Christianity 201

April 21, 2018

24/7 Honesty

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…speaking the truth in love… – Eph. 4:15

So if I counted correctly, this is Jim Thornber’s tenth time here at Christianity 201. He has been writing faithfully since October, 2006 at the site Thinking Out Loud. (I feel I know that name from somewhere!)

No More False Positive Confessions

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies” Psalm 34:12-13

I am now convinced that I did not become a proficient liar until I became a dedicated disciple of Christ.

Before I became a Christian, if someone asked me what I thought about a subject, I’d tell them. I may have lacked diplomacy and discretion, and I know I needed to work on my social graces, but I was honest with my opinion. Now I think about what I say in order not to offend someone. Quite often I weigh truth against kindness, and kindness tends to win.

In other words, I lie.

The other night my wife and I were having a conversation with a friend who is dealing with a great amount of stress in her job. Barbara said, “Feel free to come over any time and just talk.”

Since I’m a pastor, I encouraged her. “Our home is a safe place for you to come and unload. Feel free to be yourself. Be angry, frustrated and hurt. Say the bad words you want and know it’s okay.”

At this point she laughed and said, “I don’t think a pastor ever encouraged me to cuss before!”

I said, “If you’re thinking the bad words then God already knows it. You might as well just be honest about your feelings. God isn’t scared of your vocabulary.”

She said, “It is so hard to be honest. When people ask me how I’m doing I’ve become good at saying, ‘Fine. I’m good.’ Even when I’m not.”

At this point I said, “It’s amazing how we have to become Christians in order to become good liars.”

I hope someone will write and tell me the origin of the idea that Christians can’t be honest with how they’re feeling. If they’re feeling crappy (or worse), and someone asks them how they’re doing, they should feel free to say so. But that’s not what happens. We put on our good religious face, turn a stiff upper lip of faith into the wind, take a deep breath and spew our best positive confession. “I’m fine,” we say.

Liar.

Liar.

Liar.

Not too long ago I tried this technique on someone. You know, the honesty technique. If you’re expelling hot air in any church in America, it won’t be too long before someone asks you, “How are you doing?” When they did, I told them. Life was hard, I was crabby, and it wasn’t a very good day.

True to form, they said, “Well, brother, that isn’t a very positive confession.”

I said, “You can have a false positive confession or you can have honesty. Which do you prefer?”

The person stumbled out a response and walked away, and I figure I probably offended them with the truth. But here’s the thing: I’d rather offend people with the truth (especially those who don’t REALLY care how I’m doing), than lie to them in order to protect their feelings. And I learned something – I feel better about myself for being honest.

I think it is a good thing to be a follower of Christ and not be a liar. No more false positives for me. From now on, when you ask me how I’m doing, be prepared to hear the truth.

 

November 26, 2017

Sunday Worship

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Jim Thornber writes at what we call “the other Thinking Out Loud blog.” Like him, I had never noticed the wording of this familiar story. Click the title to read this at source.

Would I Worship Or Would I Whine?

“Jesus said to the woman, ‘I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.’ But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, ‘Lord, help me!’”­ Matthew 15:24-25

A few weeks ago a pastor in my town brought this passage to my attention. It is the story of Jesus leaving Galilee and going north into Tyre and Sidon, which was Gentile territory. A woman who lived there came to Him and pleaded for Jesus to heal her daughter, who was tormented by a demon. As a response to this request, Jesus remained silent.

Today, silence is a most hated concept. With smartphones, the internet, radio and television blaring everywhere we go, we’ve learned to distrust the sound of silence. Silence is wrong. Silence means something is broke. Silence makes us wonder if we’re still alive if all we hear is our own breathing.

Add to that silence the fact the people hanging out with Jesus urge Him to send her away and you have an emotional breakdown in the making. But she doesn’t go away. She just stands there and waits for the Son of David to answer her request. And when Jesus does speak, it is not as the meek and mild Jesus we sing about in church.

