Christianity 201

May 11, 2018

Jesus Redefines Success

I’m currently reading and enjoying the newly-released book Evangelism in a Skeptical World by Sam Chan. What follows is not from the book, but I went hunting around online to see if I could find some other writing by him to share with you and found this at City Bible Forum.  As always, click the title below to read this at source.

How to be rich and successful without losing your soul

The road to success comes with much uncertainty – am I good enough? Can I stay successful?

I spent a large chunk of my life studying for exams. So why do we do exams? Because they are a gateway to success. If we can pass our exams, we get a qualification. If we get a qualification, we get a job. If we get a job, we’re successful.

We can define success as getting what we’re looking for. Maybe it’s wealth. Or respect. Or a trophy family. But if we can find it, then we’re finally successful.

According to our modern Western narrative, we have to earn our success. It’s not given to us. We have to gain it by being smarter, faster and better than those around us.

But this will lead ultimately to fear and insecurity. Because there are so many factors that are out of our control. For example, what if I get sick on the day of my exam? What if a GFC comes and wipes out my profits? What if one of my children is born with a learning disability?

And we’ll never know if we’ve done enough. How much do I have to study? How much money do I have to make? How much tutoring will my children need?

We will always fear falling behind. Because there will always be someone else who is smarter, faster and better than us.

In Jesus’ story about a rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), he teaches us how to re-define “success”. First, success is a gift from God, rather than something we gain. The hint is in verse 16 where the ground produced a good harvest for the rich man.

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.” (verse 16)

For us it’s the same. God controls the factors that determine whether we will be “successful.”

So we need to re-define “success.” If I get what I’m working for, I need to be humble and thank God for my success. But if I don’t get what I work for, then I need to trust that God has a better plan for me.

Second, true success is to be “rich toward God” (v. 21).

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (verse 21)

In the end, the most important thing is that we’re in a rich and flourishing relationship with God.

This also is a gift from God, rather than something we gain. Jesus dies for us and now lives for us. This new life is something we receive from God. I can never gain it by my own effort.

A man once told me his sad story. He said his dad never spent time with him. Instead, his dad would give him lots of money. But the man said, “My dad never got it. I didn’t want his money, I wanted him.”

It’s the same with us. God doesn’t want our riches. In the end, he wants us to be rich to him.


Sam Chan also blogs at his EspressoTheology.com

March 14, 2018

The Afflictions are Temporary; Please Stand By

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

Why All The Suffering?

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Luke 12:15 we hear Jesus say,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

September 16, 2016

Our Faith Should Be More Than Just a Coping Mechanism

john-10-10When I have finished formatting a devotional study here, the last thing I do before scheduling it is to add the tags; the key words that can be used to locate the article in a search engine or internally. Many times I find myself writing trials, tribulations, suffering, difficulties, trials, etc. Often when I listen to a couple of preachers in my car, I notice they are often simply offering their listeners encouragement through desert experience, tough times, difficult circumstances.

I keep thinking there should be more.

I keep thinking that our faith should be more than just a mechanism by which we can cope with the hard times of life.

In John 10:10 Jesus said,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (NIV)

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (NLT)

One of the first sermons I remember was hearing this preached at an outdoor Christian music festival. The speaker said that in the original language the abundant life being discussed was:

  1. Abundant in quantity
  2. Superior in quality

We see picture of this abundance in quantity in the feeding of the 5,000

1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near. 5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

And we see a picture of the superior quality in the very first miracle at Cana

John 2:1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Both seem to be describing a feast. The latter, at the wedding is expected. The former, with each receiving “as much as they wanted” was probably a surprise.

In each case the final verse reveals the ultimate outcome:

  1. They recognize that he is the prophet, the one expected
  2. He reveals his glory and his disciples believe.

At the blog, Yeshua=God (also the source of today’s graphic image) the contrast in John 10:10 is fully highlighted:

Whenever John 10:10 is quoted, it’s usually just the first half about Satan, or the last half about Christ. It’s not often you hear the entire verse quoted together. But the Lord showed me recently in my personal study time that this Scripture is meant to reflect what Satan does compared to what the Lord does. It is meant to be read as a whole, to compare and contrast the enemy verses the Lord.

Let’s break it down –

The thief does not come except to STEAL, KILL, and DESTROY.
The Lord comes that they MAY HAVE, LIFE, MORE ABUNDANTLY

The opposite of steal would be to give. When our Lord says they “may have”, He’s referring to the gift of His salvation. Not necessarily “will have”, because some people don’t become Christians. Therefore He comes that they “may have” this gift.

The opposite of kill is to give life. Christ does give life, as He IS the Life. So while the thief wants to steal and kill, the Lord has come to give the gift of Life.

