Christianity 201

June 8, 2018

Selwyn Hughes on Proverbs

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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It’s unfortunate that outside the UK, so few are familiar with the devotional writings of the late Selwyn Hughes. His devotionals were part of my own routine for at least a decade, and unlike other small devotional booklets, you had to pay for them. Furthermore, he would stay on the same theme for 60 days, so each day’s reading built on the previous days. His writing is currently available on the website Crosswalk. While I couldn’t get the earliest ones on this series from the book of Proverbs, I thought we would join the study a few days in progress…

 ►►►To continue with this series during this month, bookmark and track at Crosswalk – Everyday Light

Proverbs 28:1-17
“‘ a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order.” (v.2)

…[A]ny church which does not encourage its people, especially its youth, to dig into the book of Proverbs is doing them a major disservice. I was introduced to Proverbs within weeks of becoming a Christian and this book, perhaps more than any other in the Bible, has supplied me with wisdom for living that has enriched my life. Moreover, the teaching in this book has greatly empowered my ministry and my writing. Every young person in the Christian Church needs to be steeped in the book of Proverbs as there is nothing in the entire annals of literature that can so prepare them for life. Alexander McLaren, a famous preacher from a past generation, said: “Proverbs is portable medicine for the fevers of youth.” How true. And we might add that with medicine what matters is that you take it whether you know the doctor or not.

I have known a number of young men and women who have told me that they came to faith in Christ through reading the book of Proverbs. One such person told me: “When I applied the principles of Proverbs and saw that these wise and witty sayings really worked, I was drawn to search for the One whose hand was so clearly present in the book and also in my life. After reading the Instruction Manual I wanted to know the Instructor.” Not everyone, of course, will react in that way, but I myself am convinced that encouraging and exposing people, especially young people, to the ideas and concepts of Proverbs is one of the greatest forms of evangelism that can be conducted.

Proverbs 8:12-36
“Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors ‘” (v.34)

The more you read and study Proverbs, and the more you apply its words to your life, the more you will find that its wise and witty sayings “work.” They work because that is the way the Lord has set things up. It was said of Jung, the famous psychologist, that written over the door of his study was: “Invoked or not, God is present.” This interesting statement provides us with a clue to understanding Proverbs, for whether men and women invoke the Creator or not, His creative and sustaining wisdom goes on giving them a world where wisdom operates and where things make sense to humankind.

Someone has described Proverbs as “the scrapbook of common grace.” “Common grace” is the phrase theologians use to describe the grace that God gives to humanity in general so that, whether they turn to Him or not, they are enabled to live more effectively and wisely on the earth. “Wisdom,” says Charles G. Martin, “writes the handbook of instruction in God’s workshop and when people despise wisdom, that is, true wisdom, they blot the copy book of life.” …

Proverbs 9:1-9
“Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars.” (v.1)

…I would encourage you to read through the whole book of Proverbs, preferably in two or three sittings…Our text for today tells us that wisdom is like a house built on seven pillars. There are two ways of interpreting this text. One view says that both wisdom and folly have a house to which humankind is invited. Wisdom has a much larger house than folly, being built upon “seven pillars” – a sign in ancient times of wealth, status and prestige.

There is no doubt that this is one meaning of the text, but the other view – and this is the one I am following in these studies – is that wisdom has seven major aspects. The book of Proverbs does not state categorically what these seven aspects are, so, based on my study and understanding of this great book, I am going to give you what I consider to be the seven major aspects of wisdom. Never in the history of the human race have there been so many problems, so much confusion, and so many conflicting philosophies of how to live. Those who lack wisdom do not have the perspectives that enable them to discern the connection between cause and effect and therefore they don’t understand what they are stumbling over, or, if they do avoid problems, they don’t understand why they avoid them. We need wisdom to live and Proverbs will show us how.

Proverbs 3:1-18
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding ‘” (v.5)

…The theme of trust is everywhere in Proverbs; it punctuates almost every passage. The word “trust” itself occurs quite often, the frequency varying according to the translation you read (in the King James Version, for example, “trust” appears ten times) and its synonyms, such as “lean,” “acknowledge,” “depend,” are found scattered through the book.