“I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel,” He says. Great. Not only is Jesus treating her with silence, now He says he wasn’t sent for her. Apparently, there are people whose needs are greater or better or more deserving than a mother with a child possessed by a demon.

At this point in the story, I’d be ready to tell the Son of David what He can do with His Messiah complex. I mean, if God is going to be so callused as to tell me that others are more deserving of His mercy and grace, then it’s time to find another god.

But what this woman does next just astounds me. Verse 25 says, “But she came and worshiped him.” Is that what I would do? Would I worship God after He has been silent, after the church folk have suggested He send me away and finally after God says He’s not here for me? I’d be more tempted to whine about how life is all against me than to worship a God who intends to ignore me.

But now this woman challenges me again, for in her humility she acknowledges that everything Jesus said was true. She was not an Israelite, Jesus was not here for her first, and she shouldn’t get the meat from the table. All true. It is only the proud people like me who think Jesus’ arrival on earth was all about meeting my personal needs according to my personal timing. When will I learn that even the scraps from God’s table are richer fare than any five-star meal the world has to offer? Isn’t it better to be a dog in God’s kingdom than a king in the realm of Satan? This woman has seen how the demons treat people like her daughter, and she knows there’s more compassion in the crumbs of God than in the lies of the loftiest fallen angel.

Now, let’s look at this passage from another angle. Yes, Jesus was silent, but He was there. He was in her presence and He didn’t leave. In fact, He came to her town; she didn’t travel to him. There is always hope when God is present.

Next, we see that silence isn’t a refusal. He was silent but He didn’t say no. In silence there also is hope. Don’t let the silence of God or the quick answers of the critics send you away from what you need most.

When Jesus replied He was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel, there is still hope. If there wasn’t, what was Jesus doing in Gentile territory? Sometimes we think God is only going to help the good people who are worthy. But this scene reminds us that God came to save the world, because the entire world is as unworthy as this Gentile woman. God is increasing her faith – and we could all use a bit more faith.

Therefore, the next time God is silent regarding my requests, I need to remember that His silence doesn’t mean “No.” I need to remember that Jesus came to me before I came to Jesus, for that reminds me how important I am to Him. I need to remember that the critics who want me to disappear have forgotten that Jesus chose to be with me, and I’ll stand in His presence as long as He’ll have me.

Finally, when God tells me the truth about who I am, I need to remember that even a mutt like me has a place at the Banquet table of God. Sure, life may not always go as I’d like it, but Jesus has entered the room and where He is, there is hope.

April 5, 2017

Giving Our Very Best

Jim Thornber writes at what we always call “the other Thinking Out Loud blog” and he’s been featured here many times previously. Click the title below to read at source. There’s also a link to another one of his pieces in today’s link list at what Jim probably calls “the other Thinking Out Loud blog.”

Presenting My Best

“So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, ‘Hurry . . . and bake some bread.’ Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a tender calf and gave it to his servant, who quickly prepared it. When the food was ready . . . he served it to the men. ” – Genesis 18:6-8

After reading this passage about Abraham’s hospitality to the Lord and the two angels, it occurred to me that sometimes I am either too lazy or too impatient to give to the Lord in the manner of this marvelous man.

As it happens, one day Abe is sitting in front of his tent during the hottest part of the afternoon, sipping sweet tea and listening to the tree frogs, when he looks up and notices three men standing nearby. He must have figured they weren’t normal beings since one moment no one is there and the next moment they’re standing nearby. Since he didn’t see them approaching from the distance, their appearance is Abe’s first clue to be nice.

Realizing he has heavenly guests in his front yard, Abraham goes into high gear and asks if he may treat them to a chair in the shade, a foot bath and a fresh meal. They say “Okay,” and Abraham rushes off to arrange a nice lunch for his guests.

As I was reading this, I wondered why Abraham would go to all this trouble. Undoubtedly, Abraham and Sarah had food in the tent. They weren’t poor and lacking. With all the people Abraham had in his company, it is inconceivable that there wasn’t some meat and bread in the pantry left over from last night’s dinner.

