 years old! But God was, and is, and will be, glorified in this place.

It made me think about my own life. Do I want to bring glory to God only? Or do I want glory for myself? Do I want to allow God to do “immeasurably more” than all I can ask or imagine? Do I want Him to use me according to His will, even if I never see the fruit of my labor? These are heart-searching questions. May we have the courage to ask them.

God’s plans are bigger than our ability to imagine. I understand now, that God’s plan for me must not be limited by my lack of vision or by selfish desires.

“Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” Psalm 115:1 

Jesus prayed to His Father, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” John 17:4

God has the plan. Will we surrender our will to Him? Our part is to be willing.  He will do the rest.

“…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:13

“For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.” Habakuk 2:14

“I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Your name forever.” Psalm 86:12

This is God’s plan –  To glorify His name.

With Love, Cindy


Read more:

There were so many articles at Cindy’s site which would have been a great fit here. Here’s one more that may apply to some of you:

Promises That Will Encourage You To Keep Praying for Someone You Love


Before we leave Cindy’s website, I couldn’t help but notice that she ends each article with an invitation to the reader. It’s easy for us to make assumptions about readers here, especially when this is Christianity 201 and not Christianity 101, but we never really know who is reading. So I want to end the way she ends each article she writes:

Do you know Jesus?

If you have never asked Jesus to be your Savior, you can do it now. He loves you more than you can comprehend, and it will change your life forever.

Romans 10 (NIV) 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

December 15, 2016

The Prayer That Looks Inward

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. – Mark 11:25

So far we’ve said there are two nouns which are repeated in the common recitation of The Lord’s Prayer: heaven and kingdom. But there’s also a third word, a verb, which you could argue appears twice; its repetition necessary to the simile it sets up.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.– Matthew 6:12

I want to focus on the word forgive today, so try not be distracted by whether or not you prefer debts or trespasses.

A few of the translations play around with the verb tense on this, but they are fairly unanimous in keeping the word forgive. (Exception is The Jubilee Bible: “And set us free from our debts, as we set free our debtors.”)

  • And forgive us our debts, as we also forgave our debtors. (DLNT)
  • and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (ESV and others)
  • And forgive us our debts as we forgive those who owe us something. (Voice)
  • Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. (Message)

There are several petitions in this prayer — for daily bread, to not be led into temptation, to be delivered from evil — but the request for forgiveness is conditional. The best example of a conditional promise is 2 Chronicles 7:14

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

There God is telling his people that if there is a drought, or if there is a plague, if they do X first, God will do Y.

This is also reminiscent of Matthew 10:8, but in the reverse.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. (NLT)

In this case it is implied that God has already done Y and now invites you to be an agent of X being received by someone else.

But we can’t twist that into a principle that would apply here as God saying something like, ‘I’ve already forgiven you so now you can freely forgive others.’ Rather, the text would point to something closer to, ‘If you want to experience my forgiveness, you’ll have to know first what it like to have forgiven others.’

There is of course the grace which goes before; what is termed prevenient grace. GotQuestions.org defines it as

a phrase used to describe the grace given by God that precedes the act of a sinner exercising saving faith in Jesus Christ. The term “prevenient” comes from the Latin and means ”to come before.” By definition, every theological system which affirms the necessity of God’s grace prior to a sinner’s conversion has a type of prevenient grace. The Reformed doctrine of irresistible grace is a type of prevenient grace, as is common grace.

Romans 5:8 reminds us that in terms of big picture forgiveness, what we experience when we come to Christ for the first time, God has already made the way; the pardon and peace is there, we just need to claim it:

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

Back to our primary text.

The Message version of the Lord’s Prayer verse is probably the best as it would indicate an ongoing process, a chain of grace, where we are constantly experiencing forgiveness ourselves, and meting out that forgiveness to others.

There’s also a sense here that, ‘you know (hopefully) what it is like to forgive someone for something, so you know how God forgives you.’

Again, while we’re looking at a New Testament text, Jesus was teaching this prayer in an Old Testament world. We’ve been using BibleStudyTools.org for this series, and the entry for the Hebrew word Callach meaning both ready to forgive and forgiving makes reference to Psalm 86:5

For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.