According to Rabbi Bar Kappa, the verse [above] is the pivot around which all the essential principles of Judaism revolve. He claims that these words summarize the teaching of the whole Old Testament and give a clear focus to the fact that the wise are those who trust God and follow His directions for living. But what exactly is “trust”? How important is it to daily living? Why do the word and its synonyms occur so many times, not only in Proverbs but in other parts of Scripture as well? The dictionary defines trust as “a firm belief in the reliability, honesty, veracity, justice and strength of a person or thing.” Basically “trust” is confidence that what we believe about a person or thing is true. We tend to think of trust as a spiritual quality, but actually it is an essential posture of life for everyone… All government, all economics, all institutions, all marriages, all relationships between people, are fundamentally governed by trust. We cannot relate well to God or others unless the capacity to trust is present within us.

Proverbs 14:14-26
“A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.” (v.15)

…Without trust, society would deteriorate into paranoia – the feeling that everyone is out to get you. Mental health specialists see an inability to trust as a symptom of emotional illness. Erik Erikson, a famous psychiatrist, says that the capacity to trust is the foundation of good emotional health, and conditions such as chronic anxiety, high nervousness or paranoia could be caused by an inability to trust. Although people may let us down and betray our trust, we must be careful that we do not allow those experiences to lead us to the conclusion that everyone we meet is a conspirator.

On the other hand, you will no doubt have come across the expression “a trusting fool” – a phrase used to describe the person who is unable to discern the diabolical schemes that might be hatched up to exploit him. Erikson also says: “Unless we have a balanced approach to life – a basic trust together with a certain degree of caution – then we will never achieve emotional maturity or wholeness.” Note his words carefully – “a balanced approach to life.” Therein lies the secret. We must learn how to trust while at the same time exercising a certain amount of caution. Our text tells us that “a simple man believes anything,” but that does not mean we should go to the other extreme and believe that everything people tell us is a downright lie or fabrication. Truth is a narrow column and we must watch that we do not lose our balance and fall off.

►►►To continue with this series during this month, bookmark and track at Crosswalk – Everyday Light

 

 

February 26, 2011

Selwyn Hughes on the Hard Sayings of Jesus


” ‘Where then did this man get all these things?’ And they took offence at him.”  ~ Matthew 13: 56-67 

So many churches proclaim only half the gospel — the attractive half. It is true that our Lord is risen from the dead and offers peace, joy, and the promise of heaven to those who believe, but there is another side to the gospel — a side which regrettably in some sections of the Church is being played down.

I refer to some of our Lord’s sayings which seem to turn general ideas about life on their head, like dying in order to live, losing in order to find, going down in order go up, freedom in the midst of slavery, success through failure, and so on. Many Christians sidestep these issues and focus instead on more appealing ideas, like the prosperity gospel, healing for all, obtaining heaven now, etc.  When we ignore what have been called “the hard sayings of Jesus,” we end up with a form of Christianity that has little cutting edge and is devoid of power. Focusing only only on the attractive part of the gospel may fill the pews, but it leaves the heart half empty.

Now, as the more appealing truths of the gospel — comfort, rest, peace, joy, etc. — are so widely known and so well expounded, we need not make them our focus.  …Meditate with me on the less appealing but equally important truths, the knowledge of which will add depth and meaning to our discipleship. Someone has said that “it is only as we grapple that we grow.”

I think one reason the less attractive things are ignored or overlooked is because the hard sayings of Jesus contain thoughts and ideas that challenge our self-centeredness and cut deep into our carnal nature. Indeed, so contrary are our Lord’s principles to fallen human nature that at times they appear downright offensive. Take this for example: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matt 8:22). Or this statement made to the Syro-phoenician woman: “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Mark 7:27 RSV). These hard sayings of Jesus (and there are many more) present us with tough issues that we have to wrestle with in order to fully comprehend them.

Those who prefer to settle for a comfortable kind of religion prefer what theologians call “the comfortable words of the gospel,” such as “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). What we must learn however is that in grappling with the seemingly hard and offensive sayings of Christ, we come up against important issues which strike at those things which encumber our lives and prevents us from being the kind of disciples Christ wants us to be. If we refuse to face these issues then, although we may call ourselves Christians, we cannot really call ourselves disciples.

~Selwyn Hughes, Every Day With Jesus (Sept 1/2 readings, 1992)

October 29, 2010

The Devotional Ministry of Selwyn Hughes

I grew up with the Our Daily Bread devotionals, but many years ago, I discovered the devotional booklets Every Day With Jesus by the late Selwyn Hughes.   The advantage to these books is that you are studying a single subject for 60 days.   Can’t remember what you read earlier this morning?   Maybe a more focused study like this is the answer.