But that isn’t the way of Abraham. Instead, he makes sure to prepare the freshest food for the Lord.  He didn’t give his guests day-old bread and yesterday’s meat, but warm bread and a tender calf. It was a lot of effort and time, but the Lord is gracious to Abraham and allows him the time necessary to make the arrangements.

I wonder: How often does God get my leftovers because I’m too stingy, lazy, preoccupied or even self-conscious to arrange to give Him my best? Sure, I may be thinking I don’t want to try the Lord’s patience by making Him wait until I’ve prepared, but this scene with Abraham tells me that the Lord is already prepared to wait for me to give my best. I’m the only one who is in a hurry.

I also see that giving my best means I may impose upon others in order to give the best, the way Abe got Sarah and the servant involved in the meal. It means that in order for me to give God the best I have to give, I sometimes need the help of other people. Abraham never hesitated to ask for help in giving to the Lord. That is something I need to learn.

Abraham’s reaction to the Lord’s presence in his home is a reminder that: 1) God knows who I am, 2) God’s knows where I live, and 3) God is prepared to wait for my best. I may be impatient to “get on with it,” but the Lord is not in a hurry to receive my leftovers. If the Lord is willing to wait for me, I should be willing to give Him my best.


Behind the scenes at C201 is my wife, Ruth Wilkinson who is often involved in the preparation of this daily devotional study through discussions about a particular writer’s perspective or additional research into the context or meaning of verses. Also, on the days you see a longer excerpt from a print source, it’s probably Ruth who typed it out. So today I wanted to do something I’ve never done here, which is to say thanks and wish her a Happy Birthday.

April 28, 2016

Let’s Get Spiritual

If today’s header bears a mild resemblance to an old Olivia Newton-John song, I apologize for the fact it’s now stuck in your head. Perhaps the article’s own title below will help clear your mind! Jim Thornber writes at what we always call the “other” Thinking Out Loud blog and he’s been featured here four times previously. Click the title below to read at source.

So, You Want To Be “Spiritual?”

The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” — 2 Chron. 16:9

Worship LeaderWhen you hear someone say, “That is a very spiritual person,” what do they mean? I’ve often heard that description used, but when you ask the person who said it what it means, they are often at a loss. I know what it doesn’t mean. To be a “spiritual” person does not mean you walk around silently like some kind of ancient mystic, listening to the quiet breath of God for instructions on what to say and how to pray. It doesn’t mean you’re always ready to say something prophetic and give a word of knowledge and have miracles following you. It doesn’t mean you can quote a thousand different verses on any given subject. Try this for a definition of spirituality: Living your life in harmony with God.

To be spiritual means you make God’s thoughts your thoughts, God’s priorities your priorities. What is important to God is important to you. What burdens God burdens you. When He says, “Go right” you go right, you don’t say, “Why?” A spiritual person decides to follow God knowing that God doesn’t need to explain Himself to anyone. A spiritual person is one whose heart is sensitive to the things of God. 2 Chron. 16:9 says, The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” God is looking for men and women who are completely dedicated to Him.

When I think about a spiritual person I think of David, who was completely dedicated to God in every aspect of his very earthly life. And his was a very earthly life. In Psalm 18:29 David says, “With your help I can conquer an army. I can leap over walls with a helping hand from you.” Can you envision a leaping David? Can you see him running, coming to a wall and leaping over it without hesitation and continuing his run? Eugene Peterson describes David as

“running toward Goliath, running from Saul, pursuing God, meeting Jonathan, rounding up stray sheep, whatever, but running. And leaping. Certainly not strolling or loitering. David’s is a most exuberant story. Earthy spirituality characterizes his life and accounts for the exuberance. Earthy: down-to-earth, dealing with everydayness, praying while doing the laundry, singing in the snarl of traffic. Spiritual: moved and animated by the Spirit of God and therefore alive to God” (Leaping Over A Wall, pg. 11).