God’s predilection for forgiveness is something he is ready to do. But how long do we keep forgiving people who owe us (debts) or have injured us (trespasses)? Jesus answers that in Matthew 18:22

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

The NIV rendering of Luke 17:4 is even more explicit on the degree of forbearance being demanded of us:

…Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

Paul echoes this in Colossians 3:13

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Proverbs 19:11b reminds us that the quality of forgiveness is an essential part of our character:

…it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense

Finally, James 2, 11-12 reminds us that it is essential to be an agent of mercy if we wish to experience it ourselves:

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Jesus tells a parable about a man who received immeasurable forgiveness but failed to do the same for one who owed him a lesser amount. May that never be said of us.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Scriptures all NIV except where indicated


Darlene Merenick is a Canadian singer who died all too young a few years ago. I was able to hear this song performed live several times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 24, 2014

Serving God in Your Generation

“When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed” (Acts 13:36).

Barrel of MonkeysThere was a toy years ago called Barrel of Monkeys where you dump out a small barrel containing plastic monkeys, each one having a leg reaching down and a hand reaching up. You use the leg of one to pull up the hand of another — or take turns doing so — and then keep adding new monkeys to see how many can be lifted at one time. You end up with a whole bunch linked together, the foot of one holding the hand of the next.

The “overlap” aptly describes how each generation passes on the ways of God to their children, and then they teach these things to their children. In this case by “children” I also mean spiritual children, the next generation at your church or in your community. We’ve also looked at this concept as a “chain of grace” here and here.

I was drawn to this verse after it appeared a few days ago at DailyEncouragement.net.  Stephen and Brooksyne write:

Our life is a part of the overall fulfillment of God’s purpose. Consider the first part of the second daily text, “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation.” In the historical books we have a lot of information on David. Apart from Moses, we may have more biographical information on David than any other Old Testament personality. But the apostle Paul, preaching in a Jewish synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, makes a simple statement concerning David’s life, “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation.”

God places us all on this earth for a season, a period of time known as our “own generation.” The amount of time we have varies; some die young, others in their middle ages and yet others at a “ripe old age”, one of the most colorful descriptions of age in the Scriptures! (See Genesis 25:8.) But like David, all of us (except the final generation) will eventually fall asleep (die) and our physical bodies will decay though our spirits will soar.

We can live our life for self or in consecration to God’s purpose.  Many of you have heard the saying, “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Today, let us, like David, seek to serve God’s purpose in our generation! I ask you, how are you impacting others for Christ and eternity?

Authors Kerry and Chris Shook write about this passage. Be sure to read this in context by clicking the link.

…Every generation must face that same challenge. David accepted it in his day. The Gospel writer, Luke, records it in Acts 13:36 when he wrote, “David served God’s purpose in his own generation….” We’ve seen how he courageously stood against the giant Goliath, became the greatest King Israel ever had and led them to become the most powerful nation in their day politically, economically and spiritually. Think about it. David could have simply coasted out the rest of his days in ease! Yet, there was one longing, unfulfilled dream in his heart. David passionately pursued his desire to build a Temple for God, a permanent resting place for the presence of God to dwell among the people of God. Up to this time, Israel still worshipped out of a tent that went back to their wilderness wanderings with Moses. Now was the time, he thought! “This will be a lasting legacy of faith for generations to come to secure the spiritual welfare of Israel!”

David’s love for God extended far beyond his own lifetime and personal comfort. He wanted future generations to know God and love Him as well. In Psalm 22:30-31, David wrote, “Our children will also serve him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done.”…

A few years ago, Australian blogger Susan Tumut wrote on this passage:

God chooses to use people to do the many different tasks that he wants completed. God doesn’t have to use people. After all he could have created robots or puppets but rather he gives us the privilege of being involved in his plans. Since God’s plans are eternal we are involved in something that has lasting significance. We can “leave our mark” on the world by being connected to the One with who has already left, and continues to leave, His mark on the world.

The tasks God gives us are not impossible. In this chapter we read that “As John was completing his work…” (v.25) and “David had served God’s purpose in his own generation” (v.36). John the Baptist and David completed the tasks God gave them to do. Vastly different tasks but both God initiated tasks. Not always done perfectly, David made many mistakes in his personal life. Yet God looked at his heart and said, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” (v.22).

John the Baptist had moments of doubt. He testified that Jesus was the Son of God, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me…” (John 1:32-34). However later he was not so sure: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). Yet ultimately John completed the task God gave him.