EDWJ is distributed in most countries of the world, but is relatively unknown in the U.S.  Probably this is because there are so many free devotional books in the States, whereas CWR (Crusade for World Revival) in England, the publisher of EDWJ charges for the booklets, and it’s not cheap.  ($5.50 in Canada through bookstores from David C. Cook.)   However, they do publish annual collections under various titles, and you can still find some of the ones Broadman & Holman published in the U.S.

Here are some samples of Hughes’ writing:


Seeing Life Whole

For reading & meditation: 1 Peter 3:13-22
“‘ Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have ‘” (v.15)

As Christians we ought never to forget that the message of the Bible is addressed primarily to the understanding; it enables us to understand life. Because of the Bible, we are able to give a reason for the hope that is within us. The psalmist found the truth of this. In the sanctuary he discovered an explanation for the way that he felt. He was not given a temporary lift that would stay with him for a few hours or a few days – he was given a solution that would stay with him for the rest of his life.

It was this, in fact, that caused him to write the psalm we are focusing upon day by day. The words: “Then I understood their final destiny” (Psa. 73:17) suggest that previously he had not been thinking correctly. He had been seeing things from a partial and incomplete perspective, but now “in the sanctuary” he began to see the whole picture: “Then I understood”. When? Then – when he came into the sanctuary. There is a line in one of Matthew Arnold’s writings that goes like this: “Who saw life steadily, and saw it whole.” What a delightful phrase this is. Nothing can be more wonderful than to see life steadily and to see it whole.

Much of the inner turmoil we go through in life comes about because we do not see life as a whole. Prejudice has been defined as “seeing only what you want to see”. People who are prejudiced say: “I have always seen it that way.” That’s their problem – their eyes are fixed on just one facet of an issue and they will not allow themselves to look at the other sides.

Restoring The Image

For reading & meditation: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
“May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v.23)

We continue meditating on the importance of looking at life “steadily and whole”. I venture to suggest that people who are not Christians are unable to see life as a whole. How can they, when their thinking takes place only on the level of the natural? Natural thinking is notoriously partial and incomplete.

Take, for example, the field of medicine. A generation ago doctors treated the symptoms that people presented to them, but now, with a clearer understanding of how the mind affects physical health, they have come to see that this approach was partial. One doctor said: “At long last the medical profession has discovered that the patient himself is important.” Medicine is fast moving towards what is described as a “holistic” approach as more and more doctors begin to realize that it is not enough to treat the problem, we must also treat the person.

They are still far from seeing that there is also a spiritual element in the person that has to be considered, but perhaps in time that will come. Christian counselling suffers from the same problem – it does not see the whole picture. I am tired of reading books on Christian counselling that give just one side of the issue and suggest that problems can be resolved by applying one special technique.

Man was created as a whole person and he will never be helped back to wholeness unless every part of his being is treated – spirit, soul and body. God wants to restore His image in us: not in part of us but in the whole.

No Need for Dead Reckoning

For reading & meditation: Acts 26:1-18
“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” (v.9)

The place where we can see life as a whole is in the sanctuary of God, or, if you prefer, in the presence of God. There we are reminded of things we have forgotten or ignored. See how the Good News Bible translates Acts 26:9: “I myself thought that I should do everything I could against the cause of Jesus of Nazareth.” Here you see the root of Paul’s problem: “I myself thought”. And is not that the underlying cause of many of our problems too? We say, “I myself thought ‘” instead of asking: “What does God think?”

Sometimes sailors will attempt to establish the position of their ships by estimating the distance and direction they have traveled, rather than by astronomical observation. This is called “dead reckoning”. It is sometimes necessary in foul weather but it is fraught with peril. One mariner has said: “Undue trust in the dead reckoning has produced more disastrous shipwrecks of seaworthy ships than all other causes put together.”

There are people who attempt the voyage of life by dead reckoning, but there is no need. God has charted the map for us with loving care in the Scriptures, and our plain duty is to study the chart so that we might become better acquainted with His purposes and His ways. For the better we know the Scriptures, the better we will know God. We cannot ignore the facts of history or science – they help – but if our perspective is not drawn from the Scriptures it will lead us astray. We must not rely on dead reckoning but on divine reckoning.