Spirituality means you invite God into your everyday, very ordinary, dull, repetitive sameness and converse with Him about the dullness, the hopes, the dreams, the disappointments and the surprises, the decisions about what to make for dinner and how to pray for a child with cancer. The most spiritual people are the most ordinary people. They aren’t necessarily the religious leaders we see on television, but the unseen housewives and workers we never see up front who are affecting the lives of men and women all over the world without ever getting their names mentioned in Christianity Today or appearing on Christian television.

A spiritual person is a man or woman who longs to please God. They know going in that loving God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength is not going to please every one of their friends or all their family. It certainly didn’t please all of David’s brothers. But a spiritual person, although they are concerned with the thoughts of others, do not make what other people think their prime motivation for doing what they do. They know that at the end of their lives they must answer to God, so they look to make their every moment count in the sight of God. And when they fail, which they will (although hopefully, not quite as dramatically as David failed), they turn quickly to God, grieve over their wrongs, and allow His grace and forgiveness to guide their future actions. A spiritual person is an everyday person who chooses to put God first in everything they do.

So, are you ready to be “spiritual?”


 

 

April 13, 2015

If You’re a Christ-Follower, It’s Impossible to ‘Join’ a Church

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Jim Thomber writes at the other Thinking Out Loud blog. Click the link below to read this at source, and then click around his site for other great articles.

One Body Many MembersWhy It Is Impossible To Join A Church

“In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” – Romans 12:5

 

After reading this passage in Romans, I’m starting to question the whole idea of church membership. How can I join a church, that is, a local assembly of believers, when I already belong to the Church, the one Body of Christ?

Like you, I live in a town with many churches. Large and small, independent and mainline, the body of Christ is widely represented. However, my understanding of Romans 12:5 tells me there is only one Church in my city; we just happen to meet in different locations.

So the question is: “How can I join a particular assembly of believers and become a member of their church when I already belong to all the others?” My gifts and my life are not my own. I belong to the body of Christ, not just to the assembly that gathers under the banner of my particular denomination. Even though I am an ordained minister of a large denomination, I don’t limit myself or my fellowship solely to this organization. Furthermore, I don’t exist to promote my denomination; rather, my denomination exists to give me what I need to do the work in the “white and ready to harvest” field of the world. In other words, my denomination exists to help me promote Jesus. I don’t exist to promote my denomination.

I’m starting to think that becoming a member of a local church is like saying my arm can choose to join my shoulder. When we see ourselves as only a member of one local church, we limit our gifts and talents to that one part of the body at the exclusion of all the others. But this doesn’t make sense. For instance, if I stub my big toe, my entire body walks differently until the toe is healed. However, if a local church goes through a split or a painful episode with its pastor, none of the other churches seem to be affected. The most we can offer our hurting brethren is a quick, “Oh, I’ll pray for you.” Rarely are we given permission to be part of the healing process. I think this tells us that in most cities the churches do not see themselves as part of the same body, where each member belongs to all the others. Instead, we act as disjointed members, eyeing one another as competitive stepchildren of the same parent, vying for attention and a larger share of the inheritance.

If we see ourselves as just members of one particular church, we are mostly in competition with other churches in town. However, when we ARE the Church, we then find the other churches are companions along the way. I want to learn to work in conjunction and connection with the rest of the Body. I pray you do too. “Lord, hear our prayer.”

Yes, I understand the argument for church membership, for the need to have order in the organization. This is why I submit to my denominational authorities, pastor a church, and teach a class for new members. Still, the body of Christ is NOT an organization; it is a living organism. What I do in my fellowship should have a reverberating effect upon the rest of the Body in my town. But for the most part it doesn’t, and I’m not sure where the problem lies. Maybe it’s with me.

Therefore, I’ve decided to feel free to be myself with whatever group of Christians I happen to be hanging around with. I’ve noticed that if my finger scratches my ear, it doesn’t have to become an ear to be an effective itch reliever. Likewise, I’m going to worship wherever I find myself, associate with whomever I chose, and be an honest ambassador of Christ wherever God leads me. By thinking this way, I won’t have to join any particular group in order be a part of the Body of Christ. I already am.