The opposite of destroy is more abundantly. To destroy something is to pull it down, wreck it, demolish, obliterate, or ruin it. To have something in abundance is to have plenty of it, it is lavished upon you, bountiful, copious, and plentiful.

Notice how the words are all present tense. Kill, steal, destroy – these are ongoing, they are in the here and now. He has not “stolen, killed, and destroyed”, it is what the thief continues to do. When the Lord gives His rebuttal, His words are present tense as well. May have instead of “have had”. Life that’s ongoing and eternal, rather than one that can be killed. And more abundantly instead of “in abundance”. It assumes a continuance of the abundance – “more abundantly” – as if the abundance is an ever-flowing fountain.

But then the author points out that the life we can expect is even more:

The Lord gives us life, and not just life, but life more abundantly. A better life than these 70-80 years on earth. A life that continues on into eternity. A life with blessings that never end (Ephesians 1:3).

We tend to focus on our pain and difficulties, but be encouraged to look for the signs of abundance.

I Kings 18:41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” 42 So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.

43 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.

“There is nothing there,” he said.

Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.

So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”

45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel

 

September 18, 2015

Standing on Tiptoes

Today’s thoughts are from Michael Thompson at the blog Kindling Word. The piece today starts with a description of his one-year-old daughter walking filled with wonder and out-of-breath excitement. I encourage you to click the link below to read the devotional from the beginning. What follows is the teaching section.

Running on Tiptoe!

…I have lived long enough to make my share of terrible mistakes. I have been around the block enough times to run into a myriad of cul de sacs. I have chased far too many rabbits down far too many trails only to wind up in far too many brier patches.

Life has many ways of draining expectation and neutering hope.

  • Disappointment poisons the dreams of life that are the fountain of hope.
  • Defeats crush the opportunities in life that are the expressions of hope.
  • Dead ends stifle the purpose of life that is the substance of hope.
  • Dullness numbs the vitality of life that is the energy of hope.

All these common experiences of life on the blue planet tend to knock all of us back on our heels. Then we lose the keen edge of life lived in hope.

It is the de-anticipating of life.

The enemy of our souls wants to empty life of the expectation that gives meaning to the mundane and significance to the struggle. He is dead set on the “steal, kill, destroy” triumvirate that sucks the life out of living.

Yet I know this to be true:

…life was never intended to be lived defensively back on your heels.

It was meant to be experienced on tiptoe.

  • Wide awake wonder.
  • Wide ranging gratitude.
  • Wide open expectation.
  • Wide-eyed surprise.

Jesus called it “life more abundant”. John said it is life lived “in perfect love without fear”. Peter describes it as living “with an inexpressible and glorious joy”. Paul simply called it “life that is truly life!”

Life as it should be. Life as it will be. Life as it can be!

I’m not pretending this sort of life is easy. We aren’t tiptoeing through tulips.

Life is hard.

James makes it clear that pursuing Jesus is no picnic. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

Pain hurts us. Frustrations hassle us. Boredom haunts us. Disillusionment hamstrings us. Failure humiliates us.

Life as it is seldom gives us a vision of life as it can be.

But life is meant to be alive…rich with discoveries until the day we die!

One of my great joys is being around my two friends, John and Jack, who in their 80’s vibrate with the energy that comes from always wondering, “What’s next!?” After 8 decades of real life, they are still running on tiptoe…just like Isabella!

Maybe that is what Jesus had in mind when he said, “…unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

I love Habakkuk’s picture of this fleet-footed chasing of our adventurous God, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:19)

So in honor of the parable I saw as Isabella bounced across the floor, I want to radically adjust my approach to life.

I want my baby back, baby back, baby back!

That inner child who dreams and dances and wears himself out in the pursuit of wonder, and is always…

…running on tiptoe!

January 18, 2012

Confessions of a Recovering Legalist: Ten Things Jesus Never Said

Ever heard of “Christian karma?”  Some people think God works that way; that some things that come into our life journey are ‘payback’ for choices we made, and things we did in the past.

Yesterday we dug up a classic interview clip from 100 Huntley Street, Canada’s daily Christian talk show, produced by Crossroads Christian Communications.  Can you handle a video clip two days in a row?  We decided to see who Moira Brown has been interviewing lately, and we found this one, with author with Will Davis, Jr., author of Pray Big and the new Ten Things Jesus Never Said.

Note: The link takes you (sometimes)  to the 2:30 mark in the video where the discussion of this book begins; you can go back to watch the intro if you wish.  If it doesn’t you can jump to 2:30.  You can also look at ALL the interviews from the television program at this link.