What the Scripture Says

For reading & meditation: Matthew 22:23-33
“Jesus replied, You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (v.29)

We spend one more day considering the proposition that apart from a relationship with God and an understanding of the Scriptures, we are unable to see life as a whole. The man or woman who knows and understands the Bible will be acquainted with the facts he or she needs to have in order to come to right and sound conclusions.

So immerse yourself in the Scriptures. Understand that human nature is corrupt and that apart from the grace and power of God men and women are unable to live up to their ideals. Realize that the spiritual is more powerful than the material, and unless the spirit is in control we will be driven by carnal desires. When people say humanity is getting better and that sin and evil are just the “growing pains” of the human race – what are the facts? You get them from the Scriptures and only from the Scriptures. What does the Bible tell us about evil? It says it is part of the human condition and can never be rooted out except through the power and the grace of God.

So study the facts of Scripture. Read them, memorize them, and meditate upon them. When next you feel dispirited because you cannot make sense of something, ask yourself: What are the facts? Dig into the Scriptures and draw your perspective from what the Bible says. The root of many of our emotional problems lies in a lack of clear thinking – clear thinking based on Scripture. Think as God thinks about issues and you will feel as God feels about them. For you are not what you think you are, but what you think you are.

These readings are from the archives for March 1 – 4 this year.  You can link to them through this page, which offers current readings. For the record, I remained a EDWJ subscriber for 18 years.

November 2, 2019

God’s Kind of People

This is our 3,500th post! A special thanks to our subscribers, web visitors, and also the authors who faithfully write devotional material at their own sites on a regular basis.

Today’s devotional is a scripture medley based on a tweet by Matt Smethurst.

What kind of people does God

see?

Is.66.2b “These are the ones I look on with favor:
    those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
    and who tremble at my word.

save?

Ps.76.9 when you, God, rose up to judge,
    to save all the afflicted of the land.

accept?

Ps.51.17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise

pardon?

IIChron.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.

live with?

Is.57.15a For this is what the high and exalted One says—
    he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
    but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit…

regard? 

Job.37.24 Therefore, people revere him,
    for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?

lead?

Ps.25.9a He guides the humble in what is right..   

teach?

Ps.25.9 He guides the humble in what is right
    and teaches them his way.

revive?

Is.57.15b “I live in a high and holy place,
    but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit…
to revive the spirit of the lowly
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.

uplift?

Ps.147.6 The Lord sustains the humble
    but casts the wicked to the ground.

gladden?

Ps.34.2 I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

grace?

James.4.6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”

exalt?

James.4.10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Answer: The humble.


Related devotionals at C201 on the subject of humility:


C201 New LinkMission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. Your suggestions of articles and websites to consider are always welcome.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

 

 

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.

 

September 22, 2015

Adjusting Your Ego

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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‘Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.’ – Hosea 2:14

Post 2000

As I mentioned a few days ago, over the weekend I was reading a back-issue (May/June 2011) of Every Day With Jesus by Selwyn Hughes titled Close Encounters. The series of daily writings talks about the times God may lead us into a desert experience; two of those devotions follow…

Genesis 32:22-32
‘The man asked him, “What is your name?”‘  (v27)

A reason why God may allure us into the desert is this:  to properly position our ego.  Now here we have to be careful, for many incorrect things are said about the ego by Christians.  The ego is God-created and God-approved, and will function properly if it is surrendered to the Spirit.  I am not in sympathy with those who say the ego is to be banished, cancelled or suppressed.  When the ego is in its proper place – surrendered to Christ – then it becomes Christo-centric; when it is not linked to Him it is likely to become eccentric.

If you will forgive a personal reference, in the early days of my Christian life there was no one with a bigger ego than mine. Many times I tripped over it and sprawled in the dust of humiliation.  After I entered the ministry and was obliged to make announcements, I would say something to this effect:  ‘These are the meetings that will take place in this church over the coming week. The ones at which I shall be present are as follows…’  I often wondered why the congregation smiled when I made such an announcement.

Then came the time when the Lord allured me into the desert, slowed down my life and forced me to cry out, “Lord, what is happening? There are so many possibilities but Your blessing doesn’t seem to be flowing in the way it did.’  God asked me the same question as that asked of Jacob by the angel in the story we have read today:  ‘What is your name?’  It took me a long time to answer but at last I spat it out:  ‘My name is Ego.’  In that wrestling match with God my ego was repositioned.  Instead of being central, it became marginal.  I walk with a limp now.  You cant’ see it in my stride; it’s in my soul.