October 21, 2014

Chewing on the Word

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Jim ThornberFirst of all, it’s not a reference to Ezra eating the scrolls, but if you guessed that, give yourself five extra points!

Today’s reading is from Jim Thornber whose writing we have shared here several times. For four years, Jim was an Assemblies of God minister who was also a monk. Seriously! Check out his story here and here. To read this at source, click the title below.

Gnawing On God

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” —  Joshua 1:8

I like the word “meditation.” Although some Christians are truly scared to meditate – thinking it is something done by cultic Eastern religions while forgetting that Judaism and Christianity ARE Eastern religions! – Scripture is full of injunctions to meditate upon the Word and Law of God.

The word for “meditation” in this passage comes from the Hebrew haghah, meaning to murmur, to mutter, to sigh, to moan, to roar, to meditate, to muse, to speak, to whisper. The word also describes the low moaning sound of a dove (Isa. 38:14) or the “growl” of a lion (Isaiah 31:4). Eugene Peterson uses the analogy of a dog gnawing on a bone, getting everything it can out of it.

This got me wondering: what is my heart gnawing on? What causes me to moan and growl, to be so totally consumed with God that I’m unaware of any thing else? If people could listen to my thoughts, would they hear me murmuring and musing about God and His goodness? Would they hear me whispering to God the joy and wonder I sense in His ever-present love? Or, would people hear me doubting my place in His Church, struggling with my pride and my desires and wrestling to place my wants into the realms of His eternal agenda?  Depending on when a person tuned in, I know they’d hear a little bit of both.

I want my heart to murmur, sigh, growl, moan and utter the goodness and glory of God. I want to be lost in my consumption of God and unaware of anything but Him. But in reality, I spend too much time thinking about my self and my place, or perceived lack of a place, in the Kingdom. In say I want to consider Him but I end up thinking mostly of my self.

However, meditation is not thinking, which is where I go wrong. Meditation means I’m gnawing on the truths of God. It means I’m taking into my spirit the very nourishment that God knows I need in order to grow into a healthy man. Meditation is the simple act of putting my mind and spirit into the hand of God and allowing Him to take me where He needs me to be. Thinking, on the other hand, is me taking God where I think God and I need to be. See the difference?

I want to wrap my thoughts and prayers around God the way a lion wraps its paws around a piece of meat, savoring and tasting its life-giving goodness. I want to meditate upon God and reap all possible benefits from the encounter. I wonder if this is why the Psalmist encourages us to “taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8)? Could this be one of the reasons Jesus said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53)? How else could we take into our spirits the nourishment needed for the eternal journey?

Today I purpose to gnaw on the goodness and faithfulness of God. What about you? What’s on your plate?

 


Related: 4 Previous posts by Jim Thornber at Christianity 201.

April 10, 2014

When God Steps Back

We try not to “borrow” posts from any one source more than every six months, but Jim Thornber’s writing is exactly the kind of thing we’re looking for here. When you click through to read, you’ll notice the name of the blog is similar to one you might have seen before! This one looks at very challenging passage of scripture. Click to read God Left Me Alone? (For those of you too shy to click the text is below.)

 “God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart.” — 2 Chron. 32:31

I know this is hard to believe, but sometimes I’ve felt very alone in the world.

Shocking, isn’t it? Here I am, a pastor of a church and a man whose been going to church for 40 years. I’m a self-proclaimed normal and sane person who believes I can actually talk with God and, at times, believes God even talks back.

Yet, sometimes I’ve felt there was no one listening, that God was not in the room much less in the universe, and I was the only real person in the world with feelings, hurts, disappointments, desires, lusts, dreams, failures, successes and more questions than answers.

Then I read about King Hezekiah, and I began to understand that I’m not the first person who ever felt he was alone in the world. And this was after Hezekiah had a great encounter with the miracle-making God. It went like this.