Likewise, we can complete the tasks God gives us.

Go Deeper: For more, listen to a podcast by Dr. Os Guinness teaching on three principles from the life of David derived from this single verse.

We’ll also have more on this verse tomorrow.

 

 

June 27, 2011

A Celebration of Faithfulness

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:12 pm
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Found this on the blog of Youth Unlimited.  This is actually a different YU from the one that is an offshoot of Youth For Christ.  It tells of the history of what some call the “chain of grace” beginning in an earlier generation and bearing fruit some hundred years later; and also a much larger “domino effect” in history that is more familiar.  If you and I are living for Jesus Christ, we can enter into being part of such a chain and fulfill the purposes of God for our generation.

Celebrating God’s Faithfulness: Past, Present and Future
Psalm 78:5–7

“He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.”

To read the entire passage click one of the following:
NIV / Message / KJV / CEV

It was fascinating to watch YouTube footage of the November 9, 2009, 20-year anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin wall. Along the route marking the path the former wall once stood, one thousand ten foot plastic foam dominoes were carefully placed, perfectly positioned to tumble as dominoes do. Polish leader Lech Walesa, whose pro-democracy movement played a key role in freeing Europe from communist rule, tipped the first domino. For the next minute and a half, hundreds of thousands from around the world lined the mile long route watching the chain reaction as the first domino tipped the next, which in turn tipped the next, until finally the last domino, one mile away from the first, toppled to the ground to thunderous applause and fireworks.

The domino effect reminds me of the way God intended his truth to be passed down from one generation to the next. Psalm 78:5 tells us that God meant for the generation that came before us to teach us about the good news of Jesus. But, like the dominoes that toppled in Berlin, the passing of truth from one generation to the next was meant to start a chain reaction of truth passing. One hundred years ago a small but determined group of Dutch immigrants obeyed God’s call to start a Christian school that passed on the truth of God’s word in every subject area. Their vision was carried on by the next generation who in turn passed it to the next generation. Today, some ten decades and four generations later, we have been impacted by God’s faithfulness through that first generation. What a blessing! What a responsibility!

We now have to pass the truth we been given on to someone else. So here are some questions Psalm 78:6-7 forces us to reckon with: Who are you teaching to trust in God? When is the last time you told someone what God has done? Who are you mentoring in a life of living God’s way? By God’s design, they are depending on it.  As Paul urges in Romans 10:14-16, “How can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims, ‘A sight to take you breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God!’” The dominoes are falling. Until He comes again with the applause of heaven, we best keep the chain reaction going.

Ben deRegt
Pastor

September 7, 2010

Passing The Blessing Along

At the end of the day, the end of the month, the end of a life; we are being changed through Word and sacrament and encounter with the risen Christ.

It does not stop there however; we are changed to bring change to the lives of others.  We’re part of a “thread of grace,” or what others call a “chain of grace.”

This is a powerful worship song I first heard when its composer, Aaron Niequist was working at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids.   This video is an updated recording at Aaron’s current church, Willow Creek in Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

In Jesus’ name I’ve been changed, I’ve been filled,
I’ve been found, I’ve been freed, I’ve been saved!
In Jesus’ blood I’ve been loved, I’ve been cleansed,
And redeemed, and released, rearranged

But how can I show You that I’m grateful?
You’ve been so generous to me.
How can I worship more than singing?
And live out Redemption’s melody.

I have been blessed – now I want to be a blessing
I have been loved – now I want to bring love
I’ve been invited – I want to share the invitation
I have been changed – to bring change, to bring change

In Jesus’ name we are changed, we are called,
We are chosen, adopted, and named!
In Jesus’ blood we are loved, we are healed,
We’re forgiven and free of our shame!

We want to show You that we’re thankful
Flooding Your world with hope and peace
Help us to worship more than singing
Giving Redemption hands and feet

We have been blessed – now we’re going to be a blessing
We have been loved – now we’re going to bring love
We’ve been invited – we’re going to share the invitation
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change

Thank You for this new life, thank You for the invitation!
God, we want to live it loud enough to shake the nations in Your name!

We have been saved – we’re going to shout about the Savior
We have been found – we’re going to turn over every stone
We’ve been empowered – to love the world to Heaven
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change