Psalm 51:1 – 19
‘Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.’  (v6)

In an earlier issue of Every Day With Jesus you may remember we concluded that the questions God asks of us are far more important than the questions we ask of Him.  God’s questions are direct, straight to the point, and can sometimes cause us to feel apprehensive and nervous.  In the same way, we become nervous when we get close to the root of our problems – an unsurrendered ego.  We shy away from the issue and promise to do anything but resolve it. But a barrenness may set in and God may need to allure us into a desert so that we do something about the matter.

What if God spoke to you in an audible voice right now and put to you the same question that the angel put to Jacob in the passage we looked at yesterday:  ‘What is your name?’  How would you respond? Jacob’s name meant ‘supplanter’, so when he owned up to his name, he was owning up to his nature.  Make no mistake about it – Jacob was a deceiver.  When God asks us our name He is not asking us for our given name but wanting us to admit to our real nature.  Jacob was given a new name only after he had confessed his old one.  In God’s service you have to admit where you are before you can move on to where you should be.

Have you been in a spiritual desert in recent times?  Perhaps this may be the reason:  God wants to reposition your ego.  So on God’s behalf and ever so gently I ask you the question: ‘What is your name?  Is it Ego?’  If so, make this an honest moment and confess it.  The game is up.   Surrender it to him right now.  Your ego in your own hands is a problem; in His hands it is a possibility.  With a changed Jacob came changed circumstances.  When we change, our circumstances sometimes change too.


Learn more about CWR, the parent organization which publishes Every Day With Jesus at this link. You can also read previous Selwyn Hughes material here at C201 at this link.


The irony of celebrating our 2,000th post the same day we have a devotional about ego is not lost on me. I scheduled the post, and noticed the number later. I thought about changing things around, but then the coincidence was such that I decided to leave things as they were. It serves to remind me how easily the ego can creep into things.

September 20, 2015

Did God Need Our Love, or Have Extra Love to Spend?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
 -Revelation 4:11 NIV

Today’s devotional is going to be uncharacteristically short, but I hope the question it poses will stay with you. In some ways it continues where we left off yesterday.

I was skimming a back issue (May/Jun 2011) of Every Day With Jesus by Selwyn Hughes and I ran into a question that I’ve heard asked in different ways, but never this succinctly:

“Theologians often debate the question: Did God create us that we might love Him or that He might love us?”

In other words, you could ask if God’s creation of mankind came out of a need or out of an overflow; because of a dirth or because of a glut.

Hughes answer was,

“The proper answer to that question is, I think, that primarily God made us to be loved by Him. We were made to be the subject of His benevolence, and His great desire for us is that we might become the sons and daughters in whom He is well pleased.”

He then quoted the KJV version of Revelation 4:11 (above) “thou has created all things and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

“To some that might sound as if God is interested only His pleasure, but it is in pleasing Him that we reach our highest potential. His pleasure is our pleasure.”

I believe that for Hughes, this isn’t a conclusion drawn from a single verse or proof text, but through a lifetime of study out of which has emerged an understanding of the character and ways of God.

I also believe that a fuller understanding of what we call the Godhead, a more overt way of expressing the idea of God as a self-contained community of Creator, Word, Spirit (or Father, Son, Spirit) reveals to us that there is already love of the Father for the Son and the Spirit, and the Son for the Father and Spirit; the Spirit’s work being pleasing to both Father and Son.

In other words, God’s creation of us reflects a surplus of love, not a shortage.

All other implications of God’s love for us stem from such an understanding. Rather than starting a list here, let me leave it open: What areas of the Christian life are affected by knowing this principle?


Enjoy listening to this Maranatha! Music version of The Love of God (4-min. audio only; the play button should appear in the center of the image; otherwise double-click):

February 26, 2014

Help, I Need Somebody

Syd Hielema is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Campus Chaplain at Redeemer University College, located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He was gracious to send us a copy of this devotional after it appeared in the campus newspaper.

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him (Acts 8: 30-31).

Help! I need somebody,
Help! Not just anybody,
Help! You know I need someone,
Help!
(“Help!,” Lennon/McCartney).