One day Hezekiah wakes up from a nap and isn’t feeling well. His buddy Isaiah, a local prophet, tells him to get his affairs in order for he was going to die. King Hezzy cries out to God and God sends Isaiah back to the King with good news: he is going to live!

When you read the story in 2 Kings 20, you see God promised He would heal Hezekiah of a life-threatening disease and proved it by making the shadow go back ten steps on the stairway. This is very heady stuff.

Word of this miraculous series of events draws international attention and foreign ambassadors come to pay their respects and see how the king is doing. Now God, knowing Hezekiah had a tendency to become proud (2 Chron. 32:25), decided to test the king. He withdraws His presence to see if he’s going to tell the ambassadors about God’s goodness and loving-kindness, or if Hezekiah is going to show them all his accomplishments as a king. Hezekiah failed the test by showing his visitors everything in his storehouses (2 Kings 20:13).

This is where I pause, because I completely understand Hezekiah. If I felt the Lord left me after I’d been healed of a life-threatening disease, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t try to recount all my accomplishments before the assembled crowd and show them everything in my storehouse. Then in my spare time, I’d be looking for God under every pew and behind every stack of Bibles. I’d be telling everyone who’d listen what God did in hopes that God would show up again and let me feel His presence. God, of course, can never truly leave us. There is nowhere you can go to escape His omnipresent Self. David learned this lesson well and wrote a poem about it. Well call this poem Psalm 139.

What I need to do when I feel God leaving the room is simply sit down and know He never really left me.  I remind myself that in His absence, nothing else satisfies. God knows this, but it is a lesson we all need to understand. Maybe we’re all a bit like Hezekiah, building up our storehouses by chasing things like cars, houses, iPhones, titles and vacations because we’re really looking for God. C. S. Lewis said, “All that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

I see now that on the occasions God left me alone, He did it to see if I’d pursue Him or the stuff I think replaces Him. I’ve done both, and I found the stuff falls short. So next time I sense God has left me alone, I’ll know that all He really wants is me, and all I really need is Him.

November 2, 2013

Urging and Leading Others from “Saved” to “Discipled”

discipleship

Around here, we refer to Jim Thornber’s blog as “the other Thinking Out Loud.” You are strongly urged to read this online where it appeared as Scriptures That Bother Me: Matthew 28:19.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit –  Matthew 28:19

Can I share something with you that bothers most pastors? It’s the fact that many good church-going people want Jesus to be their Savior, but they’re not too keen on letting Him actually be their Lord. They want to be saved from the penalties of their sins, but they don’t want that salvation to actually impede upon their way of life. They want the comfort of knowing they are saved, but they don’t want to be put upon to bring other people into the Kingdom. They want to ask forgiveness for their sins, but they don’t want to live in obedience to all the teachings of Christ.

This is seen in the ways people invest first in themselves, and then in others. For example, let’s look at the Great Commission of Jesus in Matt. 28:18-20.

Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”

First, Jesus is talking to His Disciples, those who have taken up their cross and chosen to follow Him at all costs. Next, Jesus tells them to go and make disciples. This brings up two questions. First, are you in the process of being a disciple? Not a follower. Not a weekly church attendee, but a disciple, a person who seeks to study the Word, who gets together with other Christians to challenge and be challenged to live the life Christ died for us to have. Hebrews 10:23-25 says,

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Look at that word “spur.” It means to provoke, incite, irritate. When you gather with other Christians then you should be spurring them, provoking and inciting and even irritating them on towards good works. It also means when you gather you are willing to be spurred. But we cannot be spurred if we are not gathering, and we cannot be spurred or provoked towards good works if we only show up every once in a while to a church and leave as soon as possible. Still, this happens week after week in churches all over the world. But according to the Great Commission, to be a disciple and to make disciples means you are personally investing in the lives of others.

And this is terribly inconvenient. It means you will have to invest the one thing that means more to many of us than money – our time. We would rather pay someone to take our neighbor to the grocery store than actually drive them ourselves. We’d rather pay someone to work on the church than show up ourselves. We’d rather buy someone a book on finances than commit to going to their house for 12 weeks and taking them through the book and teaching them through our own example. I’m very glad that Jesus didn’t send someone else to earth to do His work. He came personally. He took time away from His throne in Heaven to invest His life, and then His death, so He could make disciples. That is what it cost Jesus. What are we willing to invest to make disciples? It will cost us our time, our talents, our personal touch and yes, even some of our treasure. But that is what it means to be a disciple. So ask yourself: “Am I a disciple, or am I just content with being saved?” I don’t know how anyone can think of the price Jesus paid to bring us to Heaven and be content with merely being saved.

Some of you may be wondering why I’m saying this. Why do I teach in a way that provokes, spurs and irritates people? Because I don’t want anyone I know to face Jesus one day, and knowing what He did for you in order to save you from hell, say to Him, “Thanks for the salvation. Sorry I wasn’t really a disciple. Sorry I didn’t find the time to study your Word and or take the effort to make disciples. Sorry I didn’t find it a priority to teach a Bible study or a Sunday school. Sorry I didn’t make it a priority to invest my time in the lives of the people You died for.” I don’t want anyone to be sorry for the way they lived their life after they knew what Jesus did to pay the penalty of their sins. I want people to be able to declare their complete, not their partial, but their complete dependence upon God, and this means doing more than getting saved. It means taking the time and the effort to become a disciple.

So, are you a disciple or are you just saved?

May 5, 2012

Spreading Your Abundance

Before you begin reading: What do you think the disciples did with the “12 baskets left over” when Jesus fed the 5,000? …

…Pentecostal monk (!) Jim Thomber’s blog is called Thinking Out Loud, which I think is rather great name for a blog!  This appeared a few weeks ago under the title, Nothing Is Wasted.

“After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, ‘Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.’ So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people” – John 6:13 (NLT)

In this very familiar passage – the only miracle that is mentioned in all four Gospels – Jesus fed 5,000 men, plus women and children, with five small, flat cakes of barley (the cheapest of grains) and two small fish (probably pickled fish served as hors d’oeuvres). After everyone had enough to eat, Jesus instructed the disciples to gather the leftovers, filling twelve large baskets, “so that nothing is wasted.”

This story is a great picture of our God who not only provides but also over-provides, and by doing so teaches us not to waste the over-the-top supply. This passage challenges me to ask, “What am I doing with my extras?” Specifically, what am I doing with my extra time, treasure and touch? And every person I know has extras in at least one of the areas, if not all.

Time – What do I do with my extra hours? Do I spend it working more so I can earn more? Do I use my extra time to watch more television? After the people ate and were satisfied, Jesus likely distributed the extra for the blessing of many. On the other hand, I like to picture twelve grown men marching behind a young boy and delivering the baskets to his family in Capernaum. Jesus produced the over-abundance but He shared the results. Am I using the blessing of my extra time to be a blessing to others, or am I finding extraordinary ways to waste it on myself?

Treasure – What am I doing with my extra money? After I’ve tithed, paid my bills and put a little away in savings, what am I doing with the rest? Am I spending it on what is not bread and laboring for stuff that does not satisfy (Isaiah 55:2)? Do I have to have that latest iPhone? Does it satisfy? Is the newest Wii game something my soul will delight in? Is it the richest of fare? Where my treasure is, there is my heart, also (Matthew 6:21). Do I pay more attention the bells and whistles of my latest gadget than I do to maintaining my relationship with my family? Do I know where the games apps is on my phone but don’t know where my child spent the night? If I’m quicker to get angry at someone who has scratched my car than someone who uses a racial slur, I’ve just shown my heart is with my stuff, even though God’s heart is with His people.