We live in a self-help culture. Our definition of adulthood includes navigating our way through life’s challenges on our own, independently. If we run stuck, we have bookstores overflowing with self-help books and, of course, that greatest self-help guru of all time: Google (or one of its many spin-offs). If I was given a dollar for every person who walked into the chaplain’s office and said, “I never expected to need any help, but I’ve hit a wall and I need to talk…,” I could retire to Mexico by now (well, almost…).

The assumption is that if we can’t figure things out on our own, there’s something wrong with us.

In the Kingdom of God, the reality is exactly the opposite: if we think we can figure everything out on our own, there’s a lot wrong with us. The very first comment that the Lord God made about us as he observed us in that wondrous Garden of Eden was, “it is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2: 18).

Syd Hielema - DevotionalDid you catch that? In a perfect world, before the fall into sin, we were created in such a way that we needed help! And that need is only multiplied now that we walk with our Lord in a fallen world that he has redeemed. That’s why Paul writes, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you” (I Cor. 12: 21). The community that is led by the Holy Spirit is an interdependent body in which every single one of us needs the others.

This need for help applies to every dimension of our lives (in different ways at different times), but it always applies to our devotional life. We easily assume that praying and reading Scripture are just simple activities that anybody can do, and then we beat ourselves up because we discover that our devotional life isn’t going that well (sound familiar?). That’s why in November we chaplains sent out “30 ways to pray” and this month we’re doing the same with reading Scripture.

Do you desire to strengthen your own reading of Scripture? Do you recognize that you need help to do this?

Because we all need a little help.

Syd then provided us with a detailed, annotated list of devotional resources in print he recommends to the students at Redeemer, which follows this paragraph. (If it’s not visible, clicking the “more” tab below will take you there.) Some of these may not be available where you live and I know one is possibly out-of-print, but I wanted to include it here in full so that you can see that breadth of materials available, and this list is hardly exhaustive. I’m surprised that in four years of recommending devotional materials we’ve never done a list like this, but today makes up for it!  Be sure to click through. Comments and additional recommendations are welcome.

(more…)

October 31, 2013

Counterfeit Kindness

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Today’s readings are from the devotional ministry of the late Selwyn Hughes, author of the Every Day With Jesus series of devotional materials published by Crusade for World Revival (CWR) in the UK. What follows is a three-day sample of the online devotions available at Every Day Light. They are currently in the middle of a series on the fruit of the Spirit.

Warm goodwill to others

Colossians 3
“… clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (v.12)

The fifth virtue listed in the fruit of the Spirit is kindness. The King James Version uses the word “gentleness” but there is little doubt that “kindness” is a more faithful translation of the original Greek word — chrestotes. “Kindness” is a very beautiful word; it means “a kindly disposition, or warm goodwill toward others.”One commentator says that if you wanted to express Christianity in one English word, you would use the word “kindness.” To speak, for example, of an “unkind Christian” is almost a contradiction in terms. There is some evidence that in the early centuries of the Church, non-Christians used the words “kindly” and “Christian” as synonyms. Tertullian, one of the Church Fathers, said, “The words were so allied in meaning that no harm was done by the confusion.”I once asked a church youth group, if I had the power to give them just eight of the fruit instead of nine, which one would they be willing to do without. Almost everyone in the group said “kindness.” When I asked why, they explained that for them, the word conjured up a picture of weakness and sentimentality. I told the group that they were obviously unaware of the true meaning of the word “kindness,” and that a kindly disposition does not necessarily mean maudlin sentimentality. So let’s be quite clear what we are talking about when we use this word: kindness is a supernatural virtue endowed upon us by the Holy Spirit, engendering within us a warm goodwill to others. How much of it, I wonder, will flow out to others today from you and me?

Prayer:
Gracious Father, help me today to be clothed with kindness. Make me a person who can show warmth and goodwill to others. I ask this for Your own dear Name’s sake. Amen.

For Further Study
Romans 12:1-101 Corinthians 13:4Ephesians 4:32

What kindness is not

Ephesians 4:17-32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another …” (v.32)

We saw yesterday how a group of young people had a wrong concept of kindness, viewing it as just maudlin sentimentality. It is surprising how debased the word “kindness” has become, in both Christian and non-Christian thought.