Touch – Am I stingy with my personal self? Do I have a limited amount of hugs and affection I can share with people? Do I seek out the people I want to be associated with and withdraw from the unlovely or unpopular? Am I cold with someone who has recently criticized me and overly enthusiastic towards someone who likes me? Do I coddle up to the rich man in church and compliment him on his new Mercedes Benz while giving monosyllabic answers to the poor man who smells of stale cigarettes?

When I look at my life, I can see waste in every area I’ve mentioned. But as I think about the twelve baskets of leftovers and how Jesus made sure they were picked up, I’m starting to have trouble with waste. I want God to show me creative ways of using my time, treasure and touch, and maybe some day He’ll choose me to bring a basket full of abundance to a family that needs it most.

~Jim Thomber


Here’s an unrelated bonus item for today, a classic contemporary Christian song, I Wish You Jesus by Scott Wesley Brown. This is from a rather obscure album, Songs and Stories, and is the concluding song Scott gives his audience. You can do no better than to wish someone Jesus. If you can’t see it here click this link.


Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of the Christian blogosphere.  An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and 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.

Scripture portions quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green because the Scriptures have LIFE!

June 29, 2011

Anyone Out There Totally in Love with God?

Today’s piece is from Jim Thornber, whose blog is actually named “Thinking Out Loud.”  (Great minds think out loud alike.)  Jim’s own story begins, “How does an Assemblies of God minister from Southern California find himself a monk in a Catholic-based community in Eureka Springs, AR?”  You can read that here.  This particular item appeared at his blog under the title I’m Still Calling the Shots in a series titled Scriptures That Bother Me.

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. 1 Cor. 6:19-20.

Every Tuesday morning, I get together at a local coffee shop with a group of men from First Baptist Church. We spend about an hour and a half studying, praying for needs, challenging each other in our relationship with Christ and generally drinking too much coffee. It is one of the highlights of my week.

The other morning as we were studying Crazy Love by Francis Chan, someone asked if we knew anyone who was totally in love with God. You know, a completely sold-out, every fiber of their being doing little more than living, breathing, talking, thinking about and obeying Christ type of person.

We all got silent for a few moments as we racked our brains trying to think of someone we knew who was totally and completely sold out and in love with God. As the silence lingered, I thought it rather humorous that none of us at the meeting thought anyone at the table fit that description. Even the two pastors who were there, yours truly being one of them, weren’t named by anyone else in the group as being totally in love with Christ. Well, that was humbling!

The first person who came to my mind was Mark Buntain, who visited my Bible college in the early 80’s. A missionary to India, Mark founded Calcutta Mercy Ministries, which reaches the poorest in India through schools, a homeless shelter, massive feeding programs, orphanages and a large church. I remember hearing him teach in the chapel at college, and I was struck with his sincerity, complete humility, and absolute dedication to the work Christ called him to.

When he finished speaking, he didn’t come down front and meet the students like most every other every other speaker did, listening to their compliments and signing autographs. Instead, Mark turned around and dropped to his knees at the choir pew and engaged in prayer. That image is still burned in my mind.

I remember watching him walk alone through campus, oblivious to all the students and the beautiful scenery as he talked out loud to God, praying and praising the Lord as walked. He had one thing on his mind as he walked, and it wasn’t how he appeared to the students; it was how he appeared before the Lord God his Savior. And, if you stopped him and engaged him in conversation, he didn’t make you feel like you were interrupting him. However, you knew you were in the presence of one who spent his every waking hour walking with God.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). If that is true, that we are not our own, then why can I only think of a few people who actually live that way? I know I don’t. Sure, I claim Jesus is my Lord, but too often I live with myself calling the shots. How often have I prayed for guidance in ministry, only to edit where I’ll go based on the geography or size of the church without even consulting God?

This idea that I am not my own, that I was purchased by God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, has been haunting me for a week, if only because I know the price that was paid and how I repay that price by leading my own life at my own convenience.

It is time I seriously consider making God the True Lord of my entire life. Maybe then, the next time someone asks if they know anyone completely and truly in love with and sold out to God, I might just come to someone’s mind.

~Jim Thornber