Some Christians accept the word because it is used in Scripture, but have no real desire to acquire the virtue because, to them, it smacks of sentimentality and weakness. The world uses the word but, separated as it is from any thought of God, “kindness” comes out as a mild compensation for a lack of firmness and clear thinking. People say, rather patronizingly in some cases: “Oh, he’s a kind fellow” — and they leave it there. The word has come to wear thin in the currency of the world (and in some parts of the Church), so there is a great need to see it minted afresh and gleaming bright in the commerce of modern-day Christian life.

Think with me still further about what kindness, the fruit of the Spirit, is not. Kindness is not being a “do-gooder.” In fact, the word in the original Greek does not imply active goodness but a disposition of goodwill, although active goodness may be one expression of it. Many think of kindness as giving money to people who have a financial need, but just giving money to people who appear to need it, without being guided by the Spirit, can result in great harm. Giving to people at the wrong time can take away from them something more precious than is being given. There are few things in which we have more need of the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit than in our giving.

Prayer:

O Father, help me to discern between what is true and what is counterfeit. I want my kindness to be genuine kindness — the sort of kindness that helps people, not hurts them. Amen.

For Further Study

2 Peter 1:1-71 Thessalonians 3:121 Peter 1:22

A debased word

Romans 2 “… not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (v.4)

We continue looking at counterfeit forms of kindness. Kindness is not indulgence. Supernatural kindness can be severe — severe because it loves so deeply that it can come up with a hard refusal. It is based on God’s kindness, which can cut when, just like a surgeon, He insists on cutting out of us moral tumors that threaten our spiritual health. But always God’s severity is our security. It is redemptive; He loves us too much to let us go. Kindness, which is the fruit of the Spirit, is like that.

Again, kindness is not a substitute for clear thinking. In being “kind” to one person, people can often be unkind to another. The wrong kindness — that is, kindness which does not operate on clear guidelines and right thinking — can deride justice. For example, a businessman remarked to his wife that he was dismissing the chauffeur on the grounds that he was an unsafe driver. “He nearly killed me today,” he said. “That is the third time.” His “kind” wife answered: “Oh, don’t dismiss him, dear — give him one more chance.”Another example of misguided kindness comes out of the law courts. A woman on trial for murdering her husband was acquitted chiefly because of the efforts of one “kind” lady on the jury. Explaining her attitude to someone after the trial, she said: “I felt so sorry for her. After all, she had become a widow.” By such examples as these, “kindness” has become a debased word — a fact that can hardly be denied. People have found it easier to be “kind” than truthful. How desperately the word cries out to be redeemed.

Prayer:

O God, take my hand and lead me through the fog and confusion that surrounds this word. Help me understand that true kindness can be a cutting kindness — kindness that gives life and not lenience. Amen.

For Further Study

Isaiah 63:1-9Psalms 17

Today`s two-for-one special: Enjoy the song Sacred Invitation as recorded by Seth Condrey.

April 1, 2011

Joanna, A Disciple of Jesus


Luke 8:1 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.  

# # #

Luke 24:1 But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 3 So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

5 The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man[b] must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

8 Then they remembered that he had said this. 9 So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. 11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it.

Today’s reading is from Jeff Lucas; and first appeared in the UK bi-monthly devotional book Lucas on Life — an offshoot of CWR’s other subscription devotional, Selwyn Hughes’ Every Day With Jesus — in November of 2005.

What does a real Christian look like?  Is it enough to believe the right things, attend church regularly, read the Bible and pray — or should there be some more startling evidence that God is at work?  The letter of James insists that when God is really at work in us, then fruit can be seen.

We don’t want to be followers of “mere” religion that makes us feel good, but does nothing else.  S. H. Miller, dean of Harvard Divinity School, says, “Religion which is interested only in itself, in its prestige and success, in its institutions and ecclesiastical niceties is worse than vanity; it is essentially incestuous.”

For some answers we turn to a lady called Joanna.  She is only mentioned twice in the Bible — both times by Luke in his gospel.  But Joanna — a member of Jesus traveling band and one of the first to hear of the resurrection — is a heroine worthy of our reflection because her life was radically transformed by Jesus.  We’ll see that her priorities, her spending patterns, her domestic life — all were dynamically affected by the power of God that had either delivered her from sickness, dark powers, or both.

Let’s follow in her footsteps.

Jeff Lucas also adds as a reading for the day this passage in James:

James 2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

Scriptures quoted from the New Living Translation (NLT)